Japanator Interviews: Hiroaki Yura

Aug 29 // Salvador GRodiles    @TheCrimsonBlade

The man behind Project Phoenix shares his words!

The flames of Project Phoenix's Kickstarter are growing with each passing day, and its heat will ignite the ultimate rebirth when the time comes. Last Saturday, I was given the honor to speak with Hiroaki Yura, the man behind Project Phoenix’s direction and production. Taking advantage of his experience as a musician that’s worked with the East and West, Hiro has gathered a team of top notch people to create a title that will hopefully lead to the rebirth of JRPGs!

Hiro's musical background expands to video game titles like Soul Calibur IV and Diablo III, along with animes like The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumia and Steins; Gate. The man has performed along side many orchestras and composers (such as John Harding and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra) from across the globe. On top of that, he founded Eminence Symphony Orchestra – impressive!

One thing for sure, Hiro is an amazingly talented person in his field, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how he'll impact his first video game project. During the interview, I was able to learn more about Hiro’s plans for the game, along with a few new surprises that I’m super excited for. I also made sure to ask the biggest question behind a certain name that’s been stuck in most people’s head. 

Japanator: Greetings, Hiro. Thank you for taking the time to partake in this interview. To begin our segment, which JRPG games inspired you to create Project Phoenix?

Hiroaki Yura: I think the biggest inspiration from a JRPG that we have is Tactics Ogre, that’s my biggest inspiration for the game.

J: One of the interesting things about your game is how you’re going to use an RTS system for the battles. Is there a specific reason why you chose RTS?

H: The thing about JRPG and why the battle system was turn based to begin with is because of the limitations of the system they had back in the days with the Famicon and the Super Nintendo. Nowadays, we don’t have a limitation to this system, so I thought that the RTS system would be a very natural successor the JRPG combat system. The RTS system that we are developing is not exactly like let’s say Starcaft. There is less micromanagement, and it’s more about how you position your people and how you use your skills, so it’s not going to be like Starcraft.

J: When you mentioned that you can interact with any object in the environment, what are some examples of the stuff that you can do with your characters?

H: We’re going to be allowing things like when the bad guys cross the rope bridge, you can actually cut the bridge, so they can’t cross, or the people who are on the rope bridge will fall to their untimely demise. Players have to consider this as an option, because if they cut it, they can’t cross it, and you might be given a limited approach to your objective. You have to weigh the pros and cons on how you want to approach your tactics.

J: An important aspect about JRPGs is the story itself. With that being said, how do you plan to convey the story when Project Phoenix comes out?

H: Well, I think it’s a simple matter of putting event sequences, a bit of game cinematic, gameplay and more event sequences. We were thinking of having a narrator, similar to what Bastion did, which was pretty cool. But obviously, we don’t want to copy them. If we were to copy someone, we’d like to make it better than their idea. Anyways, that’s something that we’re still trying to look into.

J: I love the idea that Project Phoenix unites people from the East and West to work together to create a phenomenal title. During the game’s project, what are some of benefits and drawbacks that you have encountered so far?

H: There’s not much of a drawback just yet, so I’m pretty happy about that. In terms of the good things that we experienced, we didn’t expect so much support through Kickstarter. It’s fantastic that we burned through the minimum pledge in the first nine hours, and I think we’re at about $599,000 right now, which is fantastic, and we just want to see how far we can get to right now. Basically, I think it’s important to focus on our ideals, values, and beliefs to actually deliver what we set out to deliver in the first place.

J: Once Project Phoenix is fully complete, where do you see Computer Intelligence Art in the next few years?

H: Our company right now is a music company, and we’re planning to make a new company for the indie game. We haven’t thought of a name yet, but we might actually name it Project Phoenix – we’ll just have to wait and see. In terms of this indie dev team, we actually have several other plans set in motion. We have two games, which are unannounced, and the first one will probably be announced after Project Phoenix is released.

J: I can’t wait!

H: If you like anime, you will be shocked to hear about the people who will be involved with the next title.

J: Looking at your impressive background as a musician, what inspired you to branch out into doing music for video games, film, and anime when you were first starting out? 

H: It was when the Final Fantasy Tactics composer Hitoshi Sakimoto – he’s also the composer for the recently released Dragon’s Crown – dragged my orchestra kicking and screaming into a recording studio in Sydney and asked us to record several stuff – including Valkyria Chronicles, Romeo x Juliet, Tower of Druaga, and stuff like that. He asked us to do all of these themes and we just complied. As soon as we did that, lots of people asked us to do recordings for their games and anime, and I think it just grew from there.

J: Your goal to change the way how we see JRPGs with the power of Kickstarter is a very impressive feat, Hiro. With that being said, do you think that other Japanese developers will takes note from your objectives and use Kickstarter to take chances with their creative ideas?

H: I hope so. I hope they do it in a positive way like the anime industry has – like with Production I.G. and Studio TRIGGER having successful Kickstarters for their anime. I just hope that the video games industry will do the same approach and bring back the trust with the Japanese video game industry, rather than do something weird with it.

J: I think this might be an important question that’s lingering in most people’s mind, but when you were coming up with the name for the game’s main heroine, were you eating some Ruffles potato chips by any chance?

H: No. Truth be told, that’s not her real name. She thinks it’s Ruffles, and that’s why she gets called Ruffles for a time.

J: For our final question, do you have a few words that you would like to tell to your fans?

H: I really want people to look forward to the game. If it just means pledging S1.00 to take part in discussion, then so be it. We don’t really mind if it’s a dollar or $10,000.00; we really want to have feedback from everybody, and work on something that our common interest shares. I lived in Sydney since I was six till I turned 28, and I’m more of a Westerner than a Japanese person. At core, I am Japanese, I have Japanese values and I’m living in Japan right now. I think I have a good balance of the two, but this game isn’t for just Japanese people, it’s for the whole world. I think it needs to live up to that promise, and that’s why we want your feedback. Trust me, we do read every single feedback that we get.

J: Thank you again, Hiro, for joining us in this interview.

H: Not a problem.

J: And best of luck with the rest of the development on Project Phoenix!

H: Great, thank you so much; it’s been a pleasure. 

In case you haven't backed Project Phoenix yet, you can lend your strength to Hiro and his team at the game's Kickstarter page


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Salvador GRodiles // Senior Editor
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Salvador's an average bystander that's taken his first steps towards a life changing goal. Other than that, Sal loves to overcome the spiciest meals in the world when he's in the mood for a chall... full profile | More staff profiles



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