Explore the Secrets of Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode’s Evolution! Interview with Habu and Tomono

A translation of this Famitsu article from June 18, 2013, featuring an interview with producer Kazumasa “Habumon” Habu and director Yusuke Tomono of the video game Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode.

Explore the secrets of evolution!

Bandai Namco Games’ Nintendo 3DS game Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode is set to be released June 27, 2013. New parts have been added to the story, new Digimon have been added, and the system has gained a number of new aspects, increasing the volume of the game quite considerably. We asked the game’s producer, Kazumasa Habu, and director, Yusuke Tomono, about this game’s appeal.

Bandai Namco Games
Kazumasa Habu (pictured on right)

Yusuke Tomono (pictured on left)

A reborn Digimon World! Investigating the secrets of evolution

–Firstly, could you tell us about your roles?

Kazumasa Habu (written below as Habu): I’m the producer, and I’m in charge of overall project planning and for supervising the process. I also manage the press materials and sales strategy.

Yusuke Tomono (written below as Tomono): I worked at the development site as the director. While going back and forth to and from the development site, I also answered Habu’s phone calls every so often…I think (laughs).

–Please tell us your reason for putting this game on the 3DS.

Habu: For the previous version (Digimon World Re:Digitize; hereinafter “the previous version”), we chose to have it on the PSP because we felt it was a platform with a high affinity with the target audience and the Digimon series. For this version, we chose to have it on the Nintendo 3DS because it’s easy for younger people to use, and because it’s currently gaining in popularity.

–After deciding on the platform, what aspects of it did you start working on?

Habu: After deciding we’d have the game on the Nintendo 3DS, we thought about “what makes something Nintendo 3DS-ish”. If it were an actual sequel, all we’d have to do was make a new story and set of characters, but for this we ended up having Tomono-san make a proposal for how to “bring out the qualities of the Nintendo 3DS” and “expanding what you can do within the game”. Among these aspects, one of the ones we fixated on the most was “improving quality of life by having two screens”. More specifically, using the new UI function “Digitter”, you can input commands into the screen directly.

Please tell us the meaning of the keyword “Decode” that has now been added to the title of the previous version, Digimon World Re:Digitize.

Habu: As its original program-based meaning is to restore compressed information and re-computerize it, here, its meaning is in the sense of re-analyzing the previous version and reconstructing it in a better form. On top of that, we feel it is a very suitable keyword because of the new “Decode ability”, which allows you to rebuild the mass of data that is a Digimon and rebuild it in a way that gives it new abilities.

Tomono: The original version of the game was made with the intent “let’s meet the expectations of the core Digimon fanbase!”, and so because “decoding” has the side effect of “increasing the amount of information”, we at the development site also felt that we should meet the expectations for the game’s increased volume.

Habu: If I may add onto that, when we looked back at the previous version, we did have some lingering regrets of “we should have done this to begin with,” so for this version, we wanted to present some of the answers that came out of the previous one.

Tomono: Right. I feel like we can finally put out a version of the game that fully satisfies even the development team.

–So the word “decode” refers not only to the game’s production, but also has various other deep meanings.

Habu: There really are a lot of meanings. Rather than something we thought of something consciously, as in, “what does this word mean?”, it was something that felt like we’d dropped into the world of the game before we knew it.

The three different storylines integrate seamlessly, and you can freely enjoy both training and adventure!

–The game has considerably increased in volume, compared to the previous version.

Habu: I would be happy if the previous version and this version could be seen together as a set. The events themselves have gotten more considerable in volume, and the number of events themselves has doubled. Beyond events, we also wanted to increase the volume of ways you can communicate with your Digimon so that you can enjoy the world of Digimon World. For that purpose, we increased the number of Digimon in this game quite significantly. The most important question for a lot of fans is “does this game have my favorite Digimon in it?”, so we put a lot of effort into “adding as many Digimon as possible”.

–So this game was made in such a way that even people who played the previous version can enjoy it?

Habu: We very much wanted to make it that way. Digimon fans will have most likely already played the previous version, so we felt it was essential to make them also feel that there was much more volume and play response for them to enjoy.

Tomono: The new storylines are not sequels to the previous “Sub-Lifeform Vitium” storyline, but are directly linked together with it. The progression of the game feels different from the very beginning. We wanted to make the game itself feel different from the previous work, and we made some especially large changes to the beginning part.

–Please tell us more about the new storylines.

Tomono: Firstly, while it’s not something specific to the new storylines, we included parts that we couldn’t go into very deeply in the previous version. For instance, the previous work featured a battle with Sub-Lifeform Vitium, which was “not a Digimon”, but here we also wanted to have a fight between Digimon, so we added a new storyline, “The Scheming Demon Lords”.

Habu: The previous version had the opponents all be original characters, but for the new storylines in this version, we created a scenario where Digimon that were in the previous series can play an active part that long-time fans can enjoy.

Tomono: We also paid attention to the story structure. If we had the Scheming Demon Lords storyline happen right after the previous game’s Sub-Lifeform Vitium storyline, it’d put a huge burden on the player, so we had the “beginnings” of the Scheming Demon Lords storyline start during Sub-Lifeform Vitium storyline.

Habu: The original Digimon World was not a game where you could just charge through the story. You would interact with Digimon in the world of Digimon, and somewhere along the line there would be an ongoing story…Therefore, for this game, there aren’t any clear boundaries between the Sub-Lifeform Vitium, Scheming Demon Lords, or Lamenting X-Antibody storylines, and the three of them are connected seamlessly. In other words, it’s made in such a way that “you can proceed from whichever angle you like” and “you can play however you like in this world.” Because this game is technically an RPG, we had there be a main storyline so that you could understand how to proceed with the game, but I hope you can enjoy the inherent core of the game by communicating with your Digimon via the smaller events.

–So “Sub-Lifeform Vitium” storyline is naturally the main core of the game, but there are also events related to the new storylines, and events that let you enjoy playing with various Digimon. Basically, a world where you can freely do anything.

Tomono: But the more freedom there is, the harder it is to make the game work (laughs). We ended up having to consider things like, “if you go through this event, what happens to that event?”

Habu: Surprisingly, not many people noticed it, but in the PSP version, while it initially seemed like a game that you can get through simply by following the main storyline, that wasn’t actually the case. There were some parts you wouldn’t be able to finish without clearing some sub-events. On top of that, since you could freely choose which events you wanted to clear, the event progress chart was actually quite complicated.

Tomono: You can’t just keep using all of the main important-looking Digimon. The more Digimon you interact with, the more successful you’ll end up being.

What role does the new character, Rina Shinomiya, have?

Rina Shinomiya

–A new character, Rina Shinomiya, will be appearing in the “Scheming Demon Lords” storyline. Please tell us about her role.

Tomono: Rina Shinomiya, like the main character, ends up dragged into the Digital World, but at the beginning of the game, she actually gets to see the strange events going on in the Digital World from the real world. The story is about how she would be able to go about things from a different perspective than the protagonists’, as someone who can observe the connection between the Digital World and the real world.

–I see. So she sees the world from a different perspective than the protagonists do.

Habu: In the previous version, it was said that the crisis occurring in the Digital World would end up impacting the real world, but we didn’t have the means to properly convey that fact and didn’t depict it as well as we would have liked. Because Rina can give her comments through a game from the real world, she can provide exposition on what’s going on there, and it becomes easier to understand.

–Like with the previous version’s characters, Rina seems to be designed by popular illustrator Suzuhito Yasuda.

Habu: We gave Yasuda-san the direction to make her “an energetic girl”, but we also asked him to give her the image of “another protagonist watching over them from the real world” in contrast to the “protagonist taking action in the Digital World”. For that reason, she wears goggles, much like how the series’s protagonists traditionally have.

–This version has 162 Digimon in it, which is a huge increase from the previous version. You said that you used the questionnaire to choose which Digimon to use based on popularity. What kinds of Digimon were popular?

Habu: Naturally, the Digimon from the anime are extremely popular. The evolution line for V-mon, the main Digimon in Digimon Adventure 02, was especially popular. In addition, we received many requests to bring back Digimon that appeared in the original Digimon World. Incidentally, beyond bringing them back, we also gave them new Ultimate forms.

–So it’s a selection of Digimon for both those who watched the anime and those who played the original game fifteen years ago.

Habu: To put it directly, the target audience of Digimon fans is about 20 years old now. Therefore, when we ask about popular Digimon, the ones that are popular among that generation will be the most prominent. We picked characters in such a way that said generation would like, but that alone is still too small of a selection, so we proceeded by adding the Digimon of the following anime series’s protagonists.

–This is a long-running series with a lot of Digimon; was it hard to choose?

Habu: The most difficult thing about producing these games is that the number of monster characters is higher than those of your average RPG. Since different Digimon are shaped differently, you can’t reuse character models and motions, and the production cost gets very high (laughs). We get a lot of requests from fans saying “please put more Digimon in it,” but that’s actually the hardest thing for us to do (laughs).

What’s this new function “Digitter”?

–A new function called “Digitter”, which provides real-time updates about events going on in the Digital World, What led to its creation?

Habu: It was originally planned to be a simple function that kept track of your friends’ activities and the result of your Digimon training. But because so many other things happen at the same time, we realized we also wanted to have something that clarifies the current situation, records and links related to events, and basically do “flag management”, so development ended up getting quite out of hand (laughs).

Tomono: From there, we realized “there are a lot of other things we can do with this feature,” and people would just keep arbitrarily adding new things for it to do, and so…it kept getting bigger and bigger and eventually became quite the huge thing (laughs).

Habu: But thanks to that, I think we were able to have it give off a “feeling of life”, that Digimon are out there living actual lives in the Digital World. We would be very happy if the casual posts of wild Digimon create an atmosphere of Digimon being alive in this world, beyond that of just standard conversation.

Tomono: It might have been something that came out of the current climate of social media culture. It should be something that feels familiar to players.

You can have each Digimon grow uniquely by training them!

–A major selling point for this series is its training aspect. Were there any changes to that?

Tomono: We’ve fully modified the training-related stats. In addition, we’ve also added little hints that help players more thoroughly understand evolution-related information, so you can train your Digimon with “should I do this or not?” properly in mind.

Habu: In the previous version, similar Digimon would eventually grow into Digimon with similar abilities, but for this version we rebalanced it so that each Digimon has more individuality. In other words, you could say we made it “easier for each Digimon to develop uniquely” rather than simply making training easier across the board. In addition, we also adjusted the stat parameters used for the evolution tree. We also raised the cap for stats, so you can now have your Digimon develop uniquely by “aiming for specialty in one particular stat”.

Tomono: You can think about the potential type of your partner Digimon, like “if I’m going to go on this kind of adventure with my partner Digimon, I should raise them in this way,” and you can enjoy raising them as if they were actually alive.

–So the appeal of training Digimon is that the way you train them is eventually reflected in the Digimon’s growth.

Habu: Right. For this game, even if you’re not particularly fixated on your training methods, you can still raise them well. For many newer players, the concept of “Digimon exhausting their lifespans and dying” makes them uncomfortable. In the previous version, the player would still receive a stat bonus based on the Digimon that had passed, allowing them to make use of their work to some extent. For this version, we added a new feature called the “Decode Level”, which allows you to actually see this bonus in visual form. When you raise a Digimon well with the right training, the Digimon’s stats will be boosted according to the level amount. This makes it easier to get back on your feet when raising a Digimon all over from Baby level. It’s not easy to raise a Digimon again entirely from scratch, so it naturally helps to have something to give you a hand. The game becomes much more accessible for beginners, and those who want to get through it quickly can do so, and the game becomes well-balanced in that sense.

Tomono: Before, we were following a line of thought that the player would do proper Digimon training in the gym and leave the town once they were done, but this time we let up on that and made it easier to acquire training items while fighting wild Digimon, so going out and fighting is also an option.

Interacting with Digimon is now even more fun!

–Are there any other things that have made the game easier to play?

Habu: Fighting has gotten much more fast-paced. On the battlefield, you can change viewpoints, and the camera will also move according to the Digimon’s actions. Beyond the battlefield, we also made it so that the Digimon will never leave the screen when you walk with them. We’re making improvements to these aspects so that you can have a fun adventure with your Digimon.

Tomono: One particularly intriguing addition we made was “Infinity Mountain”. We had fields in the Digital World, but we didn’t have any “dungeons” or any other sort of labyrinthine area typical of conventional RPGs. Therefore, we’ve added a mode called Infinity Mountain, where you can experience dungeon exploration.

–Is there anything particularly special about that mode?

Habu: Digimon die when they exhaust their lifespans, but by leaving their original data in “DigiStorage”, you can take the Digimon that you had raised before and explore Infinity Mountain. It’s quite different from the usual training and adventure gameplay, and you can have fun in a different way, too.

Tomono: This means that even if a Digimon you love dies, it won’t have to be the last time you see them.

Habu: There are conventional dungeon mechanics like pitfalls, and areas you can only cross by bringing the right Digimon, and other exploration elements that had yet to be seen before in Digimon World.

Tomono: They’re conventional elements, but we’ve made some modifications. There are some little tricks we’re playing that’ll make you laugh quite a bit (laughs).

How does it feel to be at the final part of the 15th anniversary project?

–This game will be released as the fourth part of the franchise’s 15th anniversary. How do you feel to be releasing a game during such a milestone year?

Habu: The 15th anniversary is only the first milestone. There are many fans who have enjoyed Digimon since the beginning, and although we want to create a branch of the franchise for adults, for this game we put it on the 3DS so that young children can play, too. We hope this will become a stepping stone towards the franchise’s 20th anniversary. This franchise has been able to release content all the way up to the 15th anniversary, so we hope it will be able to reach the next generation. Once we reach the 20th anniversary milestone, we hope to create something that both parents and children can enjoy.

–Finally, please leave a message for the fans who are looking forward to this game.

Habu: This is the last work Bandai Namco Games will be releasing for the 15th anniversary project, so please look forward to it. Naturally, we would like Digimon fans to play it, and of course, we would like those who have never played a Digimon game before to try it. We would be happy if more people than ever could try out the game and liven up Digimon World together.

Tomono: I feel we’ve managed to make this game in such a way that you can pick it up and play with confidence. Well, we did our best to get rid of anything that would get you stuck and force you to give it up, so please do pick it up and give it a try. The game has increased considerably in volume from the previous version, so even if you played it on PSP, please give this one a try.

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