At PAX East 2019 in Boston this past weekend, we had the opportunity to sit down with Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain producer Nobuyuki Okajima from D3 Publisher to discuss the game’s new developer and how they are appealing to a western audience.
Find our full interview below.
This Earth Defense Force is developed by Yuke’s, while the mainline Earth Defense Force games are developed by Sandlot. Why choose Yuke’s, a company known for the WWE games, to develop the next Earth Defense Force?
Nobuyuki Okajima: “So as you know, Sandlot has been developing the numbered series of Earth Defense Force games, and it’s thanks to them that the series has become so popular in Japan. And worldwide, the core players are passionate about and support the series. But honestly speaking, it isn’t quite major in the western market quite yet—it’s like cult major. But I believe that the concept of Earth Defense Force can be accepted worldwide, so we wanted to make another Earth Defense Force that would be more widely welcomed in the western market. That’s why we made Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain. But we didn’t want to repress the numbered series, since we don’t want to disappoint the core fans, so we carefully went over external developers and chose Yuke’s because they had experience in the western market and have worked on very popular games with the WWE series.”
What would you say Yuke’s bringing to the table in Iron Rain that we haven’t seen in previous Earth Defense Force titles?
Okajima: “We were able to realize so many new challenges in Iron Rain, and we just focused on how we can entertain western players. For example, we made the graphics much more realistic than previous games. As for the game system, we made it in accordance with major third-person shooters in the west so that western players would feel comfortable. Also, for the world view and story, we had a very good discussion with Yuke’s and brought to the table a type of story that the western market would like. In addition to that, from the start of the project, we wanted to put the player-versus-player mode in addition to cooperative play since western player love it. Also, Yuke’s is very good at character customization, like in the WWE games for example, so they brought a lot of that to the table.”
Were you ever concerned that the introduction of western elements in an Earth Defense Force game would deter Japanese fans from wanting to play Iron Rain?
Okajima: “That’s a very common question from our fans. We’re not replacing the numbered series with Iron Rain. Iron Rain is completely new and has its own, independent development, and we believe that Japanese fans and worldwide fans of the numbered Earth Defense Force series understand our direction. Some Japanese fans have played Iron Rain at the Tokyo Game Show, and whilst their impressions are that it is very different from the numbered series, they have also said that it shares elements with the traditional Earth Defense Force.”
When Iron Rain was initially announced in Japan, Earth Defense Force 5 was still a month away from release in Japan, meaning that both were in development alongside each other for a certain period of time. Was there any sense of competition between Yuke’s and Sandlot to make the better Earth Defense Force game?
Okajima: “Well, since he developers of each game are different, they didn’t work together. At least, Sandlot didn’t think about Yuke’s making Iron Rain at the same time. But on the Yuke’s side, they already knew there was a new numbered title on the way. So they talked about Sandlot a lot, and I think they were nervous and had a lot of pressure on them. Sandlot creators are like my age, kind of middle-aged, but Yuke’s creators are a lot younger, and many of them have already invested in the Earth Defense Force numbered series as big fans. It’s because of that have a lot of respect for Sandlot and are very happy to be making the new game, but at the same time there’s that weight on them.”
In recent years, D3 Publisher has shifted from partnering with companies like XSEED Games to localize and publish its Japanese titles, to doing so on its own, which has led to its latest games being digital-only in the west. I don’t take it there are any plans for a physical release of Iron Rain?
Okajima: “We’ve already decided that we’re not going to have a physical version of Iron Rain unfortunately.”
Is there any consideration for that in the future?
Okajima: “Iron Rain is going to be released in two weeks, so it’s up to the demands of the fans. If it’s widely accepted and a lot of people want a physical release, then perhaps we’ll have to think about it.”
So this is the first Earth Defense Force in recent memory to be released worldwide—no doubt due to to the western focus you mentioned earlier. Is there a possibility we’ll see the series localized simultaneously in the future as well?
Okajima: “For the numbered series, we cannot guarantee it’s going to be released worldwide at the same time. But if Iron Rain is accepted and we end up releasing another one, then we’ll have to release worldwide at the same time.”
Recent games have been released for PlayStation 4. But is there any possibility these games will come to other platforms?
Okajima: “Like PC?”
Well I know you guys usually eventually port to PC, so I mean like Xbox One or Switch.
Okajima: “If there is a huge demand from the users, then of course we’re going to think about it.”
Thank you for your time, Okajima-san!
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is due out for PlayStation 4 worldwide on April 11.