From Programmer to Director
OperationRainfall was able to interview Shunsuke Minowa, director for the upcoming Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless. In this interview, they talk about new features, characters, what Minowa has brought onto the series, and more. We have compiled some interesting tidbits from it below:
When talking about the characters:
OR: In Disgaea 7, you have two main characters — a first for the series: Fuji and Pirilika. Can you talk about these two characters a bit, and why you chose to have two main characters instead of just one, like in prior entries?
SM: Fuji was envisioned as a very classic ‘demons’ demon,’ who embodies all the characters up until now like a typical Disgaea protagonist, but with an interesting caveat of being in a bushido-themed world. So the interplay of his demonic nature with the bushido world is one interesting thing. But the contrast: Pirilika is very, very optimistic, [and] has a very rosy-tinted view of the world. So the idea was to have this strong contrast between the two characters and that’s why we had two [leads].
OR: Why have two characters that embodies these characteristics, instead of just one that embodies these characteristics or just bounces off of secondary characters?
SM: One point is that it did make for making scenes easier — writing the story. Also, by splitting it, you can further emphasize that difference: You can really say this character is all about the ‘good,’ this character is all about the ‘bad.’ So, it really emphasizes the dual nature of this game.
When talking about new features and gameplay:
OR: Can you explain what ‘Jumbification’ is, and what the development process [was] in balancing it into the gameplay?
SM: As you just saw in your playthrough — movement is sometimes a sticking point in SRPGs. So one big feature in how to address this in the Disgaea series is lifting and throwing. That’s a great way to deal with tricky movement, so we wanted to double down on it, essentially. We’re already adding new battle features, and we thought this was a great chance — maybe we can create a way to attack without moving at all, plus it just looks great, right?
So this really came from a discussion with the designers. We already had these 3D models, and so we said: ‘So even if we blow them up to huge proportions, they will still look great, right?’ So this lended itself to the exact game mechanics I was already envisioning. This time, it was really easy to combine the 3D with this vision I already had, and that’s where Jumbification came from. And adding onto that, we added these Jumbo abilities — so when you’re Jumbified, you can have these fun attacks, do more damage, to make battle even simpler and more fun and quicker and be more exciting.
OR: Bonus Gauges are gone, and instead there are chests awarded based upon completing certain objectives, like completing the battle in a certain number of turns, taking damage only a certain number of times, etc. Can you talk about this gameplay mechanic, and how you developed it? How did you choose what conditions to set per map?
SM: The reason we focused on this rewards system format actually had to do with the auto battle. You’re not just trying to lower the cost — again, we’re trying to provide more challenges, more engagement for the player. So, while you’re focusing on clearing the stage, you also can focus on things to clear in the stage. Like it’s objectives within objectives. That also increases, I think, the play merit, and also — for example — if you’re playing normally, you check off maybe one or two. But if you’re really focusing, you can get everything. So it increases the play value and the depth of the play objectives.
When talking about Shunsuke Minowa’s new experience as a Director:
OR: Now, this is the first time you’ve directed a game, correct?
OR: I believe you were a programmer previously on Disgaea 4 and 5?
OR: Can you talk a bit about what it is like stepping up from being a programmer, which handles one specific part of the game, to helming the entire project?
SM: The fun part, for example, as a programmer, is that you get to focus in on your area and speak with the director about it. But as the director, what is interesting is that you have the bigger picture in mind at all times, and you’re juggling things — for example, you’re balancing the gambling aspect or the leveling aspect. And you’re focusing on how we can pick the best of all these different areas, instead of just drilling down, you’re trying to raise everything at once and have that bigger image.
OR: Donald M. Murray once wrote: “All my writing — and yours — is autobiographical.” What of yourself do you see in Disgaea 7?
SM: Are you talking about more the mechanics or the story?
OR: It’s whatever — what of yourself do you see in Disgaea 7?
SM: So, I actually am not very good at SRPGs. I think they can be a pain sometimes, with some of those mechanics. So for me, what was so great about the Disgaea series is that they make those mechanics fun and that there is a lot of depth to those mechanics. And so, for me, that is something I really wanted to focus in on and make even better — making not-so-much-fun stuff, fun.
OR: You also mentioned something about story — do you see something about the story in yourself?
SM: I really like these ‘David and Goliath’ stories — the giant killers. I wanted a small but powerful character. So, I talked with the writers, and the result of that was Ao and Suisen.
These are only some of the highlights from the interview, but we highly encourage you read all of it by following this link to OR’s site.
Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is coming to Nintendo Switch on October 3rd, 2023.