The Feelings Evoked by Numbering for the First Time in Eight Years
The December 10th, 2015 issue of Famitsu had the scoop on info about "Ace Combat 7." In the article, we had an interview with Mr. Kazutoki Kono, but we have posted here the full version, including a portion of the article which could not be printed.
--This article is titled Numbering for the First Time in Eight Years, but could you please explain the concept?
Kazutoki Kono (below: Kono): "Numbered title" would express the meaning better, so more properly the concept is "numbered Ace Combat title." It's what users who were cheering us on were always hoping we would work on next.
--Isn't there always a subtitle under the title?
Kono: For this release, the number one goal was to show everyone how this latest release was a return to the numbered games, so in short we decided that the main title "Ace Combat 7" would illustrate that the best. The necessity of a subtitle is currently being considered. Please stay tuned for a further announcement. Also, I think the numbering alone was enough to make our consumers happy.
--I see. The impact of the PV was excellent as well.
Kono: About that, the thing about the PV is that it wasn't pre-rendered, the movement of the people and the planes, the flow of the clouds, everything was rendered on actual hardware. We are pursuing three goals for this game, and one of them is rendering three dimensional clouds to properly portray the sky. Before then we had naturally used stuff like pictures of clouds in a skybox to get across the right idea. For this game we've implemented three dimensional clouds, so if you try to fly through a specific cloud, the cloud will actually exist, right there in front of you, since we've created the map structure as two layers of sky and land.
--You think flying through clouds would create a realistic feeling experience.
Kono: Flying around the periphery of a cumulonimbus and flying through the middle of a cloud feels natural and enjoyable. We've also taken into consideration things like differing airflow and weather conditions inside and outside of a cloud, and topographical effects as well. The wispiness of the underside of the cloud and their appearance from ground level will also be apparent. To get in your plane and behold a sea of clouds which unfurls out to the very horizon - the world of the sky: in this game, actually depicting such a thing (without the use of illusions) will be possible.
--That sounds like a singular experience, I'm looking forward to it. Could you talk some about other aspects?
Kono: Another aspect we're pursuing is the fun of "playing airplane." I'm not talking about becoming more realistic in some way, I mean special weapons and maneuvers.
--When you talk about maneuvers, do you mean that the cobra and kulbit techniques will be possible? The Su-30 in the PV did something like that…
Kono: Yep. I've talked with the current director Hamanaka (Mr. Takahiro Hamanaka), and rather than anyone being able to bring certain death with the punch of a single button1, we're going in the direction of skilled people being able to take full advantage of maneuvering to make stuff like that happen. The third aspect is "improving how you defeat enemies." We are pursuing those three aspects in the campaign mode.
--That sounds like fun! Incidentally, "Assault Horizon" and "Infinity" both take place in the real world, but what about this one?
Kono: The numbered games take place in a fictional world. That said, since over ten years have passed since the Playstation 2 era, we want it to be approachable to a new audience who have not touched the series before.
--The main setting is a continent which has appeared before in the series?
Kono: That it is. Where precisely, I cannot yet say. (wry smile)
--If one were to build a space elevator, I hear it'd be best to have it somewhere near the equator.
Kono: I shall leave the details to your imagination. Haha.
--Hehe. Even so, the space elevator left quite an impact.
Kono: It's representative of the game. It's not real, but it's not within the realm of fantastical sci-fi either. A Japanese architectural firm is currently planning one, and as a matter we were actually working on the game when we heard about it.
--You mean it's representative of something that if it were to really exist, it wouldn't be particularly odd. The part of the PV with the bungee jumping wasn't from the top, but about how high up was it?
Kono: The person in the PV is wearing something like a spacesuit, so it's a height that would be intolerable without it. Anyway, it's slightly wrong to say "the structure's height," but it reaches 100 thousand kilometers from the surface of the earth to its furthest point (it extends to a space station beyond, from which it derives its centrifugal force).
--That's certainly the largest structure in the series. The part closest to the earth sprawls out like the Tokyo Tower, but…
Kono: Since it serves as an entrance into space, I expect the area on the surface would have container terminals and other such facilities, so that was the basic premise.
--It looks like a fighter should be able to pull through there. I'd want to try it, anyway.
Kono: Yep, you can. We were thinking of it in terms of aerial shooter design too.
--I'm curious about the massive airborne aircraft carrier too, but how would that exist?
Kono: The fictional plane the dev team calls the FAS.
--The one that launches a mass amount of UAVs.
Kono: A "drone carrier" has some utility. A space elevator would be vulnerable in case of emergency, so it acts as a guardian angel, orbiting the surrounding area.
--So the FAS isn't based on any existing design. What's the motive behind it?
Kono: One of the themes of the game will be how unmanned aircraft will shape the future, so we included the design to that end. By the way, we had Kanno (Masato Kanno, art director for much of the series) handle the design work. I love the feeling of functionality his designs convey despite having such simple lines, and like the Arkbird and Stonehenge, the FAS is one of Kanno's original designs.2 He'll be the art director for 7.
--I see. It certainly resembles the Arkbird which appeared in 5, in that it's a very curvy design.3 We haven't talked about real airframes yet, so first of all, the F-22, F/A-18F, and Su-30 are confirmed. This is the series premiere for the Su-30, isn't it?
Kono: It is. My personal favorites are the Su-27, Su-37, and Su-35, but I asked the staff "how about the Su-30," and up to this point the series has been full of single-seat Flankers, so I thought why not go with a two-seater?
--I see. The F-22 and F/A-18F are big-league fighters.
Kono: Since the F-22 is the epitome of a fighter, even to anyone who has no interest in fighters and has only seen them in movies and stuff, its position as the protagonist's plane5 befits it. Regarding the F-22's flat planform for stealth, it's removed from the appearance of more traditional fighters like the F/A-18F as well.
--I'm curious about other planes as well. I have to imagine the F-15 and A-10 are pretty much locked in.
Kono: Pretty much. We've planned for a lineup befitting a numbered game. New hardware has since been introduced, so rather than reusing what's been in the series thus far, we're taking care with it.
--You mentioned content for Playstation VR support, but I expect we'll be able to look around and see the details in the cockpit.
Kono: Absolutely you will. Lots of people go "It looks like I'm flying!" when trying VR support, and we're trying to make content based around flying the free skies easy to intuitively grasp, so the decision to support VR was very quick, since there are so many advantages to it. That said, there are also plenty of technical challenges, and the dev team is currently evaluating and working them out.6
--I look forward to it. What will the campaign mode be like?
Kono: To make the campaign, it's necessary for the scenario to have been worked out as the missions are being built. We're currently at the stage where we're proceeding with mission design.
--Are there many on the production team who have worked on the series before?
Kono: Director Katabuchi's (animation director Mr. Sunao Katabuchi) involvement, continuing from his work on AC04 and AC5, has already been confirmed. Itomi (Mr. Kousuke Itomi) is also involved extensively in the scenario and script. I look forward to hammering out the scenario alongside Katabuchi. I believe everyone will find it to their satisfaction, so please look forward to it.
--I wonder who will be responsible for the BGM.
Kono: As it's always been with this series, I have requested it of Kobayashi (Mr. Keiki Kobayashi).
--That lineup will make the old fans happy. Lastly, do you have any message you'd like to tell the Japanese fans?
Kono: As with 4, 5, and Zero, rest assured that we (Project Aces) aim to make Ace Combat cool and fun. We take great pride in being one of the few Japanese IPs to have taken off across the world. Please look forward to it!
Lastly, printed here are messages from director Sunao Katabuchi and Keiki Kobayashi.
Sunao Katabuchi: Ace Combat 4 and 5 are memorable to me for being the tipping point in my own career. I've been able to return to that same world once again. Kono and the main staff from the old days have come together to once again attend meetings, and I've already been able to collaborate with them on the outline of the story. I welcome the newcomers, and I would like to express to all of you my gratitude.7
Keiki Kobayashi: Hi everyone, I'm Keiki Kobayashi. Have you taken a look at Ace Combat 7? I wonder what kind of drama awaits you flying around those blue skies freely, piercing the clouds. I'm writing some very fine music for this game, so by all means look forward to it.8