Yoshiko Okamoto and Bill Ritch muse on Folklore
Taking a break from the rigours of press conferencing, quick-playing, battling for space in the press room and generally being bad-tempered about just how hot it is and why my hotel's located precisely in the middle-of-Nowhereville, I sat down in a quiet room with Yoshiko Okamoto and Bill Ritch of Game Republic to discuss Folklore.
Bill Ritch helps translate, remaining friendly and good-humoured despite my occasionally ill conceived and downright naive questions, adding his own thoughts to Okamoto's wisdom along the way. What is Folklore about, I venture, which is rapidly translated and greeted with a quick response from the designer. Folklore is an action-adventure title, I learn, based on Irish mythology. More over, it is also a PS3 exclusive due out this October.
A Japanese action-adventure title based on Irish mythology? Is that... normal? Yes, apparently it is, Japan it turns out is very interested in the ancient culture and myths that surround our Celtic friends; Okamoto, meanwhile, admits he is personally fascinated by it all - hence his pleasure at being able to weave lashings of it into an action title.
But how does the game introduce players to this fascinating world? Slowly, I'm told. The game begins with our heroes Ellen and Keats journeying to the small Irish Village of Doolan (a real place, in fact), to investigate the mysterious murder of Ellen's mother - and some other bizarre goings on. Okamoto speaks, and speaks. Apparently, Ellen and Keats need to talk to the souls of the dead, and this leads them to the realisation that Doolan is in fact a portal to another world. Yes, you've guessed it, the world of the dead (as Irish mythology sees it).
As Doolan descends into strangeness, I'm told our heroes must journey through the portal to this terrifying land, to talk to the spirits and find out the truth behind the murders in Doolan.Very nice... but when can we do some killing? Now, it emerges, as through the seven worlds behind the portal we must battle to uncover the truth, taking on the many flavoured 'folk' who inhabit the varying worlds.
Combat will be one of Folklore's main focusses, Okamoto and Ritch telling me that there are more than 100 'folks' to tackle, all of whom can be beaten in a number of ways, based upon their unique skills and attributes. The mystery of Folklore will be unravelled by taking the souls of these mythical creatures, a task accomplished with a quick shake of the SIXAXIS controller (who said it was a gimmick?), once the beasts are nearly beaten.
Okamoto reveals that the game will allow you to choose to play as both Ellen and Keats at different times, with both characters receiving their own personal narrative. Ritch adds that while you can complete the adventure without having completed both characters' respective narratives, to unravel the full depths of the Doolan mystery you'll need to learn about both protagonists.
While combat will be focussed on defeating the unusual 'folks', we're promised far more than a button basher, the designers responding to my (foolish) suggestion that it might be a worry by explaining that a great deal of thought has gone into the way plot and action combine, alongside the 'puzzle-like' elements involved in finding the best method of dispatching certain enemies.
Okamoto reveals that a particular folk, one that boasts a nasty cannon on his back, is his favourite while Ritch points excitedly at a poster and the on-screen action, trying to work out which creature the game's creator has chosen. We fail. But we do know it's the one with the large cannon. I ask how long the game will last, and I'm surprised to learn that a typical player should complete it in a hefty 30-hours... which is certainly no flash in the pan.
Our PR representative is looking nervously at his watch, I sense that time is passing me by , my handwritten notes become almost illegible with haste. Time for one more poser, I'm warned. Do Game Republic see Folklore as an ongoing series? Okamoto and Ritch look indecisive. They tell me that the game will be supported by new downloadable story chapters over PSN post-launch, but they're quick to add that these extra chapters will be set within the existing timeframe of the game, enhancing the existing plot, rather than continuing the saga, then.
I say my arigatou's and I'm ushered from the room, smiles all round and back into the sticky frenzy that is the Games Convention Leipzig.