Interview with BlazBlue Creator Toshimichi Mori

Toshimichi Mori has created a series that has become a worldwide phenomenon: BlazBlue. At Arc REVO America 2019, we had a chance to sit down with Mori-san and talk about BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, his thoughts on Marvel and DC, and what the future holds for the BlazBlue series.

11 years, anime series, manga series, multiple games…how does it feel to have been involved in such a memorable franchise?

Very tough (laughs), but at the same time very satisfying.

Many fighting games have come and gone over the years, but the BlazBlue series is still here. Did you ever think it would have lasted as long as it did?

Actually, the series has a, I don’t want to say a period, but one ending with Central Fiction. On the other hand, my feeling is that we’ve experimented with a lot of things with BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle. So in continuing the BlazBlue series, I would like to start with a new type of game with new systems. That’s the feeling I have for a goal.

So how did the BlazBlue series start?

This was at the time when Daisuke didn’t want to make a Guilty Gear series for a couple of years…it was during the time of Guilty Gear Overture which was a real-time strategy game. Arc System Works, since we had expertise in fighting games, wanted to add another new IP to our line up. I had been involved with the Guilty Gear series for over 10 years and came up with the idea of BlazBlue. That’s how I started working on the series.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is quite a departure from the BlazBlue series in many ways. Who’s idea was it to take those characters and put them into a team-based game?

It was actually my idea. I came up with the idea of changing the whole system for BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle. I wanted to design a fighting game that everyone could play, almost like a festival cross over. Another priority I had in my mind was to allow the players to be able to play this fighting game with their pad….that’s how it started.

So how do you feel about making that decision now, because I would say that BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is probably more popular than Central Fiction now.

My personal analysis of how it turned it out with Cross Tag Battle is that, up to BlazBlue Central Fiction, I was thinking the game was designed to be loved by Japanese players too much. So when I was working on Cross Tag Battle instead of being so focused on Japanese feedback, I shifted my mindset to be more global and I feel that worked.

What was your feeling seeing BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle as a feature game at EVO?

It was as I planned (laughs).

BlazBlue at its core is a technical game. What process did you go through to decide how you would simplify BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle?

For designing Central Fiction, the game was designed to be easier to execute on arcade sticks. When I was thinking about Cross Tag Battle, as I said earlier I was focusing on the gamepad more in general. So I was planning to try to remove all of the complicated execution that is very easy to do on arcade sticks, but hard to do on a pad. That turned into how it became simplified.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle has a wide variety of characters…in some ways similar to Smash Bros. with many guest characters. How do you go about selecting those characters? Do you go to the rights holder and ask, do they come to you?

We approach the game companies and ask if we can put their characters in–no companies approached asking if their character can be put in. In terms of choosing what games we want to put in, the decision we made first was Persona and Under Night since we have involvement in those games. It was very easy to implement those so it was our first choice. Other games we look at how our BlazBlue world is and then look at if it matches with their IP. Another thing is that I am very close friends with Takagi the Producer of Senran Kagura, so we talked internally about bringing Yumi into the game.

So for a guest character like Ruby Rose who’s never appeared in a fighting game, what’s the challenge in bringing her into the game with her special moves, but doing so in a way that will stay true to the source material and appeal to fans of the series?

Of course, we reference a lot of the action sequences from the original IP. We looked at Ruby in the anime, her actions, her moves. When you see anime, the way you feel very very cool, we wanted to put that into the game. If you actually land that move from the anime on your opponent we want you to feel very happy and have that same coolness. So we were very focused on transferring over that cool feeling, that happy feeling from watching the anime into the games moves. That’s what I had in my mind when I was implementing those characters.

There are other franchises, characters and series out there. Which one would you like to work on if you had a chance?

I love Marvel and DC comics. So if I had a chance to work on those I would more than welcome the opportunity.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle 2.0 has been announced with even more characters being added to the game. What’s your thought process on keeping the game balanced? Is it to make weak characters stronger, make strong characters weaker, how do you go about it?

Most of the game balancing decisions are not done by me, it’s the Battle Game Designers but I make the final decision. When those designers come up to me and ask which direction they should go or if they should make this character’s move weaker or this character’s move stronger so that it balances, I prefer tweaking the weaker character’s power stronger so no one gets any nerfs. But if the Battle Game Designer prefers something different, I will approve it but usually, I don’t like nerfing characters.

Are the Battle Planners looking at telemetry from the game, are they watching streams? How are they made aware that maybe this character is not doing as well as this character?

Well, we can’t really say clearly that we are looking at these things to make decisions…if we were to announce that, people would go into that channel and try to make us move in a certain direction. But what I can say is that we usually go online with non-Arc System Works name, and talk with people and try to get feedback. We also look at social media like Twitter and YouTube to see how people are feeling. Then we gather all of that information and make an analysis of if a character is too strong or should be made stronger.

Guilty Gear characters and BlazBlue characters have yet to fight. Is there a chance we might see Guilty Gear characters as guest characters in BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle?

I never thought about it. Apparently, I don’t know what source it is, but I saw an article saying that I said Guilty Gear vs. BlazBlue would never happen. I never said that. We will maybe plan that once everything surrounding Guilty Gear and BlazBlue settles down and we have time to think about it. We don’t have any plans for it now, but we don’t have a rule internally that says no Guilty Gear vs. BlazBlue.

BlazBlue is unique in that it is still a 2D-based game. Other fighting games, like Guilty Gear have transitioned over to 3D utilizing Unreal Engine for example. Have you thought about for the next generation of BlazBlue utilizing Unreal Engine and transitioning the characters from 2D to 3D?

If I have the chance, 100% I want to do a 2.5D fighting game. At the time of starting BlazBlue, there was a limitation on 3D on how it could look 3D. Now in this generation that has changed, the technology has developed. Actually, in 3D you have more freedom to have the look of 2D in 3D. So if I have the chance I want to shift to 3D…or somewhere between 2D and 3D.

Having been around fighting games for a long time, what’s one game that’s left a deep impression, something you look at that’s impressed you the most?

Vampire Hunter

Looking back at EVO and EVO Japan we saw the majority of fighting games were Arc System Works titles, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Dragon Ball FighterZ and Guilty Gear Xrd. We have the upcoming Granblue Fantasy: Versus. Arc System Works is leading this generation when it comes to fighting game development. How does it feel to be in that position?

If I were to borrow words from our President, we’ll take over EVO with all Arc System Works fighting games (laughs). The thing is that my personal opinion is I don’t really like that situation because I prefer more variety in the fighting game industry in general. If that’s the decision made by players, that the players want all Arc System Works titles then that’s fine. I would prefer to see other fighting game companies, making different games with their own IP which is not something that Arc System Works can make so that we have a variety of fighting games in the industry. I think this keeps the excitement in the community.

What did you think of the interview? Let us know in the comments below.

Danial Arshad Khan

Founder of GearNuke.
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