RPGFan: So exploration is a really important element?
John: Definitely exploration is a huge element to the game, and there's also a lot of puzzle solving. So there's combat, exploration, and a lot of puzzles, especially at the beginning of the game.
RPGFan: (Damian) Any plans for V and VI in the states?
John: We want to fill in the gaps really badly, but...(the sound on the tape is really bad at this point and it's too frustrating to figure out what is actually being said. In a nutshell, Enix of Japan has yet to announce Dragon Quest V and VI for any platform and Enix of America doesn't want to port them themselves).
RPGFan: Have you taken a lot of fan input onto the release of Dragon Warrior VII? Like comments, suggestions?
John: Absolutely. For VII we're using the same boxart that was used in the Japanese version, which is by Akira Toriyama. For III we went for more of an anime look, and that's because of a lot of people on our message boards. So many people were like "We want more of an anime-style look, rather than a rendered background."
RPGFan: It's nice. It looks true to Toriyama's style.
John: Exactly, course it was done by the lead animator for Dragon Ball Z. Besides that, there are a number of other things we took from our fans on the message boards.
RPGFan: Yeah, I've been to the message board a couple of times. What expectations do you have for Dragon Warrior VII, as far as sales and how it's going to be received by the gaming public?
John: I can say it has huge potential here. If you took all the titles in Japan that are on par with Dragon Warrior, that'd be Zelda, Final Fantasy...all are on par in Japan.
RPGFan: Dragon Quest VII sold better than Final Fantasy IX.
John: So it's kind of the last Japanese franchise not to make it to the same level as in the US. And I think in the next few years...well, you see that our presence has increased since last year at E3. We're really dedicated to marketing and advertising. And the cool thing about Dragon Warrior in contrast to a game like Final Fantasy, or even Valkyrie Profile, is that Dragon Warrior is very easy to play. You don't need to read the owners' manual, the interface is intuitive. That's something that has mainstream appeal, not just for hardcore gamers. I think it has a lot of appeal, even to non-gamers and non-RPG gamers.
RPGFan: Are you planning any extras for Dragon Warrior VII, like a soundtrack, like other companies have been doing with their RPGs?
John: Right now we don't have any plans to do any special packaging for Dragon Warrior VII. That possibility may change, but we'd have to discuss it.
RPGFan: (Damian) If you could get the soundtrack out to the states, there'd be a big push for it.
John: That's right. We don't actually own the license to the soundtrack. That's part of the problem. Sony released the soundtrack and they have the rights to it.
(John now hands me a copy of the soundtrack to look at).
You can have that Nicole.
RPGFan: Oh really? Thank you! Moving onto Dragon Warrior III for GameBoy Color, did the sales of I & II influence the release of III in Japan, or had Enix already decided to do them all ahead of time?
John: It certainly was a situation where we watched the performance of Dragon Warrior Monsters and Dragon Warrior I & II for GameBoy Color. Dragon Warrior I & II is actually our top-selling game of last year. It could've sold a lot more, but we ran out of stock right around Christmas, so it's kind of a shame. It did very well for us though and I think III will be remembered as one of the best GameBoy Color games ever, so I think this has good potential as well.
RPGFan: You were showing a PlayStation 2 title last year at E3. Was it called Blade Arts?
John: That was a PS One title.
RPGFan: PS One, okay...and then it was cancelled?
John: Yeah, we cancelled that one.
RPGFan: Oh, why?
John: (laughs) That kind of sword fighting, 3rd person exploration thing was a little saturated in the US, and we didn't think we could do the numbers to justify the localization, so it was kind of simple as that. It was a shame, because I wish we could bring out more games that we have in Japan to the US, but we couldn't work the numbers on it. That's what it came down to.
RPGFan: Were you disappointed with Valkyrie Profile's sales?
John: I was fairly pleased with Valkyrie Profile's sales. As product manager, I really don't have to answer to the sales numbers, but as far as I'm concerned on my side, I was quite pleased. I do believe the sales were fairly decent. And also it's a new franchise and a fairly different genre, but it was a very profitable game for us.
RPGFan: Is there any reason why a lot of names in the game were changed?
John: Oh, like which names?
RPGFan: Uh, like Arngrim was Aruze?
John: We wanted to change it to more of a Norse mythology-type name. A lot of the names were based on Norse mythology, but they transliterated that to Japanese. Most of the names we didn't change that much.
RPGFan: I think people unfamiliar with Norse mythology saw that the Japanese names were different.
(About this time John had to step outside to speak to an Enix employee for a second. Damian started eyeing my Dragon Quest 7 soundtrack.)
Damian: If you don't want it, I'll take it.
Me: Whatever. Back off!
(Eric laughs at us and John comes back in.)
John: We're probably going to have to finish this up in the next ten minutes.
RPGFan: Okay. I'll try to get through my more important stuff.
John: I'll try to talk faster.
RPGFan: (laughs) Okay! Are there any plans for a sequel to Valkyrie Profile?
John: There were a lot of things in the plot that set up a sequel, so that's a possibility. But right now, Tri-Ace is pretty much working on Star Ocean.
RPGFan: What titles do you have planned after Dragon Warrior VII and Dragon Warrior Monsters 2?
John: For US?