Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia Interview with Producer and Game Designer Kazuhiro Igarashi

Brigandine The Legend of Runersia Kazuhiro Igarashi Interview

RPGFan: The original Brigandine released over two decades ago, yet it still has a passionate following. What was it that prompted the team to return to the world of Brigandine?

It has actually been a dream of mine to be on the Brigandine team since I started at Happinet 22 years ago. The Legend of Forsena was released at the time by their subsidiary, E3 STAFF and I made it my mission to join them, but the team eventually disbanded. However, the reopening of the game division later on gave me the opportunity to realize my dream with a new team.

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RPGFan: You’ve brought a lot of amazing talent in for this game. How did you assemble this team, and why did you approach these specific talents?

I’m very fortunate that these talented creators agreed to join the team. I was a fan of Kenji Terada’s [Final Fantasy I – III] scripts and dreamed of working with him one day. As chance would have it, I happened to meet someone who had a connection with him and expressed my desire to meet with him. Our first meeting took place in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and I asked him if he would once again write a fantasy world for a game. To my delight, he agreed and Terada has written a story that’s easy to get into that suits the genre; the scenarios are heartwarming and full of humor.

As I searched for someone who could conjure up images that most closely resembled the atmosphere of the world of Runersia I had in mind, art style was my only criteria — name recognition didn’t come into the picture at all. My first choice for art and character was design by Raita Kazama [Xenoblade, Xenoblade Chronicles X] so I personally emailed him to meet and share details about Brigandine, the concept behind Runersia, and more. The wonderful thing about Kazama’s art is that his character interpretations and design all swell with imagination. As the game doesn’t have a fixed protagonist, any character from the six nations — whether one of the six rulers or over 100 knights — can become the player’s personal main character. There are over 100 knights in the game, and each has their own detailed and distinct character design. That’s why I needed Kazama’s rousing and imaginative character designs. I was very lucky to work with him. His creations are very intricate, and every single piece of accessory is purposeful.

In a similar process, I contacted Tenpei Sato [Disgaea Series, Brigandine: Grand Edition] who had experience on Grand Edition and we met in Shibuya. He enthusiastically expressed his eagerness to once again make incredible fantasy music. Sato gave us 38 songs, all of which were impeccably crafted.

The theme song — a song that seemed to tell a story by itself — was recorded with an orchestra. The songs created for each of the six nations are tailored specifically for each one. Playtime for the game is long, but you won’t get tired of the music, no matter how many times you hear it. Parts of the songs have been uploaded to our official YouTube channel, so please give them a listen!

Links to each nation’s song:

We held discussions with several developers in our search for a partner, and Matrix was the only developer that brought along the strategy book for the previous work, Grand Edition, for our first meeting. Many of their staff were also fans of Brigandine and had a deep understanding of the game mechanics.

I feel that passion and understanding were the most important things in the early stages of development, which is why it didn’t take me long to choose them as a partner. Once development began, we tackled problems that cropped up together as partners, while always thinking about how to make the game more interesting for the players. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.

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RPGFan: What strengths from the original game are being brought over to the new game? Are there any weaknesses from the original you tried to address here?

I think there are several reasons why the previous game gained cult classic status and has been loved for such a long time. Of these, there were two aspects that we felt were especially important to bring over to Runersia. A sandbox-like strategy game set in a fantasy world that gives the player a lot of freedom and organization, battles, and addictive units training.

Players are free to aim for continental conquest using any of the six nations available. The many options available to do so within each nation is a major strength as well. For example: Each of the six nations has its own story and strategic slant, which allows for highly diverse playing styles. There are over 100 knights, over 60 knight classes, and over 50 types of monsters. It’s up to the player to decide what troops they will form, what routes they should take, and how they should fight. There are over 500 kinds of items, and the player can train their knights and monsters however they want. People often say the most interesting element of Brigandine is in the training.

The goal of the game is to conquer the continent by occupying all 41 bases across the land. Most of the gameplay consists of troop battles that take place on these bases. The tactical excitement these battles provide and the series of repeated battles are a lot of fun! Leveling up knights and monsters is a smooth process that takes place as the battle goes on. Whether a battle was won or lost, the player can continue to change the classes of their units, adjust their equipment, or reorganize them into new troops with different combinations. You’ll definitely be looking forward to the next battle after all that strategizing and troop organization! This addictive gameplay loop is one of Brigandine‘s greatest appeals.

We’ve also made a number of improvements while keeping the best parts of the Brigandine series intact. For example, with sandbox-like strategy games where a high degree of freedom is important, immediately after starting the game, there’s usually quite a lot of information to take in. For that reason, we created a tutorial mode that’s separate from the main game this time around. I invite players who are trying Brigandine for the first time to begin with the tutorial mode.

RPGFan: The portable nature of the Nintendo Switch can give gamers the chance to squeeze in a season or two while on the go. That said, are there any plans to release the game on additional platforms in the future?

Right. This is a game you can play for a long time; the Switch’s portability definitely comes in handy here. On the other hand, many units appear on the battlefield and there’s a lot of numerical information to process, so it might be easier to play on a larger screen when at home.

As for releasing the game on additional platforms, I’d like to see that happen if possible. Currently, the Switch launch takes priority, but we’re mulling the possibility of a PlayStation or PC version as well. However, we’re not thinking of adding more content to any potential future platform releases, so players can rest assured they can enjoy the Switch version without any fear of missing out!

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RPGFan: With Brigandine Grand Edition introducing multiplayer, are there any plans to include multiplayer in Legend of Runersia?

This game doesn’t have a multiplayer mode. It was on the table during the planning stage, but considering it’ll take 20-40 hours to unify the continent in single player, even if we brought in the previous game’s multiplayer mode, there are still going to be players who either find it challenging to play online and stick with offline-only anyway, or don’t have the necessary environment to play online.

To evolve while staying true to Brigandine‘s roots, we decided to implement the Challenge mode which is a combo of a sandbox and a score attack mode. Players select 10 Rune Knight and one base and all ally and enemy units start at level 1. The strategy score is based on the tactical maneuvers you employ. The mode takes 20-40 hours and can be replayed several times.

Runersia is strategy-based, single player game that can be enjoyed for a long time and we focused on developing modes that all players who purchased the game can have fun with. So rather than having the players compare themselves with others, we wanted them to talk with each other about the various play styles created using the various elements unique to the game. While players can definitely compare their raw strategy scores if they like, we believe it’s an important element that can be a basis for player-to-player conversation as well. By discussing with others, players can discover new strategies, which can lead to them breaking personal records. Benefits like this were common back when games were offline-only. Isn’t it neat to have a game like that even in this modern age, too?

RPGFan: When the original game was released twenty-two years ago, demos were quite common. Over the past decade, however, demos have become less of a focus for developers. As the industry becomes more reliant on influencers, how important do you feel it is to deliver a vertical slice directly to the fans?

The thing is, with Brigandine‘s game structure, the more satisfying scenes don’t appear right after you start the game, but after playing for a while. That’s why we thought long and hard about whether to release a demo that only allowed people to play a little. But because this game doesn’t have a large base of support like AAA titles, I thought it was necessary first and foremost to release a demo so that more people can get to know about it.

Different publishers have different stances on influencers, but as for Brigandine, we welcome influencers to showcase our work! Most of them have the knowledge and skills to convey the appeal of the game to a wider audience. However, we’re a Japanese publisher with no overseas offices and no direct contact with Western influencers and we’d love to be able to have more contact with influencers of all sorts. That said, we value the enthusiastic influencers who have been supporting Brigandine since the previous games, so we’ll be looking for that instead of just influencer follower numbers. That being said, we greatly value game media connoisseurs that put out quality information. That’s also why we’ve been sharing more information through interviews like this. Again, thank you for providing us with this opportunity to share our project!

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RPGFan: Over the past two decades, the strategy genre has seen a surge in popularity after years of decline thanks to games like Civilization V and Fire Emblem. Aside from the original game, what are the team’s biggest influences on Legend of Runersia?

As you said, it has been 20 years and there have been a lot of advancements in technology and the genre. Rather than influences, I’d say we were driven by the goal of bringing a modern Brigandine experience that still feels very familiar to fans, but also could be enjoyed by new players as well.

RPGFan: What kind of feedback have you received from people who have played the demo? Have you made any adjustments or changes due to fan feedback?

Yes, we received quite a bit of feedback. We’re considering if we can address some of it in a post-release patch. For example, there were many convenient button functions and shortcuts that players weren’t aware of, so we needed to add more button information. (Like pressing the right stick on the battle map changes the camera to a top-down perspective, pressing ZL displays color coding for both armies, etc.)

We are also considering a few other areas where there is room for improvement on ease of use and other areas. I’m grateful to all those who gave us feedback. Thank you so much.

RPGFan: Legend of Forsena was an ambitious title both for the hardware it was on and the time it was released. Legend of Runersia is shaping up to be an equally ambitious title. Is there any feature in particular that the team is most excited about in Legend of Runersia?

The development team put the most effort into the game concepts described in the previous answers. But basically, the highest priority was to keep the essence of Brigandine intact. Here’s a quick rundown of the features of Brigandine:

  • Country conquest strategy game where the player aims to conquer the continent using one of six nations
  • Traditional fantasy world
  • Rich and deep storylines, settings, and historical backgrounds for each country and character
  • Up to 42 knight and monster units duking it out in troop battles on a turn-based hex map
  • High level of flexibility in training and organizing units, multiple ways of seizing enemy territory according to player preference

It sounds simple, but games with this kind of concept are few and far between these days. In fact, that’s exactly why we made this new game.

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RPGFan: Are there any ties to the original Legend of Forsena? Are there any hints, references, or nods to the original that long-time fans can look forward to?

This game, Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, and the previous game, Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, are set on different continents, so their stories are not linked to each other at all.

Nevertheless, players that enjoyed elements of the previous game can expect to see them again in the new game. I can’t tell you too much without revealing spoilers, but some interesting surprises may pop up in the second half of the continental conquest. The spirit behind the code of chivalry of a certain knight in the previous game may also have lived on as the words of another knight in this new title.

I’d like to retell the Forsena story someday in the form of maybe a remake. But to do that, I first need to do my best with Runersia and gain more fans for the series.

RPGFan: Are there any plans for downloadable content that fans can look forward to? Perhaps an expansion in the future with added factions or features?

We discussed about DLC right from the planning stages, and the decision was to just implement whatever we wanted to do as DLC into the game right from the start. The challenge mode is one example of this. Completing the game’s main mode takes about 20-40 hours per nation, for a total of 120-240 hours if you play as all six. You are also able to choose from three different difficulty levels, which affects the AI for CPU controlled enemies. Once you’ve completed the story, you’re able to review your combat history and the path you took to conquer the continent with the Battles function.

Even if you played as the same nation on the same difficulty, your battle records are certain to be different each time.

Designing the game in this way allows for players to enjoy it for longer hours. Since the main mode alone had enough volume for a full game, we could definitely have turned challenge mode into DLC if we wanted. However, since a solid and rewarding single player experience is what Brigandine is all about, we decided to put in whatever we could right from the very beginning.

That’s not to say we don’t think it’ll be good to expand content in the future, though. Forsena was followed up by the release of Grand Edition, and so I’m imagining a large-scale update similar to that.

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RPGFan: The producer letters are a great way to provide a bit of transparency and interact with fans. Is there anything you and the team would like to share with the fans?

Yes! First, I’d like to give a shout-out to the fans who’ve been with us since Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena. Thank you all for supporting Brigandine for such a long time. It took more than 20 years to release a new game, so everyone has gotten older, right? My beard has quite a bit of gray hair now too!

Some may wonder if the evolution of games over the past 20 years had made Brigandine‘s game mechanics outdated and unnecessary. I don’t think so at all. I made this new game because I firmly believe strategy games still hold great appeal to many players even in this modern age. Releasing this new game is like holding a festival for fans of the previous game for the first time in 20 years. This party is for you, fans! So please enjoy yourself to your heart’s content! And if you enjoy the game, recommend it to your friends! Ask them if they like unique and challenging strategy games!

Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart.

If you’re new to Brigandine, I just want to say thank you for making it to the end of this interview! If you’re interested in Brigandine, be sure to check out the official website and follow our Twitter for a lot more info. The demo is currently available on the Nintendo eShop as well, so please give it a try. Everyone in the development team has worked hard to make the game fun and addictive even for new players like yourself, so we really hope you’ll enjoy it!

And last but not least, I would very much like to thank RPGFan for providing me with this opportunity to share our project. We in Japan also read RPGFan articles. Thank you for the great writing!

We’d like to thank Kazuhiro Igarashi and Happinet for the opportunity to chat about Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia. The game is coming to Nintendo Switch on June 25th. Look for a review and special giveaway next week!

Des Miller

Des Miller

Des is a reviews editor, writer, and resident horror fan. He has a fondness for overlooked, emotionally impactful, and mechanically complex games - hence his love for tri-Ace and Gust. When he's not spending hours crafting in Atelier or preaching about Valkyrie Profile, he can usually be found playing scary games in the dark. With headphones. As they should be played.