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Crunchyroll is thinking about its fans when creating games

In our interview with Crunchyroll Games General Manager Terry Li, we discuss the studio’s new game, how it selects IPs for adaptation, and more

Terry Li and key art for MHA and Bloodline x AoT

Many things spring to mind when you think of Japan – wonderful culture, amazing history, scrumptious food, videogames, and, of course, anime. The latter two go hand in hand too, and make for some great experiences for those of you that enjoy both types of media, and at the heart of the marriage between the two is Crunchyroll, a company that needs no introduction should you enjoy these Japanese forms of media.

Crunchyroll brings not only many anime IPs to millions of people worldwide, but also delivers outstanding mobile games, so you can get in on the action rather than just watch it. Because as great as anime is, sometimes, you want to be that hero, especially since the intricate worlds you visit are full of enigmatic characters, enthralling stories, and exquisite combat that you can’t help but want to be part of.

Of course, there’s much that goes into bringing beloved characters, narratives, and IPs to the small screen, and we’re lucky enough to have spoken with Crunchyroll Games general Manager Terry Li. In our interview, Li discusses Crunchyroll’s latest game, Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire, covering topics such as why certain mechanics are in the game. And, of course, there’s no way we could pass up the opportunity to discuss some My Hero Academia too.

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin with the brand new Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire. This mobile title heavily relies on turn-based card game mechanics, and this isn’t by accident or because Crunchyroll just wanted to give it a try. Instead, it’s to make the game more enjoyable for all you players out there, as Li explains, “mobile games tend to perform better when they’re not too difficult and don’t require too much input from players – this is why AFK or away from keyboard games are so popular.”

Bloodline The last Royal Vampire key art

“Turn-based card game mechanics are relatively simple, allowing players to make a simple swipe in order to play. However, these easy-to-play games have a ton of depth! Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire is an accessible game, allowing players to go deep to customise if that’s how they want to play,” he continues. If there’s one thing we love at PT, it’s accessibility in games, and to know that Crunchyroll has those ideals at the heart of its titles is fantastic. Everyone deserves to enjoy games, and it’s evident that Li and his team feel the same way.

However, as great as easy-to-play mechanics and accessibility options are, a game still needs great content to make its mark in such a competitive market, especially in the anime division where fans are so passionate (more on that later). Luckily, despite its very recent release, Crunchyroll is making sure that Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire hits the ground running, and what better way to do that than with a crossover? And not just any crossover, but one with the incredibly popular Attack on Titan.

Of course, we’re super excited about this, and, in our humble opinion, there can be no wrong when two anime franchises come together. However, we can’t help but wonder how the Crunchyroll Games team decides which worlds to bring together – but, luckily for us, Li dives into why exactly AoT is the perfect first collaboration for Bloodline.

Bloodline and Attack on Titan key art

“Attack on Titan is a beloved dark fantasy series, which fits perfectly into the world of Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire,” Li explains. “Within the new Crunchyroll Games title, players battle a variety of dark creatures and demons (not dissimilar from the fearsome Titans), and the game mechanics allow for team customization.” This alone certainly makes AoT the perfect choice, but there’s one other thing we think makes this a perfect match. Other players are bound to agree, and Li certainly does as he says “wouldn’t all players want to include Eren, Mikasa, and Levi in their lineup?” The answer is yes for us at PT, at least.

Plus, there’s one other vital reason to go ahead with this specific collaboration, and if you’re an Attack on Titan fan, you likely know where we’re going with this. Li puts it perfectly, saying “the mega-hit anime wrapped part two of its epic final season on Crunchyroll, so it’s the perfect time to introduce this game crossover (and to binge the series if you’re not caught up).” Everyone is different, but if you’re yet to experience the brilliance of Attack on Titan, we recommend adding it to what’s likely already a long list of anime you need to watch. Trust us, AoT is fantastic.

As for other collaborations, it’s too early for the team to divulge that information, but Li promises that “players can expect more collaborations to be announced throughout the year.” For the time being, you can enjoy what’s sure to be an epic crossover between Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire and Attack on Titan. Li explains that there’s plenty of other content to look forward to, as well, including “tons of new characters – our team is introducing new characters every week. Fans can also expect themed events for holidays and various seasonal celebrations.”

MHA: The Strongest hero gameplay

Earlier, we briefly mentioned how passionate anime fans are, and with passion such as this, there’s a fine line to tread to ensure that they’re happy with a mobile game adaptation. It seems that Crunchyroll has this down to a fine art, especially as the company acknowledges and embraces the strong love that fans have for varying IPs.

“Anime fans are incredibly passionate, and Crunchyroll has been serving the global anime community for more than a decade, so we have a wealth of knowledge about what our fans enjoy,” Li says. “We use this data to tailor experiences for fans not just for Crunchyroll Games, but across theatrical, consumer products, events, and so much more.”

Thanks to the use of this data and paying attention to its fans and community, the team at Crunchyroll Games knows that “fans love in-game collaborations with their favourite series. There’s something special about seeing beloved characters in a new world, leading to fun and unexpected interactions within a game.” Li continues, “when we think about bringing anime crossovers and collaborations to life, we’re thinking about our fans and how we can immerse them into the world of their favourite series.”

Speaking of favourite series, My Hero Academia is up there as one of the most popular anime franchises out there. The mobile game MHA: The Strongest Hero has been on the scene for over a year now, and it’s fair to say that it’s a successful title, having become a hit with fans of the show who undoubtedly had some high expectations before they went into the game. Unsurprisingly, Crunchyroll is all too aware of this, and did what it could to ensure the mobile experience caters to fans.

MHA: The Strongest Hero gameplay

“My Hero Academia is an action-packed and action-heavy anime, with incredible animation and thrilling combat,” Li explains. “We knew our game had to keep up with this level of energy, and we needed to deliver on the same dynamic, one-to-one combat that our players would expect.” Of course, there’s a bit more to My Hero Academia than action alone, but Crunchyroll being the anime behemoth that it is has no trouble embracing all elements of the show.

Li continues to explain that the team “also worked hard to capture elements of the show we know our fans love, like building a team of your heroes and throwing your own United States of Smash. Creating an MMO setting in a fantasy city also presented a unique challenge, as we wanted players to really feel like they were the heroes, exploring the city and interacting with other players in this new world.”

If you’re a MHA fan there’s never a bad time to dive into The Strongest Hero, but there’s an exciting event going on right now that might entice you even more. As Li explains, right now “fans can enjoy the My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission collaboration. The event, which runs through August 3, offers exclusive rewards and events based on the hit anime film, and allows players the chance to unlock limited edition Deku, Todoroki and Bakugo characters equipped with their stealth suits and all-new combat moves.” So, if you’re an aspiring hero, don’t delay. Dive in, save the day, and get some super rewards.

Mitrasphere key art

When it comes to specific mobile genres, RPGs pop up frequently in the anime market, as do collectable card games, match-threes, and narrative-driven experiences, and Crunchyroll is familiar with plenty of them. However, Li notes that “visual novels are an interesting genre that anime fans enjoy.”

He also sheds some light on the popularity of RPGs and why the genre is quite popular among development teams – “RPGs offer so many styles within the genre, like MMORPGs and TRPGs, so there’s a lot of exploration to be done within RPGs as well.” A fair point, and one that we, as consumers, also agree with. There’s no denying how great it feels to explore the various sub-genres on offer in the RPG division, and anime games present a great way to do this.

Now we know a bit more about why certain genres tend to pop up more frequently than others, there’s one other burning question we need the answer to – how does Crunchyroll select an IP for a mobile game adaptation? With so many franchises out there, it has to be difficult to nail down which deserves the small screen treatment next, but Li and the Crunchyroll team have a method that helps them to both narrow it down, and choose a direction to take.

“We start with the anime or manga series at the heart of our endeavour, and then explore how a game (or series of games) could be designed around the content and setting of the series,” Li explains. This makes total sense, especially since, while some anime share some similar fundamentals, each also has a certain uniqueness that you need to address in order to both meet fan expectations and deliver an experience that the development team can be proud of.

Princess Connect key art

While Crunchyroll has plenty of experience in the world of anime and mobile games, the company went through some changes last year. You may or may not know that it’s now Sony took the company in, and it’s been quite an easy change, as Li tells us that the “transition into the Sony family has been incredibly smooth and invigorating. We have been able to unify the prior Sony and Crunchyroll anime games efforts into a combined Crunchyroll Games team. Now, our complementary expertise has allowed us to offer fans more value than ever before.”

And that’s a very good point, as Sony is no stranger to the anime scene and has seen its own success in the sector, which makes a combination of both Sony and Crunchyroll an exciting prospect, especially when you consider that the pair have “brought together two great portfolios of games.” Not only that, but as Li explains, “it’s exciting for us to be collaborating on current games and new projects, while offering fans even more of what they love.”

As for what’s next for Crunchyroll Games, you can expect a variety of games in the future. “We have a few amazing projects in the works that we can’t wait to share soon, alongside preparations for Crunchyroll Games activities at Crunchyroll Expo, our yearly celebration of all things anime taking place both in-person in California and streaming online August 5–7, 2022.” It sounds like exciting things are happening at the company, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Hajime No Ippo key art

Of course, as we frequently mention throughout the interview, there are many anime franchises out there, and that makes it tough to pick a favourite, but we still had to ask Li what his is – “this is such a tough question! It’s hard to pick your favourite child, but I do have a special place in my heart for Hajime No Ippo.” A fine choice indeed.

As you can see, a lot is happening at Crunchyroll games, from the new release of Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire, its Attack on Titan collaboration, and upcoming content, to MHA: The Strongest Hero and its fresh features. Then, of course, there’s the very exciting prospect of what’s next, and as anime fans that love mobile titles, we certainly can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon, and we thank Li for his time – this has been insightful and a joy to conduct.

If all this talk has got antsy for some great anime action, you can download Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire through Google Play or the App Store, and the same goes for MHA: The Strongest Hero (Google Play and App Store). Or, if you want some help to pick one of the best anime games, just check out our list.