Popular CCG and anime IP, Touken Ranbu, is getting the Musou treatment – slashing its way to the 3D realm and arriving on Switch in a flurry of sakura blossoms. Touken Ranbu Warriors is a highly anticipated 1 vs. 1,000 Musou title, and a new addition to Koei Tecmo’s iconic Warriors series.
This unique project not only sees the union of Nitro Plus’ IP with Koei Tecmo’s thrilling, action style, it also sees an interesting union of two of Koei Tecmo’s unique brands. Omega Force and Ruby Party collaborated to bring the handsome and powerful Touken Danshi to life in this fast-paced, beastie-bashing bonanza, and it’s the combination of their skills and talents that help make the game what it is.
We were lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Omega Force, Ruby Party, and the director of Touken Ranbu Warriors about the work that went into adapting the title, and what experiences and challenges the collaboration presented. So, grab your sword and take a seat beneath the cherry blossom tree, as we dive into our Touken Ranbu Warriors interview.
Firstly, allow us to introduce you to the talented individuals we had the pleasure of talking to.
Mei Erikawa was originally named an executive director of Koei Tecmo, and is now the director of the Ruby Party brand, and acted as the general producer of Touken Ranbu Warriors. Ruby Party was founded in 1990, with the drive to both offer more opportunities for women in the videogame industry, and to produce more games aimed at women. They’re considered the pioneers of the otome genre, and their Neo Romance titles have reached great popularity worldwide over the years.
Tomohiko Sho is a programmer and director of Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force, the brand behind the ever-popular Warriors titles, and is the producer of Touken Ranbu Warriors. Omega Force was founded in 1996 with the intention to widen Koei’s portfolio outside of their strategy and simulation games, and has since become iconic in the Musou genre. Outside of the Warriors titles, Tomohiko Sho has also worked on Dragon Quest titles, including Dragon Quest Builders and Dragon Quest II.
Osamu Mieda is the director of Touken Ranbu Warriors, and has a prolific career in which he produced, directed, and planned many popular titles. From his work on Koei Tecmo’s Samurai Warriors games, to his involvement in huge hits such as Persona Strikers and Pokémon Conquest, he has an impressive resume of games under his belt.
The interview has been translated from Japanese to English.
Pocket Tactics: What drew you to the Touken Ranbu characters and IP?
Mei Erikawa: I was drawn to the IP itself because, firstly, having these Japanese swords (the Toukens) actually become fighters is really interesting. The second thing is the various characters. There are so many, and each has its own unique personality. The third point is that each of the swords themselves have such a long history, and there’s so much behind that history, allowing players to fill in the blanks and imagine what kind of journey these swords have gone through. That’s what really attracted me to the IP, and I found it was something that was very well made in the original content itself, and there’s a lot of thought given to the series.
What made you decide to give the Touken Ranbu IP the warriors treatment?
ME: Originally, we approached Nitro Plus with the proposal of making a Touken Ranbu online adventure game for consoles, and they actually came back to us saying ‘well, if we’re going to do a collaboration, what about making it into a Musou or warriors game?’. Coincidentally, at that time, one of the Japanese game magazines had a reader survey asking ‘what IP would you like to see collaborate with the Warriors games’, and Touken Ranbu happened to be voted number one.
So there are all these things that kind of fell into place, and it seemed the right time – and that reader survey also made us realise that people do want to see Touken Ranbu and Warriors together. There’s such an affinity between the properties, so we thought that this would be really great, and it’s something that I really wanted to make sure that we could make into a great game, so that’s how we got started.
Did you face any challenges when bringing these characters over to a Warriors or a Musou game?
Tomohiko Sho: There are largely two points that we found challenging. The first one is that, with Touken Ranbu, the character illustrations of the original IP are done by so many different people. There are so many different artists and so many different styles, so when we wanted to put it into the game and make the 3D models, we had to make sure that there was some kind of commonality to the way that they looked. We found that quite challenging.
Secondly, with the Touken Danshi themselves, everyone (all the players) has their own image of what they think the character will be like, and what they anticipate for it. So to be able to put that to a character, to make that character, we wanted to make sure we made something that would not make the fans feel alienated, and that they don’t feel like it’s different than they expected. We made sure that it was something that fans would expect and would accept, and that they would really enjoy it. So we really paid attention to those two details.
I’m a huge fan of otome games, so I’m quite familiar with Ruby Party’s work and the impact they’ve had on the otome genre. So, what made Ruby Party decide to branch out from romantic simulation games to collaborate with Omega Force on something like this – something more action-heavy?
ME: First of all, thank you very much for being a fan of Ruby Party titles, we really appreciate it, especially coming from someone overseas, we’re really thrilled to hear that. In terms of why we moved to a more action-heavy Musou style, it goes back to one of the previous answers with Nitro Plus, the IP holders. They made a suggestion of making it a Musou title, so that was one of the sparks of this.
And in terms of Ruby Party’s strengths, Ruby Party’s really strong at showing the elements of the characters through the visuals and story. On the other hand, Omega Force excels at showing characters through action. So I think putting Ruby Party and Omega Force together to make a brand new Musou title using the Touken Ranbu IP really tied these strengths together. It wasn’t so much that Ruby Party made a new type of game, it was more that we worked together with Omega Force to make this game, and I think we brought the best of both worlds to it. And being able to take on this brand new challenge was something that we really found fulfilling, and I think it’s great that we were able to work together to create this game.
That actually ties in with my next question, do you think introducing the Ruby Party team to the project helped expand the story development of the characters and the worldbuilding? Did you struggle to blend those two sides of it – the action and the narrative?
ME: As mentioned, it was a true collab between Ruby Party and Omega Force. I definitely think that Ruby Party was able to really focus on and use our strengths in it, but we did work together and merged into a single team. As a result, we were able to take the best of both brands and make use of the strengths there.
There were members from Ruby Party working together alongside Omega Force on the story aspect, so it wasn’t just Ruby Party, but also Omega Force members working together. I think we had a good combination, and this mix really works well to be able to create the game as we know it. I think, definitely, Ruby Party wouldn’t have been able to make this game on its own, and at the same time, I think that if Omega Force were to make Touken Ranbu Musou without Ruby Party, it wouldn’t be the same game that we see now. We were able to really blend the two together, and to take the best of both teams and bring it together into this game.
Out of all the playable Touken Danshi, do you have a favourite character? Or is there one that the team enjoyed developing the most?
ME: This is strictly my own personal opinion, but my favourite is Tsurumaru Kuninaga. In terms of who the dev team enjoyed, I think everyone probably has their own favourite, but we really worked hard to make sure that we maintained balance.
Osamu Mieda: Yes, we made sure that every character was able to shine in the game, and that’s also a direction we received from Nitro Plus. So everyone probably does have their personal favourite, I have my own. But overall from the dev team perspective, we really worked hard on all of them, and really enjoyed making all of them equally.
Does the lore of the Warriors game stay close to the original Touken Ranbu game and anime, or did you expand upon the world and make it your own for this title?
OM: We did use a lot of the elements of the original story from the IP itself, from the anime and the original game. But we also included some elements that are unique to this game. For example, there’s no longer the saniwa in this game, that’s something you don’t actually see in the original series. So we did put in some elements that would match the game and make it its own.
From what I’ve seen so far there are a lot of different, interesting enemies. Of course, filling the giant battlefields needed in a 1 vs 1,000 warriors title is not a simple task, especially when you’re adopting a separate IP. What inspired the enemies that you ended up going with?
OM: Basically, all of the various enemies that you do see in the original series and the IP do show up in this game. And obviously, as you mentioned, having 1 vs 1,000 enemies we do have a lot there. But we also added a little bit of variety to it. There are the mid-level bosses and the final bosses, so we also added those as well so that it makes it a bit different and original.
ME: We did also create some new enemies, the enemies that kind of look like bugs. I personally don’t like bugs at all, so we wanted to make sure that, to a good extent, they are sort of scary and have a big impact that can sort of overwhelm the player, but we didn’t want to make it too scary or too grotesque. We really made a lot of adjustments to make it just right.
Is there anything on the cards for the future of Touken Ranbu Warriors? Do you intend to add more features, events, or DLC, or are you planning on doing more Touken Ranbu games?
TS: In terms of the game itself, we do have a DLC planned, and it’s the same DLC that’s planned in Japan as well, but we’re not planning on anything beyond that. But in terms of what direction we’ll take the game in general, in Japan we do a lot of events based on the Ruby Party games, so we’re considering doing things like that as well as merchandise. So it’s that kind of expansion – not exactly in the game itself, but peripheral things – that we’re considering, and hoping that we could do in the future.
Overall, did you enjoy the experience of working together on this title, and are you considering collaborating on more titles in the future between Ruby Party and Omega Force?
ME: It was really fun to be able to work with Omega Force. Even though we’re in the same company, the teams have different cultures, and our own ways of approaching making games. But I think that, definitely for Ruby Party, working on this game together allowed our members to improve and gain a lot of new skills, and Omega Force was able to find and discover new things from working with Ruby Party as well. Having that mixed chemistry between the different teams allowed a lot of new things to come about. As such, I hope that Ruby Party can work with Omega Force again, and maybe with some of the other brands within the company. I’d love to see more collaborations between the different teams across the company (Koei Tecmo).
TS: Definitely from Omega Force, it was a lot of fun to be able to work together with Ruby Party. First and foremost, Omega Force has never created a game geared towards a female audience, so that was something completely brand new. As a result, we were able to see what type of things Ruby Party takes into consideration when they make their games, and I think we really learned a lot from that.
By being able to work and collaborate together, we were able to do things that we’ve never done before, and experience new things, and, in Omega Force, we were able to really grow as a team and enhance our skills. Also, through working together, we were able to create something that was not just a brand new game, but also featured new aspects and new values.
That’s it for our Touken Ranbu Warriors interview. A massive thank you to Tomohiko Sho, Mei Erikawa, and Osamu Mieda for taking the time to talk to us about this exciting project. Touken Ranbu Warriors is coming to Switch and PC on May 24, 2022, and is available for pre-order now. Keep an eye out for our upcoming review to find out more about the title.