Ask any gamer you know what Enix is famous for, and they'll all say Dragon Warrior. Much like Square is synonymous with Final Fantasy, and Sony with Gran Turismo, Enix's flagship title has been its identity for well over a decade. In fact it seems crazy to think that any one of these three companies wouldn't have their 'franchise player' on one of the next generation consoles, but this is exactly the case for Enix. With Heartbeat (the team behind the most recent Dragon Warrior titles on the PlayStation) taking a break from developing games, the Dragon Warrior series has gone on hiatus, leaving Enix in the cold... or has it?
Enix has big plans for the rest of this year and for next year as well, a plan that they hope will keep gamers satisfied until the inevitable return of Dragon Warrior. So what exactly is their strategy? Simple, bring out a couple of high profile sequels, with a sprinkle of something totally off the wall to show that they haven't lost their edge just yet. While Enix's Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time won't be coming out until sometime in 2003, Enix has prepared two great games that are scheduled to hit this fall: Game Arts' Grandia Xtreme and Robot Alchemic Drive. We spoke to Enix's Product Manager Justin Lucas about his job, his company's lineup of games, and his choice in salad dressing.
The Next Level: Can you tell us a little about the work you do over at Enix?
Justin Lucas: I am the Product Manager for Enix America. My duties are to manage the work being done on the different titles we are currently focusing on. Activities include: product submissions for first-party approvals, working with the hardware manufacturers on content issues, directing all Public Relations activities, Licensing, etc.
TNL: RAD is such a radical departure from many of Enix's other endeavors, such as the classic Dragon Warrior series. Where did the inspiration for the game come from?
JL: For Enix, RAD is a bit radical (no pun intended!) but historically, Enix has always been very supportive of innovative games. For example, if you recall, we were among the first to release a new music/dance game -- Bust A Groove.
The inspiration for R.A.D. came from a wide variety of sources, but particularly from anime. Who doesn't want to control giant 40 story robots in a city that is completely destructible?!?!
TNL: How long was the development time for RAD, and are there any new features that will be included in the domestic version of the game?
JL: The development time for RAD was approximately 16-18 months, and we are still in the process of locking down some new features for the domestic release.
TNL: The control layout in RAD is rather... unique. It's definitely something that many people will need to practice with. Do you think that it might be a problem for younger gamers who might be interested in this game, and ultimately limit your audience?
JL: The control layout is very unique in that you will have to use almost every button on your controller. As a result, it gives you total control over every aspect of the robot -- every limb has its own button so you have the freedom of controlling your robot as you see fit, as well as some very interesting styles of fighting.
That said, it is very intuitive and once you get some practice in the tutorial mode, should be easy for anyone to pick up. Additionally, mastering the controls also gives you a certain degree of satisfaction once you understand the basics.
TNL: Grandia Xtreme is a very different experience compared to past Grandia games. What made Game Arts decide on such a change?
JL: It is a change from the previous titles in many ways, however it still retains many aspects that make the Grandia series so great such as that fantastic Grandia Battle system. Overall, Game Arts wanted to try something new to re-introduce the Grandia series, and make the game accessible to new fans, while still retaining the battle system and wonderful story-line that will keep the hard-core gamers hooked. The result is Grandia Xtreme -- the first Grandia title designed exclusively for the PS2.
TNL: Grandia Xtreme seems like a standalone title given its moniker. Do you expect Game Arts to continue with the Xtreme series with a follow-up?
JL: I would love to play a follow-up to Grandia Xtreme. It's a blast to play, and the deep game play coupled with the Battle System keeps you hooked with the different strategies that present themselves in battle. The decision to make a follow up however, is completely up to Game Arts.
TNL: The Grandia series has always been held in high regard because it has one of the best combat systems ever in a console RPG. What kinds of changes would you like to see in Grandia III?
JL: Wow, what a tough question. My only hope is that any future Grandia titles be as much fun to play as Grandia Xtreme.
TNL: We know that Heartbeat is taking a short hiatus from developing games, so is Enix planning on finding another developer to continue the Dragon Warrior series, or are they planning on waiting until Heartbeat returns?
JL: We are not commenting on the continuation of the Dragon Warrior / Dragon Quest series at this time.
TNL: Star Ocean 3 is going to be facing some huge competition next year when it's released from competitors such as Xenosaga and the Growlanser series. What do you think will separate SO3 from the rest of the pack?
JL: We believe several things will separate Star Ocean 3 from its competitors, including gorgeous visuals, tremendous character designs, a faithful localization that will keep players hooked from beginning to end, and deep and engaging game play that will blow you away. Tri-Ace is very well known for making games that not only are a feast for the eyes visually, but are incredibly fun to play as well.
TNL: Are there any titles out in Japan right now that you personally hope get localized by either Enix or another company?
JL: There are a lot of great titles in Japan, so to single out any certain title would be rather hard to do. For Enix, as long as the games are fun to play, and can appeal to a worldwide audience, then we would feel comfortable putting the Enix label behind it.
Additionally, we also listen to what our fans post on our message board at www.enix.com and see what they would like us top bring to the U.S.
Thumbs up to Justin Lucas for taking time out of his busy schedule of playing games and eating Caesar salad to sit down and talk with us!