PAX Prime 2013 Interview: Adam Rippon, Creative Director of Dragon Fantasy Book II

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At PAX Prime 2013, I had the privilege of interviewing Adam Rippon, Creative Director of Muteki Corporation, about their upcoming game Dragon Fantasy Book II. Though I have yet to play the original, I have read up about it, and it looks like a wonderful tribute to 8-bit RPGs. The sequel is a 16-bit-style RPG launching next Tuesday, September 10th, on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

Dragon Fantasy Book II

Anything that reminds me of Chrono Trigger is a good thing!

I hear this one is gonna have some multiplayer. How is that supposed to work in this game?

Multiplayer will be coming in a patch shortly after launch. Basically, you can have your PlayStation Network friends join you. Click “Join Game,” and you will see a list of all those ready to play. You will get to pick which person in the party you want to take over.

Since we’re delaying the multiplayer to get the single-player experience out first, we are adding some extra stuff. Players can choose to control 1 or 2 players on the team. I’m also planning on adding the ability to bring in your leveled-up party to the fray, which will throw the balance of the game off but will allow less experienced gamers, like little brothers, play with you. Also, we’ll be adding coliseum battles so you can compete with your friends. We’re going to have that patch come out several weeks after the single-player game launch.

Besides the multiplayer, what is Book II going to have that is different from the original?

Book I was brutally 8-bit, as Nintendo hard as it could be. It was designed to be an old, frustrating RPG. And that was the way I liked it, gosh darn it! [laughs] Book I also advanced an episode at a time, introducing new features. But with Book II, there’s no more random battles, the monsters move on the map, and it’s a very active, dynamic battle system.

Instead of being broken up into different chapters, it’s one continuous story. Book I was made one chapter at a time, so it became boring at times where the story went long. So in Book II, you’ll see a lot of the cool features straight from the beginning rather than waiting. We’ve got ship-to-ship combat and a couple of moments in the game where you’ll be defeating rock monsters, putting them into your cannons and shooting them at other ships—basically, a timed battle. Area-of-effect attacks are new. And obviously, just bigger, higher-fidelity presentation. We spent 20 months doing thousands of frames of animations, whereas in the first game, every animation was literally something flipping back and forth.

Dragon Fantasy Book II

Chronologically, does Book II take place immediately after Book I? And why a different main character?

Book II does take place immediately after Book I. The main character is still Ogden, the hero of Westeria. And Ogden is based on my dad, who passed away a few years ago. The game series is an homage to my father. My dad really loved adventure-type games, like Zelda, and Secret of Mana was actually my dad’s favorite game. So when he passed away, I decided I wanted to send him on an adventure. It’s actually a game I started designing when I was a kid, and Ogden was a minor, minor character. But when he died, I decided I was going to put the game out real quick, with him as the focus in Book I.

In Book II, we’ve got all four of the main characters except Jerald, who is present but not playable. Then Serpent Diablo, who was kind of a bonus hidden character, takes a much greater role in this game. He’s a main playable character in the middle and end of the game. We also introduce a character named Billy, who is very, very important to the storyline going forward into Book III. She appears towards the end.

The story that I wrote when I was a kid is broken into the first three chapters in Book I, then 4, 5, 7 and a little of 9 in Book II, just so they are all in the same area. Book III will be the rest of it.

So is there going to be another graphical upgrade in Book III, then?

Yes. Book III is going to be the N64 RPG I’ve waited for my entire life.

Yeah, we never really got one.

Yeah. So practically, what that means is that I’m hoping to use those weird Popeye arms from games like Final Fantasy VII. I want to do that, but in really high poly. Low-texture, high-poly, great colors, but not shitty-looking. I wanna take that style and improve the hell out of it.

Dragon Fantasy Book II

Are you considering bringing this series to other consoles?

Yes. We will. Book I we’re going to try and bring to other consoles by the end of the year or early next year. Probably early next year. December is a terrible time to release retro RPGs in the business. Early next year, we’ll also be bringing Book II to iOS, PC and Android. There will be a lot of work porting Book II, especially the multiplayer, to other consoles. What our goal will be for multiplayer is that every category will have cross-platform.

So you decided to do RPG style because your dad liked it…

And because I like them. I worked on ROM [fan] translations a long, long time ago. Final Fantasy II to V—I worked on all of those. If you look at Final Fantasy II, it has that “Intro [graphics] by Wierdworks” [sic]—[points to self] this guy.

Final Fantasy II | Adam Rippon ROM fan translation credit (as Wierdworks)

So, you know, RPGs have always been incredibly important to me. That’s not to say that’s all I do, but this is the first RPG I’ve done professionally as a series. But I’ve had a hand in lots of other RPGs. I even had a hand in the Gauntlet for the DS that never came out.

Dragon Fantasy Book II

So why the episodic format?

For Book I, we did it because we released it before we were done, really. And we got a good reception for the first episode, and the bug had bit me, and I couldn’t stop. I had to keep going. I was originally not intending to do the game I had made as a kid, but by Chapters 2 and 3, that was it, and I made a transition back to the original story. And that’s how that went.

We started moving towards Book II ’cause we couldn’t keep making 8-bit look better without cheating terribly. We wanted it to move and do things like a game from those times would. We only made concessions in the size of enemies and the fact that they are animated at all. But I knew 8-bit hardware. I made 8-bit games.

Well, thanks so much for the interview. I appreciate it a lot!

Thanks for your time.

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.