GDC 2018 Interview: Bandai Namco’s ONE PIECE Bounty Rush

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

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ONE PIECE Bounty Rush | Logo

One of the most popular manga series in the world since its debut in July 1997, ONE PIECE has spun off a multimedia empire of a long-running anime series, movies, and video games. The latest entry in the ONE PIECE video game series is ONE PIECE Bounty Rush for iOS and Android platforms. In ONE PIECE Bounty Rush, you pick two characters from the ONE PIECE universe and play on a two player team against two other players to see which team has the most berries at the end of the match. It sounds simple, but with characters spanning the ONE PIECE universe and with five different character classes, it ensures that no two matches will be the same. I caught up with the Brand Manager for ONE PIECE Bounty Rush, Yoshinobu Takabayashi, at GDC 2018 and spoke with him about the game, how it was developed, and about his own favorite fighter in the game.

You can check out ONE PIECE Bounty Rush official website and like them on Facebook. You can also visit the official Bandai Namco website, tweet them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram, and subscribe on YouTube.

Finally, you can find my hands-on impression of ONE PIECE Bounty Rush from GDC 2018 here.

ONE PIECE Bounty Rush is out now on Android and iOS platforms.

This interview has been edited for clarity and content.

Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H., and I am with Operation Rainfall. And you are?

Yoshinobu Takabayashi: I am Yoshinobu Takabayashi from Bandai Namco Entertainment. I am the Brand Manager for ONE PIECE Bounty Rush.

ONE PIECE Bounty Rush | Interviewee

One PIECE Bounty Rush’s Brand Manager, Yoshinobu Takabayashi (Image courtesy of Bandai Namco).

OR: What exactly is ONE PIECE Bounty Rush?

YT: ONE PIECE Bounty Rush is a mobile game based on the anime series ONE PIECE. It’s about the team action battle – one team has four people, and so two teams battle each other at the same time in real time. So up to eight people battle in real time.

OR: How many classes are there?

YT: There are five classes, and each class has different, unique skills and features.

OR: Do some classes work better together than with other classes?

YT: [You kind of need to balance] your teams because if there are all four supporters, you are going to be struggling with attacking the other teams, because the supporters are good for supporting your teammates by restoring your energy. So you have to have fighters, supporters, warriors, shooters – a good balance.

OR: This isn’t the first ONE PIECE game to come out.

YT: Right.

One Piece Bounty Rush | Classes

There are five classes to pick your two-man team from in ONE PIECE Bounty Rush. (Image courtesy of Bandai Namco).

OR: How did the idea for ONE PIECE Bounty Rush come about?

YT: We have three major ONE PIECE mobile titles – ONE PIECE Treasure [Cruise], which is more focused on animation and storytelling. The second one is called ONE PIECE Thousand Storm. It is about co-op fighting with your friends. So the third one, ONE PIECE Bounty Rush, should be about fighting each other. And that’s how we came up with fighting with each other idea.

OR: In the trailer we saw some classic characters such as Luffy and Zoro. About how many fighters will there be at launch?

YT: This isn’t fixed yet – but we’re trying to have about seventy characters at launch. You have to unlock the characters as the story goes more – as the event happens.

OR: You mentioned story. Is there a story mode to [ONE PIECE Bounty Rush]?

YT: There is a story mode, which you can play by yourself and where you can play the epic story of ONE PIECE from the beginning of the story. We are going to start with Foosha [Village], where Luffy started his voyage.

One Piece Bounty Rush | Characters One Piece Bounty Rush | Characters

One Piece Bounty Rush | Characters

There are classic characters like Luffy, Nami, and Zoro to choose to play as in the game, each of which are different classes. (Images courtesy of Bandi Namco).

OR: Currently, the anime is in the Cake Island arc. With 70-something [playable] characters, will they all [come from the series beginning] to where the anime is now, or will there be a stopping point in the anime series that you’re looking at?

YT: As far as fans expect or [as far as] fans want us to add more stories, even as we start with Foosha [Village] as I stated before. We will add stories chronologically.

OR: There are five classes and each character falls within a particular class. Do the characters within each class play differently from each other, or are they more or less ‘clones’ of each other? Like, for example, will Luffy and another warrior have the same move pool, or do they play differently from each other?

YT: This is a very attractive point of the game. ONE PIECE has unique characters like Luffy, Zoro, and the other characters. They are very different from others. And we are trying to re-create the world of ONE PIECE in Bounty Rush. And that means [that] we are going to have different moves, skills, and attacks for each character. Each single character has different moves.

OR: What are berries, and how do they work in [ONE PIECE Bounty Rush]?

YT: Berries are the currency in the world of ONE PIECE. So the main goal of this game is to collect as many berry coins as you can to beat the opposing team. So that’s how the berry works in the game. You don’t have to beat the ‘mighty bosses’, risking your life. But you can just let the opponent[‘s] team try to beat the boss and [then] beat the opponent and steal the [berry] coins that they got. So you don’t have to be a core gamer or an action game fan to be good in this game.

OR: What incentive is there to take on the boss?

YT: The boss carries a lot of coins. Like, hundreds of coins. So if you beat the boss and flee from other characters, you can win the game.

OR: Currently, you’re running a pre-registration campaign that has topped over one-million participants. About how long will this campaign continue for?

YT: It’s been about two months now, and currently one-point-three-five million participants have joined up with the campaign. It’s gonna last until the game releases.

One Piece Bounty Rush | Campaign

The pre-release campaign was a smash success for the game leading up to it’s release. (Image owned by Bandai Namco).

OR: Where did the concept of this pre-registration campaign come from?

YT: Actually, it is very popular in Asia – especially in Japan. I know that it is more popular in Asia than in the West or in Europe. The concept of this is to try to tell the fans, inform the fans – core fans- that we are going to release this new title ONE PIECE Bounty Rush in advance of the release, so they can play as we release it. Since this is a battling game, the core fans want to play versus anyone. So we want to just inform them that we are going to release it.

OR: Was the public response to the pre-registration campaign what you hoped it would be?

YT: It was more than we thought.

OR: As more people register, there are more rewards popping up. What are these rainbow diamonds and bounty coins used for in the game, and how are they different from these berries?

YT: Rainbow diamonds can be used for gacha. [OR Note: ‘Gacha’ games are where the player spins a ‘gacha’ using a specified amount of in-game currency to obtain a random item/skin/etc.] The diamonds can be used for gacha. And if you use a lot of rainbow diamonds, you can have ten different characters randomly. Rainbow diamonds can be used to get characters. And also other features in the game, like history or energy or you can buy items with them.

One Piece Bounty Rush | Victory

Victory is not about how many people you kill on the other team…it is instead determined by how many berries your team has at the end of the match. (Image courtesy of Bandai Namco).

OR: Do you have a favorite character to play as [in ONE PIECE Bounty Rush]?

YT: I have to say that Luffy is my favorite character now. Not the first Luffy you can get after the opening. We are preparing a very strong Luffy. He has faster dex, he has more combos, he has special moves from the first one. So that would be – if you can get that Luffy, then you can be a star at the beginning.

OR: Last question – will there be in-app purchases in this game, and how will they function in the game?

YT: In-app purchases will be rainbow diamonds. So it’s going to affect your game experience. Of course, you can play without purchasing anything because it’s free-to-play. But if you play with rainbow diamonds, you can may be able to get better characters. You may [also] be [able to] take advantage of the battle.

OR: But it won’t affect the gameplay balance itself?

YT: Sure. Of course.

OR: Thank you very much for meeting with me.

Who do you want to play with on your team in One Piece Bounty Rush? What arc of the manga/anime series are you most excited to see appear in ONE PIECE Bounty Rush?

Let us know in the comments below!