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Aksys Q&A: Dodgeballs and Detectives

It seems like only a few days ago when publisher Aksys Games announced that it would be localizing Super Dodgeball Brawlers and Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles (Tantei Jinguji Saburo), much to our delight. Though both titles have been met with mixed reviews, we can't help but be thankful that someone took the risk to bring over these titles that likely would have stayed in Japan otherwise.

With both Super Dodgeball Brawlers and Jake Hunter now on store shelves, we chatted with the studio's localization crew -- associate producer Mike Manzanares, assistant associate producer Frank deWindt, and marketing director Gail Salamanca -- about the two titles and Aksys's future. Jump past the break for details on Super Dodgeball Brawlers' unlockables and Jake Hunter's abridged case load!

Super Dodgeball Brawlers

Aside from translating a game accurately and making its content relevant to US audiences, what are Aksys' top priorities when localizing a game like Super Dodgeball Brawlers?

MM: Well, since this game has a lot of countries, we did our best to stay true to the original Japanese, but correctly reflect the cultural spellings for those names. That's just not something that's easily seen in katakana.

What specific goals did Aksys set out to accomplish when readying Super Dodgeball Brawlers?

FD: We tried to retain not only the names of the characters as they were in the Japanese version, but also the various Super Shot names as well. For example, "Speed Shot" returning to its original "Nuts Shot."

Who made the decision to speed up Super Dodgeball Brawlers -- Aksys, Arc System Works, or Million?

FD: It was a mutual decision between Million and Aksys.

Were their other changes in content or mechanics?

MM: Haha, not that we're aware of. But if you have any ideas, we'll gladly hear them if we ever get to work on a sequel.

The Super Dodgeball Brawlers title has a very satisfying ring to it -- seems very applicable to the game. What other titles were considered but shot down?

GS: It was a very short list that's for sure. We kicked around ideas like Extreme Dodgeball, but in the end we wanted to pay homage to the original Dodge Ball on NES, so Super Dodgeball was a natural choice. We added the "Brawlers" part of it to highlight the new fighting element in the game. This was an easy game to rename in comparison to some other games I've had the pleasure of working on.

As with the original NES game, players can finish a tournament in one sitting. What replayable features do gamers have to make the most of what the game has to offer?

FD: It does have the Shadow Team and the Dodge Master Team, but you can only unlock them by winning the tournament mode without losing a single team member in any match. There's also all the wireless functionality. You can also create your own character in the "Locker Room", where you can specify hair color, face, shorts and shirt color, birthday (which decides their Super Shots), etc. As well as all the fun you can have customizing each player with all the countless equippable items.

(Note: Though it took almost an hour to create all the characters, we used the Locker Room feature to form Team Wu-Tang, a grimy group of rapper clansmen turned dodgeballers. Due to the 7-player limit for each team, though, we had to leave out ODB and U-God. Sorry, U-God, but you had the weakest verse on "Triumph.")

Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles

Can you tell us a little about the Jake Hunter character? He has a long history in Japan, but gamers in the U.S. aren't familiar with him.

FD: He's very cool, collected, and always ready to tackle any case that comes his way. Unfortunately, one of his vices is smoking (however, it does help him collect his thoughts during the game). No matter how large or small the case, Jake's strong sense of justice will sway him into solving it regardless. With his trusty aid, Yulia, by his side, and his good friend, Detective Scott Kingsley, Jake is able to get through each case with their support.

Didn't the original Japanese release feature five or six different cases? The U.S. release only has three?

GS: You are correct. The US release only has three episodes, but as you can see, we set Jake Hunter's price point accordingly. The main reason for this is that the digital novel is a relatively unexplored genre on the DS, and this was a good way to test the waters and see if there's a market for this type of game.

Though many in the States might see the game as a Phoenix Wright clone, what with it being a visual novel-style title on the DS, the series actually predates Phoenix Wright by over a decade. Can you tell us what gamers will find in Jake Hunter that they won't be able to find in a Phoenix Wright title?

FD: Jake Hunter's story is more mature and gritty than that of Phoenix Wright. The characters and cases you encounter are relatable and would be seen in everyday life, unlike Phoenix Wright, which is more comical and fantastical in the way its story presents itself. Gameplay-wise, Jake Hunter offers choices that allow the player to play the game out a'la a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

The player is also able to utilize things such as Jake's "habit" (smoking), which helps to give the player clues on what they should do next. There are also character profiles, case files, and other such information that can be utilized within the game from Jake's memo pad, or outside the game from the game's database. Throughout the game, the player can discover four-letter passwords that can be used outside the main game to unlock different bonuses, too.

Aksys Games

It seems like there's a glut of DS games hitting the market -- how is Aksys keeping its titles, like Super Dodgeball Brawlers and Jake Hunter, visible so that they aren't lost in the crowd?

GS: It's definitely a tough market out there as the DS is hitting an oversaturation point in terms of the amount of games that are available, but I think you can still overcome that by offering products in genres that you haven't seen much of in the current library. If you look at the games that we've released for the DS, they've always found an audience, so we're pretty happy about that. For example, Hoshigami was one of the first traditional SRPGs on the DS and that did very well for us. In the case of Dodgeball, it's got a lot of nostalgia behind it and the same solid gameplay that made it so popular to begin with.

Most of Aksys' catalog seems to be made up of niche titles with a very hardcore, albeit very devoted audience. Is this intentional?

MM: It certainly wasn't intentional, but a lot of us here at the company only work on what we want to work on; it just so happens that what we like tends to be niche ... Huh, I guess it is intentional.

FD: It might seem that way, but we work on what we like, and we like what we work on. As long as this continues, you'll all probably see a similar trend in the future

Is Aksys looking to bring over titles with more mainstream potential, such as casual puzzlers or non-game software? Or is it happy with its current strategy/focus?

MM: We're always looking to bring over titles with more mainstream appeal, but that doesn't mean we'll lose sight of what we like. We're greedy; we want our cake and want to eat it too, haha.

FD: You'll just have to wait and see.

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