Hello aces! This time I am interviewing the brand director of the Ace Combat series! I’m making this interview with the producer of the Ace Combat series. This interview will be done in Japanese so be sure to enable the subtitles! So let’s get started… Ace Combat 7 was released just a few days ago, how do you feel now based on the reactions you’ve seen from the players? What is the current atmosphere of the Project Aces team in these last few days? So umm, I finally felt relieved, since I’ve been nervous for so long. I’ve been nervous for so long, but it was released in Japan yesterday, and was released today in the US, and I finally felt a little at ease. Project Aces itself is looking at reactions from around the world, and is currently in the middle of considering “what kind of adjustments should we make?” And the next question is: How do you compare the finished version of Ace Combat 7 with the early concept of the game? What were the main challenges and most enjoyable parts of developing the game? Well… The initial build of Ace Combat 7 did not work out so well, so we discarded all of it. The fact that we discarded it and rebuilt the game was the most difficult part. But overcoming that difficult period made the joy of finally completing it all the more greater. You must be so relieved now then. Yes, definitely. And since people from all over the world are very happy about the game, I was really able to relax. And now let’s go for some more personal questions about yourself… When and why did you decide to get into the gaming industry? How did you get yourself involved with Ace Combat series? The reason I decided to get into the game industry was that, I was studying design in college, and I decided to enter the industry as a designer. I already liked pictures, but as I was working on pictures and art, my interest in scenarios, games, and a lot of other things grew, and in the end, I wanted to become a director or a producer. And the next question is: Kono-san began work on the Ace Combat series as an Art Director, and now Kono-san is the overall Brand Director for the entire series. How has your previous position influenced your current work on AC7 and potentially beyond? Well, I was working as the art director, the art director of Ace Combat 04, Shattered Skies, and ultimately I think the art direction of Ace Combat was solidified there. So through 04, 5, Zero, 6, and Ace Combat 7, I think the [art] design was maintained relatively well. So, thinking about how people around the world enjoyed the Ace Combat I helped create as art director in 04, and how people still are enjoying it, makes me happy and is something I’m proud of. Next question is… Tells us more about your passion for aviation, where did it come from? Have you ever thought about joining the Self-Defense Forces? Well, the thought of wanting to become a pilot never crossed my mind; it is really difficult to become one. It’s just that…I really liked mechas and mechanical things, and I first got involved in Ace Combat with very little knowledge [of aviation]. But as I learned the workings of, for example, the Raptor or the Flanker’s thrust vectoring nozzles, I became engrossed and captivated. Now, I can easily tell the model number of the aircraft from looking at its silhouette, and am well-informed about a lot of things. Next is… Actually recently, I tried VR, and I had a slight desire to become a pilot. The same thing happened to me! The exact same feeling! Ace Combat is known for its collection of original aircraft, what is your favourite one and why? Let’s see… my favorite has to be the Wyvern, the X-02. The classic Wyvern or the new Wyvern in Ace Combat 7? The Wyvern that was in 04. 04 was the first time I went all-out as an art director, and inputted my own thoughts into the Wyvern design itself, and ideas like making it have digital camouflage was my idea, and I have fond memories of it. What is the process Project Aces uses when designing a new original aircraft? New aircraft… oh, original aircraft. Yes, so basically we start with a cool-looking design. Of course we have no intention of making an unattractive aircraft, so we begin with the design and then add minute details, or make the layout so that it could actually fly, and put things together like that. But the first step is making it look good. How has been your overall experience with the Ace Combat community? What is the most remarkable thing that has happened? The Ace Combat community, yes, so these days… hmm… …in the past, we would communicate our message in a one-sided fashion through media, but now, I think the community’s message is more important than our message. In the end, no matter how much we explain, it will be no match for the words and voices of the community’s real fans. So from now on, 7 just released, but when thinking about how to continue the Ace Combat series, the fan’s community is absolute, and I want the community and us the developers to come together and think about how to keep making Ace Combat new. The community is an important presence. Regarding plans for future DLCs, we know some story missions will be added but how will they relate to the main story of the game? Will we be playing as Trigger or another character? Also, there will be more VR missions, correct? The VR missions are hard to make, so we are not considering those for the current DLC. Right now, we are making the DLC for the season pass, I’ll tell this only to the community, but Trigger will be the protagonist. Trigger and the “most evil” character in Ace Combat history will be featured in a proper story in the 3 missions that will be added. Video game preservation is a current hot topic for digital games being removed. Some Ace Combat games have been removed digitally. Will Ace Combat 7 be removed a few years after release as well? We haven’t really thought about the distribution of games being stopped, but I think the age of archiving them to the cloud will be probably coming in the next few years, and I think what the fans and people who love games consider as problems and inconveniences will be solved by everyone. Ace Combat 7 had some very cool collector’s editions, including the Aces at War book which was translated to several languages and the diecast model of the Arsenal Bird and as fans we really appreciate having these collector’s items that help out supporting the franchise. Has there been any thought of selling Ace Combat merchandise like books and superweapon models after the release of the game? Honestly, Aces at War, the one included in the Collector’s Edition, making that was really difficult, and was even localized into English and Korean. According to the staff that made it, they said that they don’t want to make one again, it was that laborious. It hasn’t been decided yet, but I would like to increase the number of Ace Combat-related things while thinking about what things would make the fans happy. But since 7 just released, and we still have the season pass to work on, as well as World News updates that everyone is waiting for, I think we still have a lot of work to do. Ace Combat Infinity’s multiplayer mode was a remarkable step for the Ace Combat series as there are was a great sense of belongingness when playing together with friends on co-op missions. Are there are any plans to bring co-op missions back to Ace Combat 7? Are there other types of matches that you want to introduce in the Multiplayer mode such as naval assault, ring battles or races? In its current state, we haven’t thought about adding things other than the current battle royal and team deathmatch modes. The system of the co-op missions is very complex, and the online system of Ace Combat Infinity and Ace Combat 7 is a little different. So putting in co-op missions on top of Ace Combat 7’s online and expanding it is honestly extremely difficult. The way aircraft are “mounted” is different, and Infinity’s and 7’s online has a different structure. But I know a lot about how people in the community formed teams and clans through co-op missions, so if we were to do it, I think we would create a new online-type game using Ace Combat 7’s data, or something separate like that, otherwise it would be probably be difficult. Also about Ace Combat Infinity, the story of the game was quite memorable because of the references to previous games and the suspense after each mission. Since progress on Infinity’s story was stopped in order to develop Ace Combat 7, are there plans to complete the story mode of Infinity? Could we potentially see it as a DLC to Ace Combat 7 or see it as a standalone game? Umm… Infinity’s campaign is actually more or less finished in that state, but fans aren’t done with it, they want to know more. However, there definitely was a time when Itomi, Itomi from Project Aces and I thought about the aftermath of Infinity, but apparently Itomi and I had a huge fight over this, though I don’t remember this at all. And apparently this story a little after Infinity exists, although I don’t know where the data for this went. So, I don’t know whether it will be announced as a game or a story, but the continuation supposedly exists. Since 7 is set in Strangereal, I don’t think bringing in Infinity’s world into it can be done. Because of the different worlds… Infinity is set in reality, on Earth. What about a book with story of Infinity? I will think of something. Thank you. Traditionally Ace Combat games allow the player to select one special weapon, but has there been any discussion on carrying multiple special weapons? Umm…we do have talks during staff meetings, but we want to maintain the simplicity of “which special weapon should I take?” We want you to resupply and change weapons, and having multiple special weapons increases the number of button assignments. Even now, it is a game in which you use all of the buttons, and it’ll only add more complexity in using the buttons, so we want it to be it as simple as possible for the player. However in the future, if an idea pops up, it might be possible for the player to switch to a different special weapon. And that’s also for the new players, right? As long as the idea can make it simple even for new players. I know Kono-san gets asked for remasters of previous Ace Combat games very often which is of course a very hard task to accomplish. But assuming Ace Combat 7 does very well and you have the chance to do a remaster, which game would you choose and why? Hmm…if we were to do one, I think it would be Ace Combat 04. The reasoning is simple: the fans say they want it. I didn’t call them like this, but Ace Combat 04, 5, and Zero are called the “trilogy.” So I think delivering the trilogy somehow to all the fans is something desired from me. Of course the focus of the Project Aces team now is to continue work on Ace Combat 7, but has there been any theme or historical period that Kono-san or the team have wanted to cover in a future Ace Combat game, either a numbered title or a spin-off? So everyone is focused on making the season pass right now, but Producer Shimomoto, [VR] Producer Tamaoki and myself are in the middle of asking “what should we do about Ace Combat’s future?” and thinking about the strategy for the next 3-4 years. So we have many ideas, we can’t announce anything yet. My last question would be asking about Ace Combat’s future but I guess you already answered that. It’s the same thing I have always been saying, but Ace Combat is for all the fans, and will continue as long as the fans wish for it. So it won’t continue because I worked hard for it, or Project Aces worked hard for it, but I think the Ace Combat series will continue into the future as long as fans wish for it and support it. That’s it. Kono-san, thank you so much. The fans really appreciate all the hard work and soul that you and the team have put in the Ace Combat series. Me as well. I’m always thankful to the fans and I’m thankful to the community as well. Your work has inspired a new generation to take to the skies as either pilots, aerospace engineers, aviation enthusiasts and most importantly: you have made us realize a dream that most of us can’t achieve in real life which is to soar through the skies at supersonic speeds and fight for a worthy cause. This isn’t much to show how grateful we all are but I brought in a little gift to the team. We all know how Kono-san likes the Sukhoi jets… You can open it. What is it? Oh this is cool! Thank you so much, I love Sukhois. I like this part of Sukhois. Yes, thank you. That is all. Kono-san, any last words? Yes, so 7 has been actually released and I feel relieved, and on top of continuing Ace Combat, I decided within myself to continue engaging with everyone in the community, so by all means, let’s work together and do our best for Ace Combat and its future. Thank you very much. It was my pleasure, thank you. That is all folks. Special thanks to Kono and I’ll see you next time!