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Talking Wild Hearts, Japanese Culture And Beyblades With Omega Force

The team opens up about inspirations, old and new.

In my review of Wild Hearts, I said that I was excited to see where the developer’s hearts would take them next. It was a flowery finish to the piece and one I stand behind – Wild Hearts proving to be an exciting and refreshing take on the monster-hunting genre from the folks over at Koei Tecmo and EA Originals. Having recently had the chance to sit down and chat with a room full of the minds behind the game, I’m even more convinced of my initial verdict. This is a team full of kind, interesting people who have a clear passion for the genre and are willing to take cultural and social inspirations and run with them.

Thanks to EA, I was able to talk with Wild Heart’s Directors Kotaro Hirata and Takuto Edagawa as well as Art Directors Marina Ayano and Yu Oboshi about the game’s new update and much more. Our brief chat, which was full of laughs and knowing nods, is translated below!

WellPlayed: First of all, congratulations on the launch of the game! We’ve just seen the trailer for the new update Lethal Blossoms, which features a beautiful new Kemono, the Murakumo. Can you tell us a bit about the inspirations behind this new design?

Kotaro Hirata: Thank you for the question. In developing a Japanese hunting action game, from the very beginning, we wanted to put in a fox Kemono because in Japan the fox holds a very important position. It’s a very important animal. It’s an animal that is deeply rooted in the Japanese culture, religion and faith. So we had that idea from the very beginning, but we also wanted to fuse that together with a natural element that is very Japanese. So we chose cherry blossom.

WP: The Lethal Blossoms update is also adding a new Spinning Top Fusion Karakuri. What are you most excited about this new Karakuri adding to the game? And do we see a little bit of a Beyblade inspiration here?

KH: *Laughs* Well, this goes back to what I explained earlier. The Spinning Top is another element that is deeply rooted in our culture, Japanese culture. And so we wanted to put that in. And also another thing is the Marakumo, the new Kemono that we’re introducing, he engages in long-range attacks. So we wanted to introduce a weapon that a player can use to break through the attacks and the Spinning Top is the answer.

And the second half of your question, did we get any inspiration from Beyblade? Well, we didn’t exactly take it from there. However, to be honest, our team members were watching Beyblade when we were putting the finishing touch on the motion of the Karakuri. So it’s not completely unrelated, but I can say that in modernizing the movement and behaviour of the Spinning Top, it somehow ended up being very similar, yes.

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WP: Lethal Blossoms is also bringing in the new Limit Break system. How did the team balance the gameplay while incorporating this new system into the game?

Takuto Edagawa: Well there are a lot of weapons and armour types in the game and some are used more often than others. But we wanted to place the spotlight on the less used weapons and armour by introducing the limit break system. Sort of like giving the weapons and armour a similar cap in terms of ability or power. So that even if you start out using the weak weapon and armour, as you keep on upgrading and enhancing it, you can literally have one of the best items in the game. So while we didn’t want to introduce any element that would break the gaming balance, we wanted to offer players more alternative choices. And going forward through updates we want to offer the players more customised enhancements. So even if the players are using the same weapon, you can choose to have a different fighting style.

WP: Wild Hearts has been a pretty massive success both in critical circles and with players. Why do you think the game has connected with so many people?

KH: Well, we wanted to differentiate the game by introducing the Karakuri system against the other existing hunting action game. And I think what we’re seeing is the result of that. We designed the game in that way to allow more flexibility for players, but we are finding that players are going beyond our expectations, which is a fantastic thing.

The new Spinning Top adds new combat options 

WP: Something that I noted in my review was that the game allowed you to have nonviolent interactions with the Kemono. Was that a big thing for the team to implement in the game?

TE: This idea of nonviolent interaction, actually, that came to us during the development of the game. So it wasn’t a pillar of the game from the very beginning, but it makes us think about how Kemono and humans live together and can coexist together. And because there is an option to not kill the creature that you’re dealing with, it makes us think about the act of killing the creatures even more. So I think that is coincidentally in alignment with the theme of this game.

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WP: It might be hard to choose but do you each have a favourite Kemono?

KH: Murakumo, the Kemono in the latest update. But I feel like I’m naming a different Kemono by interview, but Murakomo is my favourite.

TE: Rage Tail, the rat Kemono, because I believe it very well represents the beauty of nature and also how frightening it can be.

Marina Ayano: King Tusk, the boar-based creature. And this is my favourite because it’s actually the first Kemono that we developed fusing animals and nature together. And it went through multiple iterations in terms of design. But it is the first Kemono, where this world all started.

Yu Oboshi: Golden Tempest, which is the tiger-based creature. And the reason why I like it is the tiger and the wind are fused together. It’s very cool looking. The wind comes from the pattern of the tigers. And the effect of the wind is not just the wind, but it includes gold dust. And when the wind is combined with the gold dust, it really gives the action to the game, how do I say, the element of it’s more convincing to look at. And also the effect of the wind really accelerates the motion, resulting in a very cool-looking and attractive motion.

WP: Excellent choices! Thank you so much for your time and good luck with future updates to Wild Hearts!

Wild Hearts is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC. The latest update, Lethal Blossoms, is out now.

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Written By James Wood

One part pretentious academic and one part goofy dickhead, James is often found defending strange games and frowning at the popular ones, but he's happy to play just about everything in between. An unbridled love for FromSoftware's pantheon, a keen eye for vibes first experiences, and an insistence on the Oxford comma have marked his time in the industry.

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