Psychic Force – 1996 Developer Interview

Psychic Force – 1996 Developer Interview

In this 1996 interview, several developers describe the inspirations and goals that drove the creation of Taito’s free-flying fighting game, Psychic Force. Subsequent to this interview, the game found modest success in arcades and spawned several sequels, revisions and spinoff games, but it was perhaps most successful in attracting an atypically large percentage of female players who were passionate about the game’s characters and setting.

Takeshi Kamimura – Planner
Hiroshi Aoki – Programmer
Yuji Sakamoto – Designer
Hideki Takahagi – Composer
Katsuhisa Ishikawa – Sound FX

Kamimura: I mainly worked on the planning and project management. If I get more specific than that we’ll be here all day, but that was the basic gist of it. My first game I ever worked on was Hat Trick Hero (Football Champ), which I did the planning for. Then came Hat Trick 93, Kaiser Knuckle, and finally Psychic Force.

Aoki: My oldest game was Power Wheels. I didn’t have any particularly important role in its development. Next I joined the Arabian Magic development half-way through, and created the bosses. I worked a little on the prototyping for Psychic Fire,1 then did boss characters (amongst other things) for Super Chase. Next I was the main programmer for Kaiser Knuckle, and now here I am for Psychic Force.

Sakamoto: My first game was Arabian Magic, then Hat Trick Hero 93. Kaiser Knuckle was the next project I worked on as a central member.

Takahagi: I don’t have a lot of experience as a vgm composer—just one game before this one, Dangerous Curves, which I did the sound and music for. Before that, all the projects I worked on ended up getting scrapped. (laughs) Primarily, I work on sound and not composing, as sound effects are my speciality. The first game I did sound fx for was Metal Black, then Super Chase, Darius Gaiden, Kaiser Knuckle, and Bubble Symphony.

Planning Pyschic Force

Aoki: In the beginning, we were actually developing a straight sequel to our previous 2D fighting game, Kaiser Knuckle. Virtua Fighter had come already come out, so 3D polygon FTGs were now a thing, but we weren’t working with 3D-capable pcbs, so we decided to go 2D again. As the development progressed, we were directed by management to develop a game on the CG-capable FX-1 board. At that time, our internal development group had 3 separate games being developed at the same time, but once the FX-1 came into the picture, we had to go back to square one and re-imagine our entire plan.

Kaiser Knuckle, the development team's 2D fighting game made just prior to Psychic Force.

We decided we’d rather make a brand new fighting game instead of a sequel, and one of those ideas was “Psychic Fire”. The idea of making a 3D version of Kaiser Knuckle, it should be said, never even crossed our minds. (laughs) Besides, we figured 3D would be perfect for a game featuring psychic powers and mid-air battles. Plus it would be something new and refreshing compared to the likes of Virtua Fighter and Tekken. (laughs) I guess our team is more fond of the curveball than the fastball, if you will. It was in that spirit that we came up with the whole idea of mid-air battles with 360 degrees of freedom.

Kamimura: At first, we had a robot action game in mind, but a lot of problems came up with that idea. One big problem was that it would be hard to show human emotion with robotic characters, so then we started thinking that humans with ESP/superpowers might be easier for people to relate to, and that’s how the current Psychic Force design plan took shape.

The “psychic” theme was something we were all excited about. I can’t say every member, of course, but the main development team really loves this kind of story, world, and characters, so the development had a very positive vibe and we felt like we were being given a unique chance to make exactly the game we wanted.

We only had a short 10 months for the development of Psychic Force, but the game came out almost exactly the way we had wanted it. Overall I would say the creative process didn’t involve a lot of ex-nihilo trial and error—it was more a process of adjusting and fine-tuning the original image we had in our minds.

The second set of spec docs for Psychic Fire, designed for 2D hardware and written by Yuji Sakamoto.

Character Designs

Kamimura: As for the characters in this world of psychic powers, one consideration was that they have worldwide appeal, but other than that, we basically let the character designer create whatever he wanted. A lot of the staff likes anime and manga, and after the characters were created people would notice “oh, hey, that looks like so-and-so from that manga”, and the whole team was really into it.

Aoki: We had a lot of different ideas for the characters. One character we planned to make could morph his body and form, but ultimately it felt too weird… but other than that, there weren’t a lot of rejected character concepts.

On the other hand, we spent a great deal of energy trying to make the visuals look good. We argued a lot, to the very end, about the designs for Burn, Emilio, Wendy, and Wong. Emilio has a small frame and a bit of an unusual design, and we ended up adding wings to him which totally changed the look and feel of his character. Burn, Wendy, and Wong all felt a bit plain and uninspiring, so we discussed it as a team and re-examined all our designs to come up with something better.

Sakamoto: Brad’s character has a split personality disorder, and when he’s in his calm, quiet persona, he probably wears really boring, normal clothing. But when his violent persona emerges, he wears the clothing that his shadow side personality loves.

Aoki: As for Gates, we don’t call him a Psychiccer either. We’ve been asked many times how he can fly, how he can create barriers, etc… it’s probably the result of his training, is how we explain it, at least. (laughs) We don’t think of him as having psychic powers. He has to have his mecha enhancements. (laughs)

Sakamoto: In the beginning of the development, Keith was a boss, so we gave him a long, flowing cape to accentuate that. Ultimately it proved very difficult to work with, graphically, and it looked pretty bad, so we changed his design.

Kamimura: Regarding hidden characters, this is just my own personal opinion, but I don’t really like characters who unbalance the game because they’re way too powerful. If they can be balanced, then I don’t mind hidden characters. Also, the one thing I hate the most about hidden characters is the fact that, by virtue of being hidden, we can’t publish their movelist, so you create an unfair schism between players who know their moves and those who don’t. I don’t like that. Ideally, if we were going to include hidden characters, it should be something where they release 30 days after the game comes out.

Concept art for Emilio Michaelov, taken from the Psychic Force Character Collection art book.

Character Abilities

Aoki: We came up with the characters first, and then their abilities, trying to find attacks that matched the image of the characters. The specifics of how each ability works was done after the characters were finished. Then, when the details of each ability was worked out, we went back to the corresponding character designer and had them create a fitting name for that ability. Finally we would hash everything out together in a meeting room, and make final decisions.

The names for the abilities, I remember, was very contentious. In Kaiser Knuckle, the characters would yell out the names of their abilities, to the point that you quickly got sick of hearing them. (laughs) So this time we decided to dedicate more space to different lines of dialogue.

Kamimura: We wanted it to have an anime feel, too.

Aoki: That’s true, but when I think of something like Mazinger Z, they always yell out their attacks too… so if I had to say, we were going for a more narrative, story-centric atmosphere that older, high-school age kids would enjoy. So almost none of the characters yell out their attacks this time.

Ishikawa: I was in charge of sound effects, and the planners would sometimes come by and say “hey, that sounds like such-and-such anime”, and I really hate being derivative like that (laughs), so I put all my energy into creating something new. We spent a lot of time selecting the voice actors. Rather than picking someone who’s popular right now, or appears in a lot of games, we instead focused on finding voices that properly matched the character’s image. The team fought a lot about that though.

My biggest challenge was that many actions didn’t immediately suggest a sound to me… although Gates’ sounds came to me very quickly. (laughs) There’s a lot of abilities with a very long duration in Psychic Force, and matching the length of the sound to the ability was difficult. I also struggled with Emilio’s sounds, but I really like how they came out.

Aoki: Several of the abilities had difficult births. We wanted them all to look individual and unique. We started by following the planning documents, but it would often be the case that an ability would look too much like another one. We also leaned heavily on the programmers, who had to translate our directions into actual gameplay.

One example I can give is Wendy’s Silpheed Dance ability. It became an ability that speeds you up, but originally it was something different—what exactly it was, I can’t even remember anymore, but it didn’t match and left us scratching our heads.

Wong has an ability that stops time, but he also has one that rewinds time like a videotape. That was also very different from what was written in the planning docs. Brad’s Mega Pressure also looked too similar to Burn’s Burning Trail attack, so the programmer in charge made the snakes writhe around more. Mega Pressure was also supposed to change the camera angle and cause a screen effect similar to the energy beam bomb/release in Metal Black, and while we were able to keep the latter effect in, changing the camera angle proved too difficult and probably would have been an impediment to the gameplay anyway, so we took it out.

Originally we had wanted to make it so you could destroy the buildings and use your surroundings to make attacks. Another failed idea was with Brad’s Asteroid Belt, which we wanted to lift up cars. We actually tried it out that way, but visually it was confusing, so we abandoned it. The cars were much bigger than Brad, right? And as they whirled around, the player would completely lose sight of him. There were lots of other things we wanted to add, too, but for similar reasons they ended up not making the cut.

Kamimura: We originally wanted each stage to have different weapons the players could pick up and use, too.

Poster boy Burn Griffith’s signature Triangle Heat attack.

Playtesting and Balance

Aoki: For this game we relied on the different special abilities to make each character feel unique. In a 2D fighting game like Kaiser Knuckle, I think the standard attacks (punches, kicks, throws etc) are sufficient to make characters feel different. Those basic attacks in Psychic Force do differ a little bit, but if we made them too different, it would be a major problem for the game balance, so all-in-all they’re pretty similar.

We spent a lot of time on balancing. What we did was place notecards next to the cabinets, so players could write down their opinions and complaints, who was too strong/weak, who their favorite character was, etc.

This is just my personal opinion, but I don’t mind it when some characters are weaker or stronger, or when there are clear counters to a character’s abilities. Doesn’t it feel great to beat a stronger character with a weaker one? That’s my way of thinking, at least, but it didn’t really fly with the rest of the team. (laughs)

Stage Backgrounds

Kamimura: For the backgrounds, at first they had a more typical “diorama” look to them, but as our focus shifted to a more anime-style presentation, we were asked to add as much animation and action to the backgrounds as possible. Some examples—there was a volcano at first, but no dark clouds in the background… there was no earthquake.. and Genma’s stage was a lot more calm, more like a tourist spot or something. There were no buildings, but it felt really unnatural to fight in a place so empty, so we spent a lot of time making the locations look lively.

Aoki: There are two visual perspectives in Psychic Force. At first, there was a “view change” button, which was usable for the location test. We had many discussions about which was more effective, but ultimately we decided not to let the player select the view, and to only use the different view for stages where it felt good.

What Super Power would you want?

Kamimura: If I could use any psychic power, it would have to be teleportation. That way I could go right into the bank vault and make off with all the money. (laughs)

Aoki: I would take… invisibility. (laughs) As soon as I said it you probably guessed why. If not that, I’d probably want the power of flight.

Sakamoto: I really want to fly too, but lately I’ve felt like I don’t have enough time, so I’d probably go with the power to stop time. (laughs)

Takahagi: Nothing really comes to mind right now, but maybe the power to see the future… then I’d go to the horse races. (laughs)

Ishikawa: It’s not a psychic power per se, but if I had the ability to instantly recall any melody I’ve heard, my work would be a lot easier. (laughs)

Ishikawa (sound director, left) and Aoki (programmer / planner, middle) look back on Psychic Force in 2017.
Psychic Force – 2017 Developer Interview

originally featured at

Hiroshi Aoki – Programmer
Katsuhisa Ishikawa – Sound Effects

—Psychic Force made its debut in the arcades in 1996, and a port for the Playstation was released that same year. Two years later, the sequel Psychic Force 2012 could be found at game centers across Japan, and a port of that game was also released the following year. Last year a 20th Anniversary event was held for Psychic Force, but what are your feelings now that Psychic Force is 20+ years old?

Ishikawa: Well, while it’s true it’s been 20 years, Psychic Force was really only popular from 1996 to 1999, so 3 years. Looking back now, the feeling is more like “wow, how quickly that time passed by.” It was a very special 3 years.

—I wanted to ask about who came up with the original plan for Psychic Force. I thought it was you, Aoki, but when did the plans get officially drawn up?

Aoki: I wasn’t actually the one who came up with the idea for Psychic Force… it was one of Taito’s other planners. I believe it was around 1991 or 1992. Capcom’s Street Fighter II came out in 91, and its popularity spread like a wildfire. In response, Taito started talking about making a FTG themselves, and what kind of FTG it should be, and held an in-house competition for ideas. It was there that the idea for a mid-air fighting game came up.

—Wow, that’s a lot earlier than I expected! I had always thought the mid-air fighting idea was a response to the Playstation’s release in 1994, with its new 3D-capable hardware.

Aoki: Yeah, that wasn’t it. A lot of our game plans at that time were built around some new, novel concept—basically trying to distinguish ourselves from other games. It was a simple idea in that spirit: everyone else was doing ground-based FTGs, so we’d make one in the air! Then, in the start of 1992, in my free time at work I created a mock-up. This was still in 2D, which meant you would have had to create sprite animation for all the different angles. It just seemed way too difficult. (laughs)

Then the Playstation came out in 1994, and things shifted from sprite-based animation to 3D models, which didn’t require laboriously drawing new sprites for every single angle the way that 2D sprite art did. It was then that we pulled out the plans for Psychic Force from 1991.

—I see. Those warehoused plans were revived by the new revolution in hardware. When I look back on Psychic Force today, it strikes me as having a very unique game system. It has a degree of freedom that almost places it outside the traditional fighting game genre, I think. Although you actually move on a 2D plane, the controls manage to feel like you’ve got 360 degrees of freedom.

Aoki: The uniqueness of the system can be traced back to that mock-up plan from 1992, definitely. If we had started designing a “mid-air fighter” after the advent of 3D games like Tekken and Virtua Fighter, then the system likely would have turned out to be something closer to today’s Final Fantasy Dissidia. In 1992 there was only 2D hardware available for us to work with, so the possibility of 3D never even entered into our minds. The initial impetus for the project was “can we elaborate on the SFII concept by having fights take place in mid-air”—not “can we make a game in a 3D space”—so the fact that the fights took place on a flat plane never seemed weird to us.

—That helps explain the way Psychic Force feels like a 2D-game when you play it. Also, two things about Psychic Force that left a big impression on me were the character designs and the tragic story. Before this interview I played the game again, and it struck me how, in Psychic Force, when you defeat an opponent they actually die. It reminded me of the pessimistic, despairing feeling that Taito’s Rayforce series conveys. I also feel there’s a connection there with the 60s and 70s superhero mangas, like Yuki Hijiri’s “Locke the Superman” and Shoutaro Ishinomori’s “Cyborg 009”.

Aoki: Very astute of you. Indeed, we were hugely influenced by Locke the Superman. Also, for the character Keith, who is a friend of the protagonist and the last boss, you can probably tell right away that his clothing was inspired by Ishinomori’s designs. In fact, there’s actually an explicit note in the original concept documents for Psychic Force, that we’re trying “to depict an anime world.” The idea for the mid-air fighting system did come first, and once we had that, we felt an anime world would be the best match, thematically.

Locke the Superhero and Cyborg 009, two visual inspirations for Psychic Force. Keith’s design, in particular, is pretty much a direct homage.

—In the light novels that are popular these days, the protagonist who gets superpowers always ends up becoming the hero who saves the world. But in the world of Psychic Force, the people with superpowers are treated as outcasts and discriminated against. That’s one the cool things about this game, and hearing your explanation makes sense for me. And the cel-animation character designs, which were highly novel for their time when compared with others FTGs of the era, are also a product of that anime world you wanted to depict.

Aoki: That’s right. And there’s another reason too: FTGs like Tekken and Virtua Fighter had started to shift towards more realistic depictions. As latecomers, we felt we couldn’t really keep up with them there even if we tried, so we decided to try walking our own path. Even the game logo for Psychic Force is meant to convey our commitment to that uncompromising anime-ness. Most arcade games of the time used English for their logos/titles. In fact, the first draft logo our designer showed us had ‘Psychic Force’ written in English, but we had him change it to katakana.2

—Yeah, for manga and anime, it’s got be katakana, right? Moving on, I was wondering: if you could go back 20 years, is there anything you would change or fix about Psychic Force?

Aoki: Heh, I’d want to bit better with the female character’s costumes. Looking at those designs today, naturally they look a little old-fashioned, but even for 1996 they were somewhat retro. I look at Sonia now, the lightning Psyciccher, and wonder why I gave her that full skin-tight bodysuit. (laughs) If she were a robot or something it would be a nice touch, but if I went back to her design now I’d give Sonia some more stylish, mechnical-looking armor or something.

But, you know, on the other hand, for Sonia, Kieth, and all those characters, those old-fashioned designs have the advantage of serving as a very effective visual shorthand for the players: we wanted people to be able to tell from a single glance that they have superpowers. That clarity of design—being able to tell with one glance what something is—is very important… and also when you’re writing a story, you don’t want to have to force the characters to ramble on expositionally about who they are. We wanted that visual synchronization, so players would be able to tell, just by looking, that this guy is hotblooded and passionate, this guy is calm and collected, this guy has a tragic past, etc.

—Yeah, in fighting games, when the characters have to stop and explain this or that about their backstories, it hurts the tempo of the game. Being able to tell at a glance who’s who is an important part of creating characters for FTGs.

Aoki: Yes, we wanted them to be distinct enough that even by looking at their silhouettes, you’d know who was who. When playing a console game, you have plenty of time to sit back and take in all the details, but at the game center there’s very little time to notice that stuff, so we aimed for clear, understandable designs that would endear themselves to players in a short period of time. Back in the day we would leave a little booklet at the game center for players to write feedback and opinions about the characters. Reading their responses and looking at the little sketches they drew, you could tell they really loved the characters, so it felt like a victory to us.

Aoki thought Sonia’s design was too retro, and would redesign it today.

—Since the characters in Psychic Force use superpowers, their attacks can be long-range like a STG game, but there’s also close-range melee fighting too. Taking all that in, I felt, made Psychic Force a very hard game to learn, and one with a high skill ceiling. Was that something you planned, I wonder?

Aoki: Hmm… well, regarding the problem of long-range fighting feeling like a STG, that was something we were aware during the development. But it’s also true that we couldn’t really figure out a way to do it any different. We tried to solve it with some inventive game design choices, but insofar as this project is concerned, I don’t think we succeeded in executing our ideas. Ranged fighting and melee fighting are opposite gameplay concepts, and it’s exceptionally difficult to find mechanics that balance the two.

—I’m not sure there’s been a game that has conquered that problem yet, actually.

Aoki: That’s why we tried, in all other domains, to avoid adding additional complexity. For example, making it so the commands for moves don’t involve facing, and having fights enter sudden death mode when the time runs out. Furthermore, I would probably say that we weren’t super concerned about making a game with a fighting system so deep that you’d have to grind on it again and again to get better. Instead, there was a strong sense in the team that more than a “fighting” game per se, we wanted to make a game where people could enjoy the world and atmosphere. I think the “barrier guard” ability, which protects you from attacks from all directions, is very representative of that design philosophy. To use it, you had to do a full 360 rotation on the joystick while holding down the guard button.

—That was actually very hard to do!

Aoki: Yeah, and to be honest, we made it hard on purpose. We wanted to evoke a sense of dramatics, where the faster your opponent was at getting off his attacks, the less time you’d have to dodge.

—Interesting! So one of the premises of the game design was to create situations that would put the players under a lot of pressure.

Aoki: When someone is really synced up with their character, we wanted the opponent to get that feeling, “oh damn, he’s fast!” (laughs)

We didn’t end up implementing this, but we also had an idea for a system with Windia (who uses the power of wind) where she could gain an advantage/disadvantage depending on which direction the wind was blowing. It was kind of a manga-ish idea, where when the wind was at her back, she would be stronger, but when it reversed to a headwind she’d be weaker.

Stuff like that proved to be very difficult to implement in practice. One thing we were able to realize, though, was Wong’s time-stopping ability. Being able to stop time would be taboo in most fighting games. (laughs)

—In most fighting games, after a fight, the winner usually says some cocky line like “You’ll never defeat me!”, but in Psychic Force, the losing player makes some remarks about their loss. Why did you take that approach?

Aoki: We wanted the players to feel closer to the characters. You could say we wanted them to sympathize with the bitter feelings of the loser. And I think you evoke drama better by showing a character’s weaknesses.

—I wonder if that’s one of the secrets to Psychic Force’s popularity with women. Psychic Force was very popular with female gamers, which is a rare thing for an arcade FTG.

Ishikawa: That was something we talked about then, too. We had no idea that women would like and support the game so much. I heard that there were a lot of women present at its debut in the game centers, too. It’s something we’re very thankful for.

Aoki: One of my memories is when we exhibited Psychic Force at the Taito booth for the Tokyo Game Show, and there were cosplayers for the game all over the place. That surprised me! Most of them were women, and there were a lot of Sonias and Wendys, but also people cosplaying the male characters Emilio and Wong too.

—Do you have any more stories from back then, about Psychic Force’s popularity?

Ishikawa: There was the Valentine’s Day thing! A bunch of Valentine’s Day chocolates were dropped off at Taito’s office, addressed to the Psychic Force characters. I’d never had anything like that happen to me before. (laughs)

Aoki: It was multiple boxes, too much for our team to eat alone. So we sent a mail out to the office saying “If you want Valentine chocolates, come to the Psychic Force team’s room!” And everyone gathered there with big grins on their faces.

—To see people’s love for the game take material shape like that, must have made you very happy.

Aoki: There’s something of a reason behind all that chocolate—Kieth’s birthday is 2/14. That detail wasn’t initially included in his backstory, either. After Psychic Force was released, we did some press for a doujinshi magazine, and they asked us about everyone’s birthdays. Since Kieth is one of those fashionable bikei3 characters, 2/14 sounded as good an answer as any, so that’s what we said. We had no idea it would result in us receiving so much chocolate. (laughs) We got chocolates addressed to other characters too. And there was even someone who sent a bouquet of roses to Burn, too.

—It’s a wonderful thing, when the fans love a character so much they want to know more and more abou their backstories. Psychic Force did have a lot of doujin works, and I remember at comiket, there was a dedicated “island” (an area at comiket with a group of desks put together) just for Psychic Force doujin circles.

Aoki: There was, indeed. I went there to buy some stuff, but they told me these were for women, and they wouldn’t sell them to me. That was an awkward moment. (laughs)

Ishikawa: There was a dedicated space for Psychic Force doujinshi products, and at some point they called us over so we went to check it out. What I found interesting was that, after selling their goods for the afternoon, they held a tea party. They cleaned everything up, brought out tea, and everyone talked about Psychic Force and showed each other their cosplay. I was very surprised by that whole culture. (laughs)

—Takarazuka fans also call fan meetings “tea time” like that. It seems like something specific to the female fan culture. Pretty interesting! I wonder why Psychic Culture inspired all that fanfiction/culture? Have you thought about it personally?

Aoki: What all the fans told us then (and now), was that they liked how Psychic Force left room for their imagination. That way the fans get to have fun filling in all the different details. We didn’t leave “gaps” on purpose, but we did try to to provide only the minimum amount of details and background necessary to make each character stand out. A backbone to their story, an ending, and the dialogue when they’re fighting—that would be enough. We did know that the world of the game needed a certain level of polish for people to be able to get into it, though.

—For example, what kind of things did you focus on there?

Aoki: One thing we were very insistent about was making sure the characters did not yell out the names of their moves when fighting.

—That’s true, in Psychic Force no one shouts out “shouryuuken!” or “hadouken!”

Aoki: The reason why, is that to these characters, they don’t not see their abilities as “special moves”. Burn, who has the power to manipulate fire, calls forth a phoenix out of a protective instinct. Sure, we named that move “god phoenix”, but that was only for convenience’s sake, and there’s no reason Burn himself would shout out “It’s God Phoenix!” (laughs) That point was very important to us.

—Right, and when you look at the story in Psychic Force, the characters aren’t fighting just because they want to fight—so it would probably feel really weird to have them enthusiastically yelling out all their moves. (laughs)

Aoki: And on that point, there’s the character Wong, who manipulates time and can create mirror images of himself… when his opponent attacks his mirror image by mistake, he yells out “Wrong!” That’s because Wong is a character who actually enjoys fighting. We tried to be consistent in our character designs, in this way.

—Wow, I see you paid great attention to detail there. Another one of Psychic Force’s strengths is the great voice acting. I feel that too may be one of the secrets why it was so popular with female audiences. What do you think?

Ishikawa: The voice actors definitely added a lot to the charm of this game. Though when I saw the first in-game screenshots during development, I was actually a little disappointed. Aoki said he wanted the game to be like an anime, and that was written in the planning documents too, but due to the Playstation’s lack of power, it didn’t quite manage to look like something from the world of animation.

—That is something that other developers have often told me, about the first generation Playstation. The hype for the Playstation, before it even came out, was really too big, and you felt like it would be able to do anything, but then when you went and worked with it, it didn’t live up to that.

Ishikawa: Yeah, which is why when I first saw those images from the game, I thought “this isn’t anime…” But, once we added the voice actors in, and the music, that really breathed life into the characters, and then I thought this could really work.

—Are there any “secrets” you can reveal to us about Psychic Force today?

Aoki: How about this: the last boss character, Keith, originally was not designed to be a boss character.

—Oh, really?!

Aoki: He was supposed to be just another character in the main roster. We were going to make an entirely different boss character, but due to issues with the development schedule, we realized we weren’t going to have the time to make that many different characters. And the boss character we had planned got cut there. Then someone suggested Keith be the boss and he got jumped up to that role. In his backstory, he was a friend of Burn’s, so we tried to capitalize on that relationship.

Psychic Force intro movie for the PS1

—I see. If you could go back and leave a message to yourself in 1996, what would it be?

Aoki: Back then I was still young, and I pushed ahead with my dreams, unafraid of failure. Today I have experience as a producer, and have to think about a lot more things when it comes to game development. I think it was my persistence in doing what I wanted, and just a general sense of propulsion and motivation that made Psychic Force what it was… so, as for a message, I would probably just tell myself: “keep doing what you’re doing.”

Ishikawa: When I hear the music and voice acting for Psychic Force today, I still think it’s good, so it’s the same feeling for me there. But the sound effects, on the other hand… now that I’ve got 20 years of experience under my belt, I would probably say to my old self, “let me handle this.” (laughs)

—Yeah, sound effects seem like something where you need a lot of knowhow and technical experience.

Ishikawa: The more experience you have, they better they come out.

—Last question… Psychic Force only had that brief 3-year period in the spotlight, and the brand has not continued up to the present day. Why do you think that is? Let’s end on a really difficult question. (laughs)

Aoki: Aaaahh… (laughs) Over the last 20 years, I’ve actually proposed plans for another Psychic Force numerous times. But there’s always been some reason or other why the plans couldn’t proceed to development. And if I can be honest, the sequel Psychic Force 2012 didn’t really sell very well, which is one big reason.

—If you were given the chance though, would you want to take on the challenge?

Aoki: Now we have hardware that can really make the most of a three-dimensional space, I would love to use that to bring Psychic Force’s unique style to life. No other company has ever put out a game that really resembles Psychic Force, so there’s a void there that’s waiting to be filled. Now that I’m older, I understand the weaknesses of the gameplay system better, and I’ve got ideas on how to improve it. I’d love to take a crack at it.

—Well, maybe this interview will help revive the franchise. If any Psychic Force fans at Taito or Square Enix are reading this, please give Aoki a call. (laughs)

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  1. The original name of Psychic Force, before the project was temporarily shelved.

  2. This is difficult for non-native Japanese speakers to appreciate, but the choice of script—whether to use English/Katakana/Hiragana/Kanji—all convey different nuances, and apparently katakana gives a more “anime” feel.

  3. “Bikei”, which literally means “beautiful type” is a common character trope. It denotes a “beautiful” character, and can be used for either gender, but often refers to a slim/stylish/feminine man.

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