This post will be split in 2 sections. One will be the explanation of the delays and changes made to the game and the second section will be the most recent development notice uploaded on the development blog which you can find here. However it is in Japanese so the second section of this post will be translated.
Inazuma Eleven is a series that I have been following since I was a child, from the original series all the way till the new spin-off series two summers ago. And now there is finally going to be a new game for the Inazuma Eleven franchise called ‘Inazuma Eleven Great Road of Heroes’, the last game being Inazuma Eleven GO Strikers 2013. However, the development of this game has met a lot of difficulties along the way. The game was originally called ‘Inazuma Eleven Ares no Tenbin’ based off the spin off series and it was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2018 alongside the schedule of the spin-off anime and the 2018 FIFA Russia World Cup, however, it has been subsequently delayed till 2021 at the earliest.
Reasons for it’s delayed development includes the fact that they saw ‘Inazuma Eleven Ares’ to be a massive game production compared to other games produced by LEVEL 5 so they outsourced their production to a third party company. However, the third party allegedly lacked the capacity to undertake such a development. So the production was switched back to in-house production in LEVEL 5 and the production had to restart from scratch. However, instead of giving up altogether, the CEO of LEVEL 5 Akihiro Hino has decided to use this opportunity to patch up some holes in the game and improve the quality of the game in general, he has also decided to add new chapters in the game’s story mode that features the characters from the original series. Improvements were most notably made through human characteristics, the graphics reality of the game and lighting.
For example of human characteristics, refer to the two pictures below.
Hino has payed particular attention to the physics of sitting like that and the little details involved such as the sitting positions, arrangement of seats in the background in correlation to the angle of the camera as well. Hino has also tested how to sit himself such as when he pulls his legs back, his waist would float backwards and through human experiments, they are improving the human characteristics of the characters in the game as well. They are also adjusting the facial expressions of the characters in such positions.
Hino is also focused on improving the graphics reality and the lighting of the game through tiny details as well such as the movement of the grass in irregular wind.
Hino likes paying attention to tiny details which will make a huge difference when absent but un-noticeable when present. But the beauty is always in the details and what other way to achieve graphic realism than through the tiny details?
For example the Raimon Junior High Football Club House has a rusty exterior to fulfill it’s tattered condition after the clubhouse stopped being maintained following the departure of the original Raimon football club to other teams to act as national reinforcements to strengthen the football quality of Japanese youth football in the anime.
If you pay attention to the whiteboard, you can see the magnets and the strategy in a football match, such details are paid close attention to by Hino. As you can see on the right of the image above, the lighting is also greatly emphasized. Here’s another image for emphasis on the focus of lighting following the production restart.
Other aspects of lighting is also being worked upon such as stadium lighting but screenshots of that is not released yet. There are also many other areas to explore “such as the music club, art club, shops in the shopping district etc…” from the development blog.
Hino is also changing the game mechanics from a more rigid gameplay to one with more freedom and hack-and-slash esque game mechanics where the player can be controlled by the mouse or the controller. It will be a RPG type game with competition, player acquisition and an E-sports development.
The development was actually almost abandoned. due to the difficulties of the development during the production being shifted back to in-house production away from the failure of the third company production strategy, online criticism for the delays and the low morale of the developers. However, due to fan support, patience and understanding, Hino “felt that the responsibility to not give up became larger” so he felt that he needed to find other methods to continue and improve development. One of them being the breaking of the cross-media scheduled production. That means that all focus will be put into the production of the game and the scheduling of the release in sync with the anime will be disregarded. Another method for the progress of development is that to complete the game with high quality, they will evolve the engine used for the Yokai Watch games.
Despite these challenges, Hino has uploaded a development notice on the development blog for Inazuma Eleven Great Road of Heroes in April 2020, the link is provided at the top, the beginning of the post. Here we go.
There are various heroes in history. An accomplished and victorious hero. A hero whose belief moved people heart’s even though his own will might have died. A hero is by no means a title given to a victor. A hero is a beacon sought by those who needs it’s existence. And here we have an “eccentric hero” who shines by supporting others. Let’s talk about this hero. The story about the breakthrough of “heroes” and the Great Road of Heroes.
This an excerpt briefly describing the new character that will be introduced to the game. He is called Sasanami Unmei.
The Story of the New Character
“I love soccer”. I would be so happy to be able to say that proudly. I always think about those who play football along this riverbed. A loose ball has rolled in front of me. The person asked me to toss the ball back, I picked it up and threw it back. I asked the person
Sasanami: “We’re in the same middle school, why are you playing soccer with a bunch of elementary school students?”
Football Player: “Oh I don’t have enough soccer club members in my school”
Sasanami: “But why do you still play soccer?”
Football Player: “I still play because I will definitely increase the number of members. And it is my goal to win the Football Frontier”
Speaking of the Football Fronter, the Football Frontier is the tournament that decides who is the strongest team in Japan. This person is in the soccer club, where he can’t even play a match against other teams, and there isn’t enough people, despite this, he has set a goal which is 100 steps ahead. What a person…
Sasanami: “That’s impossible right?”
Football Player: “I can’t do it? We’ll see, I don’t think it’s likely, but there’s one thing I can’t do and that is to give up trying to be the best in Japan in football.”
He said those words with a big smile which was full of a mysterious persuasive power.
What…..this person is stupid……
Such a refreshing smile gets on my nerves, such a passion for soccer.
His name was Endou Mamoru, captain of the soccer club at Raimon Junior High.
I decided to join the soccer club on this day, but as a manager.
Somehow, I just wanted to do that.
At that time, I felt so small without any goals.
That’s how the story begins. But take this into consideration. First of all, the main character of this game scenario is manager and he is a boy. He feels that he loves soccer but he cannot kick a soccer ball due to existing trauma. In other words, he loves soccer, but he can’t play it. So he thinks he can play a role supporting talented football players. Eventually, he will become a manager and assistant manager and support the team from an operational perspective. Don’t you think the settings of the game is perfect? The game, after all, needs to be moved as a whole team, not just focusing on one protagonist. The process of the game is also to take tactics into consideration such as the formation, the signing of players, and the creation of your own team. In this sense, the protagonist being the “acting director” is perfect for such a game.
Then it shall seem that the plot of this game would be to help the boy who can’t play soccer, eventually play soccer. But I’m thinking that this should not happen in the game. The kid can’t play soccer but he’s already playing a big role in it. This is also another plot in itself. I would like to delve deeper into each character’s role in the game and charm.
The Canon Story
Since the original Inazuma Eleven timeline is Inazuma Eleven —> Inazuma Eleven Go —> Inazuma Eleven Go Chrono Stone —> Inazuma Eleven Go Galaxy
And the spinoff Inazuma Eleven timeline is Inazuma Eleven (Season 2 is replaced by the next season which is) —> Inazuma Eleven Ares no Tenbin —> Inazuma Eleven Orion no Kokuin. How is this going to work in the new game?
Hino says that:
Up until now, the usual trend of my work was to express the story of the anime and having it reflected in the games. However this time, we will take advantage of this situation (the difficulties of development) and challenge ourselves. This time instead of showing one story, I want to express the story of each “character” that branches out for each player.
However in this Great Road of Heroes, will is be based on Endou or Asuto? The answer is “neither”. It will be a completely original story of the game. Based on the concept of a star system (I don’t know what he means by this, please comment if you do lol), the latest chracters are added to the first Football Frontier starting from the group stages. It’s the latest story and it also has the elements to remake the first season of the original timeline. In this sense, it is similar to the Inazuma Eleven Ares but the content would be different. Now with regard to the star system, here the character’s face and voices are used instead of simply appearing as an ‘actor’, even if the appearance of the situation changes, the person’s burden will also also change. For example, Nosaka Yuuma has a brain tumor in anime and has problems in a familial sense, so in this work, he will also have the same problem and the burden he carries on his back. It is characters with such parts that I want to protect.
All 3 Protagonists Appear
Endou, Tenma and Asuto are the protagonists of their respective timelines. However in this game, I will draw a joint battle between all three protagonists. Endou, Tenma and Asuto without any time slips. To be precise, it may be different from a joint battle but it’s basically like a joint battle in a nutshell. As a game scenario, all three protagonists will exist on the same timeline so it will be up to the player to become friends or rivals with them. You can say that the story would be a mess afterwards but I wanted to make a choice that would make the game fun.
Many people may have been expecting Great Road of Heroes to be released along similar to the old games such as Inazuma Eleven Ares anime followed by an Inazuma Eleven Ares game release, then the Inazuma Eleven Orion anime followed by an Inazuma Eleven Orion game. But we changed the schedule, I would like to focus on character depth rather than following the storyline everytime so this time I will like to carefully draw the characters and situations that appear in “The First Football Frontier”. It depends on the player, depending on how you play the game, you will be able to understand the depth of different characters.
Freedom of Scenario
This time, I put a lot of emphasis on building one long main story and I want to focus on the degree of freedom. First of all, I think that the essential premise of the game is that the player can act freely. When I thought of each character and background as the elements that make up the in game world, I wondered how much each element can be played freely by the player instead of it being directed by the game. Until now, all of the game events were prepared by the game production side. Is there anything that the player can do freely and independently to initiate such events?
For example, if Ichihoshi is worried alone at the coffee shop, this time the main character can advise him. Endou (motivational persuader), Asuto (sympathizing persuader), Haizaki (aggressive persuader) and depending on which character is chosen to advise Ichihoshi, the content of the conversation can change and allows different drama to unfold. I would like to allow water and oil to mix in this game. I would like to devote my efforts to such freedom, such as enjoying the interaction between two people. If you pursue this, it will be AI, but in fact, the approach in the relationship between characters is being experimented upon in other Yokai Watch games as well and I think we can gradually expand on this area.
In conclusion, I know I wrote a lot about it, but I’m really sorry about the delay in development because there is no good reason for the delay. From here, you can only wait and expect the game to come soon. I think it can be released in 2021, but I will make the game a solid and good one worth waiting for. With this situation as motivation, I would like to reconstruct and develop the game and make it worth finishing. I think that many people have not played the first Inazuma Eleven game on the Nintendo DS, therefore, we will continue to develop the game with an intention to make it a “completely new game” that can be the main introduction to the Inazuma Eleven universe so that allows us to work on the game with a new, refreshed and focused motivation while verifying whether we can rebuild the first season of Inazuma Eleven with this game. This will take more time, but we will deliver the newest Inazuma Eleven work, so please wait a little longer.