From 1998 to 2001, Joe Madureira produced nine issues of Battle Chasers. It was a series that found an audience in its very sporadic run, but after the cliffhanger ending of issue 9 and nearly 17 years later; Battle Chasers: Nightwar brings these characters back in video game form to tell a new story in the BC world. All the characters we remember such as the young girl/superpowered tank Gully, the warrior known as Red Monika, and legendary swordsman Garrison are all here in this turn-based dungeon exploration title. As a fan of the comics, the game had little trouble getting me to buy into everything it was selling. To my surprise though, people who had never heard of Battle Chasers before enjoyed their time with the demo they played on the E3 show floor. Joe and his studio Airship Syndicate set out to create a game without a high fence, just a rewarding experience with characters anyone who loves good story can get behind. After playing the game and talking with Joe Mad, they’re on the right path. We got a bit of time with comic book artist turned game creator Joe Mad and Battle Chasers audio designer, Power Up Audio’s Kevin Regamey.
Comics Beat: What’s the story in Battle Chasers: Nightwar?
Joe Mad: In Battle Chasers: Nightwar you have a party of heroes looking for resources known as Mana. It’s the source of all magic in their world and it’s been slowly fading. As our heroes come to an island with some of the last remaining Mana they’re shot down by pirates. On the island, they meet a devil hunter named Alumon who warns them of a returning vampire lord. The group is drawn into the quest to stop him.
CB: Why do a Japanese style role playing game instead of the traditional action adventure which comic properties get translated into?
Joe Mad: Even before we knew the game was going to be a Battle Chasers game, we knew we wanted to do a slower turned based game taking inspirations from old school games. If we did an action RPG it would work better for a single character. This type of game works for the group dynamic. Once we settled on that, the Battle Chasers world just fit right in. Plus we like these kinds of games, like Fire Emblem and other types of tactics games. We know it’s not sexy to most people but it’s the kind of game we’re most excited about really.
CB: How much translation did you have to do from the language of comics to gaming with Battle Chasers?
Joe Mad: I mean it was pretty easy actually. Back in the day doing the comic series, they were heavily influenced by JRPG, anime, and stuff. There was a very gamey vibe to the comics with characters doing Street Fighter type moves or spells you’d see in like a Final Fantasy. It had so much in it that made it game friendly, I really just wanted to update it. The designs looked soo old but we didn’t really change all that much. It all fit perfectly with what we wanted.
CB: I know the majority of turn-based RPGs don’t use voice but will Battle Chasers have any voice over?
Joe Mad: We do have…well we hadn’t recorded VO [voice over]. We literally just finished recording it. So the characters will be voiced, all the cut scenes will be voiced and key dialogue scenes. All the NPCs in town have voices when you first encounter them.
CB: Tell us about the process of adding voices when the game was just about finished.Will there be anyone fans recognize?
Kevin Regamey: As far as voice over for any project, there’s always a casting process. We’re still a small indie team we’re not going to bring on….
Joe Mad: Mark Hamill
Kevin Regamey: [laughs] I can confirm Mark Hamill is NOT in this game. But after working in audio for games a long time, we’re definitely pulling voice talent that’s seasoned from games like the Telltale series’. There will be some voices in there some players will recognize. We got a ton of good performance from these voice actors and it’ll all come together great.
CB: Most everyone in our audience knows where Joe Mad comes from but what’s your previous experience in games Kevin?
Kevin: I’m not technically part of Airship. I co-run an audio design house, Power Up Audio in Vancouver.
Joe Mad: We consider them part of Airship!
Kevin: That said, my co-founder [PUA] and I came from a company we considered very factory in the way of –make audio for a game, get it out the door and move on without caring what happens to it after—. We left that company about 4 years ago and resolved to leave that mechanical product service behind. I mean we’re here with these guys in the trenches giving them feedback and bringing ideas to the table. Even doing QA [quality assurance]. First build I played I was tearing this game apart.
Joe Mad: Yeah, [Laughs]Kevin was the most annoying at finding bugs. He found soo many and I’m like okay Kevin is not allowed to play this game anymore.
Kevin: Some of the other games we worked on was Towerfall Ascension, Crypt of the Necrodancer. We’ve had some success on the indie scene.
CB: How far along is Battle Chasers: Nightwar?
Joe Mad: It’s very far, we have to submit [for certification on platforms] within the next month.
CB: You’re coming to Switch now as well. What’s been the most problematic device to work on?
Kevin: We’ve had a unique position with developers as far as seeing how they operate and it’s rare to see a team this size working on all the builds at once.
Joe Mad: Because we used Unity, that’s an easier engine to port between the different consoles. It’s made our lives easier and the fact that the game itself, just visually, it’s designed to be a more illustrated style. It’s lower specs by design, we don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles of the latest tech to run this game. We’re not having the problems some other games have.
CB: Even though I could easily see this being a travel replacement for Zelda, I’m going with the PlayStation 4 on this. Will there be a Platinum Trophy for PS4?
Joe Mad: I can’t really…
CB: The answer is always yes! Joe.
Joe Mad: Yes! No. I don’t know…I can’t say for sure, but we’re going to try.
CB: Good if it doesn’t let me know, I know the right people to talk to about it. Did you consider making the original comics unlockable in the game as a reward?
Joe Mad: We did talk about that at one point. We joked that issue 10 would be scattered around the game and you’d find the pages to put it together. I know there’s a collectors edition that has the codes for the digital versions, currently, it’s not in the base game.
CB: Lastly, I always enjoy asking developers who work on Marvel games or Batman games what their first experience with comics was. This is the first time I’m getting to ask a creator the inverse. What was your first experience with video games?
Joe Mad: Man my first experience was probably…before Atari 2600 there was this weird console it was like a triangle with a steering wheel. Can’t remember the name so let’s just go with the Atari 2600. I got it on Christmas, I had Pitfall, Combat, and Night Driver. I remember steering with the little tennis paddles and I was hooked on games ever since.
CB: I have to ask any chance of you coming back to comics?
Joe Mad: Aside from some random covers. The next big chunk will be the next 3 issues of Battle Chasers and the best part of that is it’s going to be issue #10. I’m not starting it over. 9 into 10 baby! I mean I’m doing a video game based on this old comic so what the hell you know.
COMICS BEAT: Battle Chasers: Nightwar is available for pre-order on Amazon as it comes to the PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch on October 3rd, 2017. After busting up some dungeons, Joe Mad’s Battle Chasers comic will be back with the fabled issue 10. Follow all the happenings of Airship Syndicate on Twitter @airshipsyn.