The Latest

Q&A with MeiQ’s Tomoki Tauchi

MeiQ Labyrinth of Death (1)
Between acclaimed franchises such as Hyperdimension Neptunia, Fairy Fencer F, and Mugen Souls, Shibuya-based Compile Heart has cultivated a legion of global fans. Not content to rest on their laurels, the studio has spawned an internal project known as Makai Ichiban Kan (“The Number One House in Hell”). Following the release of Trillion: God of Destruction last March, the team’s second effort in on the verge of a stateside release. We spoke with MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death’s director, Tomoki Tauchi to find out what to expect when the PS Vita becomes available next week.

Tech-Gaming: Labyrinth of Death’s plot focuses on a world that has stopped rotating and plunged into darkness. It’s a story with clear ecological allusions. What was the impetus behind the game’s narrative?

Tauchi: We were extremely interested in a story where the planet stops rotating and how the implications of such an event would unfurl. From the get-go, implementing a cycle of Day/Night into this game would’ve been impossible because of our development schedule, and because players would be spending a lot of time in dungeons, they wouldn’t see the sun anyway! Therefore, we focused on creating a world in which environments are consumed by darkness and centered the narrative around this concept. To some extent, our technical limitations inspired a stronger story.

T-G: Players will scale four towers before challenging each stronghold’s Protector God. What types of ensnarements can players expect while skulking through each spire?

Tauchi: Each tower that awaits you contains three tower-specific gimmicks. Our aim was to create a game that constantly challenges its players, and the challenges increase as they progress through each tower. Each gimmick was designed to enhance the atmosphere and aesthetic of its respective maze.

MeiQ Labyrinth of Death (4)

T-G: The dungeon crawl has enjoyed a resurgence across the last few years. What is it about the genre that you feel fascinates players?

Tauchi: I think players enjoy this genre because it is known for its strong character development, its sense of mystery as they explore various dungeons, and its penchant for unique battle systems. The possibilities for this genre are endless.

T-G: How does MeiQ uphold dungeon-exploring tradition? In what ways does the game innovate?

Tauchi: The dungeon-exploring tradition in MeiQ very much pays homage to its predecessors in that players can expect rich dungeons through which they can dig deeper to discover secrets, but one particularly innovative feature we implemented was the use of “Auto-Turn” and “Dash” for players to easily navigate these mazes. I wanted these functions to be helpful for players, so I hope players will find it very useful!

T-G: Can you tell us how the game’s combat system works?

Tauchi: In battle, parties are comprised of three pairs of Mages and Guardians. It is crucial to customize before each battle because the elemental connection between Mages and Guardians can affect your success with monsters, especially for boss battles!

Also, connections between Guardians themselves are very important. Each Guardian has the chance to enact a Chain Attack which links combos for explosive damage!

MeiQ Labyrinth of Death (3)

T-G: The game’s turn-based battle system pits teams of Machina Mages and Guardians against enemies, with a lot of synergy between the two party. What types of advantages are at the party’s disposal?

Tauchi: Mages are able to equip “Seeds” which attach elemental and stat boosts to their Guardians, making both even stronger. A Mage must have a great relationship with her Guardian to unlock the full potential of its power. By carefully customizing each aspect of both the Mages and Guardians, players have full control over the style they want to play.

T-G: When MeiQ no Chika ni Shisu was released in Japan, it was touted as being “top class in terms of difficulty”. Can you speak on just how high the level of challenge is?

Tauchi: Not only does the game itself present obstacles with dungeons and monsters to defeat, but there are many mysteries to discover about the planet’s lore hidden in each maze. Solving these mysteries is a unique challenge that makes finding each one a deeper experience for the player. Additionally, there are four levels of difficulty, adding even more depth to an enriching game that is sure to leave players satisfied with its secrets buried within the nooks and crannies of each dungeon.

T-G: Often it seems as if difficulty within the industry is a race toward near-impossibility. How did you make sure MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death wouldn’t cross the threshold of frustration?

Tauchi: My philosophy is “video games are for fun.” I would not want any players to endure too much stress because of my games. Therefore, we structured the game to ensure a healthy balance of discovery, challenge, and light-heartedness.

MeiQ Labyrinth of Death (2)

T-G: Tauchi-san, woefully your previous works have been largely confined to release in Japan. How does it feel to reach a near-global audience with MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death?

Tauchi: I am so excited, partly because it’s my first release in the west and also because I’ll have an opportunity to receive feedback from players who have never had a chance to experience my games before. I look forward to hearing about everyone’s reception, and I hope that fans worldwide will enjoy MeiQ!

Tech-Gaming would like to thank Tauchi-san, as well as Idea Factory International’s
Nao Miyazawa-Pellicone, Arianne Advincula, and David Alonzo for their participation. 

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

18 comments

  1. Robert, I really like how you do these interviews with Japanese developers. Seems like the bigger sites are too busy complaining about boob sizes to do these. 😉

    I’d love to see more!

  2. “I am so excited, partly because it’s my first release in the west and also because I’ll have an opportunity to receive feedback from players who have never had a chance to experience my games before.”

    Just not in Australia.

    • What happened with Australia?

      • The game features a variety of female characters dressed in provocative clothing with their cleavage emphasised by their clothing revealing the sides or underside of their breasts. The five main characters in the game are ‘Machina Mages’, females who pair with robot-like guardians in order to do battle. Four of the five – Estra, Flare, Maki and Setia, although of indeterminate age, are all adult-like, with voluptuous bosoms and large cleavage that are flaunted with a variety of skimpy outfits.

        The fifth main character, Connie, is depicted as child-like in comparison. She is flat-chested, under-developed physically (such as the hips), is significantly shorter than the other characters and wears her hair in pigtails. She also has a child-like voice, wears colourful child-like clothing and appears naive in her outlook on life. She is also referred to as a “girl” by the other main characters. In the Board’s opinion, the character of Connie depicts a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18.

        The game features use of the Playstation Vita’s touchscreen feature, that allows the player to touch or run their finger across the touchscreen in order to make any female character’s breasts move in response. The chest area of Connie is viewed moving slightly when this occurs, which is significantly different from the greater movement viewed when one of the four adult-like female characters is touched.

        Within the character menu, the player can also touch the head, hips and legs of a character and a voice clip plays in reaction. When the player touches Connie in this mode it prompts verbal responses from her – either, “So flat. Super-flat.”, “Smooth”, “Just a little squishy” or two variations of a perturbed “Woah” sound. The application accompanying the game states there is a reaction to either the breasts, head, hips or legs of a character being touched. The touch response to each is indeterminate, as the gameplay footage does not indicate which area of the body is being touched when a response is heard.
        According to the Classification Board, the character Connie is under 18, therefore the gameplay described above constitutes a “simulation of sexual stimulation of a child”. The report states this is “offensive or abhorrent in such a way that it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified.”

        Also worthy of note: the Classification Board was explicit in stating that interactivity played a part in the decision to deny a classification to MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death. The report makes mention of guidelines, which state that repeated, interactive movements should be treated as having a higher impact compared to “similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film”.

  3. Good interview. I could have used a few more questions and longer answers, but I’ll take it.

  4. Robert, always great to read your interviews. Great to see someone who cares about Japanese games.

  5. Great Q&A, RoboRob. I’ll probably grab MeiQ next week since I love dungeon crawls.

  6. The only other anecdote I’ve heard regarding the game’s difficulty was that it’s fairly easy if you’re not playing on hard mode. Supposedly, hard mode just bumps up enemy stats significantly, in typical RPG fashion. It’s nice that the difficulty selection is there for people who want it, though.

    I hope the director’s “fun but not stressful” philosophy was taken to heart. It can be difficult to effectively make RPGs difficult without resorting to cheap tricks, since RPGs are at their core synthetic battles where you whack your stats against the enemies’ to see whose comes out on top. At the same time, if you make a game too easy, it can be challenging to keep it fun.

    For that reason, I’m kind of glad more dungeon crawlers have leaned more towards story/character-driven RPG design, as opposed to the old-school variety where your party was a vehicle of emotionless stats to simply carry the player through a dungeon. The Idea Factory/Compile Heart family of games seems to be good at adding character, for what it’s worth — not accounting for taste, of course.

    Looking forward to its release though, and will probably pick it up provided initial reviews aren’t completely terrible.

    • Yep. Waiting on reviews to make sure it’s not garbage from the garbage can. Typically 90% of Compile Heart games are worth full price to me, so decent scores will trigger a loss in wallet width. You revising it Robert?

    • Don’t forgot about grinding.

      RPGs stay hard and you soften them by leveling up. It makes progression possible by anyone determined enough.

  7. How long is the game supposed to be? I need at least 20 hours for a full priced game.

  8. Day one!!!!!!

    More Japanese interviews please. I love their games.

  9. I’d love to see more developer interviews from you.

  10. “To some extent, our technical limitations inspired a stronger story.”

    This is the type of things I like to read about. How designers reverse engineer things like the story to make sense. Good interview.

  11. Looking forward to the review!

  12. Players will scale four towers before challenging each stronghold’s Protector God.

    Wait there are only 4 dungeons? They better be the best, biggest dungeons I’ve ever explored.

  13. Vita is home to more dungeon crawlers than any other portable. I love it!

    (Just let me know if I can play this on PSTV).