by Stephanie H., Staff Writer, Inside AX- Anime Expo
Recently Inside AX had the opportunity to sit down with Alfe Clemencio, the founder of indie visual novel group Sakura River Interactive. Fading Hearts, an original English language visual novel, was recently reviewed by Inside AX. Intrigued, I decided to find out more about Alfe Clemencio’s plans for the future and ask about the development of Fading Hearts. Here is what I found out!
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your studio for those who may not know who you are or what you do.
I am Alfe Clemencio. I do programming, scenario/game design and a few other creative things in game development. I am also the founder of Sakura River Interactive.
How did Sakura River start? What made you want to produce visual novels?
During my co-op work term in Japan I visited Akihabara. It was after I visited winter Comic Market 2006. I was walking past some stores and saw a trailer for Tohou Soccer 2 on a store display. I knew about Japanese indie games but was really surprised to see the trailer of one in a physical store. Before then, I thought that indie games could only work as online downloads. Imagine my surprise when I walked into a store and found an entire wall of quality indie games. They all felt like they were professional quality by the box art.
I thought to myself, “It would be great if we had that in North America!” Then I heard about Higurashi and Tsukihime and how they started out as indie Visual Novels but then became big. I thought that I could do that too.
What are some of your favorite visual novels? Have they influenced your writing?
Higurashi/Umineko was one of the major influences of Fading Hearts. Fate Stay/Night I got the idea of a post game commentary from. I also like Da Capo and Princess Waltz. Some elements of those seeped into the game.
How did you create the story concept for Fading Hearts?
The original idea was being able to go around a place like Hinamizawa in Higurashi and finding out what’s going on and doing what you want. A story of a normal life with a story about the darker side.
Why did you decide to set Fading Hearts in an alternate country (Sorayama)? Why not base it in Japan since Sorayama is so much like it?
I wanted a mix between the Japanese and Western culture. Also there are some wider plot related reasons I wanted to create a separate history for future games to take place in.
What made you decide to have so many choice-based paths?
I really wanted to give the player more control over what they did and have a strong impact on the story and still give a strong story as well. Fading Hearts was making in-roads towards it.
Do you have any intentions to release a walkthrough or a possible sequel?
There may be a standalone expansion for Fading Hearts after doing a few other titles. As for a walkthrough I would want to figure out how can I make one and have it spoiler free.
What is your favorite ending of Fading Hearts?
My favourite ending is the “Sole Survivor” ending. It’s a bad end but really enjoyable to experience as everything you’ve come to expect from playing Fading Hearts just changes and becomes ruthless.
What are your plans for the future? Can you tell us more about your next project?
I’m actually planning two titles. One of them is Infinite Game Works which I announced before. Think of Comic Party but for indie games. Depending on how your team members develop, the story will change.
The other is an RPG called Don’t Save the World. This one is going to a big one but going to be far away from today. It takes the high-player-agency storyline in Fading Hearts and takes it further. More great plot twists. A deeper battle system. Management-sim and item-crafting system. Far more dateable girls (due to design issues actually). And most importantly you can say no to the quest to save the world and watch someone else save the world! In other games you go on quests. In this game you can send the hero on a quest.
All of these features are very integrated into each other and not just a bunch of ideas thrown together separated from each other.
Lastly, is there anything that you would like to say to supporters of visual novels, Sakura River Interactive, and/or Inside AX’s readers?
hope people will get inspired by Infinite Game Works to make and sell their own games for fun. Espcially at anime conventions or the like. I know you might hear about indie games costing $120 000 to develop or so. Just keep in mind the Japanese indie game developers who made all these high quality indie games in boxes party.