In late November, THQ gave Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network a jolt of nostalgia with the release of "Voltron: Defender of the Universe," a game that effectively brings back the hit 80's franchise with superb top-down shooting action and big robot battles. The game combines dedicated artwork with twin-stick shooting controls, while throwing in a few clips from the classic cartoon for good measure.
To get an idea of what THQ and the developers at Behaviour Interactive's goals were when producing the game, CBR News spoke with Executive Producer Peter Armstrong, discussing what went into its creation and why now's as good a time as ever to ressurect the Voltron force.
CBR News: What makes now the right time to binrg back "Voltron?" Do you think the show still ranks high in the nostalgia department, or did you see the kind of success the "Transformers" and "Thundercats" saw with their returns to the spotlight?
Peter Armstrong: A lot of the team grew up with "Voltron" and were big fans, so there was nostalgia there, for sure. But unlike "Transformers" and "Thundercats," there hadn't been a video game. From a game standpoint, there is such a rich amount of possibility that hadn't been explored in "Voltron." With teamwork and cooperative play being a big focus of games and in the show itself, it seemed like the right time to make the experience our kid selves would have loved to play, but never had a chance to.
When you first began devloping the "Voltron" game, did you have co-op play in mind?
Co-op was the foundation of the experience from the start. We knew having five lions running on screen together, clawing and shooting, was something we had to see. The real trick, though, was [figuring out] how we make it work with five people controlling one giant "Voltron." Does the person controlling the blue lion move the left leg, and the person controlling the red lion get to swing the blazing sword? Sure, it would be hilarious to watch people coordinate their movement that way, but everyone wants to be in full control of "Voltron," like they did when they had the toy in their hands as a kid. We realized we needed to come up with a way where everyone had a chance at the helm, but everyone else's actions impacted the effort in a meaningful way. The result was a turn-based system that allows each person a chance to determine the attack, while everyone else determines how powerful the attack is. Defensively, we opted for a quick time event, where, depending on how successful the entire team is in that sequence, you had a powerful counter, or took less damage.
Were any of the original voice actors involved with this project?
We ended up using voices from the original series in the game as it covered all of our story and production needs, but we had a launch event with three of the original voice actors -- B.J. Ward, Michael Bell and Neil Ross. Each of them had done many different voices since "Voltron," but it was amazing how quickly they were able to drop back into Allura, Haggar, Lance, Sven Keith and Pidge like it was 1984.
Instead of using CG animated clips to introduce each stage, you opted to use original clips from the cartoon, which is a great effect. How did this idea come about?
It was total fan service to use the original animation. Jeremy Corray at WEP, who own the rights to "Voltron," worked very closely with us on the project. In our kick-off meeting last year, he suggested that we go with original footage and we were all extremely happy to hear that we could, not only because it was very cool, but also because we could really focus on the game itself and not on recreating the story in the game engine. Some of the video was even re-cut to tell the story in a more visual way.
How did you conceptualize the "Voltron" battle sequences? Was it difficult coming up with a system that worked?
We thought a lot about how five people, potentially strangers, would work together. After a lot of iteration with Behaviour Interactive, the developer on the project, we felt that a turn-based system, where everyone takes control of "Voltron" really made the experience more fun and engaging for everyone playing.
Did you ever consider a "Voltron" fighting game, or was the turn-based play the only way to go??
We were definitely inspired by the big "Voltron" and Robeast battle sequences that ended each episode. In the end, we hoped that we could make the game more about teamwork than one-on-one battles.
How did the original creators/cast members of the series feel about the return of "Voltron" to video game form?
They had a lot of nice things to say about the video game when we showed it to them at the launch event.
I attended the Comic-Con International panel and it was a blast, with Carrie Keagan appearing in costume probably the highlight! Fan response seemed to be great at the show, but how pumped up do you think "Voltron" fans have been overall for this game?
Carrie was awesome -- that costume was definitely made just for her. If you're a "Voltron" fan, we hope we did you proud, and we have a chance to take the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network games and grow them into something more in the future. It was our goal to create a game that not only would be cool for fans, but something that fans might be able to share with their kids as well.
You just released some downloadable content for the game. Can you explain what's included in that, and what's to come in future DLC packs?
The DLC is all about survival, using all of the lion mode skills you've mastered in the story mode. You can play it solo, but it's really fun playing with 1-4 other people and seeing how many waves you can get through.
Finally, if this game does well, can you see "Voltron" continuing to have future video game adventures?
We would love to see the fans really support the game and allow us the opportunity to create more games in this universe!
"Voltron: Defender of the Universe" is available now on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network for $9.99.