A Kickstarter Without a Cause - Class of Heroes 2
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
I was a huge Working Designs fan back in the day. I bought a Sega CD just to play their games (I imagine most Sega CD owners were the same way). I spent many an hour on classics like Dragon Force, Alundra, Arc the Lad 2, and the Growlanser game. Lunar: Eternal Blue is my favorite game of all time. So when I heard that Vic Ireland (president of Working Designs before it went out of business) was teaming up with Monkey Paw Games to start a kickstarter to localize an unspecified JRPG, my excitement was high. Sure, I was excited by stuff like the Double Fine & Wasteland 2 kickstarters, but a JRPG localization kickstarter? That was right up my alley.
Then their kickstarter actually came out and that excitement instantly evaporated.
The Class of Heroes 2 kickstarter is a mess in so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin.
1 - Class of Heroes is not a series with a diehard fan base in the US. Not only that, but the first game in the series (the only one that has come out so far) has a 60-61% average on Gamerankings so they've got an uphill battle trying to convince people that the sequels are much better than the first game before they've even begun.
2 - There's no digital reward tier. A $5-$15 tier where you get a free download of the game tends to be most popular tier for successful kickstarters but here, there's no way to get a digital copy of the game through the kickstarter. The game will be available for download when it comes out but kickstarters supporters will have to buy the game just like everyone else.
Not only is there no download reward tier but there are no digital rewards of any kind. No soundtrack download, no making-of video, no online art book, nothing. This is just a hunch, but I'm guessing that if you're a big fan of digital distribution, you don't care that much for random video game collectibles. I know that's how I am - back when I was a teenager I loved stuff like the Lunar remake boxes but as an adult, stuff like that would just be clutter filling up my house.
3 - The PSP is a dead system in the US. Oh but wait, you can play PSP games on the Vita! Oh right, that only works with digital copies of games (see #2).
4 - "Suffice to say, we think there are enough fans like us out there that want to see more J-RPGs with great localization and presentation. Fans that want their J-RPG experiences to be memorable regardless of the platform. We know that this silenced J-RPG fanbase, under-served and forgotten, isn’t thrilled with where things are going. So, now’s the time to speak up and get our happy tomorrow." And they're giving us the opportunity to show our JRPG support with a Wizardry clone - aka a game with a very old-school Western RPG gameplay style.
5 - They don't show off the game enough. This isn't a work-in-progress - the game is already out in Japan. And yet, there's no trailer and only a single screenshot.
6 - The early tiers are borderline offensive. The primary reward for the $5 and $10 tiers is a thank you email/letter. Saying thank you when someone donates to your kickstarter is just common courtesy; it shouldn't be a special reward.
7 - Vague on the rewards. The primary reward is the special edition boxed set at $59 but there are no screenshots of what the special edition is going to look like or a clear indicator of what the special edition is going to include. Similar thing with the posters.
8 - There's no clear description of how the money is going to be used. Make the game? Eh, the game is already made. Release an English version of the game? That's going to happen regardless of how the kickstarter does. Right now, they say the money will be used to improve the localization (plus provide the physical rewards) but what exactly does that entail?
But beyond all of these many problems with this kickstarter, there's an even bigger issue. There's no cause for fans to rally behind. The kickstarter starts out with a rallying cry to show your support for JRPGs but then transforms into a rallying cry to show your support for fancy special editions. Setting aside how this isn't a particular good example of either (it's more of a Western RPG with anime art and who wants a special edition for some random game on a dead system?), it's giving a mixed message. I'd love to show my support for more JRPGs but on the other hand, I don't want to show my support for lavish special edition box sets. I like getting cheap games from Steam, XBLA, PSN, and other sites. I imagine that Working Designs' ever-increasingly complex box sets were one of the factors involved in their eventually demise. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather have Working Designs still around and localizing great RPGs than have a replica pendant or boxing puppet.
I'd love to see this kickstarter succeed if only as a step to seeing GaijinWorks and Monkey Paw Games turn into Working Designs back at the height of its glory. For that matter, I'd even like to throw a few bucks their way to buy Class of Heroes 2 since it sounds like a fun game (I've read from a few different places that the series gets much better with each new installment). Sadly, as a PSP Go owner who is planning on buying a Vita later this year, even if I donated to their kickstarter, I'd still have to buy the game again later. No thanks. I'll just buy the game when it comes out.