An Interview with KEIZO, the creator of Astlibra Revision - 15 years in the making, Nintendo Switch version in development, Baker's Daughter Mini Story DLC, and more

Astlibra Revision released on Steam quietly back in October, but positive word-of-mouth has gradually made its presence bigger and bigger since its launch. It has maintained an Overwhelmingly Positive user review rating on Steam throughout over 5,300 reviews at the time of writing, which has been an undeniable factor in catching the attention of those that have come across it because achieving that feat is no easy task whatsoever.

Chao Min Wu reviewed Astlibra Revision recently and expressed his love for this 2D side-scroller action RPG. With all the fascination around this game, one of the most interesting things surrounding it is its lengthy development history.

Japanese developer KEIZO was largely responsible for the development of this RPG. It was originally released as Astlibra: Proof of Life around 2011 as a freeware title that continually received content updates throughout the years. This solo indie project continued throughout the years as KEIZO would occasionally post development tests and updates on YouTube (beware of spoilers!). The freeware version of Astlibra saw its final updates in March 2021.

KEIZO partnered with publisher WhisperGames to create and release Astlibra Revision. Vanillaware artist SHIGATAKE was brought on to create all-new artwork for the game's portraits, along with Japanese artist Haku Tatsufuchi for some bosses. A DX library developer, Yamada, also joined the development team too.

We had the immense opportunity to sit down with KEIZO and interview him about the original Astlibra: Proof of Life freeware release and Astlibra Revision. The full interview is available in English and Japanese down below.


Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, KEIZO. Congratulations on releasing Astlibra Revision back in October! We appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today and wanted to ask you a few questions about it.

RPG Site: To start off, tell us a little bit about yourself for the people who are unfamiliar with you. What got you into game development and what were some of the challenges that you faced when starting out?

KEIZO: My name is KEIZO. I'm a salaryman who works in a typical company. I create games as a hobby. It was around 15 years ago when I got to start creating games, but that time was a period where not many games were released. It's a period when the likes of Steam still had not existed either. (Editor's Note: Remember this is in the context of the Japanese indie market 15 years ago

The circumstances at the time had me wondering whether an action RPG—which is my favorite genre—would show up or not within the year. I wanted to play it, but nobody would sell it. If I wanted to play an action RPG, I'd have to create it. That's where I began developing.

As for the hardships, it had to be the lack of tools to create games back then. Even when I didn't know where to begin at first, I had no other choice but to learn programming. I started from Visual Basic, until I ultimately settled with C++ after looking at the processing speed. I had to create all tools by myself, from map creation to joint settings and movement; it took so much time that I almost had no time to create content for the game itself.

RPG Site: Astlibra Revision has been in development for 15 years! What were the early planning stages for Astlibra like? What was your goal for Astlibra when you first started working on it? How much of the main scenario was planned initially and how much was changed over the course of its 15 year development cycle?

KEIZO: The game's objective was to create an action RPG I want to play. I wanted to relieve stress by just attacking enemies and collecting coins that drop a lot and make a noise. And many of the action RPGs that I played until now have short play times; I have a big desire to play more, so I'd like to create one that can be possibly played for a long time.

I didn't think much about the main scenario. I produced one chapter at a time, and I feel like the story concludes in each chapter. I made an opening that's easy for people to understand like in Mario, where Princess Peach was kidnapped by Bowser. That was also the case in Ghosts 'n Goblins. The heroine was gone in the opening, so you had to go out and look for her. I did not think further than that.

RPG Site: Were there any features you really wanted to put into Astlibra Revision, but ultimately had to cut during its development?

KEIZO: That would be features like the dual sword-wielding style and the jobs. It was very hectic preparing the graphics for the character, so I had no other choice but to give up on such features that would change the appearance of the character.

RPG Site: Astlibra Revision is known for its retro style and presentation. It truly feels like one of the classic RPGs that I used to play when I was younger. Were there any games, books, movies, and other media you turned to for inspiration when developing and designing Astlibra Revision?

KEIZO: That would be the Famicom game Jikuu Yuuden: Debias.

(KEIZO provided the URL to this YouTube video in his answer to the question.)

This game made me appreciate the side-scrolling action [genre] and I wanted to capture its ambience. Astlibra is often said to exhibit a retro style presentation, but it's just because I didn't have the technological skill to go beyond that. 

RPG Site: Time travel is one of the core features throughout Astlibra Revision’s story. Do you have a favorite game, book, or movie that features time travel? What do you believe are the most important parts when telling a story that has time travel in it?

KEIZO: I just recently got to watch time travel genre titles after receiving recommendations from people. But when I made [Astlibra] back then, I didn't have many opportunities to watch such titles.

I could only come up with Back to the Future. But I did have a feeling that it looked interesting.

I'm not really well-versed so this is just my personal opinion, but I think the part I want to watch in a time travel story may be the fresh impact when you travel to the future, and the surprise of the effect on present time when you go to the past.

RPG Site: Throughout Astlibra Revision, the protagonist meets all sorts of characters throughout his journey. Did you take any inspiration from people you knew or people you’ve met when constructing these characters? For example, did you know someone like Gau when making him for the game?

KEIZO: I had no such inspirations from real life. None of the characters resembled my acquaintances. When I created the characters, I did not write their lines just by myself; it's more as if those characters were speaking on their own to me and when I realized it, [the lines] were already done.

RPG Site: Astlibra Revision added a new Postscript additional story scenario that occurs after the main scenario is finished. I completed that earlier this month and was amazed at how much more story there was to tell. Was the Postscript content part of your original draft for Astlibra over a decade ago, or was it something that you decided to develop in more recent years?

KEIZO: When I produced Revision, I got a request from the publisher to insert additional features, so I added it. That's why I thought about it from last year to this year. Adding something to the story that has been completed once is extremely difficult, and to make it somewhat interesting is even more difficult. This time it somehow went well.

RPG Site: On your website, I noticed that you released a Mini Side Story for Astlibra in 2015 that features the Baker’s Daughter as the main character. Do you have any plans to release that on Steam in the future?

KEIZO: I would like to release it as DLC, and I am currently working earnestly on its production.

RPG Site: Astlibra Revision has maintained an Overwhelmingly Positive user review rating on Steam since its release on October 13. How has the overall user feedback made you feel? What aspects of the players’ responses have stood out to you the most so far?

KEIZO: I'm really glad about the Overwhelmingly Positive reviews. I especially feel like each country has a different culture and a big difference in its way to interpret presentations, so I'm surprised that even a conversation-laden game like this could be accepted. I did intend to fill it by creating thrilling and exciting scenes, so I think when many players did feel that, I'm really glad and felt those were worth creating.

RPG Site: Astlibra Revision is only available on PC via Steam at the moment. Are there any plans in the future to release it on other platforms?

KEIZO: I am planning to publish the Switch version.

RPG Site: Looking ahead, the success and positive reception of Astlibra Revision has made its players (myself included!) curious to see what’s next from you. Are you already working on your next game project? Do you plan on revisiting Astlibra’s storyline in a future game or are you satisfied at where you have concluded it?

KEIZO: Since I have a lot of work such as the Switch version and the Side Story, I still haven't decided my next title yet. Astlibra's story is done for now, but maybe I could create the story about the Scales in a different form.

RPG Site: There are many aspiring indie game developers out there around the world. Do you have any words of wisdom or advice you can share as they undertake their own personal journeys into game development?

KEIZO: Maybe this could seem presumptuous as a piece of advice, but I want to recommend something that had supported me during the long development. And that would be "a list of things to do."

You do it by dividing the work to broad tasks, then divide them further into detailed tasks, and you'd fill them up one by one. There are many detailed reasons so I am omitting them, but I'd really like to recommend this to those who haven't done it yet.

RPG Site: Thank you so much for your time, KEIZO. We greatly appreciate this opportunity to speak with you and congratulations on your success with Astlibra Revision. Before we end our time here with you, do you have a final message for your fans?

KEIZO: Players having fun is the most pleasant thing for a creator. Thank you very much for having played this title.


KEIZOさん、お時間を頂いてくれてありがとうございます。まずは、10月の「ASTLIBRA Revision」の発売、おめでとうございます!このインタビューの機会を及んで本作についていくつかの質問を送りしたいと思います。それではよろしくお願い致します。

RPG Site: まず初めに、よくご存じしない読者の方がいらっしゃいますので、自己紹介をお願いします。



RPG Site: 「ASTLIBRA Revision」の開発は15年間もかかりましたね。本作の開発の初期について聞きたいですが、主な目標などありますか?

KEIZO: ゲームの目標は、自分がプレイしたいアクションRPGを作る事でした。


RPG Site: 「ASTLIBRA Revision」に投入したいが開発中に仕方なく割愛された機能がありましたら教えてください。

KEIZO: 二刀流や、職業などの要素ですね。

RPG Site: 「ASTLIBRA Revision」はレトロ風な表現で注目を集めていますが、自分が昔やっていたクラシックなRPGのような感じがありました。

KEIZO: ファミコンの、「時空勇伝デビアス」ですね。



RPG Site: タイムトラベルが「ASTLIBRA Revision」の物語の中軸の一つとなりますが、お気に入りで同じ要素を持っている現存の作品はありますか?

KEIZO: タイムトラベル系の作品は、最近になって人に勧められて見たものがありますが、

RPG Site: 「ASTLIBRA Revision」のシナリオ中では、主人公が様々なキャラクターと出会っていますが、そのキャラクター達を作った時、現実で知り合ったお方からインスパイアされた者は居ましたか?例えばガウを作る時に、彼に似ていた知り合いは居ましたか?

KEIZO: 現実からインスパイアなどはありませんでした。知り合いに似ている人等はおりません。

RPG Site: 「ASTLIBRA Revision」ではメインシナリオの後に流れた後日談が追加されました。今月中にご覧になりましたが、後日談でもお話が沢山あって素晴らしいだと思います。

KEIZO: Revisionを制作するにあたり、パブリッシャー様から追加要素を入れて欲しいという要望があって追加したものです。

RPG Site: 本シリーズの公式ウェブサイトでは、パン屋の娘が主人公となった「ASTLIBRA」のmini外伝が2015年に公開されましたが、こちらもSteamで配信する予定はありますか?

KEIZO: DLCとして出せたらと思い、鋭意制作中です。

RPG Site:「ASTLIBRA Revision」が10月13日にSteamで配信開始から総合ユーザーレビューが「圧倒的に好評」を維持出来ましたが、この結果を見てどう思いますか?ユーザーからもらった特に目立ったフィードバックなどありましたか?

KEIZO: 圧倒的に好評、は本当に嬉しいです。

RPG Site:「ASTLIBRA Revision」が現在PC・Steamでのみ配信されていますが、将来に他のプラットフォームでも配信予定はありますか?

KEIZO: Switch版を配信予定です。

RPG Site: 「ASTLIBRA Revision」の成功や好評で自分も含めてユーザー達が今後の展開が楽しみになりますが、次作の開発は既に始めていましたか?

KEIZO: Switch版対応や外伝などの作業が多くあり、まだ次作は決まっておりません。

RPG Site: インディーゲーム開発者になりたい方は世界中に沢山居ますが、KEIZOさん自らの経験で彼らの参考になれるアドバイスがありましたらよろしくお願いします。

KEIZO: アドバイスというのはおこがましいかもしれませんが、

RPG Site: お時間を頂いてくれてありがとうございました、KEIZOさん。改めまして「ASTLIBRA Revision」のご成功おめでとうございます!

KEIZO: 製作者にとって、プレイヤーが楽しんでくれる、というのが一番うれしい事です。