[Exclusive] Phantom Blade Zero Could Feature 2D Animation Sequences

It could be used to illustrate special scenes, such as the memory world and phantom illusions.

Story Highlights

  • Phantom Blade Zero — S-Game’s upcoming title — was revealed during PlayStation Showcase 2023.
  • It quickly grabbed everyone’s attention due to its compelling combat and Soulslike world.
  • We had an exclusive interview with Soulframe, CEO of S-Game, ahead of the recent story trailer.

Phantom Blade Zero was among the most surprising reveals in 2023, compelling fans of the Soulslike genre with its fluid combat and graphics. Although the game still has a long way to go before release, S-Game has promised to release a 30-minute demo sometime this year. The studio has also just released a story trailer featuring an animated battle between the two main characters of the Phantom Blade Universe. 

The battle occurs before the game, giving us a glimpse of what could have caused the characters’ current circumstances. Even then, so much remains in the dark, with many details undiscovered. Taking that opportunity, we spoke with Soulframe, the Game Producer of Phantom Blade Zero, discussing the recent trailer and other details about the title.

Read ahead for the full exclusive interview.

YouTube video

Phantom Blade Zero is essentially a remake of Rainblood but on a much larger scale. Can you expand on what new things we can expect from the storyline?
Soulframe: Since the release of Rainblood in 2008, we’ve expanded the setting into a big fantasy world with tons of new lore and characters, as well as many new storylines in the following 15 years. Phantom Blade Zero is a spiritual rebirth, not a straight remake such as Final Fantasy 7 remake or Resident Evil 4. The world and main characters stay the same, while the story is completely new and much longer. There have been 4 million downloads in China for the old Rainblood since 2010, but no one knows how the new story will go.

It’s exciting to see the Year of Dragon anime along with new footage of Phantom Blade Zero you just released. Can you tell us more about it?
Soulframe: It’s basically a fast flashback of Rainblood in 2008. There are millions of players in China who are very familiar with it, and we also released it in the global market back in 2010, with all the texts translated and revised by fans. So firstly, it’s a gift for all those old fans. For most audiences, this is a self-contained, independent anime giving a taste of the story of the Phantom Blade series.

The two characters, Soul and Zuo Shang grew up and practiced Kungfu together, and they fought side by side until some big tragedy happened, after which they turned into lifetime enemies of one another. It’s something classic, like Guts and Griffith or Dante and Vergil, but it’s also something really new, in a Chinese Wuxia background, and the story will be solid and moving. In Phantom Blade Zero, Soul is facing the challenge of his old friend, and there are shadows of the past constantly revealed as the game proceeds.

Phantom Blade Zero
Phantom Blade Zero – via Announce Trailer.

Does it mean that the story of Phantom Blade Zero takes place right after the duel in the anime?
Soulframe: Yes, after the duel in the anime, the two main characters are stepping on different paths, and the story of PBZ begins. But knowing this backstory is not a necessity to begin playing PBZ. The actual game will tell a full story, including what happened in the past.

Is the anime part just for this video, or do you want to implement more 2D animation into the actual game to make it more stylish?
Soulframe: It’s an interesting idea. You know, Asian studios are good at making 2D animations. Many of our friends’ works feature great anime-style graphics, although we want to make the main part of the game realistic, dark, and deep, as you saw in last year’s PV and this year’s footage.

But there may be some possibility of using 2D animation to illustrate special scenes, such as the memory world, phantom illusions, or other scenes different from reality. We are still figuring it out.

Phantom Blade Zero
Phantom Blade Zero – via Announce Trailer.

At the end of the video, you mentioned that there will be a playable demo this year. Could you tell us more about this?
Soulframe: Yes, there is, but the time is not decided yet. We are preparing a 30-minute demo open to a certain group of people invited from our social media. Testing is really important to collect feedback and generate a community of core players.

Normally, a game opened for public demo means a game is about to be released. Can I expect the game to be released within one year after this demo?
Soulframe: For many games, maybe, for us, no. Testing is alongside the whole development process of our game; it’s a part of development, not a marketing event. We don’t use demos to raise pre-orders but to polish the game in a real environment. It’s one of the several things we borrow from the mobile game developing experience. There are alpha, beta and pre-launch tests. I am not saying we would do the same, but I do love to have players get their hands on an early version of the game, and we polish the game further to the next test, from which players can see the progress.
Phantom Blade Zero
Phantom Blade Zero – via Announce Trailer.

Aside from Rainblood, what other pieces of media does Phantom Blade Zero take inspiration from?
Soulframe: There are many. The 80s~90s Hong Kong Kung-Fu movies, Japanese anime/manga such as Berserk and Claymore, horror movies, H.P.Lovecraft, Stephen King … and many more.

Phantom Blade Zero is a deep, dark fantasy with a mature and mysterious style mixed with Chinese cultural elements. We call it Kung-fu-Punk.

Will Soul's primary weapon consist of just swords and dual blades? Or will players also be able to equip their secondary weapon in place of their primary weapon?
Soulframe: There are several types of main weapons and 30+ secondary weapons; they are two different systems that can’t replace one another.
Phantom Blade Zero
Phantom Blade Zero – via Announce Trailer.

How many endings can we expect?
Soulframe: Multiple, depends on your choices and ways of finishing the game.

The early concept for Phantom Blade Zero started in 2017 with only a few members. How similar is the current version to the initial concept?
Soulframe: Half-half, I would say. The trunk doesn’t change much; we just polish it and make it better. But many branches change according to actual experiences.

There must have been tons of suggestions from fans for the game. I'm curious whether the team has considered any of them.
Soulframe: There are tons of suggestions, and we really appreciate them. We treat them more as encouragement and expression of love.

For actual consideration, we’ll split the suggestions into two parts; for the “service” part, like UI, tutorial, accessibilities, etc, we are more likely to react to players’ suggestions; for the “creation” part, like core style, gameplay, map designs, story, etc, we’d rather stick to what we’ve created, and we believe that’s what the players come for.

Phantom Blade Zero
Phantom Blade Zero – via Announce Trailer.

You have mentioned before that bosses are the main highlight of this game, with some even being secret bosses within dungeons. Can you give us a range on how many such bosses we can expect to fight?
Soulframe: There are many, can’t tell you the number yet. We’ll try to make every boss fight unforgettable.

Are there any plans for potential DLCs or a sequel?
Soulframe: We hope first to ensure that the basic game content is very rich so that there is no need for DLC to provide additional supplements.

However, we do have a lot of stories and characters that cannot be included yet, and both DLC and sequels can be expected. But let’s first present a content-rich basic game!

Phantom Blade Zero
Phantom Blade Zero – via Announce Trailer.

Do you ever want to create a game that doesn't focus on Chinese traditions and goes more on the Western side?
Soulframe: Actually, we have another original IP themed on universe exploration and combat in space. But let’s focus on Phantom Blade first.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the audience? Something we haven’t touched upon yet.
Soulframe: Since we revealed the first trailer on PlayStation Showcase in May 2023, there has been a lot of encouragement and feedback, as well as speculations and suspicions. But we’ve been relatively silent about all of these.

We have produced a lot more new content, way beyond what we’ve shown before, but we wouldn’t showcase anything until we feel they are 100% polished and exceed everyone’s expectations. There will be something really great for 2024. Stay tuned!

YouTube video

Phantom Blade Zero is a samurai Soulslike created by S-Game that is coming out for the PlayStation 5 and PC. A 30-minute demo will be released in 2024, with an official release date coming sometime in the future. As per this interview, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to Soulframe for taking the time to answer our questions. 

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Mudassir is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the stories behind our favorite virtual worlds. Armed with a trusty notepad and a keen curiosity, he dives headfirst into the gaming industry's most exciting personalities. His knack for insightful questions and his ability to connect with developers and gamers alike makes his interviews a must-read. While on the lookout for the next person to interview, Mudassir keeps himself busy by writing news surrounding the gaming universe. Experience: 4+ Years || Senior Journalist || Education: Bachelor's in Psychology.

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