Speed Brawl, the stylish, anime-inspired 2D combat-racer, arrives at PlayStation Store on September 18. Today, we get to hear from the game’s Art Director, Eric Angelillo, and Creative Director / Writer, Lee Thomas, about some of the inspirations behind this loud and unabashedly fast game ahead of its release.
Lee (L): We’d always pitch Speed Brawl as Streets of Rage meets Sonic the Hedgehog, but we used Street Fighter for a while because, amazingly, some people didn’t know what Streets of Rage was!
Eric (E): But way before that it was a puzzle platformer called Luna — actually we changed that to Lady & the Moon — which of course got completely overhauled and became a brawler.
L: Well we’d just made two brawlers; Big Action Mega Fight! and then OK KO! Lakewood Plaza Turbo with Cartoon Network…
E: So Lady & the Moon was initially a sort of palate cleanser.
L: We got quite far into the development, and Eric had already started this really cool and evocative look for the game…
E: Until we realized there were like 11 million other puzzle platformers also in development.
L: Some of them are so good, but there were just SO many.
E: Right, so even though we liked what we had, we went back to what we knew best: cooperative games about punching stuff.
L: Eric was a Streets of Rage and Marvel vs. Capcom fan, I was a Two Crude Dudes and Final Fight enthusiast… The slight age difference meant we had different touch points but we both loved the same types of worlds. Fantastical but true to life… in a manner.
E: And then we threw in some Sonic, because faster is better, right?
L: For sure. We took the Victorian setting of Lady & the Moon as a jumping off point – added a little bit of the social satire inspired by our mutual love of Paul Verhoeven, and a sprinkle of War of the Worlds.
E: He means the Jeff Wayne musical he always makes me listen to.
L: Oh, of course!
E: Visually, it was important for us to bring some freshness to a Victorian-set game. Power Stone was a good touchpoint, but then we wanted to push it further. I thought; what would an 80’s cartoon or anime look like if it was set in the 19th century? So we took some classic Thundercats inspiration and mixed in some Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Dragonball for good measure.
L: Don’t forget Streets of Fire and Bubblegum Crisis!
E: Is that where Invincible came from? We used a Pat Benatar track as our opening song for the game and its trailer. Lee loves Streets of Fire and wanted to use Nowhere Fast as if it was orchestrated by Vince Dicola.
L: Invincible is from The Ballad of Billie Jean, an 80s film starring Helen Slater (Supergirl). Our sound and music team Vibe Avenue did an awesome job with that. We’d done Big Action Mega Fight! with them, and what they’ve done on Speed Brawl is outstanding.
E: So yeah, we have London, the Victorian era, a race of lunar creatures and brawling…. That’s when we called it Brawl Britannia, right?
L: Ha, amongst other things… I remember Fistgal and A Call To Fists were floated too.
E: Speed was something Dan Menard, our Producer, was really excited about; carrying momentum into a combat game. He was obsessed with Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and also Jackie Chan movies. The way the fight scenes were choreographed and how the characters used their environment as a weapon.
L: Especially that scene in Sherlock Holmes where Robert Downey Jr. has this whole pre-cognitive fight sequence… Like a puzzle he was putting together, and then executes.
E: That’s how we came up with the pole swinging and wall kickoffs of the game, this sense of exaggerated physics and the world as a weapon. The race format came from ways we were looking at how this game could be enjoyed online, or with streamers and friends.
L: That, and the feeling of having a game you could play with your brother and sister. It’s cooperative, but one of you gets to show off how good you really are. Ha!
E: So I started drawing… and Lee started writing… and this tandem process just kept the ball rolling… OH, shall we talk about the time we had an actual ball in the game?
L: We will never talk about the ball again! The rest of the elements fell into place, and games like Speedrunners and Rivals of Aether came and went, leaving their marks on the team.
E: Vince, our Senior Programmer and the combat design lead on Speed Brawl, played everything from Dragon’s Crown to Bayonetta. We all played Monster Hunter on 3DS and our ambitions for items and repairing and crafting were explored. We even used to have a ‘wear and tear’ mechanic where you had to heal brawlers in a hospital between fights.
L: It’s fun to look back at the process. The game has looked and felt twenty different ways by now.
L: We’ve played the game ourselves many, many times, it’s been really interesting to see our own tastes and favorite characters evolve. We’re really excited to see what players are going to do with the game.
E: We fought for a long time about how the game should be played during development, with everyone on the team being in a slightly different camp. We eventually learned that we couldn’t cater to everyone, but that the differences in our playable characters could speak to different players’ preferred play styles.
L: Speed Brawl is about having a blast, but there’s a lot of layers to peel off in order to be as fast and as effective as you can be. We wanted it to be broad but also be an engine for something potentially competitive.
E: Plus, we’ve got some really cool competitive features coming post-launch, right?
L: Head-to-head mode, more social functionality, not to mention more characters and scenarios. There’s just a lot more game and story.
E: But the most important question is: Who’s going to be the fastest speed brawler?
L: My runs are definitely going to be faster than yours, Eric.
E: Yeah, but mine will be more stylish.