When the first Lethal League released five years ago, it looked like it had the potential to be a cult hit. The central premise revolved a mixture of baseball and pong, with two players batting around a ball, with the ball gradually picking up more and more velocity to the point that it becomes deadly to the touch. The last person standing was the winner. Team Reptile looked to have put together a fun, one-off effort. Then something funny happened. The game got a sequel.
Lethal League Blaze released on PC late last year and it expanded on everything that made the first Lethal League so enjoyable. It got a 3D graphic overhaul, built on the multiplayer modes, added a solo campaign, doubled down on the wacky characters, and even got some music tracks from Jet Set Radio composer Hideki Naganuma. As someone with a particular affinity for the series and given that the game has released on all major consoles this week, this seemed like a good time to reach out to the folks at Team Reptile for a chat about the making of Lethal League Blaze, the series' origins, and where it goes from here.
Shacknews: What would you say the reception to Lethal League Blaze has been compared to its predecessor?
Tim Remmers, Producer/Managing Director: The reception of the game was really good. Obviously, it really helped that we had quite the foundation with the original game already. In terms of numbers, it did similar or even slightly better in sales than Lethal League. However, there was notably less exposure from YouTubers and streamers. I think it's safe to say most of the people getting into the game were driven by our wild community. I also think with the choice of 3D graphics, we were able to reach a wider audience.
Shacknews: [Dion] You've mentioned that Japan has been an important region for Lethal League's success? How would you compare the Japanese audience to the American audience, in terms of the fan reception for Lethal League Blaze?
Dion Koster, Game Director/Creative Director: When it comes to style, Japanese design of all kinds is where I get a lot of inspiration from. So to see the Japanese audience being just as hype about the game as western audiences has made me very happy. Of course, there are cultural differences. Although the Japanese fans are very skilled players, the American and European players seem to be more competitive and thus participate in tournaments more.
Shacknews: How important has Hideki Naganuma's work been to the team as far as making the Lethal League series stand out?
Koster: When we made the first Lethal League, I already wanted to feature Mr. Naganuma. Unfortunately, time didn't allow it back then, but I made sure to keep asking him to have a track of his on Lethal League Blaze. His work has influenced me greatly and, although it turned into a big bonus in standing out as you suspected, the real reason was an artistic choice. I think his music is really dope, so it should go in the game!
Shacknews: What's been the process for porting the PC version of the game to consoles? And how much work did that require, given that it was solely the work of two developers?
Remmers: We started with porting full-time right after the release on Steam. For the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, we had a little head start since we had already released a game on there. A big chunk of the architecture was done during the porting development of the original Lethal League. Because of updated developing tools from the platform holders, we did have to rebuild some elements but a good piece could be recycled.
This was different for the Nintendo Switch, since this was a new platform for us, where we hardly had any foundation for. The only foundation we had was some Wii U experience. Not many may know, but the original Lethal League was ported to the Wii U, but we had to cancel that project unfortunately. It helps a lot that all three platforms work together with Unity so "building" a game for the console is not the most difficult task. The most difficult and time consuming work are the platform requirements. Due to our NDA with the platforms I can't go into details regarding the requirements, but there are loads of them. Building a game with an online multiplayer component multiplies these requirements. Credits for programming the port go to Maarten en Mauro, by the way.
Shacknews: What does it mean to the team to complete its first Nintendo Switch release?
Remmers: It means we now have games on all relevant platforms! The Nintendo Switch is a brilliant platform with a lot of new players that may not have seen the Lethal League IP before. We do think the game really fits Nintendo's demographic. It also showed in a recent poll I did on twitter asking on which platform people would get the new game. A whopping 79% picked the Switch as their platform. For me personally it’s a full circle, Nintendo is a big reason I got into game development. Now here we are releasing our game on a Nintendo console for the first time.
Shacknews: Would you say Lethal League Blaze lends itself better to a handheld platform like the Switch?
Remmers: From our point of view the game is the most fun with direct interaction with your opponents. The game works great as a party game, but also during live tournaments, it's pleasing crowds. The hype that the game can create is immense. Having the game on a handheld platform really helps to get the game out there. To bring your Switch to a party and just start smashing balls while drinking beers will create intense moments! Also, the community is setting up more and more side-tournaments during big events. With the Switch this is so much easier to do.
Shacknews: What has the fighting game community meant to the Lethal League series? I still remember the first game showing up as part of UFGT 9's Mystery Game Top 8 and really surprising people with how much fun it was. How has that audience helped the series grow?
Koster: It's amazing how many people remember that! UFGT was a real turning point and a good first impression. It showed exactly what is so thrilling about the game and that you can pick it up and get into that vibe within minutes. As the prototype spread around during that time, it made me think competitive and dedicated players like the ones who watch and play in tournaments are real connoisseurs of games. They gave the game a solid base when we released it on Steam the following year with YouTubers already making plans to show it on their channel. In short, the ball really starting rolling because of them.
Shacknews: What's next for the Lethal League series? Is there more coming for Lethal League Blaze or are you all off to work on a third game?
Remmers: There is a new character coming to the world of Lethal League Blaze. We are going to share more about him or them (?) very soon. Different outfits for the characters are also in the works and a couple new stages should drop later too.
We are definitely not done with Blaze yet, but we are also doing smaller prototypes on the side to figure out what's next for Team Reptile!
Lethal League Blaze is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. And don't forget that it's also available on Steam.