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Turning to Tanaka-san, as a director, what was your aim with Valkyria Chronicles? What was your goal, what were you trying to accomplish with this game in terms of interacting with users and what you want them to feel?
Shuntaro Tanaka: When I directed Skies of Arcadia it was about going out and exploring the world. This time for Valkyria the theme was war, and how even in the 21st century now, we are still at war with each other. There are many ethnic wars going on in the world.
The characters of the Valkyria, within the game's story, actually represent weapons of mass destruction like nuclear bombs. I would like the players who play Valkyria to go back, understanding that these issues still remain in this world, and to think of what impact these issues have on the world, and on themselves.
Quite often, in a game that has a theme like that, the message can be very shallow -- as simple as "war is bad." Through this human drama, where characters can die forever, do you think that you can create a message with more impact? How do you get this message through to the players without making it too simple?
ST: What's unique about the storyline of Valkyria is Welkin, the main character. When he talks about the war, he doesn't say that war is bad, because the background for Welkin is that he studied biology as a college student, and he wants to be a biology teacher. He understands that all animals evolve by fighting each other. Animals maintain their society by fighting each other, and the strong survive.
Humanity fundamentally being animals, he understands that it's part of humanity to be engaging in war against each other. However, he also believes that because we're human we're different from the other animals of the world.
We have knowledge and we have the ability to think. That should help us overcome our animal instinct -- or necessity -- to fight each other. And that's the message that the game holds for gamers.
I realize that if it's just "war is bad" then this really doesn't get across to the players. There is a difference in saying, "War may be a necessity in a sense, but because we are human we have the strength and the knowledge and the capability to overcome it."
Is that part of the abstraction, why it's set in a fantasy Europe instead of a realistic location, like actual World War II?
ST: Exactly. If we based it off of an actual historical setting, an actual war that occurred in Europe, then there would be too many complicated details and restrictions because of these details.
There are so many countries in Europe. There are many religious and political factors that you'd have to think of, which could make it too complex, so that the core message may not come across as easily. Therefore we chose to create a fictional Europe so that the background is very simple.
I think it is very interesting that it takes this storybook style. So many games now try to push for realism -- gritty hardcore stuff. Whereas this game is -- unlike its subject matter -- visually very "blue skies".
Do you think that that kind of graphics style limits or expands your audience? Will you get more casual users or will it be the people who remember the older style of games? The graphics are certainly very stylistic, which means they will appeal to a certain group and not appeal to another group, because they're not generic. How do you feel about that, and what was your target?
ST: Regardless of the actual target -- we weren't thinking of a specific target when we developed this -- because we had this specific message that we wanted to get across, and the message was very real, we wanted to make sure that it was conveyed very directly to the player.
If you use realistic graphics on a realistic setting it's doubtful that you will get the real emotional, real psychological, feel of the game. You couldn't be sure if the message gets across. I felt that by distracting from the realness of the environment and the realness of the setting, the realness of the emotions and the message behind it would get across better.