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I agree. In cartoons, for example, if you have something that looks like a Pixar movie - Toy Story or something like that -- versus something like The Polar Express, which was trying to be real -- the animation that has more of the characterization of a person to it will be easier to relate to than the one that looks real. Take Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, for instance. But at the same time some people may think that the Pixar movie is just for kids, and so there may be a barrier before they get into it. Even though, if they did, they would find it much more emotionally appealing.
ST: From the onset we knew that certain people may reject the game just by looking at it, even before they play it. We realize that, and we accept that, however we don't want to compromise on delivering the message of the game because of that. We would rather use the artistic style that we did in order to engage the audience, to deliver that message.
I also feel that, if you take Pixar movies for example, when they came to Japan they were also "kiddy movies". But then their audience expanded, because the quality of their movies was so high, that parents who took their children would, by word of mouth, say to people that it was enjoyable for adults as well.
Nowadays when a Pixar movie releases in Japan, adults without any kids will go, too. In the long term, I believe that's how you build your franchise and build your brands.
RN: I also agree on your example of Pixar. If you take Toy Story for example, it's a bunch of toys, and toys are built to entertain children. But it's about toys actually stating that, "Yeah, we're built to entertain kids." It would be too graphic if it were done with humans, but because it's in that animated style, the message gets across better.
Since a part of the topic of the interview became transfer of emotions between people: In Sakura Taisen, the thing that you more or less invented, or made popular, was that you would have human relations/communication with some girls in the game. And depending on the emotions, which was basically depending on how "in love" the girls were with you, they would be better at fighting in the tactical part. That was the whole idea.
You would have an adventure part where you hang around girls and the more they like you, the better they would be at fighting. You already had this idea very early on, maybe 10 years ago, of how human emotions mix into the battle system. I wanted to know how the experience helped you with Valkyria -- if you thought about implementing this kind of system at some point, or did you think about how to make it better in Valkyria?
ST: The impact of characters to the strength of the battle system may be similar in Sakura Taisen, but in Valkyria Chronicles, it's expanded. In Sakura Taisen the whole goal was to get to know and to be acquainted with a specific girl, and in Valkyria it's about getting to know a variety of people and finding the best balance to make your team the strongest.
We have a big diagram of all the characters that are in the game. Of who and who are good friends, who are rivals -- so that if you put rivals in the same platoon, the platoon won't do as well as if you would put in someone that's a very good friend. It's a much, much broader version of that gameplay system.
I notice you're wearing a Van Gogh shirt. (Tanaka laughs) I wonder, what artists have inspired you and the team in the making of this game?
ST: I respect and like Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki a lot. I believe that Miyazaki's anime style is fantastic -- the way that he takes something that is totally out of the norm and incorporates it into his world is amazing.
On the other hand, it is more difficult for Miyazaki to really engulf the theme of war in his anime movies, and we were able to do that because we're creating a game. I hope that our team has encompassed and achieved more than what Miyazaki can do in his anime movies.
Valkyria Chronicles has an European style and look to it, especially the environments. Van Gogh in his early works was very influenced by Ukiyo-e. And in fact I saw some of his early paintings and I'm really amazed by this -- he wrote nonsense kanji on the borders to emulate the style. There would be things like "koi" upside down and just random things he thought looked right. It's really interesting that that cultural exchange has been going on for so long.
ST: It's a little rare for the Japanese game developers to use European war as a setting, however, I would like for the Japanese gamers to, through gaming, be a little more conscious of what is going on in the world, and of history outside of Japan, and outside of Asia.
RN: As Japanese developers we are influenced by many things from the west, and as a result we have created Valkyria Chronicles. It would be interesting to see developers and creators in the west that are influenced by things from Asia, so that we can see an output of that.