Summary: In the 35th entry in the Capcom Legends column on the Capcom site, where they interview Capcom staff members, designer Nuri Kazuya is invited to talk about his career and about Dai Gyakuten Saiban ('The Grand Turnabout Trial'), where he worked as the character designer and art director. In this interview, dated July 2015, Nuri talks about the games he worked on before he came to work on the Gyakuten Saiban series, about his favorite characters and about the thought process behind the designs of the main characters in Dai Gyakuten Saiban.
Images are taken from the source article. Copyright belongs to their respective owners.
Dai Gyakuten Saiban - The Adventure of Designing
Character designer, art director on Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten (Ace Attorney DS), Gyakuten Saiban 4 (Ace Attorney 4 – Apollo Justice), Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban (Professor Layton VS Ace Attorney) and Dai Gyakuten Saiban (‘The Grand Turnabout Trial’)
Interviewer: You are now the art director of Dai Gyakuten Saiban, but when did you decide to work as an illustrator?
Nuri: When I joined with the company I worked earlier for, so I was about 22 years old. I was in the Economics aculty in university, so I was thinking of becoming a bank employee until just before I joined that company (laugh).
Interviewer: Are there illustrators or mangaka who you like or have influenced you?
Nuri: I’ve got plenty of them, so I can’t name all of them, but I’d say Hara Tetsuo (of Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)) and Ozawa Satoru (famous science-fiction mangaka, known for Submarine 707 etc.)
Interviewer: When did you join Capcom?
Nuri: I came to Capcom in 1999.
Interviewer: What titles have you worked on until now?
Nuri: I was first assigned to the Breath of Fire team and I worked on character sprites for the PlayStation version of Breath of Fire IV. I helped with the character designs for Breath of Fire V for the PlayStation 2, and made 3D models, like that of the player character Lin. We had just started with using 3D in Capcom, so I also did animations then. Everything was quite free-going back then (laugh). For the Game Boy Advance remake of Breath of Fire I & II, I did the original drawings for the faces of the main characters in the new part of the remake, and drew the illustrations for the pub, like the Shamans.
The original face illustrations for Breath of Fire I & II on the GBA! He drew them in the style of Yoshikawa Tatsuya’s work for Breath of Fire IV.
Illustrations of the Shamans in of Breath of Fire I & II on the GBA. This was also Mr. Nuri’s work!
Interviewer: What did you work on after Breath of Fire?
Nuri: I worked on modeling and character designs for Demento (Haunting Ground).
The gothic-horror game Demento. It’s available now in the PS2 Archives!
Nuri: A lot of designers worked on that game, and I worked on the designs and the 3D models of Lorenzo and Daniella.
The maid Daniella. A cold madness can be sensed from the design.
The 3D model of Lorenzo. The wrinkles in his old face and the feeling of his bony cheeks are carefully made!
Nuri: And then I joined the Gyakuten Saiban series for the first time with Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten on the Nintendo DS, and worked on original designs and character designs until Gyakuten Saiban 4. I was art director and character designer for Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban on Nintendo 3DS.
Gyakuten Saiban 4 (2007)
Nuri: And between working on the titles above, I also designed the receptionist at the Capcom Lounge for PS Home on the PS3, and some games I worked on but that never got released (cry).
The receptionist of PS Home.
This is a special costume. It looks familiar!?
Getting Involved with Gyakuten
Interviewer: I heard you came to work on the Gyakuten Saiban series after producer Matsukawa invited you to eat some udon (laugh), but do you remember the first impression you had when you met director Takumi?
Nuri: My first impression of him… “Some people really have weird names.” (laugh). If you allow me to explain a bit more about I came to work on the series. I think it was a while after Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Ace Attorney 3 – Trials & Tribulations) was released, they started to look for a new artist for a new Gyakuten title, and they contacted me. There were a couple of other designers who had also drawn something before me, but Mr. Takumi thought it was not precisely what he was looking for, and eventually producer Matsukawa asked me (that was at an udon restaurant). That was around the time I had played Gyakuten Saiban on the Game Boy Advance (a bit late), so it was really the perfect timing. It had to be fate or something, so I said I would gladly take the job.
Interviewer: Oh, so you were lucky!
Nuri: So as a test, I had to draw the four main characters. And I was chosen because Mr. Takumi liked that illustration. The first thing he said when I showed him the illustration was: “Oh yes, these are Naruhodo (Phoenix Wright) and Mayoi (Maya Fey)!” and he looked happy. I can still remember how relieved I felt then (laugh). And that illustration was used for the package of Yomigaeru Gyakuten (Ace Attorney DS)
This is the package of Yomigaeru Gyakuten. The two on the left were Mr. Nuri’s first Gyakuten illustrations!
An illustration of Naruhodo and Mitsurugi (Miles Edgeworth) made for the tenth anniversary of the series. The drawing shows the characteristics of the two, but also have Mr. Nuri’s own touch to them.
Interviewer: It was you who came up with the idea of making the characters like on animation cels, and then add shadows to give them depth. Was that something you intentionally did since you started working on this series?
Nuri: It was of course intentionally. “A simple first impression, with a lot of information.” I made the proper adjustments to the shadows and the lines and made their function and intention clear, so while the illustrations themselves looked refreshing, they actually contained more information and it gave the illustrations a high-grade look. I think I designed them back then like how theatrical features of anime TV series look like.
The heroine of Gyakuten Saiban 4, Minuki (Trucy). It looks like a simple cel at first sight, but by making minimal use of light and shadow, her cheeks have been given body. All kinds of information have been densely packed in her design, so she can also stand next to the comic-like Mr. Hat.
Nuri: We changed to 3D polygons with the previous game (Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban), and I went to work on the illustrations, focusing on presentation we could only do in 3D, while keeping intact what made the 2D pixel age so good. We’ve been doing this since Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban, but in Dai Gyakuten Saiban we use a style of presentation that has the touch of a 2D illustration, but with proper depiction of the textures of the clothing and objects unique to that time period. That is what we poured our efforts in. We also focused on heightening the synergy with the backgrounds, so it all blended into one unique image, and also focused on presenting the special atmosphere of that time period throughout the game.
Asōgi and Ryūnosuke from Dai Gyakuten Saiban. Do you see how they recreated not only the atmosphere of 2D illustrations, but also the feel of the texture of the student uniform and the headband?
Interviewer: By the way, could you tell us who your favorite characters are in the Gyakuten Saiban series?
Nuri: First there is Odoroki Hōsuke from Gyakuten Saiban 4.
Odoroki, the new protagonist of Gyakuten Saiban 4. To form a contrast with Naruhodo, who is centered around blue, Odoroki is centered around red.
Nuri: He is the first main protagonist I designed, so I am especially fond of him. When I draw him, I control the balance between his “coolness” and “easy-get-close-to-ness” through his animations and the scenes he’s in.
An original scene from Gyakuten Saiban 4. By adding both depth and using deformation, he became a Gyakuten Saiban-esque character, who feels familiar somehow.
A special illustration of Gyakuten Saiban 4! The main characters of 4 are playing a game. The expressions on the faces of the people in the back are funny!
Nuri: And then there is Hōzuki Akane (Ema Skye), from Yomigaeru, Gyakuten Saiban 4 and Gyakuten Kenji (Ace Attorney Investigations). She was the first design I made when I came to work on this series, so I’m fond of her too.
Hōzuki Akane, who appeared in Yomigaeru Gyakuten. She shows her scientific investigation in a role similar to Mayoi!
Nuri: I got to draw her as a student in Yomigaeru Gyakuten, a detective in Gyakuten Saiban 4 and back in the country after studying abroad in Kenji, so I was the one who drew her in all those various ages and stages in her life and that leaves a big impression.
Hōzuki Akane as she appeared in Gyakuten Kenji. She had just returned to Japan from a study abroad. From the visuals, you can see how she has grown, for example by her use of lipstick and her clothes.
Hōzuki Akane in Gyakuten Saiban 4. Set seven years later after the first Gyakuten Saiban games, and she has almost surprisingly grown into an adult woman!
Nuri: And there is Ganto Kaiji (Damon Gant) from Yomigaeru Gyakuten. I remember I really did everything I could for his design and the animations, and he became a character which leaves a very deep impression on you, like what you expect from the series, so he’s a favorite too.
Ganto Kaiji, an important character in Yomigaeru Gyakuten. He leaves an enormous impression just by standing.
Ganto shows his presence by his expressions and his movemements. He also has a big role in the story, and leaves quite an impression!
Nuri: And finally, I’d say Jodōra (Darklaw) from Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban. I managed to put a lot of elements I myself like in her design, and her voice was done by the voice actress I had hoped for, so she became exactly what I wanted her to be. I really love characters like her, who look cool at first sight, but have a shadowy side to them.
Jodōra from Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban. She appears as a woman with something to hide, and starts to have a large role from the middle of the story.
Capcom-style designs and Nuri-style designs
Interviewer: Now I’ll ask you about how you create characters. It’s well known that in Capcom, they use a method that says that characters should be designed so they can be recognized by their silhouette. Do you pay attention to that when you design characters?
Nuri: In action games, you usually look at the whole body of a character, and the silhouette theory becomes especially important if you factor in the gameplay, but in Gyakuten Saiban, you mainly see characters only from their waist up, so it works differently there.
Interviewer: I see! In fighting or action games, it’s normal that you see the whole body of a character on the screen, but that doesn’t apply to Gyakuten Saiban.
Nuri: A silhouette is definitely an important element of a design, but I think the most important is to differentiate characters generally, for example through the shape of their faces or the atmosphere they give off through their expressions.
A comparison between Demento and Dai Gyakuten Saiban. Demento is an action game where the whole character is shown, with a realistic touch. Dai Gyakuten Saiban mainly shows characters from the waist up. Both games have their own ways of creation and presentation.
Nuri: I design characters minding the balance between realistic portrayals, which give characters a real sense of warmth, and easy to understand symbolic portrayal from comics. I change the balance between the two depending on the role of the character. In Dai Gyakuten Saiban, the main characters are slightly more realistic, so they can show off more subtle emotional expressions and act seriously. For the witnesses and the judges, I focused on designing the characters to they leave an impression on the users through just one look, so they are designed with a more comic-like touch. I also designed the items with detail, thinking of the materials that would be used in them.
The jury members in the Judge Battles. They are more deformed than the main characters.
Interviewer: Could you tell us what the though process was behind each of the characters in Dai Gyakuten Saiban?
Nuri: Well, if I were to explain them one by one…
Mikotoba SusatoYamato Nadeshiko, so I gave her a hakama to bring out the historical period and because it looked good standing next to Ryūnosuke. She has a hairstyle that looks like it would exists. I had troubles designing the pattern on her kimono, which portrayed her well-to-do origins. I choose the sakura as the Mikotoba family emblem as a symbol of the Japanese spirit. I choose out the elements very carefully so the Japanese characters formed a contrast with the English characters.
Barok van Zieks
…Well, basically, I designed the characters like that as I agonized every single day. I have written in more detail about the other characters in the Illustration Book included with the Special Binding Version sold through e-Capcom, which also included rejected sketches and detailed drawings, so I recommend people interested in that to take a look there.
What is Gyakuten Saiban-like?
Interviewer: There are completely new characters in this game. Could you tell us what you wanted to preserve as a Gyakuten Saiban game, and what you wanted to renew?
Nuri: I think that unique characters and their showy animations are one of the best things the Gyakuten series has. So you need to follow up on that, but this game was a new project, with characters that feel very much like their time period, very different from the characters in contemporary times. At the time (early 1900s), people minded the rules and manners for clothing more, and there were fewer varieties in clothing and hairstyles compared to now. So I had trouble making the characters look unique within that small range. For example, in Victorian England, which is the main setting of the game, hats, shirts, ties, suits, walking sticks, mustaches and dresses are all part of the “basic” styles of the time, so they don’t feel like unique elements.
A cross examination scene set in Great Britain. Hats, mustaches and shirts can’t be used to differentiate characters, so they needed to bring out uniqueness in other ways.
Nuri: So I thought it was necessary to first make characters with all these elements, and after having made sure everyone understood these elements were absolutely normal and not unique in this world, from there on I could add more unique elements. So I need to gave the characters the same elements on purpose, so users would look at the characters standing next to each other and instantly understand that this game set in a different time and world than now. Once that ‘preparation’ had been done, I could start with challenging myself with coming up with unique variations that wouldn’t lose out to previous games in the series.
There are all kinds of unique characters here who follow the fashion of the setting!!
Interviewer: The group illustration feels very Capcom-like. What do you think off when you draw a group illustration?
Nuri: Personally, I like illustrations where you can pick up on “intent” and “how” behind the composition and all the elements. So for compositions like the main visuals, I pay attention to hinting at, or foreshadowing the worldview and developments in the story, and making a composition where the characters look appealing. And I like to make illustrations where people can find something new once they have finished the game. I really want to add a lot of “information” in the main visual, so it lasts long.
The main visual for Dai Gyakuten Saiban by Mr. Nuri. The composition features the characters, with Asōgi and Japanese-style sea, in the style of Katsushika Hokusai, below, and a scenery of London above. By having a composition where Ryūnosuke is looking up, it shows he is moving from Japan to England. You can find out even more after you have finished the game!
Interviewer: And now one final word for the people will play Dai Gyakuten Saiban, please.
Nuri: This was a new project, so I worked hard on making a completely new world out of nothing! The backgrounds, characters and presentation are all “slightly different” from the main series, but you can still be sure it’s Gyakuten Saiban! The characters are all completely new, and I have made a lot of varied, unique characters. I think that fans of the series, but also people new to the series will all be able to find a ‘favorite character’, so I’d be happy if you could have fun playing the game!
Interviewer: Thank you very much!