The interview was held with Takumi, but Level-5 CEO Hino Ahihiro could not be present at this interview. 4Gamer later asked Hino questions based on this interview with Takumi, and they added his answers in between.
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A Collaboration Between Level-5 and Capcom's Flagship Titles Come True With Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban
4Gamer: Thanks for coming today. Could you tell us how it came to be you and Level-5 worked together on Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban?
Takumi: I met Mr. Hino for the first time somewhere in 2009, he came to Capcom on some other business, and our Kobayashi organized a dinner in honor of Mr. Hino, I came along as an extra.
(*Kobayashi Hiroyuki. CS Development Administration Vice-Administration and Organization Department Chief, producer).
4Gamer: And that’s when the topic of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban came up?
Takumi: Yes. Mr. Hino told me about what he wanted to make, and I was listening to him, thinking “That sounds hard to do” (laugh).
4Gamer: As if it was none of your business (laugh).
Takumi: I was at the time right in the middle of making the game Ghost Trick, so I had never expected to get involved with the project. And then in 2010, I heard that the project of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban had officially started, and between working on Ghost Trick, I caught glimpses of the designer Nuri* doing all kinds of work on it, as he worked on the same floor.
(*Capcom’s Nuri Kazuya. Character designer and art director of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban)
4Gamer: So how did you become a part of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban?
Takumi: I think it was in May of 2010. I was invited by Takeshita to go out for yakiniku. First we went to an expensive restaurant, but when he saw the prices, Takeshita said he knew a better place, and he took me to a cheap Yakiniku restaurant in front of the station and there’s where he said: “Let’s do this together.” I was all like: “What are you talking about?” (laugh).
(*Capcom’s Takeshita Hironobu. Worked with Takumi on Ghost Trick and Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban as the producer)
4Gamer: You had been working together on Ghost Trick then, so you probably thought: “Why now all of a sudden?” (laugh)
Takumi: Something like that. And then he said he wanted me to supervise Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban. At first, I was just supposed to tell the people at Level-5 what Gyakuten Saiban was, so I went there and did my best explaining the series. But Mr. Hino had already played the series, so I didn’t even had to explain it.
4Gamer: And then?
Takumi: I’m a planner, so I talked about the ideas I had prepared in case they’d ask me, and a heated discussion started based on the ideas I proposed. I think that that was the start. Nothing concrete had been decided yet at that point.
4Gamer: Perhaps the project had been waiting for you (laugh).
Takumi: It’s true that a lot was decided only after I joined the project, so I imagine there might’ve been a secret agreement between Level-5 and Takeshita. No idea if that’s true though (laugh).
4Gamer: Had it actually been part of the plan to get Mr. Takumi involved in the project from the start?
Hino: Yes. We could only make a real Gyakuten Saiban with Mr. Takumi on board, so his presence was necessary for the success of the project.
4Gamer: For this game, Capcom and Level-5 worked together on the development of the game, but how was the work divided?
Takumi: All of the contents of the game was decided by having everyone from both companies, including Mr. Hino, discussing it at Level-5’s offices in Tokyo. Like a training camp. Capcom took the initiative on the character design and graphics, while Level-5 was responsible for programming. In regards of the music and scenario, the Layton part was mainly done by Level-5, and the Gyakuten Saiban part mainly by Capcom.
4Gamer: That surprisingly clearly divided.
Takumi: It’s a collaborative work, and characters from both sides appear in the other parts, so we had to work on that and the music and sound effects so it fitted together.
4Gamer: When did you came up with the plot of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban?
Takumi: I got the whole month of July 2010 to prepare the plot proposals, but I had to go on a business trip abroad then, and I came back to Japan on July 28. While abroad, I always had this thought vaguely in mind: “it’s going to be difficult to get everything ready in just three days”.
4Gamer: You hadn’t considered writing it during your trip? (laugh)
Takumi: Oh, I did of course think about ideas while I was away. There was no rest for me then.
How did these series adapt to each other after the creation of the new style for Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban?
4Gamer: If you look at the game screen, it hardly feels strange that characters from both games appear side by side, but did it take long to get the designs matching?
Takumi: That took a lot of time. In general, the process was that Nuri’s designs would go to Level-5 to be checked and talked over. Making Naruhodo smaller, or making Layton taller, he did all kinds of adjustments on both characters, and then Mr. Hino'd say: “Layton got taller, right?” Perhaps he did! (laugh).
4Gamer: It is true that it’s more obvious that the Professor Layton characters are taller.
4Gamer: What was hard about getting the two titles together in terms of artstyle?
Hino: The teams at both Capcom and Level-5 can be quite fussy about artwork, and if only one party got changed, that party was sure to be not happy about that. That’s why it was necessary that there would be a new style, not Layton and not Gyakuten Saiban, but a style that belonged to Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban. By negotiating together, we finally came up with this style. But now it’s done, I’d say it’s closer to Gyakuten Saiban (laugh).
4Gamer: Was there somewhere where Gyakuten Saiban had to adapt to Professor Layton?
Takumi: The placement of the characters. With Gyakuten Saiban, we think in realistic terms about the length of the characters and their placement, so even if a character is short and the text window would cover their face, we’d leave it like that. With Professor Layton, they pay more attention to how the characters appear on the screen, rather than their standing position, so in Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban, we had small adjustment so smaller characters can float in the air.
4Gamer. I see. Things like that are more visible to the player now the graphics are 3D.
Takumi: In 3D, it’s more difficult to fool the users like that.
4Gamer: And Naruhodo’s hairstyle was also nicely made into a CG model.
4Gamer: How did they fight back?
Takumi: I’d be spoiling the game, so I can’t tell you in detail, but the witnesses in the last trial. You’ll understand it when you see them. I got some other ideas from the programmers, but they made it, as I kept saying: “But, but, we really need that…”
4Gamer: That sounds interesting… I’ll go play the game and check. As for another change, I was surprised we could use hint coins (Picarats) in the Gyakuten Saiban part.
4Gamer: With the Gyakuten Saiban series, you sometimes know what evidence to use, but not to which statement, so I myself was really happy with it.
Takumi: It was pretty difficult figuring out how to implement hints in Gyakuten Saiban. Also, we also made the game less difficult by only having a maximum of eight pieces of evidence, so by having less of them compared to Gyakuten Saiban, it’s become easier to pick the right one out.
4Gamer: Are there more differences between the two series you thought about?
Takumi: It’s just a detail, but what comes in my mind right now is clicking through dialogue. In Professor Layton, there’s no sound, whether you click a button or use the touch screen. This is just my imagination, but Professor Layton is made with voice acting in mind, so I think they didn’t want to add unnecessary sounds. In the Gyakuten Saiban parts, there’s always a sound, whether there is voice acting or not. I think that’s a different approach.
The use of voice actors: Okay because it’s special. The timely release of the film Gyakuten Saiban was destiny
4Gamer: Because you collaborated with the Professor Layton series for this game, there have been all kinds of things not seen before in the Gyakuten Saiban series, like professional voice acting, 3D models of the characters and animated cutscenes. How was it using all of that?
Takumi: I’m kinda…no, very conservative when it comes to Gyakuten Saiban. I want the users to imagine everything themselves besides the information presented within game, and I don’t really like it to decide things for them. That’s also true for voices.
4Gamer: So you want to leave the room for the players to use their own imagination?
Takumi: Yes. But on the other hand, nowadays games that use voice actors for immersion of the players are the norm, and I too understand what makes that interesting. And because this game is a collaboration, so I changed my mind, thinking that as we’re invited into the format of the Professor Layton series, it’s okay because it’s special. I think Level-5 offered me a good opportunity to think well, maybe not about changing directions, but they at least let consider ‘Maybe I could go this way.’ If I hadn’t gotten this opportunity to make this game, the style Gyakuten Saiban would perhaps have never changed.
4Gamer: In Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban, Naruhodo is played by Narumiya Hiroki, and Mayoi by Kiritani Mirei.
Takumi: Ōizumi Yō is Professor Layton and Horikita Maki plays Luke, so they’re all well-known actors playing the characters. So it is important to cast people who fit the characters. I think it was destiny that the film Gyakuten Saiban was released just before this. For this release, I think the casting of Mr. Narumiya and Ms. Mizutani is convincing, and I am very grateful the two of them accepted the job.
4Gamer: You wrote on Twitter you were bothered by the accent pronunciation of the characters.
Takumi: I wrote accent in that tweet, but I should have said intonation. “Naruhodō” should be pronounced like “ebifurai”, but it wasn’t like that in the film. When I explained that to Mr. Narumiya before the recording, he was quite surprised. Ms. Kiritani had already played Gyakuten Saiban even before she was cast for the film and her intonation was on the spot.
4Gamer: A piece of triva we discovered because of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban. But in Gyakuten Saiban, there’s just bleeps, so how could we guess the intonation from that?
Takumi: You’re absolutely right. Perhaps my will poured out of those bleeps.
4Gamer: By the way, did you also cast the other characters besides Mr. Narumiya and Ms. Kiritani?
Takumi: Yūki Aoi, who plays Mahōne (Espella Cantabella), was playing the heroine of both Shiki and GOSICK, both mystery anime, and I thought she had an attractive voice. There was a fan of hers in the team, so the decision was easily made. We also chose people who fitted the image Nuri had.
Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban’s structure has both parts stimulate each other in a good way. Even professor Layton’s dialogue is full of “jokes” by Mr. Takumi
4Gamer: I will ask you again, but how is the story of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban structured?
4Gamer: The animations of the characters in the Gyakuten Saiban part are really like what you’d expect from the series and so energetic.
Takumi: With the graphics going from 2D to 3D and with voices added, the animations of the characters is what has changed the most. The 2D presentation, which was basically frame-by-frame has changed completely, and now we can make small changes to the movements in 3D. The artists have to show skills we had not seen before with the deformed 2D graphics from before, and it is really fun.
4Gamer: From what we’ve heard, the story too is quite long.
Takumi: We managed to get quite some time for development, so thinking “I want to add this”, “I want to add that”, the story became quite big. There are good ideas there and it should be satisfying. Of course, a long game could also be stressful, so it’s not just that it’s good as long as it’s long, but I think that you can really get into this game. I’d love if it if you’d all read the lines when you fail at presenting evidence.
4Gamer: Doing all that work on the parts where the player failed, is really what makes Gyakuten Saiban so unique.
Takumi: I think it’s important that even if you fail, it should be fun, so the player feels like trying again. There are also lines for when Layton fails, so go fail with him.
4Gamer: Did you write those lines for Professor Layton?
Takumi: Yes. But Layton is the mascotte figure of level-5, and he has a lot of fans, so I wrote his lines responsibly. But I think Layton is a really interesting character. Mr. Hino told me about the image he had of the character at the start of the image, so I made sure not to stray from that, but I did have some fun with him. I showed all sides of him without Mr. Hino noticing (laugh).
4Gamer: Could you tell us about Professor Layton in the Gyakuten Saiban part Mr. Takumi wrote?
Hino: Mr. Takumi said he was worried about my opinion as he wrote the character, but I think I let him do things quite freely, and there was basically no comment from me on his scenario. Actually, if the game becomes more fun because Mr. Takumi teases Layton, that’s a good thing. It’s not exactly what you asked, but because Mr. Takumi managed to have fun and wrote the character freely, I think the game became very alluring.
With magic, there are rules, and because there are rules, there’s room for contradictions to appear. What I wanted to do most of all was getting rid of the basic rules of physics
4Gamer: Did you decide on a particular point in the timeline of the Gyakuten Saiban series where the Naruhodo and Mayoi in Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban come from?
Takumi: Not really. In the Gyakuten Saiban series, there is a clearly defined timeline, but this is just a game for fun, so it is set in a parallel world that is unique to Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuken Saiban.
4Gamer: How was writing Naruhodo and Mayoi again after such a long time?
Takumi: It’s been eight years since I officially wrote for the two of them, but they are characters who are always in my mind, so I had no problems at all writing their banter, and it was really fun. I am actually more interested to see if the users who will play the game will notice they changed, or if they didn’t change. Gyakuten Saiban is a series over which I had completely control, but this time it was teamwork with Mr. Hino and everyone from Level-5, so am I also curious to how everyone feels about that. I can only hope everyone will enjoy the game.
4Gamer: In the world of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban, there’s the fantasy element of magic, right? You have played with similar ideas in both Gyakuten Saiban and Ghost Trick, but how was it using fantasy, where anything goes?
4Gamer: I see. If the contradictions are found within these rules, than this could work even with magic.
Takumi: There is the concept of spirit channeling in Gyakuten Saiban, and I made up special rules for that, but this time I made it more obvious in the form of magic. It might appear that anything goes with magic, but there are strict rules to it, and I want everyone to enjoy finding that out as they proceed in the trials. So in terms of the order of my idea, is that there is first the existence of magic that goes beyond our understanding, and from there came the witch trials. This is an idea I couldn’t do with the numbered, main series of Gyakuten Saiban, but I could finally make it true with this game.
4Gamer: I assume that the reason Mayoi doesn’t channel spirits despite being in the game is because it doesn’t fit with magic?
Takumi: Yes. If the two would both exist, the framework would break down. It threatens the player’s enjoyment of the game if it confuses them. Fans of Professor Layton who don’t know Gyakuten Saiban might think “Why is that girl dressed like that?” though (laugh).
4Gamer: Now you mention it, it wasn’t even explained that she is wearing those clothes because she is a spirit medium.
Takumi: People who are curious about that can all play the DS games of Gyakuten Saiban and Professor Layton on their 3DS, so why not try out the older games? (laugh)
4Gamer: You tweeted that you had written in your work report that you came up with the theme of Witch Trials on May 26, 2010. Do you write all your ideas in your reports?
Takumi: Yes. I write all kinds of things in my reports. At first I’d only write things that had to do with the work, but that sorta becomes the same if you write every single day. That’s why I started to write more fun things every day. I tweeted that the Fins have funny names when I was talking about how I named Jīken Burnrod (Zacharias Barnham), but I wrote that too like that in my report.
4Gamer:…Eh? You wrote that down in your report?
Takumi: Yes. Something like “Today I thought about the official name for Jīken, but couldn’t come up with something. And also…”.
4Gamer: And that story about travel expenses…?
Takumi: I wrote that down in my report too. To me, anything I write, be it in my reports or on Twitter, is a kind of creative work. So I can’t just do that in a halfhearted way.
4Gamer: And does your boss really read your reports?
Takumi: Yes. But I assume that everyone is quite open and accepting to this. Sometimes, they even react to what I wrote.
4Gamer: What a nice company….
Takumi: When we got in the really busy part of the development of Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban, I didn’t manage to write the reports probably, and even now we have a master version and I’ve a bit more time, I still haven’t really gotten to them, so I really should start writing them again. When you have a goal like writing reports or on Twitter, your way of looking at things in everyday life also changes. It’s training, in a way.
Even people who haven’t played Professor Layton or Gyakuten Saiban, will want to play both series once they’ve played Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban
4Gamer: I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time now, but you have a very characteristic writing style, where even the same word can sometimes be written in kanji, or hiragana of katakana. Is there some rule to that?
Takumi: One of the things I pay attention to, is writing so you don’t have to read to get it in your head, but only see. With Gyakuten Saiban, the volume of text is set at 16 character times 2 rows, which you can see without moving your eyes and where all information comes flying to you with just a single glimpse. From there, I pay attention to where I start a new line, that I don’t use many kanji with many strokes, that if there are too many hiragana characters, I include katakana or add brackets around words, so the visibility becomes better. I don’t have any special rules, and just adapt to the situation. For this game, we followed the Professor Layton style, with 20 characters times 2 rows. At one hand, we now have sharper fonts on the 3DS, but I am a bit worried the characters might be a bit small.
4Gamer: This is really just a trivial question, but why is the Judge written as saibanchō in kanji (裁判長) in the text, while his text window says saibancho in katakana (サイバンチョ)? Could you please tell us today?
Takumi: When we made the game for Game Boy Advance, we only had space for six characters right above the text window. In the first game, we called him saibankan (サイバンカン), but everyone called the judge saibanchō, so we decided to write saibanchō (サイバンチョウ) in Gyakuten Saiban 2. But we had a limit of 6 characters, so it became saibanchō (サイバンチョ). So the last ‘u’ (ウ) was cut. There was no special reason behind that. Now we can have seven, and more characters in the text window, but it feels wrong to change a name once it’s been settled, so we kept it. People who haven’t played Gyakuten Saiban might even think the judge’s name is in fact saibancho (laugh).
4Gamer: Now we’re talking about this, that’s the only place where you used katakana. I mean, Naruhodo is written everywhere in hiragana (なるほど), except for above his text window, where it’s written in katakana (ナルホド). Which is the right way to write his name?
Takumi: That too came from the time it was on the Game Boy Advance, as we could only use katakana for those text windows, but the right way to write his name is with hiragana.
4Gamer: Right. Now you have worked together with Level-5, do you think you might use animation and other elements from this for your own games?
Takumi: I think there’s definitely something I’ll need to consider. A game is only a game because of the people who play it, so I do need to think carefully about what people want. I myself want to concentrate on presentation and ways of expression that only games can offer, so I don’t think it’s necessary to do whatever films or drama can also do. With Ghost Trick, I added no animated scenes or voices, I was even fussy about that the camera would be fixed, like in a stage play. I probably just like restraining myself. But my ideas could be different from what people want in a game, and now I have a brand new card has been played into my hands thanks to this game, so I might come with something different next time.
4Gamer: Can we ask you for one final message for those who haven’t played Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban yet?
4Gamer: Thank you.
4Gamer: Could you tell me how it was working together with Capcom’s Mr. Takumi?
Hino: Mr. Takumi came across as a real creator. I have both a producer-side and a creator-side to me, and I keep them separate, but Mr. Takumi is a pure creator, who will go on working until he’s satisfied. That is why I asked him to work on this game, and I had fun working with him. I really saw how he felt about games, so I am happy I got to work with him.
4Gamer: Can we ask you for a message for those who haven’t played Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban yet?
Hino: It’s become a game I’m so confident in, I can say: “ If you have a handheld, you really can’t ignore this game that fuses the contents of the two series.” Please play Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban. It's a game full of surprises only possible because it is on a handheld. I think you’ll have a good time!