Friday, July 8, 2016

Gyakuten Kenji Staff Special Discussion (2009)

Title: Gyakuten Kenji Staff Special Discussion / 「『逆転検事』スタッフ特別座雑談」
Source: Gyakuten Saiban Special Court 2008 Orchestra Concert Pamphlet ~ Special Rewrite Ver.~ / 『「逆転裁判 特別法廷2008 オーケストラコンサート」パンフレット ~Special Rewrite Ver.~』

Summary: A special discussion interview from 2009 about Gyakuten Kenji (Ace Attorney Investigations) with producer Eshiro Motohide, director Yamazaki Takeshi and character designer Iwamoto Tatsurō . The interview was included in the special version of the 2008 Orchestra Concert Pamphlet included with the Limited Edition of Gyakuten Kenji. The interview touches upon topics like the early stages of the Gyakuten Kenji project, scrapped ideas for both the game and in the Limited Edition, why series creator Takumi wasn't working on this game, game and character design and the experiences of the three men who were basically doing their job for the very first time.

Gyakuten Kenji Staff Special Discussion

Eshiro Motohide (Producer)
Was director on Onimusha 2, Shadow of Rome. Became producer for Gyakuten Saiban 2 Best Price! Leader of the team. Looks scary.

Yamazaki Takeshi (Director)
Involved with planning for Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten (Ace Attorney DS) and Gyakuten Saiban 4 (Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney). Gyakuten Kenji (Ace Attorney Investigations) is his first title as a director. Loves the Gyakuten series.

Iwamoto Tatsurō (Character Designer)
Illustrator and the only person of the Gyakuten Kenji team to have worked on the first Gyakuten Saiban. He has quit his position at Capcom and is now a freelance artist.

Birth!? Gyakuten Kenji

Eshiro: Shall we talk about how this project got started? It all started with me thinking it’d be fun if we could do something else within the world of Gyakuten Saiban, but be honest, Yama-chan, what did you think of that?

Iwamoto: I’d want to hear about what kind of pressure it was, honestly. What did you think? (laugh)

Yamazaki: E, errr…. I can’t deny there was some pressure (laugh).

Iwamoto: Give us some concrete examples (laugh).

Yamazaki: Well, I had nightmares every night, which had me crying out and I even had pain in my stomach. I often saw dreams where the both of you would be after me (laugh).

Eshiro: I guess it was a pressure because I had all those demands?

Iwamoto: Ah yes, there was of course the pressure of all the people around you, and of course of the title itself.

Yamazaki: Exactly. When Mr. Eshiro came to me with the plan, I didn’t know what to do for a moment. I love this series and that is what makes it scary to make my own game, and I have worked on two of the Gyakuten games, so I knew how hard it was. But the following moment, I answered: “Ah, yes, please.”

Iwamoto: The initial concept of Gyakuten Kenji was a very small game, I think?

Yamazaki: Yes. It was supposed to be a title to try out the waters.

Eshiro: It was Yama-chan’s first game as a director, and my first one as a producer for an original title, so we tried to keep the scale small.

Iwamoto: And it was my first time as the main designer ever since I became a freelance illustrator.

Eshiro: We talked about making the game in a relaxed way….But the reaction on the official announcement at the orchestral concert (* Gyakuten Saiban Tokubetsu Hōtei 2008) was tremendous. We didn’t really had anything at the time (laugh).

Yamazaki: It was around the time our demo ROM got harsh criticism inside the company. That was really a difficult time…

Eshiro: That was when Episode 2 was still Episode 1.

Iwamoto: Episode 2 is a difficult story as a tutorial case. So Episode 1 was made as a tutorial case.

Yamazaki: Making Episode 1 was easy after we had decided on the game mechanics. Because we could start thinking from the mystery plot.

Iwamoto: I think what was troublesome was that different elements were completed at different times. The scenario was completed before the game mechanics for example. Or I had to make character designs for scenarios for which the setting hadn’t even been decided on (laugh).

Eshiro:  We didn’t even had the Logic system at first.

Iwamoto: It really felt like we working on a completely new title. We didn’t have to design the protagonist, we didn’t have to think about the world setting, and the rest we had to do all from zero. That’s basically a completely original game (laugh).

Eshiro: We also had trouble with the size of the mini-characters for the crime scene investigations. We even considered 3D for a time.

Iwamoto: I really hated that. I was even threatened with “But you’ll have to work more!” but I really hated the idea.

Yamazaki: The 3D idea came because it would make the work more efficient, but I too was desperate to avoid going 3D. For the Gyakuten series, the feeling of the artwork is very important.

Eshiro: When the project was started, the three of us would cry out “What should we do” in the bar…
Yamazaki: We also had a lot of trouble deciding on the difficulty level. We tested all kinds of ways of giving hints.

Iwamoto:  I told this to Yamazaki here, but anyone can make a difficult game. But you need to know how hard it is to have a difficulty level that people can still solve. I just draw, so it’s not really of my business though (laugh). Sounds kinda arrogant. But Mr. Takumi said the same thing. That it is hard to come up with a difficulty level which makes people feel nice when they overcome it.

Tolerance In A Creator?

Eshiro: The announcement at the Orchestra Concert, that was so exciting!

Iwamoto & Yamazaki: We were so tense.

Yamazaki: That was when we still can’t announce that Mikumo (Kay Faraday) would be the heroine, but I let it slip during the rehearsal…

Iwamoto: Ah, I was looking at you from the side, but that made me relax (laugh). I am fine, I can do this. I even had to pay attention to how I spoke…

Eshiro: Your voice trembled, I remember. Just before we went on stage, we huddled together and cried “Let’s do this!”.

Iwamoto: We did the same at the Game Show (*Tokyo Game Show 2008).

Eshiro: We really pepped each other up back stage (laugh).

Iwamoto:  It’s because the three of us weren’t used to that. To stand on stage.

Yamazaki: I still can’t get used to it.

Iwamoto: But you even said that it was starting to feel fun. At the Game Show.

Yamazaki : (laugh)

Iwamoto: “Don’t you think it’s starting to feel fun?” you asked me, and I remember I said: “It’s not feeling fun at all.” (laugh).

All: (loud laughter)

Iwamoto:  “So it’s finally over for him” I thought….  This one might become big (laugh). But I have been thinking about this before, but I think all creators are easily scared. All of them, they have a bit of intolerance in them. They often say that they like it to hear what the users think of their games, but that just means that they are really minding what other people think. There’s no way they are really tolerant (laugh).

Yamazaki: So you say it’s better to be intolerant?

Eshiro: It’s praise now!?

Iwamoto:  I am also fantastically intolerant (laugh). But that’s just an excuse for myself (laugh).

About The Gyakuten Series

Eshiro: We caused a lot of trouble at the Game Show, right? For the visitors…

Iwamoto: The location of our booth… It was so crowded. And we were surrounded by super popular booths. I was worried people wouldn’t come to the Gyakuten Kenji event booth, I remember.

Yamazaki: And it all started so early especially the first day it was open to the general public.

Eshiro: There were so many visitors and I was thinking “What should we do?” But the reaction of the visitors was very comforting.

Yamazaki: Thanks to them, I really got a motivation boost.

Eshiro: I was happy with the reactions of the people who came to the demo corner. After the demo, everyone would go to the Tonosaman (Steel Samurai) puppet or Mitsurugi (Miles Edgeworth)’s outfit to take a picture.

Iwamoto: I really was happy that fans of the Gyakuten series were happy with the game.

Yamazaki: It’s a spin-off title, so that’s what we really wanted to know.

Eshiro: It worked wonders on our motivation. We removed the courtroom parts from the series in Gyakuten Kenji on purpose. We could’ve included them…but it’s no fun playing that.

Iwamoto: It was like that in the early stages, right? By the time I was involved in the project, it had already been scrapped.

Eshiro: If we had relied on that again, we’d just have landed on the same grounds again. It was all about making a fun game without relying on that.

Yamazaki: I thought it was an impossible problem though. “No trials? But then I can’t turn around the situation…”

All: (laugh)

Iwamoto: Talk louder (laugh). But that was indeed the idea back then.

Eshiro: So it’s because I make these impossible requests (laugh). The selection of goods included in this limited edition also started from an impossible request of mine. I had people suggesting all kinds of ideas, and it was like “I want this!”, “I want that!” “You’re going over budget!” (laugh).

Iwamoto: You started thinking about the limited edition goods pretty early on. You even had fights with Yamazaki (laugh).

Yamazaki: Oh yeah, that did happen.

Eshiro: Aah, right, right (laugh). At first, I thought about adding an investigation notebook and a fountain pen in the limited edition. So I asked Yama-chan: “Can you have these things appear in the game?”, and he went “No way!” (laugh).

Yamazaki: “Adding things in a game so you can make goods of it is the wrong way”, was what I thought. Got carried away because I was still too young back then.

Eshiro & Iwamoto: That was just one year ago! (laugh).

Iwamoto: I was standing there, and well, it was awkward (laugh). I couldn’t say anything of course. Tried to calm the two of you down. (laugh).

Eshiro: It was supposed to be something like fanservice, thinking the fans would be happy if the bonus items would also appear in the game, but what Yama-chan’s said isn’t wrong either. If the notebook is just redundant, then it’s not needed in the game.

Iwamoto: You talked about whether you couldn’t have a system where you’d make notes about the investigation with the touch pen, I remember.

Yamazaki: But the Gyakuten series should be a simple game that doesn’t need extra notes. That’s how the series has always done that, and I don’t want to break away from that if possible. I think that the selling point is that it is simple to play. It’s not complex.

Eshiro: At first, there was also the idea to have Akane (Ema Skye) be the protagonist. Yamazaki said something like “If we’re doing investigations, than Akane is our only choice. So why are we making Kenji?” (laugh).

Iwamoto: “We should games based on the ideas of the creators, we shouldn’t make games based on what sells!”. That, right? That is really being carried away because you’re too young (laugh).

Yamazaki: I was really young back then (laugh).

Iwamoto: Well, you can start thinking from that. Of course, you need to watch your step.

Eshiro: Let’s bring it to this: Who do fans want to play as the protagonist? And we know who is popular. Akane is not unpopular, but who is the character who is the absolute favorite?

Yamazaki: I was also worried that if we made Mitsurugi the protagonist, the game would go much bigger suddenly… He has such a big presence…

Eshiro: He has, yes.

Yamazaki: And I was worried if I could pull it off with Mitsurugi as the protagonist.

Iwamoto: I had the same. I wasn’t the one who designed Mitsurugi.

Yamazaki: Oh yeah, now you mention that.

A Kind Of Challenge

Eshiro: Why wasn’t Takumi made director?

Iwamoto & Yamazaki: You’re going to talk about that!?

Eshiro: Easy, easy (laugh). Making the game with the director of Gyakuten Saiban was definitely one of the options, but if Gyakuten Kenji had the same director, then the game would only offer the same kind of “fun”. I figured that if we’re going to a different kind of game, then it might be good to have a new director too. But I couldn’t have a director who didn’t know what the fans liked.  So I looked if there wasn’t someone who had a good grasp on the world of the Gyakuten series and who could think of a new way to play. And there was. He was a bit young though (laugh).

Yamazaki: And it was my first time as a director (laugh).

Iwamoto: A first-time director, a first-time producer, a first-time freelance illustrator (laugh).  I said right from the start: this is dangerous. It’s just too adventurous (laugh).

Eshiro: And we also got a completely new team (laugh).

Iwamoto: What a brave story. The project became bigger and bigger, and I was like: “Hey! Is this really alright!?” (laugh).

Eshiro: It was a kind of challenge.

Yamazaki: It’s been a game full of challenges right from the start.

Eshiro: But the reaction to the announcement presentation was so great, I couldn’t give up. It might’ve been a challenge, but from that moment on, it became a fight against the pressure.

Iwamoto: From that day on, Yamazaki’s face became darker and darker every time we met (laugh).

Yamazaki: Development didn’t go exactly as planned, but the reaction of the was so fantastic…

Iwamoto: And there change after change was made to the project and we couldn’t decide on the designs for Mikumo and Rō (Shi-Long Lang). So I was all stress, and then Yamazaki…

Yamazaki: Ah! You’re talking about that! Please don’t! (laugh).

Iwamoto: So he came to me with “This kind of expression doesn’t fit the Gyakuten series” saying my design was out, and I returned with “How many years do you think I’ve been part of the Gyakuten world before you came!?

Yamazaki: Ah. That was what Mr. Takumi would often say if something was out. Ahaha. Mr. Iwamoto has told this story to me so many times now…

All: (laugh)

Eshiro: A fight, and then making peace again (laugh).

Iwamoto: But Yamazaki became a bit more flexible because this happened all the time. A good Yamazaki came out of it. At first, he was too scared of  the shadow of Mr. Takumi and he had a part that looked like a copy of Mr. Takumi. He managed to balance that better now. I don’t mean he lost that Takumi-ness, but I think there was too little Yamazaki-ness at first. Until then.

Eshiro: Things went well about halfway the development cycle.

Yamazaki: After we had decided on the logic system and rewriting the scenarios had started, I started to have fun too.

Iwamoto: You did really well. You could’ve run far away from Gyakuten Saiban, or simply be too close to Gyakuten Saiban.

All: (laugh)

Iwamoto: It’s a game that needs a good balance, and a person with a good sense of balance was the director. Do you really have such a sense, or...

Yamazaki: Or was it just a fluke? (laugh).

Iwamoto: If it was just luck, I myself am lucky to have worked with such a lucky director (laugh). But that I got to work on Gyakuten Saiban was also only because of lucky timing and I think that those people got together for Gyakuten Saiban was also luck. That I just happened to have become a freelance artist, and you had a producer who also had experience as a director, that’s where your luck comes in.

Yamazaki: Yes.

Iwamoto:  But even if you’re lucky, there were many difficult times until the game was finished. So I think that it’s good Yamazaki has his stubborn side, that allows him to stick to his own beliefs. Anyway, that’s enough about him (laugh).

Eshiro: Don’t praise him that much (laugh).

Yamazaki: That’s really too much praise. Makes me barf (laugh). Who is going to want to read this? (laugh).

Iwamoto: Ah, you’re right there (laugh).

Things We Were Fussy About

Iwamoto: There was a lot we could do presentation-wise this time because the characters are facing each other. We have several things we couldn’t do with characters facing the screen. We could show depth to animations of people getting damage and backing up. We also did things we could do because people were looking each other in the face. I really hope the players will notice that.

Eshiro: We also have animations that don’t work unless  they’re facing sideways, or just aren’t as effective.

Iwamoto: We luckily didn’t run out of ideas for this game. I also tried to draw the girls in a cute way (laugh).

Eshiro: You even declared that at the event stage at the Game Show (laugh).

Iwamoto: I was glad when a fan who had played the online demo on the official Gyakuten Kenji website told me that Mako (Maggey Byrde) had become sexier.

Yamazaki: You know that Gyakuten Saiban is clearly divided in Investigation Parts and Trial Parts?  In this game, you’re investigating the crime scene and have confrontations right there, and go investigate again. That sense of pace, with developments following each other, that is what I paid attention to. The confrontations are based on the same mechanics from Gyakuten Saiban, so I wanted to portray them with a different ambience.

Eshiro: We also paid a lot attention to the mini-characters.

Yamazaki: Yeah. We also have animations for them they only use once.

Eshiro: For use in one specific scene.

Yamazaki: That really shows off how good these characters are.

Eshiro: I’m happy we didn’t do 3D (laugh).

Yamazaki: Only possible because it’s 2D (laugh).

Iwamoto: If it had been 3D, it might’ve turned into a lesser game. Dodged that one (laugh).

Eshiro: Something to say about the BGM or sound effects?

Yamazaki: Just a bit about the tracks Mr. Iwadare made for when Mitsurugi is pressing on opponent: Igiari! (‘Objection!’) and Tsuikyū (‘Inquiry’). Igiari! is an arrangement of Ōinaru Fukkatsu ~ Mitsurugi Reiji (‘The Grand Revival ~ Mitsurigi Reiji),  but I really got hooked on this song. It’s a song that sounds heated and cool at the same time. When you hear this song, you’ll go “It’s Mitsurig! and it really gets you excited.

Iwamoto: (starts whistling)

Eshiro: That’s from Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Trials and Tribulations)

Iwamoto: Ah, I got it wrong (laugh)

All: (laugh)

Yamazaki:  Tsuikyū is completely different from what they did with Gyakuten Saiban, and has a sense of speed that is really fitting to an inquiry. Definitely a must-hear.

Eshiro: Good marketing (laugh). It is included in the Orchestra CD that comes with the limited edition, so it’d be nice of people listened to it.

Iwashiro: I think that music really helps a lot. It makes the game feels good.

Eshiro: Another thing we were fussy about, or at least a point I’d want people to look at is that we included a lot of jokes everywhere.  Lots of little things that will make fans of Gyakuten Saiban laugh.

Yamazaki: This or that character in the background characters of a crime scene (laugh).

Eshiro:  You’ll immediately know who’s who, so don’t go play it one time in a hurry, but look around.

Yamazaki: Play it two, three times! (laugh)

Eshiro: We added them whenever we found time in the busy schedule.

Iwamoto: I’ve also hidden things in the character designs, so I too want people to go looking for them. I want to point them out, but when I point them out, it seems a bit boorish, so I won’t. I want to though (laugh).

Eshiro: This was a game where we had a lot of incidents during the development and each time we overcame them, another big wave was already on the horizon. 

Yamazaki: (wry laugh)

Eshiro: Making this game was really a turnabout (laugh).

Iwamoto: Maybe it was Yamazaki’s luck that got us through (laugh).

Yamazaki: Don’t make me into some lucky charm (laugh).

(Recorded in Tokyo, Spring 2009)


  1. Just passing here after your comment yesterday in the GK2 article.

    It's kind of bizarre they recorded this "discussion", but it's sort of funny.

    It seems they had to work a lot in how the game was played. The fact that Turnabout Airplane (I-2) was originally the first one is something I didn't know. It's possible that, during that developing stage, there were a lot of differences with the final product. I think one trailer show Kay in the airplane, which would mean a tremendously earlier introduction of the "heroine".
    For me, that was one big flaw in the game, since she's introduced way too late. It was way better handled in the sequel, where she has much less importance in the plot but they polished her role as assistant.

    In fact, for me this game has a lot of flaws. But, as you said, this game paved the way for the more impressive sequel (And I still like AAI).

    Extra stuff I can comment:
    * The OST of this game was FANTASTIC, I love it;
    * Glad they didn't go with the 3D idea. Those sprites are glorious;
    * It's fun to read that they were "nervous" with their product. It also remarkable the Capcom feedback during development, it's really healthy (If it's constructive);
    * They didn't mention much of it during the discussion, but in this game (And the rest of the AA games this team work that I played) I feel they polished the secondary characters. They are more interesting to me that the secondary characters from the AA Takumi games.

    1. Yeah, I too thought that Kay's role in the game was a bit short. You'd have one episode in which you didn't have any idea who she was, then an episode where she'd be part of the story in a different role, and then you're in the final episode already. In terms of time, you spend as much time with her as with Maya in the (original GBA) first game, but it works out so differently.

      I don't know how it is with other Capcom series, but I think Capcom (JP) has a lot more insight in what the users think than a lot of people seem to think. Some people might laugh at the somewhat old-fashioned questionnaires included with the games (even now!) in the Japanese games, but Capcom has been collecting these since the very first game, and they have really been developing the games with user feedback in mind. Eshiro is a lot more vocal about it, but Takumi did (and his producers) also paid a lot of attention to that. They literally have fifteen years worth of user feedback and can clearly see how the user reception has changed and thus make good guesses about what direction they should go.