Thursday, July 7, 2016

Takumi Special Interview (2015)

Title: Takumi Special Interview / 「巧舟スペシャルインタビュー」
Source: Dai Gyakuten Saiban Official Website (2015)

Summary: A very long interview with series creator Takumi Shū about his career at Capcom, how he came to create the first Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney), how he came to create Dai Gyakuten Saiban (The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures) and the process of creating characters (images are taken from the source. Copyright belongs to their respective owners, etc.).

Takumi Shū
Joined Capcom in 1994
  • Gyakuten Saiban 1 -3 (2001-2004)
  • Ghost Trick (2010)
  • Dai Gyakuten Saiban – Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken (2015)

Worked as planner, scenario writer and director for all the games mentioned above.

Takumi Special Interview

Interviewer: First, I want to ask you about your career since you joined Capcom. What games were you involved with until Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney)?

Takumi: I joined Capcom in 1994, so this is my 21st year. Memories of when I joined…… Back in those days, the newly employed would learn about development in so-called “training rooms”. Talented people would get picked from there to join the development teams. There were twelve of us of my year in the consumer division alone, and one by one, people got picked out for teams like Biohazard (Resident Evil) and Breath of Fire, and so half a year passed and then a year…… I stayed until the very last, watching over my seat in the training room (laugh). And fnally, I was picked up by a team, and the first game I got to work at was Gakkō no Kowai Uwasa - Hanako-san ga kita!!  ('Scary Rumors at School – Hanako-san is here!!’), released in 1995. And would you believe it, together with the fighting game Street Fighter Real Battle on Film (Street Fighter the Movie: The Game), Hanako-san was one of the very first PlayStation games Capcom made…… But up until today, I have heard not one rumor about any remakes or ports of the game, so it’s really an “elusive” product (laugh).

Interviewer:  ……It might because of copyright issues (laugh) [Translator’s note: Hanako-san ga Kita!! was a licensed game]

Takumi:  I joined the Hanako-san development team as a planner. The genre was supposed to be something like horror or ghost stories, but I was the only planner, the new kid who knew absolutely nothing of the game concept, so the game turned into a rather “strange game” that was actually trying to make the player laugh. The director was also busy with other projects, so I made the game rather freely in secret (laugh).

Interviewer: (laugh)

Takumi: And then there was a two, three year blank. This was a period where we kept coming with new plans, which also kept falling apart. The plans went everywhere, from a “music game” to “an educational game”, and I also came up with a project for a “detective game” which would be the prototype for Gyakuten Saiban. My boss at the time quit the job and I was picked up by the producer of the Biohazard team, and thus came to join Production Studio 4 (as it was called at the time).

Interviewer: I heard you were also involved with development on Biohazard 2?

Takumi: I was involved with the prototype of Biohazard 2, which never was never released. It’s known inside Capcom as Biohazard 1.5. At the time, we were working on the plans of Dino Crisis, but because the development of Biohazard 2 was in trouble, our team was temporarily disbanded, and I joined the other team for three months. They just needed more people. I am not sure how much I helped though. After that, they stopped development on Biohazard 2 for a while anyway. They remade it right from the start and it became a big hit. Unfortunately, the part we worked on wasn’t preserved. Doesn’t really matter though (laugh).

An image from the newly made Biohazard 2. Biohazard 1.5 was about 75% complete, but it was canceled to make an even better Biohazard 2.

Interviewer: And after that, you were put in charge of the Dino Crisis series.

Takumi: Right. They made me director of Dino Crisis (1), but now I look back, I don’t think I even knew what it meant to be a “director”. Because of that, I put the team in confusion, and was fired as the director…… (laugh). They made me a planner and I was responsible for the stages in the first half. I felt frustrated at that, of course. But looking back at it now, I think it was something necessary. They then decided to make Dino Crisis 2 and for some reason, they made me director again. I have no idea whether the producer was extremely kind, or just forgetful (laugh). Anyway, I reflected deeply on what myself during the development of Dino Crisis (1), and changed my way of working and thinking. I was also helped by the fact it was a sequel and somehow completed the task. Even now I still quite like Dino Crisis 2 as a game, and I won’t ever forget the second chance they gave me.

Dino Crisis 2, where Takumi first worked as a director. The system was changed from Dino Crisis, and it became an adventure with an emphasis on action.

Also, the script was handled by Flagship, a Capcom subsidiary. I learned a lot about the creation process of a scenario, like 'simply' ordering a scenario, and that really came in handy when I made the scenario for Gyakuten Saiban later.

Interviewer: I see. So all these experiences came together when you created Gyakuten Saiban.

The Start of Gyakuten Saiban

Interviewer: So after Dino Crisis 2, you finally came up with your plans for Gyakuten Saiban.

Gyakuten Saiban, a game made by a small team of just seven (image is of the DS version Yomigaeru Gyakuten). It was a title that gathered popularity slowly through word-to-mouth communication.

Takumi: “We’ll give you half a year to go make whatever you want,” I was told. Like I explained, when I first started on Dino Crisis, I knew absolutely nothing about dinosaurs--I couldn’t even see the difference between a tyrannosaurus and a velociraptor—but I guess this was a little bonus for me having done my best on the Dino Crisis series for three years. At the time, there were several of these projects, meant as training grounds for the young staff, to create new games with small teams and budgets. One of them was Gyakuten Saiban. We didn’t quite make it in six months and finally finished it in ten. But even so, I think that’s a great record.

Interviewer: Gyakuten Saiban was first released on the Game Boy Advance (handheld first released in 2001), but how was it working on new hardware?

Takumi: Actually, the game was initially scheduled for the Game Boy Color (handheld first released in 1998), but around that time we started hearing rumors of this new piece of hardware coming, the Game Boy Advance, and they showed it to us. It was still before the actual release, so we didn’t get the actual unit, but just the boards, but the screen looked amazing and the whole team was impressed by it. Development on Rockman.EXE (Mega Man Battle Network) was already ongoing, and they showed us some footage and it made an impact on us. I thought that this was perfect for a title like Gyakuten Saiban.

With the color capabilities of the Game Boy Advance, Gyakuten Saiban became a colorful game (image is from the DS version Yomiaeru Gyakuten)

Interviewer: The first Gyakuten Saiban was a small project made by just 7 people. I heard it was a hectic job, with people dropping out during development and such.

Takumi: Yes. It was a team comprising of new people with little experience on the job, and even though there were just the seven of us, we made a lot of trouble (laugh). But we were just making this game somewhere hidden away in the corner of the company, so there was no pressure at all, and we could work rather relaxed. We were all young and we poured our all into it (without thinking about what our limits would be), but now I think about it, I’m amazed just two people managed to create all the graphical assets and two programmers did the whole thing. And I on my turn was the planner, scenario writer and the director in one. I could not have imagined that this game would be going on even now.

Interviewer: The Gyakuten Saiban series is now one of the main series of Capcom, but I heard you had a lot of trouble while making the sequel.

Takumi: Obviously, there had been no talk at all about a sequel while we were working on the first game and I thought it would be just this single game. But the producer liked the finished product a lot, and after forcefully convincing everybody, made the call on making a sequel, saying “Let’s have three of these games”. I remember that at the time, I felt like I had poured all of my ideas in the first game, so I was not even sure I'd be able to come up with three of them. But if the producer hadn’t decided on development on the sequels it would've been just the single game, and I wouldn’t be here now talking about it. Even to this day, I’m grateful to that.

With the support of the producer, it was decided Gyakuten Saiban would be a trilogy.

Interviewer: That is a great story. After that, you made Gyakuten Saiban 4 (Apollo Justice - Ace Attorney), and after that Ghost Trick, Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban (Professor Layton VS Ace Attorney) and now Dai Gyakuten Saiban. Have you any thoughts about Gyakuten Saiban having becoming this long-lived series, starting in in 2001 and now, 14 years later, still around?

Takumi: I feel both “gratitude” and “confusion”. Considering Gyakuten Saiban was originally made for the Game Boy Advance, we also needed to make it playable for children in elementary school. But now 14 years later, it’s played by many generations, from kids to adults. The hardware also changed the game has been ported to Nintendo DS, cell phones to smart phones and so even more people got a chance to play it. It’s an easy game to port, so I have the feeling the game is spreading out in a slow, but steady pace. In terms of profit and fan reactions, I think it became really big with Gyakuten Saiban 4, but with the changes in development, the project also became bigger than I could really grasp, and it also made me confused. Also, it’s about that time we had all kinds of projects besides the games, like the orchestra concert and the Takarazuka plays and the film, and I was really amazed by it all. Thanks to everyone playing the game, I too got to experience all kinds of new things and I am grateful for that. Now we have the The Grand London Courtroom Murder Case, a real-life escape game we collaborated on with SCRAP and coming in touch with all these new experiences really stimulates me. Right now, Gyakuten Saiban has become this big a project that sometimes, there are even staff members I have never seen, but I have only words of gratitude for everyone giving their energy to the series. Thanks, always.

The Start of Dai Gyakuten Saiban

Interviewer: How did this new project, Dai Gyakuten Saiban (The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures) start?

Takumi: It started when they asked me early 2013 if I wanted to make a Gyakuten Saiban seperate of the numbered main series. I proposed a game with Sherlock Holmes and that how it got rolling.

Dai Gyakuten Saiban only exists because of Sherlock Holmes!?

Interview: So Sherlock Holmes was there from the start?

Takumi: I had considered other ideas. For example, I also looked at civil trials as a hook. But I realized the game would get rather ugly, with themes like "Mediation between family members fighting over an inheritance" or "Settling Things Out of Court In A Case of Being Falsely Accused of Molesting", cases with no clear-cut conclusions (laugh).

Interviewer: That's true (laugh)

Takumi: Originally, I came up with the idea of Gyakuten Saiban because I started to think how mystery fiction could be made into a game, and whether there was something different besides the industry standard at the time of just choosing commands. I wanted something where the player could deduce more directly themselves,, and the answer I came up with was the idea you’d point out contradictions.

Interviewer: Right! Gyakuten Saiban is indeed a bit different from those games where you just have to make a choice between command options.

You don’t input or choose commands, but deduce and point out contradictions about your opponents and evidence: a characteristic of Gyakuten Saiban

Takumi: And so I came up with a lawyer as a detective, and the setting of the courtroom, instead of the crime scene. But another answer I came up with at the time was: Maybe I could make a mystery game where a great detective made the wrong deductions, and where you needed to correct and lead him to the truth. That idea was "Sherlock Holmes (temp title)"

Interviewer: The new "Joint Reasoning" system! When did you think of that?

Takumi: Around 2000s, somewhere around the first and the third Gyakuten Saiban.

Interviewer: That long ago?!

 The new system “Joint Reasoning”. The result of Takumi breeding on this idea for over ten years!

Interviewer: So Dai Gyakuten Saiban started with joining that idea with Gyakuten Saiban?

Takumi: I had been wanting to do a Holmes game for a long time, so with the opportunity presented, I schemed to make it happen one way or another! So yes, Dai Gyakuten Saiban started with Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes, an important character in Dai Gyakuten Saiban. He has become a real Takumi-world character.

Takumi: But there's a lot of reasons for Holmes appearing in the game. For the game mechanics of course, but to set this project apart from the numbered series, it was the easiest to set this game in a different time period, which also opened up new opportunities for the mystery plot. It was perfect for the game. So I thought about how Japan looked like when Holmes lived, which is how I came up with the in-game universe.

Interviewer:  What is your impression of 19th century London, where Holmes lived?

19th century London, the main setting of Dai Gyakuten Saiban

Takumi: After first reading Holmes in middle school, I only read mystery fiction set in that period. So it might be all in my head, but I am fairly familiar with the setting. The late Victorian age was when scientific investigation started when they first accepted fingerprints as evidence and there was the technological revolution with photo-cameras, gramaphones and automobiles and the move from gas and steam to electricity... anyway, it was a period of much change and therefore interesting. This big center of energy is what lies at the base of the story.

Interviwer: I see. By the way, what Holmes story do you like best?

Takumi: I'm often asked that, but I find it hard to answer. But I think the easiest answer is the first 12 stories that make up the first short story collection. People think of Holmes as the great detective, but even he makes mistakes at times and feels bad because of them, and there's the friendship with Watson. He's a very human character. You'll understand that as you read more of his stories, so I recommend reading a lot of them.

The original stories, which Holmes calls ‘novels for the common’. A masterpiece that is still much beloved, over a century since it was first released!

Interviewer: You were writing the whole scenario for this game again, but what was difficult about that?

Takumi: It's been a while since I wrote an Gyakuten Saiban scenario, so there was the pressure to write something that in terms of quality, wouldn't lose from Gyakuten Saiban 1~3.

Interviewer: You wanted something that could compete with Gyakuten Saiban?

Takumi: Yes. So with that pressure, I just started writing without thinking about pacing or anything. And for various reasons, the story structure changed several times and I had trouble keeping the scenario in check. You might think that a scenario should be written from start to finish after you've decided on everything, but in reality it doesn't go like that. As you write, you suddenly start to see things in a way you had never considered before, as if driven by a mysterious energy. Could it be Holmes' energy? Mystery fiction is about surprises, but besides the surprises I prepared, the story even had surprises for me, the creator. So I can say that you can expect the unexpected from this game. I've been making games for twenty years now, so by now you'd think I'd be better at controlling this creation process though (laugh).

Interviewer: There's something profound to be found in the creation process, right?

Takumi: A large part of it comes from the staff members who watched over me with warm eyes, but we did everything until it wasn't possible to do anything more. That's also true of the development schedule.

Dai Gyakuten Saiban, where everything of Takumi’s games come together. It is a thrilling story, where the protagonist is accused of murder in the first episode already!

The Secret Origin of the Dai Gyakuten Characters!?

Interviewer: A question about creating the Dai Gyakuten Saiban characters. I think that characters made alive with polygons started for you with Ghost Trick, and Dai Gyakuten Saiban now, but what was difficult about that and what is new?

Takumi: Ghost Trick was in the end 2D graphics, but with Layton Kyōju VS Gyakuten Saiban and now Dai Gyakuten Saiban... I think the motifs have become bigger now. Ghost Trick was like a theater where I wanted to show the whole bodies of the characters, so I used spotlights and had them dance and stuff, very different from Gyakuten Saiban. Now with Dai Gyakuten Saiban, I'm letting them do that too, and more.

Interviewer: Now you mention it, the use of the spotlight in Ghost Trick was very memorable.

The effective use of the spotlight in Ghost Trick. This was inherited by Dai Gyakuten Saiban

Takumi: We used motion capture for Dai Gyakuten Saiban. In the original stories, Holmes could deduce the most incredible things from a man's tiniest movements or the movements of the eyes and to reenact those scenes in Dai Gyakuten Saiban we used motion capture. This time we can control the movements of the eyes of the characters and to show that off at the start of the game, I came up with... restless-eyes-Ryūnosuke.

Interviewer: Ah, yes, his eyes did move around a lot in his character introduction promotion video.

Takumi: That's the thing we wanted to mention the most today! (laugh). We can now control the eyes of all the major characters, but that takes a lot of time and by the end, our eyes too hurt. But it looks very good on the screen, so it was worth it. We didn't just use mo-cap to get realistic movements, but we also came up with "Gyakuten Saiban"-esque uses for it, so please look forward to it.

Ryūnosuke with his restless eyes. Presention you can only find in Dai Gyakuten Saiban!

Interviewer:  Now I want to ask about each of the charactes seperatedly. First is Naruhodō Ryūnosuke. What part of you made it into him as you made this new protagonist of the Gyakuten Saiban series?

The protagonist in this game, Naruhodō Ryūnosuke. While he has the ambience characteristic of the Naruhodō family, he also has the freshness of a student.

Takumi: When I created Naruhodō for Gyakuten Saiban (1), I mean Naruhodou Ryūichi (Phoenix Wright) and Odoroki Hōsuke (Apollo Justice), I had this in mind: the character has to be an avatar for the player. That’s why I tried to keep them ‘neutral’, without too strong a personality as I wrote the scenarios.

Interviewer: But there are people in the staff who say that Naruhodō is just like you?

Naruhodō appearing as a student in Gyakuten Saiban. They say he is just like Takumi.

Takumi: Because I conceive him as being “nothing special in particular”, I write his lines just the way they come up to me. And as a result, the character might sound like me (laugh). When I created Gyakuten Saiban 4’s Odoroki, I had to make sure he was different from Naruhodō, so my task was to give him a personality, for example by making him use the personal pronoun ore.

 Gyakuten Saiban 4’s Odoroki. The protagonist of Gyakuten Saiban 4, with the power of ‘perceiving’!

Takumi: Naturally, different characters need different personalities, but it’s also true it’s simply easier to write a protagonist similar to the writer himself. And when we’re were planning out Dai Gyakuten Saiban, the keyword “forefather” came up in my head. If I would write a Meiji-era Naruhodō, I wouldn’t have to really “think” about differentiate the characters, as this new time period alone would be help enough for me to write a character I myself feel familiar with, but still new and fresh. And we made them all members of the same Naruhodō clan, people familiar with Ryuūichi would have no trouble getting used to the new protagonists, while new fans would get a protagonist who is easy to get used to.

Ryūnosuke has a wealth of expressions in the game. Don’t miss the typical (?) reactions of the Naruhodōs!

Interviewer: And how about Asōgi? For an ally in the Gyakuten Saiban games, he is quite straightforward, I think.

Asōgi: a very straightforward character. Design choices, like where his sword hangs, were made to contrast him with Ryūnosuke.

Takumi: It took quite some time before we made our minds on the background of Asōgi, but art director Nuri’s design was good and we agreed upon the character design just like that. He would be the reason for Ryūnosuke to go to England, and is thus a very important character for the story, so it was hard to write him.

Asōgi holds a deep bond of friendship with Ryūnosuke. He is portrayed as a thoughtful character who supports his friend

Interviewer: How about Dai Gyakuten Saiban’s new heroine, Mikotoba Susato?

Takumi: The heroines of Gyakuten Saiban are always right by the protagonist’s side, so it’s important that they have elements of being “an ally”, “an ideal partner” and “a fun character to be with”. That has been the same since Mayoi (Maya Fey) in the first game.

Dai Gyakuten Saiban’s heroine, Susato. A Yamato Nadeshiko recognizable by her hakama.

Susato came from the same concept. And from the Meiji period, I added the keyword Yamato Nadeshiko. She’s a legal assistant, but as an independent working lady, she’s a very progressive character. You see how dignified she holds herself. This time I made her a simple partner on purpose, so no spirit channeling or magic tricks.

Gyakuten Saiban’s original heroine, Mayoi. A very fun character to have as a partner.

Interviewer: And how about the rival prosecutor Barok van Zieks, the strongest foe in the Old Bailey? Are there elements you paid attention to when you created him, in comparison to Mitsurugi (Miles Edgeworth) or Godot?

The strongest “Death God” prosecutor of this game, Van Zieks. An extreme coolness can be felt from his looks alone.

Takumi: Gyakuten Saiban’s Mitsurugi appeared in the very first game, so I was able to write him freely according to my own mental image of the “ideal rival”.

The prosecutor of Gyakuten Saiban (1), Mitsurugi Reiji. A very unique character!

“The biggest talent of the Prosecutor’s Office” was something I could do because it was the first game, but I couldn’t do that come up with a genius every time, so coming up with prosecutors has been difficult ever since the second game. I came up with all kinds of things. Karuma Mei (Franziska von Karma) was “a hard worker who had to be perfect because she was Karuma Gō (Manfred von Karma)’s daughter” and Godot was “a big one despite being new at the job”. The prosecutors are giving me trouble every time (laugh).

Rival prosecutors Karuma Mei (2) and Godot (3). Both are unique rival characters, almost too unique!

Takumi: With Van Zieks this time, I created the character keeping in mind it Dai Gyakuten Saiban was set in another time period and focused on that. The “people” were much more influential in the courtrooms of the 19th century, also considering they had jury trials.

The new system Jury Trials, also a symbol of the chaotic energy of the masses of that time

Takumi: The prosecutor might present a perfect case, but the voice of the people and simple flukes can just overturn the verdict. The trials back then had an element you couldn’t fight with just by being good at the job. So I thought about what kind of prosecutor it would be, who could still make sure the defendant would not escape in such a world, with lay judges who know nothing about the law and where verdicts on good and evil were not made based on simply the law. The defendant would be helpless regardless the verdict… from this, I came up with the keyword “death god”, and thus Barok van Zieks was born.

The prosecutor of this game, Death God Van Zieks. The pressure of the darkness behind him is tremendous.

 There is something majestic to his Objection!

Interviewer: I see. So you create the characters keeping the time period in mind. And now, something on Holmes? He’s become quite different from the original stories in a way, but had you planned it like that from the beginning?

 An important character in this game: Sherlock Holmes. He is ahead of his time, but also too smart.

Takumi: For this game, it was already planned that it would be about “correcting the wrong deductions of the great detective”. So I was terribly sorry, but Dai Gyakuten Saiban’s Holmes was destined to never say anything correct.

Because he is too smart, Holmes lands on “the other side of the truth”. Seeing him go wild is something to look forward too.

Takumi: Did you know that just a few months after Conan Doyle started publishing the stories of Sherlock Holmes, people were already making parodies? The history of Holmes pastiches is almost as a long as that of the proper history. There are some of those stories I really like, and our Holmes was born as another one of those loving parodies.

Interviewer: And what about Watson? I think this was also a big step away from the original?

Iris Watson, the girl who writes down Holmes’ adventures as novels. What a cute partner!

Takumi: True. Ryūnosuke has his partner, so we thought that it would be more interesting for Holmes to have a Watson who wasn’t just another English gentleman, but someone complete different. In the world of pastiches, this is quite common, and there are many variations like a boy Watson, or a female Watson. In a way, it’s a rather predictable change.

Cute is justice

Dai Gyakuten Saiban, With Thanks To The Fans

Interviewer: Gyakuten Saiban is also well received outside Japan and that’s one of the reasons it appeared in Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3, but what do you think about the enormous fan reaction abroad?

Takumi: To be honest, there are few occasions for me to directly see the fan reaction as I’m in Japan. Some years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Comic Con and do promotion abroad for Ghost Trick, and I was able to talk to students abroad and the press, and I was happy so any of them said it was fun directly to me. Oh yeah, interviewers abroad ask rather detailed, almost maniacal questions, the kinds you’d hardly hear here in Japan, and answering those questions was a stimulating and fun experience. I oversaw the dialogue lines of Naruhodō in Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3, and I was shown a video of when he was announced abroad. Seeing everyone there yell out in joy, gave me a warm feeling.

Interviewer: Finally, a word to all the players.

Takumi: It's been fifteen years since the first Gyakuten Saiban, but thanks to all of you playing the game, we've now been able to make Dai Gyakuten Saiban. From people who've been there since the first game to people who only started last week, when I think about it and realize that Dai Gyakuten Saiban is a game made possible because of a long history of people after people playing the games, I can only be enormous grateful for it. Gyakuten Saiban is a series that has grown to what it is now because of those playing the games and I myself too am only here because of the reactions of the fans. Dai Gyakuten Saiban is the game where I poured all my feelings of thanks in, hoping to repay your kindness. I'd be happy if you'll play the game!

Interviewer: Thank you.

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