Saturday, July 30, 2016

Turnabout Interview 2 – Development Staff Discussion (2005)

Title: Turnabout Interview 2 – Development Staff Discussion / 「逆転インタビュー② 開発スタッフ座談会」
Source: Turnabout Crossover

Summary: A discussion interview about the first DS release of the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series with director Takumi Shū, producer Matsukawa Minae and character designer Nuri Kazuya. The interview was included in the booklet Turnabout Crossover (2005), which was part of the Limited Editon of the Nintendo DS release of Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten (Ace Attorney DS). This was the first game in the series to be released abroad, and the three talk about this new challenge for the series in the interview. Other topics include Takumi definitely not wanting to do anything for the DS port, looking back at the first game, the things they changed for the DS version, character design and more.

The Start Was Taking On The Foreign Challenge!

Interviewer: Could you first tell us how what led to the decision to develop Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney 1) for the Nintendo DS?

Takumi: The original catchphrase for this project was actually “the Gyakuten Saiban series abroad!”.

Matsukawa: The series had already had releases up until 3 (Ace Attorney 3 – Trials and Tribulations), but last year, they said they wanted to publish the first game in the United States. We had just heard the news the DS'd be released in the United States. So we decided we’d take on the American Challenge with this new piece hardware. With our eyes closed.

Takumi: And the DS, it's a machine with a touch panel, and a microphone, all more intuitive ways to control a game. So we thought that the game would definitely catch on in the United States, and I thought by myself: “Just imagine what the developers could do with a second screen in Gyakuten Saiban!”

Matsukawa: …Like it was all none of your business.

Takumi: But at first, it was just the simple story of translating all four episodes of the original 1, and then port it, right? I wasn’t even part of the team then.

Matsukawa: Yes. But then the people here in Japan heard about the port, and came complaining like: “Are you just ignoring Japan now?” And then it became chaos. If we’d release the game here in Japan, it couldn't be just a simple port, the fans obviously would want a new episode. So that’s why I told Mr. Takumi to write a new episode. And he suddenly changed his mind about the whole deal and started to complain. “I don’t wanna write anymore!”.

Takumi: I never said that! …Or did I? But I really hated adding something to 1. That was a story that was completed perfectly within those four episodes. So I said: “At least just go with the original four episodes for the US version,” but that idea got kicked down.

Matsukawa: Of course. Then the Americans would’ve started complaining.

Takumi: So I retaliated again with: “At least don’t call it Episode 5. Let’s say it’s Episode X!” But it was rejected because it’d be difficult to understand. Actually, I kinda knew that would happen.

Matsukawa: So he was being nothing but trouble from the start. And when it was decided we would add an extra episode, we all got dreams about using all of the DS’ functionalities. We first thought the project would be over quickly because it was a port, but it took as much as time as making a completely new game.

Takumi: But I was really happy the game was released abroad. It had been my dream.

Matsukawa: Really?

Takumi: When I made 1, I had hopes for a release abroad , of course. That’s why I didn’t use very Japanese tricks in 1.

Matsukawa: You mean like your wordplay and dad jokes?

Takumi: No, I'm talking about Japanese tricks! But once 1 was finished and it was decided it wouldn’t be released abroad, I just did whatever I wanted from 2 (Ace Attorney 2 – Justice for All) on.

Matsukawa: But we had problems with the difference in language and culture when translating the game.

Takumi: It seems there’s a difference in feeling. For example, for Japanese people, we might think it’d better to cut off at this point, but for the overseas version, you’d need to explain it all the way through. For example:

Akane (Ema Skye): That’s the relativity theory, right? … Where he did come from again? This Mr. Rel Ativity?

…You should actually stop here, but over there you’d need to add:

Naruhodō (Phoenix Wright): (Does she think relativity is a name?)

Matsukawa: They’re open to everything in the States.

The Goal Was The Perfect Version!

Interviewer: I heard that Mr. Nuri was the new character designer?

Nuri: Yes. It was also the first time I worked with Mr. Takumi, so it was difficult getting a hold on everything. You know that throughout the three games, the art of Gyakuten Saiban has really come to gain its own unique touch and feeling? So I really didn’t want people saying: “That isn’t Gyakuten Saiban” once I took over.

Takumi: This was the first time we changed the staff for character designs. There are two types of designers: one focuses on “themselves”, and the other follows the “original”. Balance is what is important here, but I think Nuri focused on the latter.

Matsukawa: But what you said the most during the illustration checks was: “That’s wrong.” Objecting like Naruhodo.

Nuri: And every time I was told that, I felt like a cornered witness... But I think I had somewhere noticed it myself too. If I had tried getting away with those designs, I’d definitely be pronounced guilty later on. So I’d take the art back home and try again.

Takumi: There are “rules” to the character designs of Gyakuten Saiban. So I wanted Nuri to figure out those rules for himself. And I made the background story for the Hōzuki (Skye) sisters similar to the Ayasato (Fey) sisters and let him start his work.

Nuri:  The characters of 1 are actually surprisingly realistic. Detective Itonokogiri (Dick Gumshoe) and Chihiro (Mia Fey), they look like they are very unique, but once you look closely, it’s hard getting a good grasp on them. I first drew the four main characters, but it took me over a month to get a hold of that.

Matsukawa: Ah. That illustration you drew as exercise, that’s the one of the four used on the back of the box.

Takumi: Yes, it does look right.

Nuri: Of course! … Though I think it might be problem we’re using an illustration I drew as an exercise there.

Takumi: The real problem is your name, actually (TN: Nuri means ‘coloring’).You’re the main designer, so whenever a character was ready, it needed checking by you. “Today, we have a nuri check. A, I mean, nuri as in coloring, not nuri as in Mr. Nuri…)”

Matsukawa: The team had to pay extra attention to that.

Takumi: It’s rare name. Is it your real name?

Nuri: That’s not a question a Takumi should ask.

Interviewer: What about the music of the DS version?

Takumi: The music? We don’t have anyone here who worked on sound, but it wasn’t easy I can tell you. If we used all of the DS functionalities, it’d have been easy to just get better sound quality. But we didn’t do that on purpose.

Matsukawa: “On purpose”.  Notice that.

Takumi: Fans, myself included, have fond memories of the music of Gyakuten Saiban. And with music, I don’t just mean melody and rhythm, but also the feeling and the tones of the music. So we didn’t change that. But we did cut down on the noise and changed the arrangement so it sounded clearer. It was more a remaster than a remix.

Nuri: It does sound clear now. Especially when you use a headphone.

 Matsukawa: I like Tonosoman (The Steel Samurai)! That arranged version is good~!

Takumi: Yes, it is good.

Nuri: It’s very popular, that song. But I think the new songs are good too.

Matsukawa: I like Taiho-kun (the Blue Badger)’s song. Taiho-kun.

Takumi: That song was the first one that was finished this time. It was done extremely fast. When I first heard it, I thought: “This is it!”

Nuri: You even called all of the team. “Just listen to this!” We didn’t had any footage to go with it then even.

Interviewer: One of the new features that makes use of the DS’s capabilities is that you can use the microphone and shout. Could you comment on that?

Matsukawa: Early on, I did a simple presentation for the American team and they said: “Oh, so that’s where you’ll shout ‘Objection!’, right?”  That caught on, and the Japanese team also said: “We really should shout there.” And before we knew it, shouting had become an important element. So I went to Mr. Takumi…and he complained. “I don’t want that.”

Nuri: Again?

Takumi: I didn’t really like it. “Don’t include things we don’t need.” That’s the policy behind the Gyakuten Saiban series. So she then convinced me that we could at least have something then that used the microphone, and that’s how I came up with the fingerprinting.

Matsukawa: I thought that was a good idea too. But the consensus all over the world was that they wanted to shout. It was too late by then.

Takumi: But thanks to my stubbornness, we got the fingerprints, so my struggle was not for nothing.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you changed about episode one to four besides adding touch and microphone controls?

Takumi: The resolution of the screen on the DS is different from the previous games. It’s wider, so we needed to draw extra on the sides. You can now see more of the background, and it looks really nice. But some people do say the characters look a bit smaller because of that.

Matsukawa: Oh, outside of the system itself, we also made some small changes to the presentation of the scenario.

Nuri: It did change. I played a little and I was quite surprised. It’s flashier now.

Takumi: I made this extra episode after we made 3. I played the first episode just to get into it again and look back, but I couldn’t look at it anymore. The presentation was so rough.

Matsukawa: You’re rejecting your former self?

Takumi: We really didn’t have any time back when we made 1. I had my hands full on writing the scenario, so the speed of the dialogue or the moments of silence, the timing of the music and the sound effects, the movements of the characters, I just didn’t had the time to adjust all of that.  I didn’t have that much leeway this time either, so I wanted to close my eyes for that…

Matsukawa: So you made a mistake by trying to look back.

Takumi: My goal was perfecting the game, given the time I had. I hope people who have played 1 often, can cry out: “They changed this!”

Episodes 1 ~ 4 Are “Unbeatable”! 

Interviewer: How was it taking a new look at 1?

Takumi: I was surprised it was so short.

Matsukawa: Ah, you were?

Takumi: Episode 2, Turnabout Sisters, the first Investigation part is over in twenty minutes. I thought: “What the?!” In Episode 5, you wouldn’t even have left the office yet by then.

Nuri: Yeah. If you finish Episode 4, see the credits and then start with the new episode like nothing has changed, you’re in for a shock. Usually, you can feel if it’s about the end, right? If you’re planning to play just a little and then go to sleep, you’ll never get your rest.

Takumi: But the scenario of Episode 1 ~4 is really well made. It’s unbeatable, in a way.

Matsukawa: Wow, now you’re going to praise your own work?

Takumi: No, but I mean, no matter what I’ll do, nothing will ever surpass that story.

Matsukawa: But in an interview last year, I’m sure you said: “The last episode of 3 is the best.”

Takumi: Yeah. That’s a good story.

Matsukawa: Which is it going to be!

Takumi: You know, 3 was the balance I eventually managed to find. 1 was the first time I ever wrote a scenario. So I used the best ideas I had, and really poured everything I had into it. But I was still inexperienced in terms of skill. But I slowly changed starting with 2. And for the last episode in 3, I was really all alone there, and the pressure of thinking: “If I fail here, all I did the last few years will have been for nothing” was the final key I needed. 1 was my motivation, and I really love it, and even I am envious at how good it is.

Matsukawa: He’s being really pushy about it, but just put all of his self-praising in the interview. I think he’ll regret it later.

Interviewer: Are there any ideas you couldn’t use?

Takumi: No. I used up everything I could think of.

Nuri: Eh? I thought you said there were still things you didn’t manage to do with the scenario?

Takumi: Ah, whenever I write a scenario, I have a core idea. Perhaps I should call it a “direction”. So I wrote a story by expanding on a core idea… But I cut it in the end. That core.

Matsukawa: Why?

Takumi: Before I start writing, I always think of the overall plot, but the day before I started writing this time, I thought the plot was might perhaps be too long.

Matsukawa: “Perhaps”?

Takumi: When I plotted the story, another “core” came to me naturally. But it was in the way. It put the original “core” out of focus.

Matsukawa: He’s talking all like that, but he’s the only one who knows what he’s talking about. Sorry for that.

Takumi: Anyway, I figured it’d be shorter this way, and started writing. But then we started developing, and the project just wouldn’t end. Gyakuten Saiban is usually a team that doesn’t have do any crazy things…

Nuri: I thought it was a team that did crazy things.

Matsukawa: He finished the scenario in December of last year, on the last day in the office. What a shock that was. He put down two folders, each of them over 5 centimeters thick, right in front of me. I thought: “Oh, so that’s it. Go read this during New Year?”.

Nuri: And that scenario wasn’t even really completed,

Matsukawa: Oh yeah!

Nuri: That was a surprise. The writer suddenly appeared in court saying sorry and making up all kinds of excuses.

Matsukawa: And the judge would get mad at him, and he’d say: “Sorry! I’ll finish it next year!” and then it ended. At the end of the scenario it said: “The End?”. What did you mean with the “?” !

Nuri: “It took me two days to go through it and then it ends like this?!” I thought.

Takumi: Actually, the last episode of 2 also ended like this. At first. For me, the scenario just goes until the verdict.

Matsukawa: … Oh, so now you’re acting like this is normal?

Takumi: But to be serious. I was influenced by 3. I thought I had to surpass that final episode. So I put a lot into the new episode. And I also wanted to use the DS’ capabilities.

Matsukawa: You did put a lot in it. It’s a big story, but it’s not just that.

Takumi: When we were finished, I did think that it might be too long. And it isn’t good if the episode weighs down too much on the players. Hmmm. This is a difficult problem.

The Secret Behind Designing The Characters

Interviewer: Could you tell us about the characters in Episode 5? Let’s start with the Hōzuki sisters.

Nuri: I first started working on Akane. It took me quite some time, as she was the first design I did for Gyakuten Saiban, and she was in an important position as the replacement of Mayoi (Maya Fey).

Nuri: I wanted her to have the same aura like Mayoi. That would be the reason why Naruhodō (Phoenix Wright)  would take her case after meeting with her. Like: “You’re…Mayoi?”.

Matsukawa: I really thought she was someone in the Ayasato (Fey) family.

Nuri: Where to make her look like Mayoi, and where to change her… it was tough balancing that. I of course didn’t just want to make a character that looked like Mayoi. I actually wanted to remove the hair bun from her head too.

Matsukawa: But then she’d not be like Mayoi!

Nuri: …Is what she said, so I gave up on that. So I worked with the idea of scientific investigation. A lab coat, testing tubes in her pouch. There’s water in those tubes, you know.

Matsukawa: You decided it was water.

Takumi: We tried things with the pouch, but it wouldn’t show on the screen.

Nuri: And those badges she wears, three of them. Those are symbols of elements.

Takumi: You have quite some memories of her. The Three Elemental Brothers, I think it was?

Nuri: Atomic Sisters. You can just make it out if you look carefully, but they form H20 together. But it isn’t mentioned in the scenario.

Takumi: …You have some obsession with water it seems.

Matsukawa: Ahaha!

Nuri: I had a very delicate goal too with Tomoe (Lana). She couldn’t look too strict, but if she looked too caring she’d be like Chihiro (Mia Fey). And as I tried drawing her, I myself starting to get confused.

Takumi: I know that feeling.

Matsukawa: But the director did not empathize with you…

Nuri: As for her clothes, Chihiro was already wearing  a suit, so I wanted something even more formal,  something in the image of an army uniform. With medals on it.

Matsukawa: Are those medals?

Nuri: Perhaps it’s of the Kenji of the Year (King of Prosecutors). But I was told she could only change her facial expressions and movements in a very small range, so it was difficult coming up with different stances within that range.

Interviewer: Any thoughts about the other characters in Episode 5?

Matsukawa: I like the police officer. What’s his name again?

Takumi: Harabai Susumu (Mike Meekins).

Nuri: He’s the first character we got to “move” after we had decided on the character designs. There were members who had never drawn genga (key animation drawings) before, so we did this as an exercise.

Takumi: It was the first time, so we took quite some time. And so he became the most lively character.

Matsukawa: Even though he’s the most expandable character. You know how surprised I was when you first showed him?

Takumi: He plays up in a weird way to the ideas of people. “Yessir, megaphone!” “Yessir, pose!”.

Nuri: Bending his pinky when he salutes. Kinda makes you mad.

Takumi: And his dialogues too. The ending of his sentences, “~de arimasu kara shite!”, takes away ten characters each time. He really should learn to talk like Detective Itonokogiri.

Matsukawa: My favorite this time, Mr. Patrol Officer!

Nuri: We had the keyword “cowboy” for Zaimon (Jake Marshall) from the start. So we thought of things from there. It was difficult to decide how far we could go within the world of Gyakuten Saiban.

Takumi: Everyone was quite normal in 1. In comparison to 2 or 3.

Nuri: But we all played until 3. So you want to go with that in mind.

Takumi: That lunch-box seller, was just a little bit strange.

Matsukawa: Oh, you mean, “Barf-Up” O-Kyō (“Cough-Up Queen” Angel Starr)?

Nuri: It was quite a shock when I first read the scenario. I went: “Eeeh?!”. I don’t think I can process that visually, I really thought.

Matsukawa: Can’t process, so you too barfed up.

Takumi: I don’t the me last year could’ve written that. But I thought it’d be fun if there was a character who’d talk tough. I was not sure whether I’d leave it in the actual game though.

Matsukawa: And then there was the onigiri on her head. It’d be released abroad, so I thought a sandwich could also work. But then we’d have big discussions that lunchboxes aren’t the same as sandwiches.

Interviewer: And finally, anything to say about the Chief of the Police, Ganto Kaiji (Damon Gant)?

Nuri: He was the last character I made. That was mostly because of the schedule. It was shortened, but I managed to fight back and complete his design.

Takumi:  I always have the image of director Uzai (Sal Manella) in my head when I think of him. You know, of Tonosaman (The Steel Samuri).

Matsukawa: Eeeh?! Why?

Nuri: The scenario isn’t made at the same time as the characters. So we used characters from 1 temporarily for the characters that weren’t finished yet. O-Kyō was Ōsawagi Natsumi (Lotta Hart), Zaimon was Konaka Masaru (Redd White) and Ganto was director Uzai. So near the end of development, when I had switched him with the one I had finally managed to finish thanks to hard work, everyone said: “But that’s not Ganto!”. I couldn’t take that.

Takumi: Ganto…We had the legendary prosecutor Karuma Gō (Manfred von Karma) appear in Episode 4, so I needed a character who could compete with him, but with something else, so I had trouble figuring out his personality.

Nuri: We first talked about a Beethoven-like character.

Takumi: With a conductor’s stick. And we thought that musical terms could be fun too. Saying something like: “The case enters its third movement, a fermata where the verbose tremolo of the accelerando  has gives us a premonition of the scherzo’s grand finale.”

Matsukawa: You like writing like that, don’t you?

Riot! The “Let Me Draw” Incident

Interviewer: Now we move away from the game, and talk about this booklet itself. It appears that Mr. Takumi himself draw a couple of four-panel comics (see the next pages!).

Matsukawa. Ah. You want to know why? He came to me, demanding: “Let me draw!”

Takumi: Eh! I didn’t say that. Not as arrogant like that.

Nuri: But you said: “I’m drawing, so it’s going to be good.”

Takumi: I didn’t say that…perhaps I did. But it was just the perfect timing. When I was told about the limited edition. Over the phone.

Matsukawa: What do you mean with perfect timing?

Takumi: That day, a team member had brought a dōjinshi of Gyakuten Saiban. It was a four-panel comic, but the quality was a bit questionable. So as I read it, it started to itch. And then the phone rang.

Matsukawa: And that was me?

Takumi: I was holding the dōjinshi in my other hand then. As I was listening to you.

Matsukawa: We had just decided we’d do a limited edition, so I told him that I was thinking of asking Ms. Suekane for a comic. I wanted to hear what he had to say about that, but it was like we were at cross-wires. “Don’t care about that.”

Nuri: How childish.

Matsukawa: So I said I’d leave four pages free, so he could do whatever he wanted. And he was like: “I’ll show you!”.

Nuri: He looked like he was having so much fun. He was humming as he was drawing at the desk beside mine.

Takumi: I’ll tell you here in secret, but I was in heaven. I had just finished my own work, and could really concentrate on the comic. The comic is what made the most impression on me in the whole project.

Matsukawa: But you cheated. Even using a computer. First you said you’d draw on the back of some printing papers.

Nuri: He was paying attention to the smallest details. I was still working on the graphics, but he’d come asking me about everything. What’s a good pen, I can’t draw a straight line, how to use the tools. And when I started to think he was a bother, I’d see him being all happy and it’d make me seem the bad guy if I complained about that.

Takumi: I drew everything myself. But I was helped with the final coloring by people from the team.

Matsukawa: An amateur with assistants. You won’t be forgiven by all those young people who are trying to become a pro.

Takumi: Nakashima, Aoki, thanks to both of you! I’m really grateful.

Interviewer: And now a final message for all the fans please.

Takumi: Well, thanks for your purchase.

Matsukawa: Thank you very much. I am really happy you picked up Yomigaeru Gyakuten (Ace Attorney DS).

Nuri: The characters of the new episode are made to follow up on 1, but also to give you a new Gyakuten Saiban. I hope you can support these new characters too.

Takumi: I noticed it now I played it again, but Chihiro says: “Mayoi, wait for three years and then see.” And now it’s three years later… and oh! She was right! I think that people who have played until 3 will also discover new things. Try playing it again with a fresh mind.

Matsukawa: It’s not been easy, but it’s finally released. I’m relieved. I am really grateful to the team that managed to overcome all obstacles, and everyone who waited patiently for this release. We’re waiting for your reactions to the game!

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