Hakoere Vol.20 Special Interview (1998)

Hakoere Vol.20 Special Interview with Tetsuya Takahashi and Kunihiko Tanaka (only select parts translated)

Translation by: Lugalbanda (https://xenomira.wordpress.com/2018/06/30/hakoere-vol-20-special-interview-with-tetsuya-takahashi-and-kunihiko-tanaka-only-select-parts-translated/).

This is an interview that took place as a 20th volume special for the now-discontinued “The PlayStation” magazine. [Perfect Works had just come out.] For this interview, I will skip around to translate only the new and or interesting parts of the interview, as a lot of the information has already been stated multiple times by Tanaka and Takahashi in other interviews.
- Lugalbanda

Hakozaki Elements 20th Volume Special
The Creators Behind the Moving Game

On the subject of when Tanaka received an offer to work on the project

Interviewer: When were you first asked to be a part of Xenogears?

Kunihiko Tanaka: Around the summer of ’95. I was working on a Tankobon at the time. I also worked on anime; Fam and Ihrie and KEY. I’m not so sure [was the response I gave at the time]. But then, in April or May of the following year, Takahashi-san asked me again, so I understood he was serious.

On the subject of Perfect Works

Tetsuya Takahashi: The lore in that [Perfect Works] was something that I had already come up with at the very beginning of development. But I’m not a good communicator, and I tend to hold things in. So I think there were only one or two people among my staff who knew all of the details inside and out. My hope is that users will expand the world [of Xenogears] with it.

Spelling of characters

Takahashi: The spellings of characters found in Perfect Works should be nearly perfect. But there’s actually an error in some parts… (laughs) (Note: the way he says it can be taken as either one error or multiple errors) But for the main characters, it’s definitely the correct spelling.

Interviewer: Main characters… That includes characters like Margie and Sigurd, correct?

Takahashi: Yes. (laughs) Every character that gets a face close-up artwork should be correct.

Regarding the shift from FFVII to Xenogears

Interviewer: Xenogears has a strong sci-fi undertone. Was this the intention from the beginning?

Takahashi: It was pure sci-fi for me at the beginning. But because of the change of course that I mentioned earlier [from FFVII to Xenogears], and considering the staff’s own tastes and what they specialized in, I thought it would be better if we had certain elements from fantasy genres.

About Emeralda and Bart

Tanaka: Emeralda doesn’t have a surname, does she?

Takahashi: She never had one. She never had one, but it appeared on a guide on V Jump for some reason. After that, a lot of books started using that surname… She should have no surname in Perfect Works.

Interviewers: Users are very keen to know those kinds of small details. Like, “Which way does Bart’s eyepatch go?”

Tanaka: That’s my mistake. (laughs) It was easier to do it facing leftward, and I thought I would just mirror the image later on my computer… and then it ended up just being used as is.

About Seraphita

Takahashi: The reference for Lucie (Seraphita[Tanaka gave the Elements their own names because he didn’t know they already had one]) is quite dangerous.

Tanaka: There’s a character from a certain game called Roomi…

Interviewer: Ga_axy Fi_ht. [Galaxy Fight]

Tanaka: Yes. I wanted to make her [Seraphita] like her [Roomi], so I went with the similar sounding Lucie…

Interviewer: They also speak in the same distinct way.

Takahashi: Her personality and how she was treated among the four was always the same from the beginning. But as I talked with Tanaka, I noticed he seemed to like that sort of thing, so I just told him he could do what he wanted to do with her.

How Tanaka worked with the team

Tanaka: I struggled with Elly’s uniform. I had a lot of different uniform ideas… Oh yeah, when I was in the process of that, I accidentally sent the fax to a wedding hall somewhere. (laughs) There was a bunny girl Elly that I had drawn as a joke in part of the fax I had sent, and I received a call from them asking if I really wanted to send this their way.

On Demi-humans

Interviewer: Demi-humans have an animal they’re based on. I thought the captain of Thames was a dog…

Takahashi: He’s often mistaken for a dog. Hans and Franz being penguins…

Tanaka: What!? They’re not?

Interviewer: They’re supposed to be a walrus and a dolphin, right?

Takahashi: Because you can’t see the lower part of their body.

Tanaka: I thought he would have a tail or something. (laughs)

reader’s question ~geniuine questions~ (Note: This part will be translated in full.)

Interviewer: There are a few specific questions that are asked quite frequently in fan mail that we receive. Please answer some of these questions to the best of your abilities.

First of all, about the hideout in the snowfields. Jessie and Yui are nowhere to be seen… What’s this all about?

Takahashi: Nor are Ramsus and the Elements.

…This is a tough question. (laughs)

Interviewer: Some people thought Ramsus would join the party.

Takahashi: Just think of them as out there doing their own thing… There’s a lot that went on behind the scenes (this is unmistakably talking about development in the Japanese), but we really were planning on including it in regards to the story. So they’re not gone. And you can summon Jessie anytime anyway. (laughs)

Interviewer: And a lot of fan mail saying Citan might actually be a scary person.

Takahashi: “Awoken Citan” was quite scary. (laughs) (Note: referencing a doodle that Tanaka did of Citan.)

Interviewer: That as well, but the whole giving the canned food to Elly and Fei, and not eating it himself thing. Or making an unethical Gear that uses humans as bullets…

Takahashi: Hmmm. I wanted to give a comedic aspect to his character. I think he personally wouldn’t have given the canned food to them. But it was more fun that way as a game. As for Gears… Because of Citan’s interests, his means become the end often. There are quite a bit of enemy Gears in the game that are actually crafted by Citan. I think you see it during the event for the underground Ethos HQ section. The Alkanshel Gear that he uses has the partial involvement of Citan, too.

Interviewer: And the Episode V that appears at the end of the game…

Takahashi: Xenogears was originally planned to be a story of space that spanned 15 billion years. So the actual game of Xenogears covers Episode V of that. Initially, we had separated the events of 500 years ago as Episode IV, and the modern era as Episode V, with IV being Part 1 and V being Part 2, but the company told us to bundle it into one. I want to release II and III in a different medium. I don’t care if it’s a novel or a manga or an anime, but I began with V because I thought it would be the easiest to grasp and would be the most interesting.

Interviewer: I’ve heard of users getting into sci-fi novels because of hearing information like that on the internet or in magazines. Psychology books as well. Xenogears has a lot of psychology terms.

Takahashi: I don’t think I can thank Jung and Lacan enough. (laughs) If you look at Jung’s work through a logical lens, you’ll realize that a lot of what he writes is actually not sound logic, or makes you go, “wait, what?”. He’s got a bit of the crazy gene in him, but as a resource for writing, or just as an entertaining read, his stuff is gold.

Interviewer: This isn’t a question, but we get a lot of fan mail about the bed scene. I was personally shocked as well.

Takahashi: Well, I put it in for a reason. There was no ulterior motive. However, I did think it was odd that no company had done it before. In movies, you see it all the time. Because it’s something that you can’t avoid as a human, it should be something that’s fine to put in video games. I guess part of it has to do with the fact that small kids play these games.

Interviewer: Users seem to be blushed by it. (laughs)

Takahashi: I do feel it is a bit hard to look at because of how real the situation is. (laughs)

Interviewer: Also some feedback about the action being too demanding.

Takahashi: Seems so. I didn’t feel that way. As the self-proclaimed 2D-fighting champion at Square, I don’t think games these days ask for particularly much.

Interviewer: This could be said about Hakoere even more so, but Xenogears seems to have a sizeable female userbase, which contributed to that [larger volume of feedback regarding the action sections].

Takahashi: I do think that the jumping section was hard, now that I think about it.

Interviewer: Babel Tower?

Takahashi: Mmhm. And I’ve heard of people quitting on the first trip up the mountain. Couldn’t keep up with the 3D graphics, apparently.

Interviewer: It was a first for RPGs to have a screen that moves that much.

Takahashi: Make everything in 3D, and put it at a set angle to play. Move the camera only in specific event scenes. That was probably the best way to go about it. During development, we had ideas for hiding things in certain places and the like, and those ideas ended up taking priority. [He says this in a rather regretful way.]

Interviewer: I remember having to spin the camera around a lot for Xenogears. (laughs)

Takahashi: You do get lost a lot, the first time. It’s more realistic that way. In a real town, if you go from the opposite direction that you usually come from, it can look like a totally different place. It’s small, but I wanted to do something like that in this game.
in the futuer[sic] ~from here on~

Interviewer: Are there plans for novelizations or animes?

Takahashi: I’m not sure. I personally want to, but it depends on how users will react.

Interviewer: Maybe a manga by Tanaka-san…

Tanaka: (matter of factly) that won’t happen.

Takahashi: He’s busy, too. (laughs)

Interviewer: There’s a lot of that sort of thing in the fan mail we get. Things like, “Please don’t make it a Kanto-only anime, and air nationwide”. (laughs) (Note: Although this is not as apparent as it used to be, a lot of TV shows in Japan would only air in certain areas of the country, leaving other parts of the country without an option to watch the show if it didn’t air in their local stations, or only aired much after it’s original showing. Anime was no exception.)

Takahashi: If we were gonna do something like that, we could just do something like tie-ups. (Note: the word “tie-up” in Japanese specifically refers to two or more companies collaborating together to produce something together. A good example would be something like the Cup Noodle collaboration that FFXV had with Nissin.) Making a predetermined product. It’s easy to pitch such an idea, but you can say it’s quite cynical also. Rather than doing that, I want the receivers’ reactions to mold the form, to ginger up the work. I think it’s better for the game if it’s that way. That’s what I think.

Interviewer: If fans ginger it up, Gear model kits could be possible?

Takahashi: It’s possible. If there’s a market, things will move naturally.

Interviewer: I’ve been thinking about it, but the Gear designs are not really mech-like.

Takahashi: I wanted to work on it some more, but we were on a tight schedule. I think the way it turned out was a success, though.

Interviewer: I’ll get to the heart of the matter! Will there be a sequel?

Takahashi: (Glances at Tanaka, and says quietly) Stay tuned.

Interviewer: (seeing that) Is Tanaka going to work on the character design for the next game, or…?

Takahashi: (cryptically) I’m not certain what will happen. (laughs)

Interviewer: A final word for Xenogears fans.

Takahashi: That’s hard. (laughs) If fans expand the world of Xeno, I think I can respond in some way. So please keep supporting us.

Tanaka: Uhh… “Please give me a lot of mail”, I guess? Seeing my art obviously fills me with happiness. But for every nine positive fan mails I get, that one negative one makes it impossible for me to work all day sometimes, too…

Interviewer: (matter of factly) Hakoere only receives such mail every a thousand or so. So readers. Please send your love-filled mail to Tanaka-sensei! Thank you all for today.

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