namco-ch.net Interview Part 1 (By W-General) [2006.02.26]
The following is a translation of an interview which is available at:
An interview with Mr. Takahashi (original plan and editing supervisor of NDS Xenosaga I-II) and Mr. Takeda (scenario). In this interview, they'll talk a lot about why Xenosaga I-II is so awesome. This is Part 1 of 2.
(We all know who Takahashi is)
Anime scenario writer. Most well known for his work on GAO-GAI-GAR, Banner of the Stars, Zipang, Xenosaga Outerfile (the drama CD). He also worked on the Xenosaga anime as series creator, supervisor, and storyboard.
Interviewer: You two have known each other for almost 10 years, but this is the first serious collaboration work you two has worked together right?
Takahashi: That's right. Even though he has worked as editing supervisor for Xenosaga Outer File, this is the first time we've worked together seriously. Apart from that, we've just kept in touch with email about topics we're both interested - it has been a private acquaintance. However, this time (Xeno I-II), in the company when we were deciding who to do the scenario, after some serious consideration, we decided to have Mr. Takeda do it. In relation to that, which became a bit of a dilemma...
Interviewer: And that is...?
Takahashi: Xenosaga THE ANIMATION. Since everything about the anime, we left it to the production committee. After we made our staff choices, only did we learn that Mr Takeda's also working on the anime storyboard. While we were relieved with their choices, there was also a sense of "They beat us to him~" (heh...)
Interviewer: While this has been discussed at many place, but the decision to name as the scenario writer for the anime, that's a coincidence?
Takeda: Right. Actually, at that time, they (the anime committee) had no idea that I was playing the game and also working on the scenario for the drama CD, but simply looked around randomly and asked "If there a scenario writer with strong background in SF and mecha, and likes games?" Then I was dragged over by coincidence.
Interviewer: Sounds like you were lead by the Zohar (LOL)
So the story for the game and the anime were being worked on concurrently?
Takahashi: Nop. Because this is a completely separate project, so we put it on halt until the work on the anime's completely finished. Of course this puts us on a bit of a strain for time, because this allowed a further understanding of the background settings, and also there was a need to do a complete re-analysis and re-construction of the anime and the original game, so we believe this is actually a plus for working on the scenario for Xenosaga I-II.
Takeda: That is indeed true. While the writing of the scenario for a game and anime is quite different, both requires a good look at the original work again, and also a deeper understanding of the settings. During that period of working on the anime...for about 6 months, I went to Namco once every week to discuss things. When the work on the anime was about to be done, I thought, "Hmm...looks like my time with Xenosaga is almost over..." and I was feeling a little sad. Obviously I was wrong, because then they asked me "Would you please work on the scenario for the game too." This time, for this project, it took more than 6 months, and I have to go to Monolith Soft to discuss things two every week...(LOL)
Interviewer: Since Takeda's job is mostly related to anime, what about games' scenarios?
Takeda: While I participated in several before, all I did was work on the basic skeleton of the story, and left the rest to those responsible. To be involved so deeply with a title...this was the first.
[From here on the rest was translated by Gwendal in 2012.]
Takahashi: When it comes to game scenarios, I thought that it'd probably be harder to write the more characters were added to the party...how did you feel about that? With 7 playable characters, an anime would have more chances to give each of them screen time and develop them, which might not necessarily be possible in a game.
Takeda: That was definitely hard too, and even if we only had 3 ES units, dealing with 7 characters was tough. And Canaan had to come with them to Old Miltia too, for instance. (Laughs)
Interviewer: How did you feel about being chosen for the job?
Takeda: Honestly, I was very happy, but very awestruck at the same time, as in "Can I really do this...?". I'd probably go so far as to say I'm the one who knows the most about Xenosaga in the anime industry, and I was confident I'd easily be a match for any other script writer when it came to turning it into an anime script, but could I write a full game script without the original creator?
Takahashi: Not at all, this is exactly why I was really thankful you were the one to take the job. The production period wasn't long at all, so it was invaluable that you'd already finished "Xenosaga Episode 1" (hereafter I) and "Xenosaga Episode 2" (hereafter II) and had an understanding of them. That way, you could treasure the original material while also adding some originality and good/hotter evolution in your writing. Also, you've understood my likes and ideas very well since way back. (Laughs) Takeda-san might the only one I could say that for.
Interviewer: Honestly, how did you feel while working on this [script]?
Takahashi: First I wrote an initial outline for everything, based on the original plan for the PS2 version, and Takeda-san would flesh it out while I'd oversee the process and come up with ideas. We kept doing this over and over again to finish the original plan for the DS version.
Takeda: Once we got to the scenario, I'd start by writing a preparatory script for one section based on the original plan, and we'd meet and use that as a starting point for discussion. Did it work setting-wise, was there any inconsistencies with the original plan, could it actually be turned into a game...? We discussed this thoroughly and also sent a lot of mails back and forth. When you think you're going to make a proper [could also be "accurate", or "neat"] sci-fi work, you also run into various limitations. But instead of focusing on how tough that is, I'd rather work within those limitations to make the most interesting thing possible, or use them in an interesting way. Not just limited to "Xenosaga", capitalizing on that is a mark of a skilled scenario writer in my opinion, so I was really happy whenever I felt I'd used them well.
Interviewer: It was really tough to write it, wasn't it?
Takeda: Yes. I was fairly anxious, there was a lot to do and little time, so I really worked hard writing it. But there were also many pleasant surprises for me, both as a script writer and as a fan.
Interviewer: Such as?
Takeda: In Episode 1, you'll suddenly get e-mails (Note: The mail system is in both Episode 1 and 2), and in the same way, I'd often get mails. Late at night, I'd suddenly be "salvaging fragments of the Y-Data". At those times, I forgot about my work and was absorbed in reading. (Laughs)
Takahashi: That doesn't mean I let him forget it (laughs), and since the materials and game data parts I've sent out are secret documents, I use a standalone computer to manage them. But when I change hard drives, if I forget where I've saved them... That is to say, since I remember the things I've made myself, I wrote it down and handed it out.
Interviewer: So you were sent a lot things like that?
Takeda: Yes. I tried to turn the episodes and dialogue I received from Takahashi-san into a form where they could be added to the game, while changing as little as possible. But the parts I started writing on didn't turn out to have a completely different feel, did they?
Takahashi: Just like Takeda-san kindly respected my original plan, I wanted to respect the parts he'd written and avoid interfering with them as long as there wasn't any problems on the setting side of things. It all flowed together very seamlessly.
Takeda: If it's possible to tell who has written what in the new parts, I guess we've failed. (Laughs)
Takahashi: Takeda-san is very good at the skills that go with being a "partner". When you're writing an original work, working with the staff or dealing with the media alongside a partner, those are absolutely essential skills for a professional. And his sense of originality balance that comes with that is exquisite too.
Takeda: Thank you very much. I'm only admitting this now, but I was nervous when I handed in the scenario.
Takahashi: No, there weren't any problems with it at all, so please don't worry about that!
Takeda: That's a bit of a relief, finally. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Are there any parts where Takeda-san's originality can be seen particularly well?
Takeda: Of course, I had some guidance, but there's a part in one of the sub-scenes I was allowed to write freely based on my conception.
Takahashi: That kind of brings the story of Takeda-san's experience full circle, doesn't it? (Laughs)
Takeda: Basically, since I privately tried to show the viewpoint of characters whose stories we couldn't tell this time and who didn't have priority, outside of Shion's group. [Not quite sure what he's talking about here...]
But as for me, that's...the rest is [part of] the enjoyment of playing the game. (Laughs)
Website: Next time, we'll introduce "the sequel". Look forward to it!
namco-ch.net Interview Part 2 [2006.03.09] (Translated by Gwendal, Aug 2012)
Interviewer: How do you specifically decide on things such as the flow of the story?
Takeda: The Episode 1 part is the foundation of this story, so we mostly left it alone. There is one difference in the endgame, as Proto Merkabah [lit.: Wheel of Heaven] and the Song of Nephilim were separate maps in the PS2 version, but we merged them in this one.
Takahashi: In the original plan, Proto Merkabah and the Song of Nephilim were actually [designed as] a set. As hinted at in Albedo's dialogue in Episode 1, they were originally one device along with the Zohar, but apart from the fact that the Zohar is on Old Miltia, we decided to split them up when considering both the gameplay and production perspective. There are many cases like this, where depending on hard characteristics [not sure about this one] and after considering the scenario, you sometimes change things and sometimes go along with the original plan. In this case, you could say that Episode I & II restored it to how it was in the original plan.
Interviewer: Episode 2 starts off with an incident from 14 years ago; how about I & II?
Takahashi: To emphasize that this is a single continuous story, the game just goes on without that interruption. However, we didn't cut any of the parts relating to 14 years ago from the scenario, and [rather] expanded on them.
Interviewer: Was it hard to connect Episodes 1 and 2?
Takeda: Yes, it was. I considered various methods, and while following Takahashi-san's original plan, I made sure to give characters who would be playing major roles in Episode 2 at least a little screen time early on and to have the story flow naturally.
Takahashi: The Patriarch [lit.: Pope] of the Immigrant Fleet also appears early on, doesn't he?
Interviewer: Did you make many changes to the Episode 2 part in particular?
Takeda: When we were rewriting it to be from Shion's viewpoint, we had no choice but to make big changes to the parts related to Episode 2 in particular.
Takahashi: When we went to beta, the Episode 1 part was 60-70%, while the Episode 2 part was only 30%, which wasn't very good from a balance standpoint.
Takeda: [But] all in all the Episode 2 part ended up being a little bigger.
Takahashi: With a long story, integrating [different] viewpoints is important, and by changing the main viewpoint to Shion, parts you wouldn't understand from Jr.'s viewpoint become clear, so that's why we decided to add more perspectives. Of course, we had to avoid discrepancies with the upcoming Episode 3 and so on, and there were a lot of requests, so I felt it was tough.
Takeda: I thought, "Is this basically okay as a port?", and [eventually] "This is already a [full] remake!". I was slightly...no, definitely tricked. (Strained laugh)
Takahashi: I didn't have any intention of tricking you (strained laugh), so I'm sorry about that.
Interviewer: It seems like you got many requests, so did you wish for anything in particular, Takeda-san?
Takeda: I like fiction with robots and grew up watching that, and today I do a lot of work on robot anime, so I wanted to emphasize the awesomeness of the ES units that appear in the second half. Such as the scenes with the ES partners facing each other, which was something I personally also wanted to see.
Apart from that, there's a rather nice bit of dialogue in Episode 2 where chaos says "I'm not lost anymore". Until he gets to that point, why chaos is lost, what he saw and where he decided to arrive at that line were things I wanted to depict very precisely, and I was readily allowed to do that. While I was reading the scenario for Episode 3 and the materials that form the foundation of the series setting and consulting [with Takahashi, I guess], I decided to include a scene with a short monologue and him negotiating with Wilhelm underwater to show his change of heart. After reading the scripts for Pied Piper [URL snipped] and Episode 3, I felt such a scene should definitely be included.
Takahashi: The original plan for Episode 2 can be roughly divided into three modules, with what we depicted in Episode 2 being one of them, and one of the remaining [modules] going into Episode 3. The last one is in Pied Piper, which while being Ziggy's story, is also important for giving valuable information on things like the Salvator and the Immigrant Fleet. You'll have to play it for the details, but as Takeda-san was saying, it gave me a chance not just to have the Patriarch make an appearance at an early stage, but also to include as much information about the Immigrant Fleet as possible.
Takeda: Oh, and while we're on the subject of the Salvator, we should mention Pierre Ruryk.
Takahashi: In the original plan, he was a nameless character who was a member of the Salvator, so his personal importance is quite insignificant. (Laughs)
Takeda: In regards to the main story, he's definitely not that important (laughs), but when it comes to tying the story cohesively together, speaking of the Salvator, he has a fairly important role.
Takahashi: Speaking of involvement with the Salvator, a grown-up Citrine will also be an important character in that regard. In the original plan, she was supposed to have a bigger role in Episode 2, but due to various circumstances we had no choice but to cut it. She will also be appearing in Episode 3, but as for the story of her growing to adulthood, she settled down and had a family as an ordinary person after being released from the shackles of Dimitri.
I didn't want to let go of those fundamental parts [of her character], but there was no other way, and I had to focus on the main thrust of the story. Takeda-san sympathized with me on that, and in her appearance in this game, he has skillfull made a supplement that will link up seamlessly with Episode 3.
Takeda: Apart from that, there were many parts I carefully considered to tie them in naturally with Episode 3.
Interviewer: There was also a picture of Richard and Hermann, right?
Takeda: When we were collaborating on the drama CD, I asked if those characters would be appearing in Episode 2, which they would.
Takahashi: I much prefer focusing on things to do with the main characters, so I didn't make graphics for them in Episode 2 to save time. They were a bit of an unlucky pair.
Takeda: Takeuchi-san made their facial expressions for me, while Taiga-san (director of virtual scenes), who knows the world of Xenosaga very well, designed their costumes. As for Richard, since I requested that Jr. should see him as a worthy opponent in a different way than Albedo, he is about the same age as Jr. seems to be from his external appearance. Hermann served under Matthews when he was in the military, so we increased his age a little.
Takahashi: I think Takeda-san has realized the image we came up with together while we were working on the drama CD very well.
Interviewer: Virgil and Andrew, whom you say you rather liked, Takeda-san, also play an important role, don't they?
Takeda: You'll probably understand the intention behind that better when you play Episode 3, but when I'm writing from Shion's viewpoint, Virgil becomes rather more important, so there are more scenes involving him. Regarding Andrew, most of his foundation was laid in Episode 1, but since I [or he] obtained his personal chronology (Note: this is also a piece of the Y-data), I made some supplements with reference to that. [A bit confused here if Takeda is talking about information he got from Takahashi and incorporating that into the story, or Andrew getting some information in-universe]
Takahashi: But Andrew gets as many close-ups of his chest as a main party member would. (Laughs) I think that was also something those who made the actual graphics decided on.
Interviewer: Are there any other scenes we should be paying close attention to?
Takeda: I also wrote a detailed scene showing Sakura's death (Note: There are many [fan] theories about the reason behind Sakura's death, while the official story has never made it clear). The influence that event had on Rubedo and Albedo has also been reflected in the rest of the scenario, [so it's a significant event].
Takahashi: Yes. I think their relationship and the reasons for their activities will be much easier to understand after this.
Takeda: I also wanted to write in Allen-kun's good qualities as much as possible. His looks aren't bad, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has an important position in an important undertaking...normally you'd think of him as a successful person, but among those characters he comes off as rather clumsy instead.
Interviewer: By the way, this is quite a big scenario, isn't it?
Takeda: That's right. (Laughs) There's also a lot of other things that didn't make it into Episode 1 or 2, such as how Shion and Allen joined Vector, the beginning of Shion and Kevin's relationship, the reason Shion started wearing glasses, how Albedo met the Kirschwassers, and so on. I set out to really focus on making both the original plan I received and the dialogue parts into a single coherent story.
Takahashi: There were some things we cut regarding maps, but game and scenario-wise, we didn't cut much, and substantially added to it instead. So in this way, we made the rather scenario-heavy Episode I & II in 2D. So you couldn't really say we had too many restrictions regarding the scenario.
Takeda: With an anime scenario, you have to cut it by minutes using a stopwatch and calculator. So it was nice not to have to be too strict with the volume, that's all I'm saying. (Laughs) Now, whether it was nice regarding the workload, that's...
Takahashi: That might have been a bit hard, sorry about that. (Strained laugh)
Interviewer: And some final words from you, please?
Takeda: Even if they've already played Episode 1 and 2, people shouldn't think there's no point in playing this game. It's not just a port, it's a remake. I'd like to say we've retold a work with the same themes from a different perspective.
Takahashi: We had no choice but to divide Episode 1 and 2 [into separate parts], and by uniting them into a single story, we can reduce the conflicts that caused and make it possible to play the game without your viewpoint getting blurred. I think both newcomers and those who have played the games to completion already will find a lot to enjoy here.