Rieko Kodama Producer Interview
(Nintendo Dream 4/06/2003, volume 86)
—How did the Skies of Arcadia development get started?
Kodama: First and foremost, I wanted to make a solid, honest-to-goodness RPG for Sega. Another reason is that, when we were making the Dreamcast version, perhaps it was a sign of the times, but most RPGs then were relatively dark and gloomy. So I wanted to do something more positive and optimistic—an RPG which pushed the joy of exploration and adventure front and center (and that is really something that only RPGs are capable of delivering). I wanted the characters to be positive too. Those were the basic ideas we started with, and it all went from there.
—And in terms of the game structure, what were some of the ideas you started with?
Kodama: Practically speaking, the first conversations we had were about how to best make use of the Dreamcast hardware’s new capabilities. After that, we sat down to discuss what kind of setting we should have. Our conceptual starting point was, we wanted to make a game that would respond to the fantasy which every boy and girl has when they’re young, of flying through the sky.
Producer Rieko Kodama
—Did the sky pirates idea follow smoothly from there…?
Kodama: No, not at all. It was a lot of playing with different ideas, trial and error. (laughs) It was after director Seimiya joined the project that everything started to come together. And the very idea of ships sailing through the sky—I believe we figured that piece out after storywriter Shuntaro Tanaka joined up (he is the director of the Gamecube version). Before that, all we had was a vague image of the open skies and floating islands… after that came the idea of ships, and of using the historical era known as the Age of Discovery as a backdrop for the story.
That whole romantic idea of setting sail for uncharted territory—it’s just overflowing with the frontier spirit of adventure, so we decided to use it for our setting. At that time, people who traveled by ship like that, unbound by any fixed nationality, were called “pirates”. They couldn’t haven’t all been villains though—there were probably noble pirates as well, right? That’s what we were thinking when we developed the “Sky Pirates” concept.
—In terms of exploration, making an open sky your map would necessarily mean there’s a lot of “blank” space on the map screen, wouldn’t it?
Kodama: Skies of Arcadia is a little different from your typical RPG mapping system, in that the world opens up to you to the extent you explore it yourself. This means that your very first map is just a tiny little piece of the wider world, but through your adventures it will get larger and larger, until you finally have that “whoa” moment of realization at how just vast it really is. At least, that’s how we hope players respond to it.
—What were some of the challenges of using the sky as your setting?
Kodama: There were a lot of technical challenges on the visual side. With skies, there are no “walls”, so you should be able to see very far into the distance, right? Also, in terms of progression, when we didn’t want players to go somewhere we would put up a wall of air currents to restrict them, but depicting that graphically turned out to be quite difficult, technically speaking.
—On the other hand, what were some of the things which you feel came out really well as a result of using the sky as your setting?
Kodama: I think we were able to use sound really effectively to convey a sense of crisis. Also, the environmental sounds, like cutting through the wind, or the sounds of the engines… those came out well. And for the BGM, the music changes to reflect the culture and atmosphere of whatever region you’re in, and the music transitions seamlessly, it doesn’t suddenly cut off, which I liked.
—I also like how the battle music changes depending on the how the fight is going.
Kodama: That was something I had wanted to do for a long time, actually. It was very challenging to debug though. It evolves according to the stats of both allies and enemies, but sometimes the music wouldn’t quite match the situation, like it would play the “final offensive” music when you were actually about to die. (laughs)
—In terms of clothing and appearance, how did you envision the characters?
Kodama: I wanted to retain the pirate image, while adding a lot of leather, and avoiding the typical “shining hero!” look of a lot of protagonists. I wanted something a little more edgy and stylish.
—How old are the main characters?
Kodama: They’re all around 17-18, which is probably a little younger than the main userbase… but it’s also a nod to my own preferences. (laughs) We talked about possibly making them a little younger, but we figured 17-18 is right about the age where you really come into your own as an adult, where you surpass the limitations of your parents and dive headlong into the wider world.
—The game talks about the “Six Laws of the Sky Pirates”. Are these related to the themes of Skies of Arcadia, and can you tell us more about that?
Kodama: One is “never give up.” It’s less about pursuing some specific result or goal, as it is the importance of always having a positive attitude and pushing forward to confront challenges. That’s why when something seems absolutely impossible to everyone else, Vyse always says—no, that’s not the case, there’s always a chance, if we work together we can surely make it! It’s not that he has absolute confidence either, it’s more like he figures it will all turn out OK in the end. (laughs) The key is to not give up and just do nothing; you can’t know whether it will end in failure or success, but the important thing is to stand up and face the challenge head on. That’s the message I really hope gets conveyed to players.
“That whole romantic idea of setting sail for uncharted territory—it’s just overflowing with the frontier spirit of adventure, so we decided to use it for our setting.”
—How has the reception been to the Gamecube version?
Kodama: I haven’t seen all the data we’ve collected yet, but it’s not bad so far. It seems that people who didn’t play the last one—especially elementary school kids—are picking up the game. This is about someone at our office, but one of our employees has kids around 7-8, and they’re playing it together. They made cutlasses out of cardboard too. It made me happy!
—What games have you played lately yourself?
Kodama: I’ve been playing the overseas version, but “The Lord of the Rings” game—I love the books and the movies. I’m not good at action games so I can’t get very far, but I have other people show me what to do when I get stuck. From someone who also works in game development, I was impressed by all the different characters they brought to life in the game. It’s really well-done I think.
—Anything else you’re really into these days?
Kodama: The Lord of the Rings movies. I’m totally in love with the actor for Aragorn, I searched through his filmography and watched everything he was in. Now I’m impatiently awaiting The Two Towers.
—If you had a one-month vacation, what would you do?
Kodama: Well, now I’d probably go to New Zealand. I want to see all the locations from Lord of the Rings. (laughs)
—What kind of kid were you?
Kodama: As my parents tell it, they raised me in such a way that, if I took an interest in something, no matter what it was, they never said things like “Oh, that’s not for girls” or “You shouldn’t do that.” They let me experience things for myself. So that’s probably the kind of kid I was… though I never did anything as reckless as Vyse. (laughs) In middle school I loved soccer and F1 racing. As an adult I’ve gone to Europe to see F1 and soccer events, too.
—What attracted you to F1 and soccer, respectively?
Kodama: Part of it was how beautiful the cars looked to me when they raced, I believe. There was this movie that came out called “Pole Position” and I can still vividly remember going to see it with my girlfriends. There was also a manga called “Akai Pegasus” (Red Pegasus) which I was reading at the time. (laughs)
As for soccer, it started for me with watching high school soccer games. I didn’t start paying attention to pro soccer until the 1986 world cup in Spain, I think. Now I’m a fan of Argentina, so when they came to Japan at the end of last year, I started really hustling: “I’ve got to finish the Gamecube version before their match!” (laughs)
—Please offer a final word to players of Skies of Arcadia.
Kodama: No doubt anyone who experiences the story of Vyse and his friends flying through the open skies must surely feel a sense of freedom well up in their own breast. That’s the kind of RPG I believe Skies of Arcadia to be, and I hope everyone enjoys sharing in the emotion and adventure of Vyse’s journey.
Rieko Kodama – Part II
(Nintendo Dream 4/06/2003, volume 86)
—How did you first get hired at Sega?
Kodama: It was many years… or rather decades, ago… haha, did I just out myself? (laughs) Anyway, it was the dawn of the game industry, which was still quite young then. For home consoles you had the Famicom, and Sega followed that up almost immediately with their own console. I didn’t know much about video games yet. Up to then I had studied graphic design, and I figured I’d end up working for an advertising company or something, some place where I could make use of my skills.
Back then, games were made differently. The whole world of the game, that is—the sound, the music, the programming, the visuals, it could all be accomplished by a small group. What I had studied in graphic design was how to take someone else’s ideas and advertise them to others; games, however, offered something where I could create the vision from step one myself, and that sounded fascinating. The industry itself was still new and I thought there would be a lot of chances, even for someone like me, so I signed up with Sega.
—You didn’t necessarily join with that gamer mindset of “I want to make games!”, in other words.
Kodama: That’s right. Nowadays people who try to join the industry have spent a lot of time playing video games on their own, and they join because they love games. At that time, however, there wasn’t a big culture surrounding video games like there is now—it was a new culture still in the process of forming. It was that very newness that attracted people to it, and made up the first wave of developers, I think: people who saw the opportunities and thought, “what can I do with this new medium?”
This excellent video from Sega EUROPE goes deeper into Kodama’s history for those interested in learning more about her pioneering career.
—Was it very challenging at first?
Kodama: Yes, as you can imagine—because I didn’t know the first thing about computers. All I had done in my life was drawing and art up to then. Plus, when it came to the hardware of that era, you could only put out 8 colors max on the screen. The start of my education, and my first struggle, was figuring out how to represent an image on-screen with a limited number of colors.
—The development environment itself was very different back then, too.
Kodama: The biggest change has been how much more memory we have available to work with now. Of course, as developers, we’re happy to have more expressive power available to us now, but by the same token, the amount of work you have to put into a game now to make it up-to-snuff has shot way through the roof. So while I’m happy that graphics have improved along with the hardware… comparing then to now, it’s the difference between a pond an ocean. (laughs)
—Where do you get your ideas from, for making games?
Kodama: Basically I just think to myself, “wow, I bet it would be so cool if I could experience that!” Or, “I’d love to live in a world like that…”
—Do you get any hints from books or movies? Like, “Oh, I’ve got to use that idea!”
Kodama: Yes, it happens. Though I would say the bigger feeling for me there is, “I can make something even better!” Sometimes I’ll see a movie and be impressed by how far they took an idea, and I’ll think, well, if the audience received the idea in that medium, then a game would probably work too. Rather than just rehash ideas, it’s more like I want to make a game that evokes or shares that same spirit.
—Are you proud of Sega?
Kodama: They’ve always given me the freedom to make the games I wanted, and while there have been both successes and failures, they’ve never failed to approach me about doing another project, and I’m very grateful for that. They don’t discriminate against their workers for their gender or their seniority either, which I am also extremely grateful for.
—By the way, what were you favorite and least favorite subjects in school?
Kodama: My favorite subjects were Japanese History and World History. My least favorite was math. I didn’t study math at all, and I would never have thought I’d one day be working for a computer company. (laughs) Of course, even now I really should be studying more there.
—Do you have any words for aspiring game designers?
Kodama: You’ll never become a game developer if all you do is play video games. There’s a limit to the ideas you can get from playing video games. I’m not saying you have to be widely read and learned, but experiencing things for yourself is very important, and I think pursuing your own interests wholeheartedly, without boundaries or fetters, is probably the most important thing. Those are the kind of people we want on the Overworks team, too.
On top of that you have to also love games, of course, or I don’t think you’ll make it in this industry. There’s a certain extremeness to game development, both physically and mentally, so if you don’t have that deep love for games, I’m certain you won’t enjoy the work.
—The world of game development is as harsh as we’ve all heard, then?
Kodama: In our case at Overworks, I think it’s very important to go above and beyond what’s required. If you’re working your hardest to exceed your limitations—I think it’s ok to push yourself a bit then, beyond your comfort zone. I believe the fruits of that labor will show in the final game, and players will respond to it in kind.
Noriyoshi Ohba, first Nintendo Dream interview
(Nintendo Dream 2002, p 86-87)
—At last, you’ve announced the release of Skies of Arcadia Legends for the Gamecube.
Ohba: Yes, and this is the first interview we’ve done with a Nintendo-affiliated magazine. I think it’s the very first publicity we’ve done for the Gamecube version of Skies of Arcadia, actually.
—Thank you for giving us that honor. (laughs) Well then, to start off, could you give a quick explanation of Skies of Arcadia for readers who haven’t heard of it before?
Ohba: Put simply, it’s your standard text-based RPG.
—How did the Skies of Arcadia project get started?
Ohba: We felt like recent RPGs have been a little too “dark”, you know? So we wanted to make an RPG that was brighter, more optimistic—a thrilling adventure to enjoy. That was our starting point.
—Ah, so that must be why you chose the sky as your setting—the perfect stage for a “grand adventure.”
Ohba: That’s right. Our story takes place in the “Age of Discovery of the Skies”. The original Age of Exploration was a time when the great Western powers were advancing into the rest of the world. They discovered a route to circumnavigate the entire globe, and there were rumors of distant, exotic lands like the “golden country of Zipangu”…
—Yes, the world was still full of mystery then. It was a very romantic age.
Ohba: What we wanted to portray with this game, was a feeling of exploration and curiosity. “I suspect there’s a treasure island there” … “If we keep going due west, will we eventually be able to return to the East where we began? Let’s find out!” Those are the kinds of things we wanted to evoke—capturing that “I’ll discover it!” feeling was very important to us.
—Why did you choose the Gamecube for this port?
Ohba: I thought the Gamecube user demographic was a good fit for the game. I have a kid in the 4th grade, and he loves playing Skies of Arcadia. (laughs) He brings his neighborhood friends over and they play together, too. He has a hard time reading a lot of the kanji though. (laughs)
In the old days, memory limitations meant we couldn’t use many kanji, but now that memory has increased the kind of kanji we can use has increased too. However, that also means there’s now players who can’t read the games. So for the Gamecube version, I think we’re going to try to make it a bit easier to read for people.1
—What was the age demographic for the Dreamcast?
Ohba: The Dreamcast demographic was always older, with players from college age to mid-20s. The Dreamcast had a lot of female fans though, above the average for other consoles. And Sakura Taisen had even more female players than us, but we still had our fair share for Skies of Arcadia.
—What kind of players are you hoping to attract for the Gamecube version?
Ohba: Skies of Arcadia wasn’t made for a specific age range or demographic, so I think it can be enjoyed by players of all ages.
—Are you planning to alter the presentation in any way to account for the younger users on the Gamecube?
Ohba: No, we’re not doing anything like that. It’s like Treasure Island and Jules Vernes’ Two Year Vacation… even if you read those books when you were a kid, I think they’re still enjoyable as an adult.
>PR: Re-reading a book you loved as a kid when you’re an adult can give you a new perspective on it, too.
—Yes, the truly great stuff can be enjoyed even when you’re older.
Ohba: On top of that, there are some elements of Skies of Arcadia which are a little more adult-oriented, like the Invincible Armada, who becomes your enemy. When we were making Skies of Arcadia we would all ask ourselves, “What got me excited as a kid?” Battleship fights! Having your own secret base! Stuff like that. Also, an important keyword for this game is “sky pirate”. From that idea, we came up with various story elements: attacking evil warships in the role of the chivalrous thief; having the good sky pirates wear blue, while the bad guys wore black… those kind of things—really the stuff of kids’ dreams—Skies of Arcadia is packed with all that.
—Do you have any plans to turn Skies of Arcadia into a series?
Ohba: We hope to keep putting out as many games in this world as we can, yes. (laughs)
—Will they be on the Gamecube?
Ohba: We’d like that.
—That makes me happy to hear. (laughs) By the way, will Skies of Arcadia Legends be released within the year?
Ohba: Our plan is to release it by the end of the year. The goal is for a Christmas release, naturally. (laughs)
—How about overseas?
Ohba: We’re planning to release it worldwide, of course.
PR: The Dreamcast version was about as popular in Europe as it was in Japan.
Ohba: “I’ve never seen a world like that in an RPG before, it was so unique”—we heard that from a lot of people overseas. It was praised for the wonderful, different fantasy setting which used the skies and the Age of Discovery as motifs. It received awards in America and France, even.
—What kind of women do you like?
Ohba: Another difficult question. (laughs) Wait, I know—Belleza!
PR: We haven’t actually announced Belleza yet…
Ohba: Well, this is an interview, so why not now, right? (laughs) I love that kind of woman.
—Do you have any words for aspiring game creators?
Ohba: Game development is a 3K job. (laughs)
PR: You make it sound so bad! This is supposed to be Nintendo _Dream_ magazine! (laughs)
I think a lot of readers aren’t going to know what 3K means: kitanai, kitsui, kiken. [[Dirty, Difficult, and Dangerous]] (laughs)
Ohba: I mean, In general the work of a game creator is a lot of fun. If it wasn’t fun, you wouldn’t put up with working in a 3K workplace, after all. (laughs) The “dream” part of it is that you get to envision your own plans, see them take initial shape as the designers give them life, and then see them progressively fleshed out with animation and programming. “It’s aliiiiveee!” — you get to experience that feeling in game development. Seeing something come together bit by bit is very fun, as is the response you get back from players when you finally hand it over to them. So I would say, if you like bringing other people joy and happiness, please join us in the game industry.
Map Programmer Kenji Hiruta posing with superfan Ares_Arcadia (who commissioned the translation of these many interviews!). Hiruta explains a memorable episode from the development below. Incidentally, Hiruta was also mostly responsible for creating the demo of Skies of Arcadia, which took about 3 weeks to complete.
Skies of Arcadia Development Crisis!
posted by Kenji Hiruta on 5/10/2019
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the release of Skies of Arcadia Legends for the Dreamcast. I thought I’d take this occasion to share some of my memories from the development. Enough time has passed now that I feel OK about revealing some of the technical secrets behind its making.
“It’s not good. You’ve got to re-do it all.” Those words were hurled at me by the planner in charge of the airship movement. “There’s absolutely no sense of increased speed when you move to a new ship. We need to increase that speed somehow.”
The development had been going along smoothly, with everyone hard at work on their individual sections, when I heard this. Re-doing everything…? Impossible. Not having any interest in vague and unproductive conversations, however, I kept my eyes fixed on my monitor and answered back, “Well, why not just raise the speed then?”
“We could try shortening the distance between the islands. But then if we don’t raise the encounter rate, players won’t get enough experience. Ok then, so just make players encounter way more enemies when they go even a short distance, right? Wrong. That won’t work. We’ve got to enlarge the size of the world itself.”
Ah. Finally, he let out everything he wanted to say. I’m sure the wide-eyed and angry look on my face in that moment betrayed how I felt. I wasn’t angry at the idea of having to re-do the world—I was angry at how it had all been communicated to me. Well, I guess I’ll have to explain more now.
“But if we expand the world, won’t it feel empty…?”, I asked the planner.
“I’m aware of that. That’s why we’ll need to make the 3D models of the islands bigger too.”
“But won’t the areas between the islands feel empty too?”
“We’ll have to add more objects in there to liven those spaces up.”
“If we start updating the coordinate data for the objects in the world map, it’s going to mean re-doing the majority of the 3D models. Same goes for placing a bunch of new objects in those empty spaces. How much time do you think that’s going to all take?”
“Maybe 3-6 months.”
If, in fact, the extra work described here had come to pass, it would have entailed a major crisis. We’d have had to re-do our entire development roadmap, and the timing and plans related to sales and PR as well. It’s no exaggeration to say this change threatened the very existence of the development. In front of this planner, who just kept throwing out ridiculous expectations one after the other, I could only let out a sigh.
“Ok. But what happens if we make all those changes, but the sense of speed you want still isn’t sufficient…?”
“Then we’ll just expand the size of the world again!”
Thence began an unceasing stream of regrets and complaints in my head. Why didn’t we think about raising the speed earlier, when we were first making the whole world… I mean I thought it was a problem then, but I just figured some small changes would suffice… why is this happening to me?!… and on and on.
I sighed again. If this is how we’re going to go about this development, who knows how many years this game will take to finish. I looked at the planner and said,
“Now listen. I said this before, but there’s no need to change the world like you’re saying.”
“What?! But there’s no other way to do it!!!”
“Just calm down and listen to me. As I said, the player’s perception of speed, and the _actual_ speed things travel in the game, those are two different things.”
The planner stared at me blankly.
“Huh. What are you saying.”
“How do you think the player gets a sense of the speed his ship is moving at?”
“Well, I think they look at objects like the islands around them and can tell just by looking.”
“That’s right. However, because of perspective, for an island in the distance, small adjustments to the ship’s actual speed won’t affect that perception. In other words, changing the actual speed of the ship isn’t going to evoke the feeling of “speed” you’re looking for in players.
This stopped the planner in his tracks.
“Well, what are we to do then?”
As Hiruta explains here, getting the right sense of speed for the airships was a more subtle problem than one might imagine.
“The trick isn’t to move around things that are distant from the player. What we need are more objects closer to serve as references.”
“You mean things like clouds. If you have a thin layer of clouds that you’re flying through, it would be easy to feel that speed. But we already tried that.”
“I know. I’ve seen the ones you added. But what if you tried making those clouds move towards the player, opposite to whatever direction the ship is moving? Then you’d feel some resistance and speed, as if you were sailing into a headwind.”
The planner’s eyes lit up.
“What?! Could we do that?”
“Of course. All we have to do is change the speed that cloud layer moves at relative to the type of ship you’re piloting. Then we don’t have to change the speed of the ship itself at all.”
“Isn’t that kind of cheating though…?”
“It’s not about ‘cheating’ or not, you know. It’s whether it creates the effect you’re hoping to achieve.”
After an hour or less of work, we had implemented the system I described. The planner was jumping up and down.
“The sense of speed is amazing now! You really saved my ass! I still can’t believe it works!”
And there you have it—a story that might sound like a joke, but actually happen. The moral of our story? The final experience of the player depends a lot on such little tricks that the creators can come up with. We saved the production a bunch of money too. If we had tried to re-do all the world assets like he had first wanted, I doubt we’d be celebrating the 19th anniversary of Skies of Arcadia today!
Skills, tricks, and schemes—there’s always a crafty way to go about getting what you want, and that’s a mindset I’ve always kept close to heart for as long as I’ve been involved in the business of creating things.
Skies of Arcadia – Developer Comments
from the official Sega SoA backup
1. New Character – Piastol
Are you all enjoying Skies of Arcadia Legends? This is Tanaka, director of the domestically released version of Arcadia. To anyone out there who hasn’t bought it yet—rush out and pick up a copy today!
It’s been 2 years since the Dreamcast version of Arcadia was released, which was followed by a port to the Gamecube (unexplored territory for us) with new content added to boot… all of which is to say, it was a very difficult development. But hopefully you’re all enjoying the effort in the finished product, I hope?
There are new characters Piastol, Doc, and Maria… have you managed to see all of these lovely ladies’ event scenes now?
One comment we heard a lot from the Dreamcast version, was that players wanted to know the details behind Ramirez’s change of heart (referred to at the end of the game). Hearing those requests, it was decided: “We’ve got to tell everyone the truth about what happened that day!” Merely describing what happened in the past with some exposition wouldn’t be very interesting though, I thought. Instead we added this episode with Piastol, and her drama, and interwove that into the story with Ramirez.
Concept art for Piastol, a new character added for Skies of Arcadia Legends. I’m not sure if any art for her original, more risque design has ever been released.
In her early designs, her outfit was quite audacious in the amount of skin it revealed (her thighs and cleavage were on full display), but we were told it was too extreme and were asked to tone it down in consideration of the American audiences, because children would be playing it and everything. Reluctantly, I had the designer add those stockings.
On the other hand, personally I have something of a stocking fetish, so maybe this way has it’s charms too?
The “Black Spots” which Vyse is sent to, to find Piastol, those were inspired by a kind of letter which English pirates used to summon each other back in the day (at least, that’s what I remember reading in a novel somewhere or something).
In Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the Black Spot is used to summon Billy Bones to appear before his former crew. The name itself is cool, right?
2. On Character Names
So, Arcadia is all about sky pirates, as you know, but actually, in the beginning, I wasn’t very fond of the name “Vyse” for the main character, and I even tried to get it changed.
I thought something that evoked the sky, or ships, would be best… so I thought of “Kite” and “Mile”, but by that time everyone had already become too attached to the name Vyse, and everyone—even then-director Seimiya—completely rejected my alternatives.
Looking back at it now, of course, I’m glad we stuck with Vyse.
People have been discussing it already on BBSes, but most of the other names for the sky pirates were taken from different currencies around the world.
I’d like to be able to say we did that because of the neat connection, thematically, between sky pirates who circle the globe and the way money similarly circles the globe… but I’m afraid that would be a bit of a strain. The truth is, those currency names just had a nice ring to them, so we used them.
Drachma, Gilder, Balboa (US: Baltor), Krone (US: Clara), Centime, Dobra, Jao, Mao, and the new characters for the Gamecube—Piastre (US: Piastol), Rappen (US: Lapen), Rupee, Baht (US: Barta)… these are all different currencies from around the world. If you’ve got some free time, why not try looking them up?
The legendary sky pirate Ducat (US: Daccat), too—his name was taken from an old currency, the ducat, which once circulated in Europe.
At the end of the game, when Vyse is facing his moment of crisis, there’s a scene where all the sky pirates assemble and come to Vyse’s aid in a huge armada. What I love about this scene is connected to a memory I have from the Dreamcast development… during the hardest time in the development, when I felt pushed to the limit, that I saw this scene, and it served as a huge inspiration and cheered me up.
I personally love those moments that you find in games, books, and movies—those scenes that get you all fired up with passion, and it’s why I love that part of Skies of Arcadia. The event team really poured their heart and soul into it, I think.
The desires of mankind are manifold: “I want to be rich!”, “I want to eat delicious food everyday”, “I want to be with someone I love”, “I want to collect things”, “I just want to cut loose and break shit!”… the sky pirates, to me, lead an enviable life of indulgence in all these desires and more.
It wasn’t meant as a psychological litmus test or anything, but have you ever thought about your favorite sky pirate and wondered: what does my love for that character say about my own hidden desires…?
The colorful cast of Armada Admirals.
3. The Armada Admirals, Part 1
This time I’m going to talk about the admirals of the Valuan Armada
Being a big fan of Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, from the very start of the development, I absolutely wanted to have interesting admiral characters with rich personalities, with each having their own unique flagships to boot. This was non-negotiable in my mind!
I guess, for Skies of Arcadia, they turned out to be very “colorful” characters, if you will. (laughs) The admirals are some of my most favorite characters in the game.
It’s quite common, to the point of a cliche, to see boss characters styled after Shitenou (Four Devas), but those are always super powerful demigod type characters. I mean, they’re cool for that reason, you know? But I had long wanted to design a character who went against that trend, and the result was the First Admiral of the Valuan Armada, Alfonso. His flagship, the Cygnus, is named after the constellation. My image was of something shining white and noble.
For Gregorio, the Second Admiral, I wanted to make an admiral called “Ironwall”, and so this was another character inspired by Ginga Densetsu. I’ve always liked characters who nearly die in the course of the story—who die tragic deaths in vain—and in that sense Gregorio and Alfonso each have very good death scenes I think.
Gregorio’s flagship, the Auriga, was named after the constellation Taurus. I felt it fit the image of the loyal and diligent Gregorio.
Vigoro, the third admiral, plays that same role that Gian plays in Doraemon. The name Vigoro, in Spanish, means “energy/vigor” and “peerless”. In English it’s “vigor”—the same root word as those infamous “Vigor Underpants”, that suspicious product of yesteryear2 The transparent fishnet top he wears in the Grand Fortress was deemed too risque for the Western version, so we updated his costume there to be more sporty. He appears in this costume in the Gamecube version, by the way.
His flagship Draco is named after the constellation of the same name. I wanted an aggressive image for it.
Also, there was some special data distributed through local game shops in which Vigoro becomes a sky pirate, by the way. If you happen to have that data, be sure to share it with your friends!
Admiral Belleza, popular with both fans and the development staff.
4. The Armada Admirals, Part 2
Here we go, continuing with the Armada Admirals…
For the Fourth Admiral, Belleza, I originally imagined her as a kind of female spy, inspired by Milady from The Musketeers, but perhaps partly because of her disappointment in love, her smart, stylish side was brought to the fore (I guess you can see her more sexy side in Bellena, maybe?). I personally really love this character. When we were developing the Western version, she was very popular with the American staff too.
Her flagship “Lynx” was named after the constellation Lynx, for its supple image.
The Fifth Admiral is De Loco. In Spanish loco means “crazy person”, so when we release Skies of Arcadia in Europe, we were all secretly worried whether a name like this would be OK in the Spanish version, but for whatever reason it wasn’t a problem.3 This character was built up more by the image of the concept art—that glass tube around his head, and his facial expression—rather than any kind of backstory.
His flagship, “Chameleon”, came from the constellation of the same name. It fits his ship, the way it can change shape freely, and the way the cannon platforms which retract reminds one of a chameleon’s tongue.
Ramirez, the Sixth Admiral. Recently I’ve been seeing a baseball player with the same name!
Regarding his design, at first I had imagined him with longer hair, but our producer Kodama, along with the rest of the female staff members, plead their case that that hairstyle wouldn’t appeal to young women today, so it got updated to be shorter and more modern. And right they were! When I saw the responses later that this character got, it was like, thank goodness we listened.
Last bosses in RPGs always have some goal like “Reviving the Ancient God!”, “Conquering the World”, or “Destroying the World”, but I always thought to myself… “What? Why do you need to destroy the world?! Where are you going to live after that…?!” Personally I just always found that whole “world destruction” motivation to be rather lacking and unconvincing.
On that note, we tried to give Ramirez a different motivation: the despair and anger he feels over having his beloved stolen away from him. How did that work for you guys? (I do think that if we had been able to explore the connection between Ramirez and Galcian a bit more deeply, that all would have been conveyed more clearly).
Finally, we come to Galcian, who is one of those old-school “conquer the world”-type villains. By giving him a futile death at the end there, I harbored a secret, contrarian desire (perhaps held only privately by me) to do something with a different flavor from traditional RPGs.
When I looked at the player’s response to Galcian, it seemed the people thought he was cool and liked him at first, but once he called Belleze a “cunning she-fox”, that was it: suddenly everyone hated him. 4 I saw a number of comments like that. Well, as the saying goes… “be careful what you say!”5