Grandia II – 2000 Developer Interview

Grandia II – 2000 Developer Interview

In this Grandia II interview from the “Grandia II World Guidance” artbook, the developers explain the design and story behind each main character. In addition to filling in a few gaps in the narrative, there’s some fanservice-y questions about Elena and Millenia too. For variety, I’ve also added another Grandia II interview with Takeshi Miyaji from Dreamcast Magazine, which asks some additional (non-character) questions.

Takeshi Miyaji – Executive Producer
Katsunori Saitou – Director
Yuzo Sunaga – Main Scenario
Hidenobu Takahashi – Story/Scenario Writer

—I’d like to ask about each character… starting with Ryudo.

Takahashi: The Ryudo character is a guy who’s trying to act all bad and tough, but is really a good guy at heart. He has a strong internal sense of justice, but he also has deep doubts what is “right”, and this has led him astray. He thinks, “Since I don’t know what’s right, I might as well just work for money,” and he’s very wary of being betrayed by those whom he has put his trust in.

—Is that supposed to be a defense mechanism?

Takahashi: I think so. He’s not capable of trusting others. He was betrayed by the person he trusted most, so he distances himself from other people to prevent that from happening again. You could say he’s sensitive, maybe. Anyway, as consequence of all that, he pretends to be this scoundrel who only cares about money and his next contract, and he doesn’t get close to anyone. That was our original image for Ryudo, but he turned out to be more kind, and less intense than we had thought.

Sunaga: He’s really easily embarrassed. He’s extremely afraid of being exposed by others. He’s probably afraid of staying in one place too long, since it might mean developing relationships.

—How did Ryudo become a geohound?

Sunaga: He became a geohound about 1.5 years before the story starts. After leaving Galan Village he probably wandered around for half a year, whereupon he encountered Skye and managed to recover himself a bit. Somewhere around there he met Vyx for the first time, too. His swordsmanship wasn’t especially good then, so he must have been talented at the job in some other way.

L-R: Katsunori Saitou, Yuzo Sunaga, Hidenobu Takahashi.

—What was your concept for the character of Elena?

Takahashi: Elena is basically a “believer”. Ryudo and Elena are polar opposites: Ryudo believes in nothing and no one, while Elena sincerely believes in Granas. She’s extremely benevolent, and without pretense wishes for everyone to be happy. But she’s not content just praying for things to be better: she wants to take some action.

If you change your perspective, Grandia II can be seen as a story of Elena’s growth. The game begins with the most significant event of Elena’s life; as such, you could say the story revolves around Elena and her situation. Elena herself is a pure, unsullied maiden, but in the beginning of the story she is defiled. One of the big themes of the drama is seeing how she’ll change as the story progresses.

—How did she become such a good singer?

Takahashi: I think it happened quite naturally, since she has to remember and sing many hymns for the Church.

Saitou: Someone once praised her for being good at singing, and that spurred her on to keep developing her talent.

Sunaga: It’s an expression of her absolute purity.

—And what was your basic image for Millenia?

Takahashi: The core of Millenia’s personality is the part of Elena’s own self that she has repressed. Elena’s personality does not contain a psychological shadow; she therefore has an extreme fear of that dark side of life and herself. She’s very afraid of what she has never seen, what she has never touched. She has an obsession/compulsion about always being a good person, and it is the inverse of that ideal which makes up Millenia’s personality. However, she’s not a complete opposite: Valmar finds the weakness in each individual human heart, but in Elena’s case the ritual was interrupted halfway through and failed, so Millenia isn’t a 100% antithesis of Elena.

—Why did only the Wings of Valmar retain a personality…?

Takahashi: Normally when one is possessed by Valmar, you end up like Melfice. The emotions of Valmar reside within that human, and he takes advantage of and utilizes that person’s individual weakness. With Elena the ritual was interrupted so Valmar wasn’t able to completely invade her. That’s how Millenia was born—she’s an exception, a special case.

Early concept art for Millenia, showing a lighter, more childish design.

—Are you saying, then, that Millenia’s personality was always there somewhere inside Elena to begin with?

Takahashi: I think the simplest way to think of it is that Elena had a whole other personality within her that she had repressed, and it comes out as Millenia. Elena is a girl who has imposed a great deal of restriction and temperance on herself; Millenia is wild and free. In that sense, letting Millenia out may have been what Elena truly desired deep down.

Saitou: There’s a variety of opinion and ways to interpret it, really. To look at the two extremes, there’s people in the Elena camp who believe that Elena is the main personality, and Millenia is simply an offshoot or “part of” Elena. Then there’s the Millenia camp who see Millenia as an opposite but distinct personality created as the Wings of Valmar. We actually wanted it to be open, and for people to have different ideas about all that.

—You mentioned the Elena “camp” and the Millenia “camp”; you’re talking about popularity now, right?

Saitou: Yeah, and I don’t mind if people have their favorites. After all, Grandia II features double heroines (with opposite personalities no less), and Elena and Millenia both get equal screen time. Some will love them both, and some will have their favorites.

—Who is more popular with fans?

Takahashi: Well, it’s not looking good for Elena. (laughs) Everyone seems to like Millenia. 1 With Elena, I think her character may be a little too close to reality, to what a real girl would be like. The parts of her personality that people criticized as “too ladylike” probably come from that. Of course, as I was making her character, I thought that quality made her all the more interesting. But there’s a phenomenon in life where people only remember the negative and forget the positive.

Also, at a glance, Millenia seems like the kind of character who would be easier to befriend or fall in love with. Elena keeps all her pain on the inside, while Millenia is open, straightforward, and shows everything. But I think that although people love Millenia, there’s something incomplete about her as a woman. It’s like, when a woman says “I don’t like you”, there has to be something inside that lies behind that, I think.

Saitou: Wow, this is deep. (laughs)

Takahashi: Well, I’m not sure that I explained all of that perfectly. (laughs) To be sure, Elena would be a more difficult girl to date. No question about it. (laughs) She may be afraid of men. But I also think that what she says, and what she truly feels in her heart, are two different things. If you look just a little deeper, she’s a great woman.

Saitou: I love Elena in the epilogue. Elena forever! (laughs)

Sunaga: She isn’t the same girl anymore: she has now experienced defeat and hardship.

Takahashi: I think Elena may simply have been overshadowed by Millenia’s appeal. That’s reversed in the epilogue, where Elena outshines Millenia. Elena has finally broken free of her own limitations, you see. (laughs)

Kanoe’s earliest concept art for Elena. Like Millenia’s early designs, it seems more kiddy.

—How did you decide on what would happen in the epilogue?

Saitou: We argued about it a lot! We had one idea where you would select who’s story (Elena or Millenia) you wanted to see, but we kept getting further and further off-theme. Then we thought about Elena and Millenia merging back into one person, but that personality would have been completely different from the people you just played through the game with, as if you were watching an ending about a stranger. So we thought about what was most important for us to convey, and came up with the ending as you see it.

Takahashi: We had a number of options. Make them re-merge as one personality, or have them re-merge but be separate personalities within Elena, or have them be separate people and retain their individual personalities. That last one is what we went with, which allowed us to craft a story fitting to each of their circumstances.

One thing we were worried about with the epilogue is that if we delved too deeply into the nature of Elena and Millenia’s existence, it would reveal Millenia’s character to be paper thin… but in actuality, her character came out stronger. We then realized that if we wanted to find answers about the two of them, then we needed them to be living independent lives, and that is the ending we went with.

—The characters all take up different occupations in the epilogue. Can you say a word about that?

Takahashi: None of the characters in Grandia II have any established career or life when the game begins. Then they go through this enormous experience in the game and have to return to everyday life. The professions they each choose in the epilogue are meant to show how these characters, having gone through this huge thing, are coping with returning to daily life. Millenia becomes a schoolteacher because, as a demon, she never experienced the thing called “childhood”, and she wants to know more about it. Elena worried that she was empty inside, but in the end she finds that she has music. So she sets everything else aside to pursue singing, the way she connects with others. Tio, partly because of Mareg’s death, has chosen a life of service as a nurse. As you see, everyone returns to life to follow their own individual goals.

—Tell us about your image for Roan’s character.

Takahashi: With Roan, I wanted to make an honest character. Ryudo, Elena, and Millenia are all selfish; I needed at least one person who wasn’t like that. (laughs) Once those three start fighting, there’s no end to it—Roan’s role is to mediate and stop their arguing. He certainly has his own problems, too, but he’s a stable person capable of navigating and making compromises with daily life. He’s a naive, “good” boy.

Three early concept sketches for Skye. The top image is more cartoonish, and very different from the final design: “Before we had settled on Skye’s image, we had a number of different designers try drawing him. There were many more suggestions besides these, too.”

—How did Roan come to be like that? What is his background?

Takahashi: Actually, there’s some hidden backstory about Roan’s Mother and his tribe. Roan is a blood member of his tribe, but his parents could not conceive a male child, so Roan was adopted as the male heir. The King of Cyrum was spineless, and although Roan’s mother was a good person, she did not approve of the King as a Father. She doted on Roan and is responsible for most of his personality.

And so, several years ago his Mother passed away from illness, and it was at that point that the King started acting recklessly.

Sunaga: The King had an accomplished wife, someone who did everything for him. He had nothing to do for so long that he eventually wondered, “what am I even here for?” Then his wife died and he tasted a little freedom, and he kind of went crazy doing everything he wanted to do.

—Did she not choose her husband herself?

Takahashi: It was probably an arranged marriage. You can probably tell that just by looking at the King’s portrait. (laughs) By the way, we didn’t make any individual character graphics for her, but Roan’s mother was quite a beauty. If it weren’t for the arranged marriage, there’s no way the King could have got a woman like her. (laughs)

—And how about Tio, what was the concept for her character?

Takahashi: I think that’s best answered by you, Sunaga, the Tio Lover. (laughs)

Sunaga: Indeed. With Tio I wanted to tell a story about a character who was an artificial lifeform created by humans. Though not “human” at the start of the game, by the end of the story she becomes human. That was the basic idea, and then I added in her relationship with Mareg as a way to allow her to see, through contrast, what it meant to be human. I think seeing human behavior from a non-human perspective would actually better allow you to discern and distinguish what is “human”. I really enjoyed writing her scenarios.

Concept art for Elmo, referred to as “Control Panel Tio” in the upper left image, and as “Ana,” an early name for Tio, in the right image.

—Is the automata that runs the Underground Plant a different kind of automata?

Sunaga: They probably just differ in their abilities depending on what purpose they were made for.

Takahashi: The Underground Plant is the facility where the Tio models are created. Tio herself was probably “in storage” and not operational until Melfice found her and made her the Claw of Valmar. She was probably chosen randomly.

—Can you tell us more about the operations of the Automata, what they were made for, etc?

Takahashi: Basically, they’re service robots. The most natural way to think of them are like housekeeping robots who have been programmed with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. They do get used in wars, but they’re used for their administrative capabilities, not for actual combat. At Demon’s Law, they’re being forced to fight even though they weren’t made for it.

—Are Elmo and Tio the same model?

Takahashi: Not quite. As Sunaga explained, Elmo just has higher-functioning administrative abilities. You can probably see this by looking at the concept art for Elmo, but he’s the top of the line in terms of information management ability. He’s like a central computer.

—What was your concept for Mareg?

Saitou: He’s not the modern, neurotic type of person. He is more old-fashioned and relaxed. His beliefs are important to him, and he never feels rushed. Ryudo and Elena are much more restless, but Mareg has a longer sense of subjective time, closer to what an animal might experience: he might spend an entire day, for instance, from dawn to dusk, just staring off into the distance. And if he does take action, he gets completely absorbed in that one thing.

—Is he traveling by himself on his journey to find Melfice?

Takahashi: Actually, we originally had a character that we had to cut, named Tourammyu who also set out in pursuit of Melfice. There’s a story of this character in the “Grandia II Official Comic Fanbook“. When Melfice arrives in Nanan village, Mareg faces him, but Tourammyu was actually there too. He has a separate story, but like Mareg he too is chasing Melfice.

Katsunori Aizaki’s early concept art for Mareg. He was first portrayed as an insect and a knight before reaching his “beastman” design. Text in the lower right image reads: “How about the color red, to contrast with Tio?”

—What are the events that led up to Melfice’s attack on Nanan?

Takahashi: We actually wrote a chapter about that in the Official Comic Fanbook. (laughs) On the outskirts of Nanan, there’s a place where the ground has been scorched black, and supposedly underneath that are ancient ruins where the Claw of Valmar is sealed away. Melfice appears in order to capture that. Then Melfice emerges from the ruins with the Claw, and begins slaughtering all the villagers. That’s where Mareg encounters him, but Mareg is wounded and Melfice is able to escape.

—How about Melfice, as a person?

Takahashi: He’s basically a tortured soul. He wanted to become strong so he could make the world a better place, and Valmar took advantage of this desire and possessed him. But becoming stronger did not make his dream come true. His anguish now causes him to wander aimlessly, and even his destruction lacks a purpose: he doesn’t care what he destroys, he just wants to destroy.

Flaunting his power is also a way for him to prove to himself that he’s right. But after each episode, he is wracked with doubts about what he has done, and this pattern just repeats.

Sunaga: Melfice’s urges are so violent, his self-loathing has metastasized at this point, I think.

Takahashi: He lost the one woman he loved because of his pursuit of power. This is an unceasing pain in his heart, always tugging at him. In his final battle with Ryudo, he’s ready for his own death, and that comes from his remorse. Unable to use this demonic power for good, he subconsciously desires his own destruction. Once he becomes aware of Ryudo’s activities he is relentless in his pursuit of him, but that too is a manifestation of his desire for his own death, not a conscious thing. At least, that’s what I was trying to suggest. (laughs)

Initial concept art for Valmar. At this early stage he was called Zophar, the same name as the final boss of Lunar Eternal Blue.

—Is there a backstory for Reena?

Takahashi: She is the village chief’s daughter, and one of the shrine maidens who conduct religious ceremonies. She’s a year or two younger than Melfice. She has a good relationship wit him, as they’ve grown up together. We didn’t create a detailed backstory for her, but she’s surely a gentle, kind girl.

—Was Ryudo also attracted to her?

Takahashi: Very much so! I really wish we could have depicted that more. I wanted to have a flashback scene that showed Ryudo and Melfice practicing swordplay together, when Reena appears with a picnic lunch in hand. I wanted to draw that food! (laughs)

So I planned to do this scene where Reena spreads out this picnic lunch, and she and Melfice are talking and smiling at each other, while Ryudo is sitting there to the side just noisily munching on his sandwich.

—How about Selene?

Takahashi: She’s a tragic woman. She’s extremely passionate, with a strict moral code that she lives by. Zera was once in love with her, and receiving his affection was the height of bliss for Selene. However, at some point Zera’s feelings changed. He began his secret plan of trying to revive Valmar, and this started to occupy all his time, and this bothered Selene. To be more useful to him and try to win his affection back, she joined the Cathedral Knights. This ultimately leads her to sacrifice her very self for Zera, and receive the Heart of Valmar. In the end when she throws herself to her death, I wanted to express a woman’s love, which seeks nothing in return for its ultimate sacrifice.

—It sounds like you originally planned to includes scenes showing that Selene was a good person, too.

Takahashi: That’s right. It’s a shame that we couldn’t. Selene herself really embodies the ideas of the mainstream, central core of the Granas Church. We actually wanted to introduce her character far before the Mirumu Village scenes. It would have allowed us to the show how the Granas Church functioned differently on the frontier. Unfortunately, those scenes were cut by someone else. (laughs)

—When did Selene meet Zera?

Takahashi: 10 years prior, so she would have been 13 years old. She became close to him by her own volition. She worked hard to get there.

—What did Zera think of Selene?

Sunaga: Probably he just thought of her as a cute young disciple. She was very serious, but over time she became more sullen. However, she loyally did whatever Zera asked, so she gradually became more and more useful to him until she became a powerful tool of the Church’s will.

Takahashi: I don’t think Zera has an “inner” self anymore. His individual self has been consumed by his public face, and the individual Zera exists no more.

Sunaga: He’s performed the role of religious leader for so long that it’s become all he is. His individual personality has been whittled down to nothing, so that he only considers his actions in light of how they will affect the Church of Granas. Even his personal feelings for Selene (seeing her as a woman) have been suppressed.

The ladies of Grandia II. In a separate interview (not translated here) Saitou described Grandia II as a “love story.”

—Who is your favorite character?

Takahashi: I love them all. But I guess I’m in the Millenia camp as far as that goes, though Selene is actually my favorite. I get drawn into the drama of each character when they’re on-screen, but as a player I’d have to say Millenia.

—How about you, Saitou, as director?

Saitou: I’m an Elena fan. Of course if I were allowed both, I would definitely choose that. (laughs) But if push comes to shove, it’s Elena.

Sunaga: Geez, you guys sure make this complicated. (laughs)

—And you, Sunaga?

Sunaga: I’m all about Tio. You could pretty much say I wrote the story of Grandia II for her. (laughs) Elena would be a runner-up. As for Millenia, she was easy to write, and thus boring. She talks in such a plain, straightforward way—the writing required very little effort on my part.

—How about the love scene at Nanan, was that difficult to write?

Sunaga: It was relatively painless. The hard part is writing those really emotional, piercing lines. Different people have different ideas about what that means.

Takahashi: For me the hardest dialogue to write were the fights between Elena and Millenia. I’m a man, so I don’t know much about the way women fight amongst each other. When I’d try to depict it, it would generally fall into one of two extremes: either airy, trivial fights about nothing, or those kinds of intense, emotional fights that men hate. When I wrote dialogue with the latter, more heated fights, no one was having it. “Takahashi, you’re ruining the fantasy here!” they’d say. I was like, “hey, women can be cute when they’re fighting like this too, right?” But they still weren’t buying it. (laughs)

Saitou: For me, it was like, “Damnit, Takahashi, can’t you write Elena to be a little sweeter?!” (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Saitou: I just wanted her to be a little closer to my ideal. “Make my Elena sweeter!” is how that comes out, unvarnished, from my soul’s true heart. (laughs)

—Do you have a final message for players?

Saitou: Sure—this will be for players who have finished Grandia II. Thank you for playing. I hope we’ve crafted characters here that you will love. They’re imbued with our feelings—not only mine, but the entire staff. Whether you find it appealing or not, of course, depends on the person, but I think we found a good direction. I hope Grandia II brought a smile—even a little one—to your face.

Takahashi: Our stance with the Grandia series has always been that you should be free to play it how you like. As you progress through the battles, watch the dramas, and view the cutscenes, I think the culture of this world will be something you can really dig into and get lost in. Maybe if you play Grandia II again after reading this book and interview, you’ll have a different perspective on all the different NPC dialogue. If you’re so inclined, it’s my hope that reading this book won’t just bring back memories, but will make you want to play once more.

Sunaga: There are a lot of themes and messages in this game, and I think it was a difficult scenario to write for that reason. However, I think we managed to deeply explore the way people live and their psychologies, and I hope players can feel that way too. Also, although I only did writing for Grandia II, I feel a similar thematic weight from the art. I hope looking through all the concept art in this book helps you have a deeper appreciation of Tio, and that you’ll want to re-experience how wonderful she is on another playthrough. (laughs)

Different concept art for the Granas Cathedral. The lower left piece is closest to the finished art in-game.
Grandia II – 2000 Developer Interview

originally featured in Dreamcast Magazine

—Does the title “Grandia” have any connection to the events of the game?

Miyaji: No, it doesn’t. It’s not related to any specific events in the game. “Grandia” is something we decide on together as a team, and when we feel like “Ok, this is starting to look like a Grandia game,” then we decide to use that name. If we had to always use the same setting and characters, I think it would actually impoverish our ideas. We don’t work like that at Game Arts: when there’s a world we want to create, ideas we want to communicate, or things we want to do… when all those come together we call that—with some degree of pride!—”Grandia.”

As for what else Grandia might mean exactly, that’s something we want players to imagine for themselves. It will mean something different for everyone. I know there are some players out there who would prefer that we always use the same characters, but I think if they play this game they’ll realize “ah, this is ‘Grandia’ too.”

—In Grandia II, you’ve chosen a more traditional sword and sorcery world. What were you hoping to achieve there?

Miyaji: It’s a natural world. One of our goals with the Grandia series is to depict nature—green, living nature. Natural beauty is one of the touchstones of our design when we build the terrain and maps, to which we try and add something original and creative, a world that players have not seen before.

It’s easy enough to just make a futuristic looking world, but I don’t think it’s very interesting to look at. We felt a simple “futuristic” look was too boring for the first Grandia, so we chose a steam age world of machinery. It would boring to do the same thing again, though, so we wanted to place more emphasis on the natural scenery in the world of Grandia II.

—The atmosphere feels very different from the first Grandia. What was your original concept for Grandia II?

Saitou: Our previous games Lunar, Lunar II, and Grandia all took place in very “fairy tale” worlds. For Grandia II we wanted to tell a more adult story. That was our guiding idea. It’s sort of like, in the past we had to put the brakes on our ideas, but now we’re going full speed ahead! Also, Grandia II will be released at the dawn of the new millennium, and we wanted to try and capture the spirit of this time. With fairy tales, you always end up dealing with “universal” themes, but in this game we wanted to try adding some modern realism—just a touch, of course, since it ceases to be entertainment if you overdo it.

—With Grandia II being on the Dreamcast, I would think your target demographic is a little older now.

Miyaji: Yeah. To begin with, obviously the people who played Grandia are also now 3-4 years older. So that was one reason we raised our target age.

The other reason is that, with the Grandia series, we don’t want to make the same game everytime. The last game was a young boy’s tale of adventure, but in Grandia we wanted to show other things. By raising the target age, we could make the world a little more edgy and mature.

Takeshi Miyaji

—How did you decide on this particular cast of characters?

Miyaji: After we had finished writing the story, we contacted several illustrators and had them do a variety of concept art drawings for us. We chose the person whose work we felt best matched the world of Grandia II, and that was Yuushi Kanoe. As I mentioned, the story is more serious this time, but if it’s all serious then it would be boring. So there’s also comical parts, lighthearted parts, tragic parts—all the ups and downs of life. I think the character art of Yuushi Kanoe captures all those various facets, and helps convey the thematic weight of the story.

—It’s unusual to see a protagonist like Ryudo, who is such a cold realist.

Miyaji: Yeah, you do see a lot of heroes who are simply passionate. Of course Ryudo, as the protagonist, has some secrets hidden within. (laughs)

—What do you think has changed the most, from Grandia to Grandia II?

Miyaji: It’s a very simple thing, but the fact that we’re now rendering all the characters in polygons. That means we can have scenes with more involved camera angles from the side, in addition to the rotating camera from before. There’s a lot of really cute little scenes we can do now with these characters.

—We’ve been hearing the phrase “next-gen RPG” lately—what does that mean to you?

Miyaji: That’s a tough question. To my thinking, you have to think of it within the bounds of the genre. With Grandia II we wanted to tell a good story, make sure the battles have a lot of oomph… it was improving the particulars that was our first priority. We may not be reinventing the genre, but I think the overall, the impact is strong. After all, if you step too far outside the frame of what constitutes an RPG, you’re no longer playing an RPG, are you? So yeah, maybe to me “next-gen” just means creating something that’s cool, impressive, and excites players.

Visual “flowchart” for the story, made once the team had figured out the general outline of events. Some of the locations show events that never made it into the final version of the game.

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