Moon – 1997 Developer Interview

Moon - 1997 Developer Interview

This moon developer interview was originally featured in the "Moon: Official Book" printed in 1997. It mostly focuses on the backstory of the characters and world, including things that didn't make it into the game (though some of the answers should probably be taken with a grain of salt). The book also features a small selection of concept art with developer commentary, which I've included in full here.

Kenichi Nishi (Planner/Writer)
The planner and scenario writer of moon. He's the central figure of this project. His beloved dog was the model for Tao.
Yoshiro Kimura (Planner/Designer)
Planning and game design. He created the kakunte, and supervised Yoshida's Osaka dialect. His favorite character is Yoshida.
Taro Kudo (Planner/Designer)
Planner and game designer. He did the Eco Club and Rocque. He likes Pappas when he's in the middle of writing.
Kazuyuki Kurashima (Character Design)
Character designer. Supervised all the claymation. His favorite character is Adder.
Akira Ueda (Backgrounds)
Mainly worked on the background graphics. He also selected songs for the minidisc. His favorite animal is Tommy.

—What happened when the moon lost its light?

Kimura: That year there were torrential rains, hailstorms, and many other terrible disasters… probably.

Kurashima: I've completely forgotten what we wrote about that.

Kimura: In the beginning of the development we wrote a proper "chronology" of sorts for Moon World. What was in that…

—What is the true nature of Moon World?

Kimura: Well, the only people who have a vague notion that they are fictional characters are Dr. Hager, Florence, and Yoshida.

Kudo: It doesn't seem like any of the characters realize that the Crypchip at the ending was actually bought in Akihabara, though.

Kurashima: Great, now you've just spilled the beans!

The Moon staff, clockwise from top left: Yoshiro Kimura, Akira Ueda, Taro Kudo, Kenichi Nishino, and Kazuyuki Kurashima.

—What is the "Door of Light"?

Kimura: Towards the end there's a scene where the boy is being beckoned to open the "door of light", which is a gateway that connects the fictional world and the real world. People who couldn't open that door have fallen into a kind of trap... that's the feeling we were trying to convey.

Nishi: It could also be called the doorway into the heart of this boy who loves video games.

—Is Gramby blind?

Kurashima: In the beginning of the development, we also thought of having it where the Gramby actually could see, and she's fully aware of what happened to her grandson, but she pretends to be blind so the protagonist will stay with her. I thought that was even sadder, maybe.

Kimura: Yeah, but if she was only pretending to be blind, it kind of makes her a bad grandma.

—What happened to the grandson's parents?

Nishi: His parents are never mentioned in the game, but in the backstory his mother and father were soldiers, and they died in a war soon after he was born. By the way, Birdman fought with them in the war, and his parents died heroically shielding Birdman from gunfire. 1

Kurashima: Did you notice, Birdman has a scar from a gunshot wound on his side there?

Kimura: Hah, but there's no way players would be able to see it! But really, in the beginning all we had was "a grandma and her grandson", and we never thought that far, about who his parents were.

Kudo: That war, by the way, was the War of the Lions.

Kurashima: Uh, isn't that another game!

—Who is Dr. Hager?

Nishi: The King describes Hager as "a man with an encyclopedia stuffed in his head", but Dr. Stein Hager actually harbors a much larger secret. You probably noticed the sewn up mark on the back of his head? That is actually because another person, "Cocker Hager", exists in that huge head of his, and he is controlling Stein. There's also that secret "Hager File" on his desk, which shows a transparent schematic of his head, and that's another hint that Dr. Hager is no ordinary human being.

"Cocker Hager", the kakunte inside Dr. Hager's head.

Ueda: Whoa, really?

Kurashima: Wasn't it one of the Kakunte tribe in there…?

Kimura: In Hager's lab, there's some books lying there which are written by Cocker Hager, but no one knows that he and Stein are the same person.

—Who is the Chancellor?

Kurashima: I guess you could say he's the sole "bad guy" in the game.

Kimura: I hate the Chancellor!

—Where is the missing Signal Monkey?

Nishi: When you first encounter the gamelan-playing signal monkeys at the event on Bari Bari island, there's an empty seat there, and that signal monkey actually broke free from his chains and left the island. He was the first to do so. At present, he's working in Technopolis. And yes, the monkey playing the piano there at Clis' first live show is that very same monkey. That was his first live performance too!

Kurashima: Look closely, and you'll see he's got a case of the nerves and is shaking while he plays. Please try to understand his feelings.

Kudo: He was smuggled out of the island in Yoshida's cage. He doesn't plan to return to Bari Bari until he's made a name for himself.

A signal monkey makes good.

—Are the Kakunte aliens...?

Nishi: The kakunte are actually parasites of mushrooms; they attach themselves under the mushroom's cap and live there. They like humid, moist places, and their bodies are sticky to the touch. They look white on screen, but they really have marbled black and white coloring.

Kimura: To me, they're beneficial insects. I love fish and insects. I depicted them in moon the exact same way they appear in my dreams. I can see them dancing, all the kakunte…

Kudo: He's serious by the way.

Kurashima: He really does have those visions!

—Why are Baker and Bilby fighting?

Nishi: This is touched on in the game, but a long time ago Baker and Bilby were drinking buddies. However, Bibly kept pressuring Baker to get married, and they had a big fight and stopped hanging out. Now they always go drinking on different days.

By the way, rumor is that Baker used to open his bakery on Solarday, but Wanda chided him saying "The bread you sell on Solarday smells like booze!", and since then he's kept the shop closed on that day.

Kimura: What I love about Baker is how anyone can plainly see that he's made of bread, but he desperately tries to hide that. It's like, dude… you're not fooling anyone, you're made of bread!

—What kind of person is Yoshida?

Nishi: He gives off the air of a pseudo-intellectual, a Charlie Hama-ish kansai guy.

Kudo: There's antenna under the wings on his head.

Kurashima: "This was my original image for Shambles. When you compare him to the in-game version, he sure looks different!"

Kimura: Please don't take him too seriously. He was basically created as a expositional device to explain about the items.

—What can you tell us about Shambles and Flora?

Kudo: Shambles is in his 40s or 50s, so he's older than the King, probably.

Kurashima: Gase (his JP name) was modeled after a character from an old Sega action game, hence his name being an anagram of Sega.2

—Who paid for Technopolis to be built?

Nishi: Technopolis was 100% financed by Dr. Stein Hager. He had the patronage of the King, who asked him to build rockets, and he was also surprisingly skilled at collecting donations from the residents of Moon World. The robots in Technopolis were also created by Dr. Hager. It's not very clear in-game, by the way, but Saike, the DJ in the club, is actually a robot who's powered by his headphone connection.

Kudo: You can tell Saike is a robot because the way he sleeps is unnatural.

Kimura: Hager is an expert manager of money. The Re-men may go around droning "Sal..ary…", but Hager doesn't actually pay them a wage. (laughs)

Kurashima: They'd have nowhere to spend their money anyway!

—Who is that character who appears in Yoshida's night class scenes, in the last row in the back at the far left? You never see him again.

Nishi: His name is Dancho. In our early plans, there was a circus that featured animal shows, and Dancho was meant for that area. Also, when you fly across to Bari Bari Island, there's a thunder god playing drums. His name was "Thunder Todoro" (Roaring Thunder) and he was supposed to be in the game more.

Kudo: Well, let's just call them glimpses of Moon 2… so stop asking about these hidden characters!

Kimura: Dancho was an idea that didn't work out. He was supposed to be this cruel circusmaster who drove the animals relentlessly, but we ran out of places to put the circus tent. We'd gone to the trouble of creating his sprite though, so we tried to use him elsewhere.

Ueda: "This concept illustration of Technopolis was drawn by Kurashima. I was the one who drew the actual background graphics, though, and they turned out very different I'm afraid." Kurashima remarked that "this was more of a Hager-inspired vision of Technopolis."

—Where does the Eco Club get its funding from?

Nishi: Rather than doing anything resembling actual radical environmentalism, the Eco Club is more a cariacature of activism. They got their funding by stealing. They see themselves as Robin Hoods.

Kurashima: The "activist" siblings and the whole eco club thing were created by Kudo, over everyone else's objections.

Kudo: I was told we'd definitely be receiving complaints from those kind of organizations, but I went ahead and made it anyway.

Kurashima: By the way, just to be safe, I should say… the things Momi is playing with by the kotatsu, that's not a Zak from Gundam.

—Can you tell us about the other protagonist you had planned, "toumei-chan"?

Kurashima: She came to Moon World from Kobe. But she couldn't find any clothes so you can't see her in the game. With the boy from Tokyo, and the girl from Kobe, it's just like Santo Monogatari. 3

Kudo: You don't have to write that. No one cares about that.

Kimura: It was a complete failure, that idea.

Art for toumei-chan ("transparent girl"), an idea for a female protagonist that never "materialized" in the final game.

—Is there any other trivia you have to share?

Kimura: The ending staff roll uses pictures of the LOVEdeLIC staff's cars and homes.

Kurashima: Also, when you eat mushrooms and there's that psychedelic hallucination with the hands, those hands are mine. I'm a hand model.

Kudo: Burrn was one of our favorites, we put a lot of care into making him. We even specified what kind of guitar he plays (a Richie Blackmore stratocaster).

Kimura: You really do run into guys like that working at record stores sometimes.

—Please leave a message for fans.

Kimura: Well, take your time and really smell the roses when you're walking around. In this game there's more to see by standing still than rushing around everywhere… anyway, there's lots to explore, so please enjoy it.

Ueda: Games made in Japan these days all have pretty lousy graphics, don't they? Of course there are lots of exceptions. But I think with moon, taking the graphics, sound, and the writing together, we've created something I can confidently say won't let you down.

Kudo: When you make something in a pure way, unfettered by the misundertandings of adulthood, this is what you get. I hope it becomes one of your most fondly remembered games.

Nishi: So, how was it? Was moon fun? If you like this, I think you're a true RPG fan. Or maybe it's the other way around…? Either way is fine with me to be honest. So, how was it? Was moon fun?

Kurashima: What'd you think? Was it fun… fun enough? If you have the time, please send your thoughts to us at LOVEdeLIC. Please look forward to our next game too, or something. Bye bye!

These illustrations for the hero and Queen Aphrodite are obvious parodies of Yoshitaka Amano's artwork for Final Fantasy; in fact, illustrator Kurashima is credited for these pieces as "Amanogawa Kurashima" in the Moon Official Book.
Kurashima: These are some early drawings of Wanda and Beehav. At first Wanda was called "Fumiko-san", and she was a fortune teller, not a mama-san at a bar."
Kurashima: "I was thinking it would be better if you could see the hero's face when I drew this early sketch. By the way, the designs for Rasumaeeda and the Dragon from Fake Moon were inspired by a certain famous RPG...
Kudo: "This was the very first in-game screen used in an early prototype of moon."

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  1. The answer from Nishi here and several below are actually written in paragraph form in the book; they're unattributed remarks, but with info that could only have come from the scenario writer (Nishi), so I've arranged them this way for readability.

  2. Possibly the dwarf from Golden Axe, though I'm open to other suggestions.

  3. Meaning "a tale of three cities", this was a famous tourism campaign that the JR West ran in 1990 for Tokyo / Osaka / Kobe, and was also the name of a hit song two years later. I imagine Kurashima is referring to Technopolis as the third city here.

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