Star Ocean – 1996/1998 Developer Interviews

Star Ocean – Developer Interviews

These two interviews for Star Ocean and Star Ocean: Second Story were found in their respective strategy guides. The first, from 1996, is unfortunately quite short, but connects the development of Star Ocean with Tales of Phantasia. The second interview from 1998 is done in a round-table style, and goes deep into the details of the story and game design of Second Story.

Masaki Norimoto – Game Designer
Yoshiharu Gotanda – Main Programmer and Writer

—Please tell us the story behind the creation of Star Ocean.

Norimoto: After we made Tales of Phantasia for Namco, we thought the core item and skill systems had turned out kind of generic, and not distinct enough from other rpgs. We decided for our next game to really go deep on the gameplay systems. We added both skills and special abilities, and greatly increased the number of items. We wanted to make a game where the player could be as creative as he wanted, and play the game in any style he liked.

Gotanda: And because we wanted to explore the characters more, we created the Private Action system. We chose space as the setting for Star Ocean, because it allowed us to tell a bigger story than we could in Tales of Phantasia.

—Does the Private Action system influence whether you get the good ending?

Gotanda: Well, we didn’t think of the endings as “good” or “bad,” but yes, the affection rating is important for the endings. That’s why we decided not to make that stat visible to players. It’s not only Private Actions that raise it though; fighting battles with Ratix also plays a big part.

Norimoto: Did you get the bunny?


Norimoto: There’s a Bunny Whistle in Tatori that serves as the fastest mode of transport in the game. You need to have Pericci in your party. There’s a Private Action with her in Portsmith that should give you a big hint.

Yoshiharu Gotanda (top) and Masaki Norimoto (below), 1993.

Gotanda: We added a lot of hidden content and secret techniques to Star Ocean. I hope you enjoy reading about them in this strategy guide!

Star Ocean: Second Story – 1998 Developer Interview

originally featured in the SO2 strategy guide

Yoshiharu Gotanda (Scenario)
Main programming and scenario design. Overall leader, had his hand in most of the SO2 development.
Joe Asanuma (Director)
Director on SO2. Currently working on the next game.
Makoto Yamamoto (Programmer)
Contributed many of the weird ideas in SO2.
Hiroya Hatsushiba (Sound)
Sound programmer. Worked on all aspects of the sound, from music to the character voices.
Chikaaki Tokuhiro (Programmer)
Did the initial programming for the item creation system.
Yoshinori Yamagishi (Planner)
Software Planner at Enix. He participated in the SO2 development as a programmer, and contributed various ideas of his own.

—Star Ocean: Second Story is plenty of fun just to play as a typical RPG, but on top of that you went and added the Private Action, item creation system, and much more. It’s a game you can really go deep on.

Asanuma: Yeah, it is. Maybe it’s even a little too geared to the hardcore player…?

—I imagine it must have taken quite awhile to create all this rich content. When did you start the actual work?

Asanuma: About two and a half years ago. We were already thinking of a sequel to the first Star Ocean for Super Famicom as soon as it was finished, and we got started on it right away.

—If you could each share one-by-one, what were some of the challenges you faced in this development?

Gotanda: With the Playstation, we had much more memory this time, which had many merits, like allowing us to create more beautiful graphics. By the same token, however, it meant we had a lot more to create! It was really fun making everything though.

Yamamoto: I didn’t have too many technical problems. Things got too busy though, and I often couldn’t go home, which took a toll on my body. I spent many a night sleeping in the conference room at Tri-Ace. (laughs)

Hatsushiba: In the ending anime movie, getting Claud and Rena’s voices to playback together correctly was tough. Also, since the characters talk during combat, it was a challenge to include that and the music, and not have the music drop in quality.

Tokuhiro: We hugely expanded the item creation system from the last game, and creating all the items with polygonal graphics was very hard.

The SO2 team (L-R): Joe Asanuma, Yoshiharu Gotanda, Hiroya Hatsushiba. Bottom: Chikaaki Tokuhiro, Makoto Yamamoto, Yoshinori Yamagishi.

Asanuma: Just checking all the content was tough. And there were Private Actions to check in addition to the main story. I knew it would be like this, but I was still surprised at how much time it took once I actually played through it all.

Yamagishi: Yeah, I would say all the playtesting and bugchecking, too. Also, the developers loved putting all their own little hobbies and quirks into the game, and I had to restrain them from running wild. It wasn’t easy. (laughs)

—What kind of things, for example?

Yamagishi: The Master Chef at Fun City, for example. Or that jam store in Salva.

Yamamoto: I added those. The Master Chef I took from that popular tv show everyone knows. I figured you’ve gone to all the trouble of learning to cook, it would be a shame not to have a competition! As for the jam store, music fans probably noticed this, but the name of the shop owner, Yuki, and the shop itself “Dolphin Kick” are related to a certain rock band.1 I’m a fan myself. I actually had more grand designs in mind originally…

—Such as?

Yamamoto: In a Private Action event in Salva, Yuki mentions that she wants to be a singer. Following that, I had an event where Yuki becomes a singer and holds a big concert. But due to various circumstances, including running out of time, we had to cut it. It’s a shame—I even had the concert hall graphics all completed!

—Next, I’d like to ask some lingering questions about the story. First, in Claude’s opening, there’s that huge round dome on Milokeenia… does that have any connection to the main plot?

Gotanda: It did originally, but during the development it got cut.

—What was it?

Gotanda: It had some connection to the Heraldry Weapons Laboratory on Nede. We had thought of several scenarios that would be connected to it, too.

The mysterious dome on Milokeenia, from Claude’s opening scene.

—In Ernest’s ending, there’s a scene where he’s investigating Milokeenia…

Gotanda: We were actually just re-using graphics there. (laughs) It’s not Milokeenia.

—The Sorcery Globe is a key item in the story of Star Ocean 2. However, when I saw it at the top of Eluria Tower, it was much smaller than I had expected.

Gotanda: In the backstory it’s between 3-5 meters in diameter, but it has the power to change its size depending on the circumstances.

—Does that explain what we see in the opening demo, when it crashes into Expel? It looks really huge there.

Gotanda: Basically, once we handed the story and materials over to Links,2 they went ahead and created the movies for us. I think if the Sorcery Globe had been too small it wouldn’t have looked cool, so they made it more flashy.

Yamagishi: Maybe the explosion was too big.

Gotanda: Yeah, but if a 4-5 meter object really did collide with the Earth at such high speed, I think the explosion would be that large. If it didn’t burn up in orbit, the shockwave would be tremendous.

—I think this next question might be related, but in the Eluria area, near an estuary by the volcano there’s a line of circular columns. What are those columns?

Gotanda: Those are the ruins of El Castle. In the backstory, after the Sorcery Globe crashed near Eluria Colony, monsters began rampaging and destroyed the castle.

Yamamoto: During development, we actually created a map of Expel before the Sorcery Globe crashed… but we ended up not using it.

Hatsushiba: There was a one-scene event early in the story that featured it, if I recall?

—What was it?

Hatsushiba: It was a scene where Regis, the mayor of Arlia Vilage, tells you about the Sorcery Globe. Using a world map from before the impact, he shows you where the Sorcery Globe crashed.

The Cooking Master scene in Fun City.

—Ah, that sounds like an interesting scenario.

Asanuma: Yeah. But when we tried it out, it didn’t have quite the impact we expected, so we cut it.

—That’s too bad. I would have liked to see that.

Yamamoto: The staff who made the map felt the same.

Gotanda: There were a lot of other towns that we ended up cutting from the final version. For example, west of Cross Castle there’s a desert, but originally there was a town there. It was Ashton’s hometown, in fact.

—At the end of disc 1, Expel is destroyed. What happens to the characters who you don’t bring into your party, like Dias for Claude, and Leon for Rena?

Yamamoto: They’re dead. (laughs)

Gotanda: Yeah, but Expel is resurrected late, so everyone comes back to life.

—And Claude’s father, Ronyx?

Gotanda: We decided to leave that up to the players. There was a lot of debate among we developers too, about whether he should live or die. Having him be dead would leave a bad aftertaste, but having him come back to life is just a little too convenient, isn’t it? (laughs) So we decided not to say anything, and leave it up to the player’s imagination. You can see him as alive, but you can also see him as dead. Whatever works for you.

—But in the ending, there’s a scene with the Calnus ship…

Gotanda: That isn’t the Calnus. It’s the same model, but a different ship.

Star Ocean 2 art by pixiv user shimamiko.

—In Bowman’s ending, there’s a scene with Keith where he says he’s deciphered the ancient texts. He talks about Nede, but is there a connection between Nede and the Cross Cave?

Gotanda: When we first made them, those ancient texts weren’t especially important to the story. They were just like programming flags that signaled an event was complete. However, if we left it like that we figured players would have questions, so we decided to touch on those texts in Bowman’s ending.

Asanuma: The reason those ancient Nedian texts were in the Cross Cave is because they accidentally got sent along with Rena when she was sent across time and space 700 million years ago, and by mistake were left in that cave.

—When Shin attacks you on the ship and takes away the Lacour Hope, is that because the Sorcery Globe needs the energy stones contained in it?

Gotanda: Yeah. The energy stones are the keys to making the Sorcery Globe operational. With those two things, the Ten Wise Men can plan their escape from Expel.

—So the energy stones are Quadratic Keys, and the Sorcery Globe is a Quadratic Sphere. Is Rena’s pendant also a Quadratic Key?

Gotanda: That’s right.

—Then, did the Ten Wise Men also want to use the power of her pendant to get home?

Gotanda: No, not quite. The quadratic keys and spheres have a 1:1 correspondence, so even though Rena’s pendant does cause an effect in the Sorcery Globe, it can’t actually make it operate. The Sorcery Globe is made through the crystallization of Heraldry magic, so the energy stones can draw out its power without causing it to malfunction.

—How did the Ten Wise Men escape from the Eternity Space prison?

Gotanda: Well… if you watch Superman II I think you’ll figure it out. (laughs) We took the whole concept for the Eternity Space from there. In the movie Superman detonates a nuclear bomb near Earth, and that allows the three villains to escape their prison. The Eternity Space in Star Ocean isn’t ruptured by a nuclear explosion, but our image for how it happened is basically like the scene in that movie.

Yamamoto: There are still secrets in the universe… even ones the Nedians don’t know. (laughs)

—The Ten Wise Men bosses were very difficult this game.

Tokuhiro: We received a lot of criticism over the bosses being too weak in the first Star Ocean, so made them harder. (laughs) This time we’re confident in their strength!

—Zadkiel, Jophiel, and Metatron weren’t too bad, but the three that appear on the first floor of Phynal (Camael, Raphael, and Zadkiel) were extremely hard.

Asanuma: They were actually harder during the development. But everyone was getting massacred by Raphael’s attack where he sucks you into another universe, so we had to tone it down.

Yamagishi: I remember that. I got killed right away there in my playthrough, too.

In the anime adaptation Star Ocean EX, Yamamoto got his wish for jam shop owner Yuki.

—The battle where I was like, “thank god that’s over!” was the fight with Michael and Haniel. They were extremely tough—fighting Michael right after Haniel, without a break, was especially hard.

Gotanda: I personally liked Michael a lot, so I made him strong.

Hatsushiba: The way he goes “acchi!” when he attacks stood out. Whenever the developers heard that voice, everyone would start laughing. (laughs)

—That voice was really memorable. It reminded me of Cyuss from the first Star Ocean. Were they the same voice actor?

Gotanda: Yes, Hiroki Touchi. I’m a fan of his.

—Well, to wrap things up, now that Star Ocean Second Story is finished, what particular things do you feel satisfied with, and what do you feel could still use improvement?

Yamagishi: Star Ocean has become Enix’s next big RPG series after Dragon Quest. I feel like we’ve accomplished something big here. However, maybe it was a little too big, in the sense that you need a strategy guide like this to cover everything.

Asanuma: I think it’s a fun game to just play, but there’s a lot of depth to explore too. I’m happy how that turned out. As for things I’d like to improve, I think lowering the difficulty to appeal to a younger player demorgraphic might have been a good idea.

Yamamoto: There were too few Private Actions—I wanted to include more. Also, I really wanted to do the jam shop owner Yuki’s concert event. (laughs)

Tokuhiro: I’m glad we were able to have such a variety of items to craft. But I did want to make more varied scenes for when you actually create the item. If there’s a sequel, that’s something I’d like to change. And of course upping the number of items.

Gotanda: Next game it’s gonna have to be more than 10,000!

Hatsushiba: I wanted to have vocal samples where two people are saying the same thing together. But I’m satisfied with what we were able to accomplish for this release.

Gotanda: I’m not “satisfied.” If I were satisfied at the end, then I’d have no desire to work on the next game. Story, visuals, music—I want to improve all of it.

—Wow, you’re hard on yourself! But hearing those words gives me hope for the next Star Ocean. How about it, Star Ocean 3?

Gotanda: We can’t say at this point whether there will be a Star Ocean 3 or not, but in some shape or form, we’re planning another game.

Asanuma: We can’t divulge much yet, but it will surely surpass this game. Please look forward to it!

The Tri-Ace (+1 Enix) team, looking to the future.

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  1. ossibly Judy and Mary. The Japanese shop owner introduces herself as “Sobakasu no Yuki”; Yuki is the singer of Judy and Mary, and Sobakasu was a popular album/song that had come out not long before SO2.

  2. A cg company also responsible for FFVII and Shining Force III movies.


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