Suikoden II – 1999 Developer Interviews

Suikoden II - 1999 Developer Interviews

The first of these two Suikoden II interviews appeared in the 3/99 edition of Dengeki Playstation; the second comes from the Japanese Gensou Suikoden II 108 Stars Character Guide. Both get deep into the nitty-gritty details of how Suikoden II's many characters were created, and include other design topics and comical accounts of behind-the-scenes hijinks.

Yoshitaka Murayama – Director
Miki Higashino – Sound
Akiyoshi Ohta – Programming
Fumi Ishikawa – Character Design
Jun Saito – Object Design

—I'm sure that you have received lots of feedback from users about various aspects of the game by now. How do you feel about it all?

Murayama: There were some amazing people who were actually able to beat the game on the day of release.

Ohta: I'm just relieved that people didn't give up halfway through. I was also glad that people didn't hate Nanami.

Murayama: Yeah, she's actually become pretty popular, hasn't she?

Ishikawa: However, there were some people who complained that her character illustration didn't match her character.

Murayama: Who said that? I don't remember that. (laughs) Her relationship with Riou requires her to appear a lot, so we couldn't have her be too cute.

Ohta: That's why it's been so surprising to hear how popular she is now.

Top (L-R): Yoshitaka Murayama (director), Miki Higashino (sound), Akiyoshi Ohta (programmer); Bottom: Fumi Ishikawa (character design), Jun Saito (object design)

—I was really surprised by that early scene where she grabs Riou by the neck and shakes him.

Ohta: That's what we were aiming for. (laughs) We were aiming for a nice hook because we knew she'd definitely be hated for that.

Saito: Ohta was very specific about how he wanted the animations to look.

Ohta: Yeah, after Nanami, I couldn't stop myself from increasing the amount of animation patterns after that. (laughs)

Murayama: Every time I saw that scene, it seemed like the number of animation patterns had increased. Riou's imprint on the wall, when she throws you against it, that wasn't there in the beginning. It got added in somewhere along the line.

Saito: Did someone request it?

Ishikawa: Everyone was saying that there should definitely be some kind of mark left behind, so we had the background artist draw it in.

Higashino: After that everyone started talking about adding extra sound effects. (laughs)

—So, those were not your orders then, Murayama?

Murayama: My main role was basically just writing scenarios and dialogue. Once we got started working though, I would pass things on to different members of the team and would be shocked once I had them show me things on screen. (laughs)

Ohta: I knew I would get in trouble if people realized how much animation I was asking for, so I made sure to do it discreetly.

Everyone: (breaks out in laughter)

Ishikawa: Murayama-san would get angry if he found out…

Saito: But you really overdid it! You know how much work you added by adding all that animation?! Still, it was probably necessary. The scenario wouldn't have worked out without the right amount of movement from the characters.

Ohta: Exactly! And Murayama-san, you had high expectations, didn't you?

Murayama: Yeah, but I wondered if the characters would actually move in the way I wrote them. (laughs)

The above-mentioned scene with Nanami. The comical animations here (Nanami shaking Riou and his imprint left in the rock) were a point of pride for the team.

—There was a lot of variation in the face portraits as well, weren't there?

Ishikawa: There were lots of scenes where Ohta-san asked for changes, saying it would be strange for them to have the default face portrait.

Murayama: There's also random characters that ended up with face portraits as well, such as the mayor of Tinto's daughter, Lily.

Ishikawa: Yeah, what happened? I drew a full body portrait for them as well. I thought we were going to use them more.

Murayama: I'm not really sure. (laughs) Maybe those were more "discreet" additions? (laughs)

—Was having five flying squirrels also something that got snuck in?

Ishikawa: In the beginning, they just had different colored capes, but before we knew it, they all had different faces. (laughs)

Ohta: That was Murayama-san's doing. Didn't you say, I want to be able to walk with just Riou and flying squirrels.

Murayama: Oh, did I? I don't remember that. (laughs)

—Another thing, I thought I'd be able to befriend that inn girl Ellie in Banner Village, so I ended up staying at the inn multiple times.

Murayama: Oh, really? Actually, she's there to replace Gremio if the player doesn't have him in their carry-over data.

—It was too bad there were no full-body portraits for Bocchan the previous main character) or Gremio.

Ishikawa: That's because I was scared about how fans of the first game would react, so I didn't draw them. When I was drawing their face portraits, I felt anxious. Theirs were probably the faces that I was most careful about.

—Chuchara also didn't have a full-body portrait, right?

Ohta: Yes, she probably didn't want to draw that. I think she hates octopuses.

Ishikawa: I don't want to have to look through any sea animal encyclopedias. There are tons of pictures filled with nothing but octopuses.

—If you don't befriend all three octopi, you can't get all 108 stars, correct?

Murayama: Adding the octopi was my own personal touch, so please show some octo-love and do your best. (laughs)

Ohta: Weren't the octopi and squirrels added around the same time though?

Re-uniting the octopi, one of many "secret" additions.

Murayama: Yes. That was also added secretly.

Ishikawa: You can't let you're guard down when Murayama-san and Ohta-san are talking. They are always trying to sneak in something.

Murayama: There's even more we haven't mentioned...

Ohta: Oh, like Nina's… Unite attack.

Ishikawa: Nina? Oh! I didn't know about that!

Ohta: Ishikawa likes Flik, so whenever she sees Nina, it angers her. The battle team knew she'd freak out if she saw it, so they made it secretly. And they knew Ishikawa-san would never use Nina, so they were hoping she would never notice.

Murayama: You know the planning notes for the Unite attacks... (whispers) actually there were two different types!

Ishikawa: Wait, what?!

Murayama: We prepared a fake "dummy" sheet of planning notes first, and we only handed the real notes with the Unite attacks to the people creating them. Someone lazily left their notes open on their desk though. (laughs)

Ohta: We knew she'd definitely get mad so we weren't going to tell her about it, even after it was done.

Ishikawa: Can you believe they'd do that to me? After how hard I worked. Isn't that the worst?

Ohta: But, if you saw it, you'd get mad, right?

Ishikawa: Why would you think I'd get angry?

Murayama: You might not get angry, but we were worried you might delete it. (laughs)

Ishikawa: But, I don't have that kind of clearance, do I?

Murayama: Well…

Everyone: (laughing hysterically)

—Well, then. What were the things that each of your struggled with?

Murayama: There were many things but patching everything up into one cohesive story proved to be quite difficult. In the beginning, we had planned for about 1.5 times the volume of the original, but halfway through it was already double so I was bit worried.

Saito: You can't beat this in 20 hours.

Murayama: That's strange. I must've made a mistake with my calculations. (laughs) I did have to work really hard to keep things as compact as possible in the latter half of the development, though.

Nina and Flik's unite, "Groupie Attack." The team actually created separate planning instructions to keep it secret from Ishikawa.

Ohta: The hardest thing for me was the cooking. That blew up like crazy, didn't it? (laughs) In the beginning it was just something were playing around with and didn't take up that much memory. In the planning docs, there were 240 different varieties of food listed, so I knew things were getting a little dangerous.

Ultimately, I ended up spending about a whole week in tears as I re-did all of the programming. (laughs)

Saito: Struggles, hmmm... I mean, as sprite designer, my work is always voluminous. (laughs) But that was the style the first game had established.

Murayama: Yeah, animation for all 108 plus characters, that was a must. I thought it was a lot of work, but because you guys were so fast I kept asking for more. (laughs)

Ohta: Though later on, Saito-san made it clear he didn't want to have to take on anymore work.

Murayama: Yeah, he had to say, "Stop giving me more work!" (laughs)

Ohta: That's why, in order not to annoy him, we would go to Saito-san and say suggestive things like, "Maybe this animation would be better if it had this..." (laughing hysterically)

—Were things like the Kobold dance added in the same manner?

Murayama: I saw the Kobold dance and the Guardian Deity in the middle off the night one time when I was a bit wired, and I was rolling on the floor laughing.

—I can picture that.

Murayama: It's hard to get something good from the guardian deity. There were also 256 different varieties for that, so it was rough. How about you, Ishikawa-san... you probably suffered the most.

Ohta: I bet it was tough having to come up with 108 characters, wasn't it?

Ishikawa: I had no choice in that matter. (bitter smile) The hardest thing was getting approval for illustrations. Things like the color of Meg's socks.

Murayama: That's right, we argued about whether the color of her knee socks should be brown or white. There were some people dead set on white knee socks. (laughs)

Ishikawa: That took a whole two days to decide. In the end, we reluctantly ended up settling on white socks since Sierra had white socks.

Ohta: Still, that doesn't mean Meg looks best in white!

Everyone: (laughing hysterically)

Murayama: Ok, next Higashino-san.

Higashino: Oh, well I wasn't pressured with too many demands. However, Ohta-san would come to remind me to have Nanami's theme ready for when she made her debut. (laughs) If I'd tried to make a theme for everyone, there would've been no end to it, but Ohta-san squeezed what he could out of me. (laughs)

Ishikawa: Ohta-san definitely seems to be the most selfish one here.

Everyone: (laughing hysterically)

—Who are your favorite characters and scenes?

Murayama: My favorite character is Teresa. My favorite scene is the peaceful death of Luca Blight... I felt a great weight off my shoulders after I finished writing that one.

Director Murayama's favorite scene in Suikoden II.

Higashino: My favorite characters are Annallee, Teresa, and Apple. My favorite scenes are Shu's fire card and Apple's kneeling scene.

Ohta: My favorite characters are Meg and Vicky. Nanami is in a class of all her own, so I hold a deep love for all of her scenes.

Ishikawa: My favorite character is Shiro. My favorite scene is when you talk to Shiro and he gets up... I'm a dog-lover through and through.

Saito: My favorite characters are Nanami, Wakaba, Owen, and Genshu. The scenes Ohta-san requested definitely took a lot of effort but I love them all the more for it.

—Well, then, please tell me about your favorite music.

Murayama: For me it was the very last duel on the Tenzan pass. When Higashino-san let me hear it, I was like, "Oh, this is so cool." It gave me goosebumps.

Ohta: I personally liked Neclord's battle theme. I liked the Dracula-like feel of it.

Saito: Hmm. For me, I think it's the piano piece that plays after you jump into the waterfall.

Ishikawa: Yes, I vote for the same.

Higashino: Same for me! (laughs) The title of that track is Reminiscence (回想 kaisou), and it has a lot of my own personality in it, so I really like it. I feel like that song is one of my masterpieces.

—Who is the person singing in the song?

Higashino: That is actually a traditional folk singer, she also did the opening movie song as well. Her name is Yumiko Takahashi and she's actually an employee here at Konami. (laughs)

Ishikawa: She's a designer, and does traditional folk singing as a hobby. Didn't she win some kind of national competition?

Higashino: I believe she came in fifth place at the national traditional folk singing competition. I just happened to hear about it, and then I got her to let me listen to her tape.

—How about Annallee. Who sings for her?

Higashino: That's also a member of our company. (bitter smile) Also, the voice of the flying squirrels in the mini game is Murayama-san's voice.

Murayama: That's given away by the soundtrack. That's the voice I make when things are good, but I am a little unsatisfied. We just recorded it as it came out.

Ohta: When I saw the mini game, I was really surprised. I was like, "I can hear Murayama-san's voice in the background." (laughs)

Miki Higashino's Reminiscence, a favorite among the staff.

—I'm going to change the topic now, but was the tragedy at Rockaxe Castle really necessary for the scenario?

Murayama: That was planned from the beginning. This time we wanted to go with the theme of 'showing the reality of war', so we couldn't ignore the part about people dying. In war, lots of people die, but people also die for simpler things as well. Whether that's a good or bad thing, it was something that needed to be written about. In order to illustrate this, it wouldn't be fair if it wasn't somebody close.

—Still, both in the original and in this one, it's the person closest to the hero, yeah?

Ohta: Our original story plans didn't include that best ending.

Murayama: In the previous game, we weren't originally planning for players to be able to revive Gremio either. For the story to have a certain finality to it, though, it would be better if there were no chance of revival, as this brings the story together better in the end. This time around, I tried to harden my heart, but when I was writing scenes like the duel with Jowy, I felt it was becoming too tragic. (laughs)

For Suikoden II, we used a Chinese story about dueling heroes called White Vengeance as a motif. In that story, one hero is really strong, but is not well-liked by others, while the other hero is weak and keeps running away, but in the end he wins with the support of everyone. So, naturally the latter takes the role of the main character of the story. For the unliked hero, we split his personality in two, as portrayed in the characters of Luca and Jowy.

—I see. So, that's why. By the way, why didn't we get the chance to fight Rowd?

Ohta: In the beginning it was planned for him to fall, but his little sister was too cute to do it.

Saito: Rowd didn't even know about his little sister, did he? Isn't there a blind girl on a hill in Kyaro Town?

Ohta: That girl was left out of the final version, wasn't she?

Saito: The whole reason Rowd got involved in everything was because he wanted to save up enough money to cure his little sister's blindness.

—Oh, really? Wow, that's deep. Also, why did you guys decide to do multiple endings?

Murayama: As for the final duel in the mountain pass, we wanted it to happen, but we didn't want to force it. We also wanted not fighting Jowy to be an option, too.

The most unique ending can be seen if you make the choice in Tinto City to run away. There was some debate about this, but I personally felt like running was a valid option in that situation, so we decided to add it. We wanted to create multiple correct answers, you see. Since it basically ends the story in the middle, we didn't have staff credits or make it some kind of fancy ending, but that was partly what we intended.

Ishikawa: I think it's perfectly reasonable. After all, there are flying squirrels in this game.

Murayama: (laughs) Perhaps that would've been the best happy ending.

—Are there four endings in total?

Murayama: There are four main endings, but some things change whether the player has all of the 108 characters or not.

Ohta: Going through and checking all of that was really tough. (laughs)

—Do you already have plans for the next installment in the series?

Murayama: Hmm.. (laughs) I have a lot of ideas floating around, but my mind's a bit blank right now, so I need some time to recover.

—Should we keep our save data for the future?

Murayama: I'm not sure yet, sorry.

—Please share one message for players out there.

Murayama: As the creators, we've left plenty of room for your imagination to run wild, so make use of your imagination and enjoy yourself! That's the biggest thing I ask of players.

Ohta: Well, you could write to Konami. Whether we can make a sequel or not depends on your letters. (laughs)

Saito: There are some things we couldn't achieve, but if we're given another chance, we'll surely do our best. (laughs)

Ishikawa: I hope that you find that one character you really love.

Higashino: To suit the story, I wrote many sad songs and high-tension songs, but if there's a sequel, I would like to make some more fun music. (laughs)

Murayama: We've now done two games that focused on the bitter parts of war, so going forward we'd like to go for a different feel and make something more focused on adventure.

Everyone: Thank you!

Suikoden II - 1999 Developer Interview

originally featured in the Gensou Suikoden II Character Guide

Yoshitaka Murayama – Director
Fumi Ishikawa – Character Design

—So, first of all, where did the original plot and idea for "Genso Suikoden" come from, and how did it come together?

Murayama: When we first conceived the original "Genso Suikoden", the idea of creating many characters came first, before the Suikoden motif. I thought it would be good to have a lot of characters, which would make it more likely that players would find someone they like. When I was in high school, there were a lot of manga with different types of protagonists, and I thought it would be cool to create a story like that. In most RPGs, the story is told by the main character and a few other central characters. But I wanted to show different types of people and show their different charms.

When I was discussing Suikoden with the director, he asked me what kind of story it was going to be, and I said, "It's going to have a lot of characters," and I thought he wouldn't understand if I used a manga metaphor there, so I said, "Like Suikoden." Then he suddenly said, "Well, let's do that", and so we decided to make it. (laughs) It turned out to be a challenging task.

Ishikawa: It was your fault. (laughs).

Murayama: If you had said something like "Journey to the West" at that time, it would have been a bit easier. Too bad. (laughs)

—So how did the story of "Genso Suikoden II" come together?

Murayama: For "Genso Suikoden II", we started with the motif of the story of Xiang Yu and Liu Bang. The hero's side is Liu Bang, who eventually wins with the help of the people around him. On the other hand, Jowy's side is Xiang Yu. He fights mostly with his own strength and wins at first, but is defeated in the end. It's like a confrontation between orthodox governance and military conquest: both sides aim for the same thing but use different methods, and eventually the two forces fight and one of them is defeated. That's how I started the story.

Ishikawa and Murayama yuk it up.

—I see, so what is the role of Luca Blight?

Murayama: When writing a story, you can depict each scene individually, but with a game, its difficult to describe the story outside the main character's surroundings. Because if you show a place where the protagonist is not present, during that whole time the player isn't controlling the game.

We split Xiang Yu's personality into two characters: I gave the evil part to Luca and the compassionate part to Jowy. In other words, the strong part of Xiang Yu was left in Luca, and the part of Xiang Yu who used his power to unite the two sides and control the war quickly is left to Jowy. This is how the story of "Genso Suikoden II" works.

—Do you like these warring states stories, Murayama-san?

Murayama: Yes, I do. I've read a lot of the Chinese classics like Sangokushi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and Suikoden. I like stories in which many different people appear and interact with each other in different ways.

—Have you read any warring states stories, such as Suikoden or Sangokushi, Ishikawa-san?

Ishikawa: I thought I should read them after joining this team, so I tried to read Sangokushi, but midway through I lost track of all the names... Anyway. I was determined to read it up to the point where Confucius appeared. But in the end, I ended up there. I did watch the TV animation of the Sangokushi though. (laughs)

—So, did you have an initial concept that Riou would be Nanami's younger brother?

Murayama: No, we had already decided on the characters of Riou and Jowy, and we wanted to tell a story about their relationship. At that point, Nanami didn't exist yet. I was going to tell the story of how Riou and Jowy were attacked, becoming fugitives, and how they would try to return to their hometown, but the place would be lost. However at that point with the writing, Jowy had a home, but the Riou didn't have anyone waiting for him. So we decided to create Nanami as a place for him to go back to. Nanami is basically a person who waits for Riou She could have been the mother, but then it would have been difficult to run away with her, so we decided to make her the older sister.

However, although she is an older sister, if I were to present a normal older sister, it would be unpleasant, or it would be different from my image, so I decided to make a cheerful older sister like Nanami. I don't know whether Riou or Nanami is older because they were both adopted, but Nanami is de facto the older sister because she insists on it. (laughs) In other words, Nanami is the older sister because she's the one who waits for Riou to come home.

Early concept art for Nanami by Fumi Ishikawa.

—I see. In the story it says Riou and Nanami were adopted by Genkaku. Are they both war orphans?

Murayama: No, they don't have any special background like that. They're both just ordinary children. Genkaku doesn't have a wife or anything. The three of them, Genkaku, the Hero and Nanami, are not related by blood at all, but they are a family. The three of them are not related by blood. They are bonded in other ways, and they are a family. On the other hand, Jowy is related to his mother by blood, but they are not a family. That's one of the things I wanted to portray.

—So, in terms of design, what image did you have of Riou?

Ishikawa: Red clothes.

—Red clothes?

Ishikawa: Red clothes in Chinese style, which is the same as the last time. We decided to put something on the head to make it more distinctive, and at first we put something that is a mix between a bandana and a headband. But it didn't give us a distinctive look, so we did an about-face and tried out different things, but nothing was good enough. It was like, "Oh my God, I have no ideas!" And it was like, "does anybody have anything...? And I said, "His clothes kind of look like the Monkey King, so what about adding a circlet on his forehead?" I drew it as a joke, but it was like, "oh wait, that's actually cute."

Murayama: I didn't know they were doing it, so I went to work the next day and they said, "Look at this". It suddenly had that circlet on, but when I saw it, I thought it was pretty cute, so I said, "OK". (laughs)

Ishikawa: We were legitimately stuck. So when we presented it, we all said "Hurray" and took a commemorative photo. (laughs)

—There was a lot of talk among our office, too, about the reason for this circlet.

Murayama: It came from the design. There were some funny ideas, like if Riou does something bad, it will be tightened... (laughs)

Ishikawa: That's why he grew up to be such a good person! (laughs) By the way, that circlet was bought by the granddad when he took him to Green Day for the first time. Also, the hero's shawl is the one that Genkaku used to use when he was still an active member.

—Then what about Nanami?

Ishikawa: For Nanami, we had an order at the beginning: "Don't make her too cute". For Pilika too, we were told not to make her too cute.

Murayama: If you make her too cute, you'll get in trouble. "In Suikoden, the main character doesn't have a specific girlfriend. The hero is the player's alter ego, so if you've already decided that he's going to be with this girl, you can't say, "I like this girl better." There are a lot of characters in the game, so it's up to you to decide in your heart which one you prefer.

—You were trying to give the player more choices, then?

Murayama: We don't want to impose that on the player. We don't have any blood ties, and we didn't want to make players feel like they'd get attached to Nanami if she was cute. We didn't want the player to feel like they were supposed to be together, "oh look, they're not related! and she's so cute..." We went through a lot of trouble to make sure that no matter how you look at it, it feels like there's no way that these two will get together.

Ishikawa: I wouldn't be so sure. There are people who still like them together. (laughs)

Concept art by Fumi Ishikawa demoing different headpieces for Riou.

—Then what about Pilika? I'm guessing the stuffed bear was the focal point of her design?

Ishikawa: That was ordered. (laughs) And the tulip appliqué on the pocket.

Murayama: We ask everyone to submit their designs, but everyone drew her looking a bit fancy. But then they said, "We also have some others that are bit different...", so I look at the one they've hidden and she looks really poor. And I was like, "This is it" (laughs). Her hair was shaggy, and she looked very poor, so it was the perfect image for me.

Ishikawa: One person was strangely particular about it. He said, "No, she's still rich" (laughs).

—Riou's weapon, the tonfa, is interesting. It's something we haven't seen in games before.

Ishikawa: In the first design stage, he used the same cudgel as in the previous game, but I thought that if we went with a cudgel in II, it might be a cudgel for every game hereafter, so wanted to try something else. I drew a lot of different ideas.

—What kind of things?

Murayama: Everyone bought some books on Chinese martial arts, and some people drew weapons that I'd never seen before.

Ishikawa: I drew a lot of pictures of the hero and Jowy. Both in terms of design and weapons. Jowy had short hair at first. It became long hair in the middle.

—Is that so?

Ishikawa: I was worried that he might look too similar to Gremio. I drew a lot, changing the colour and so on.

—Then, what was the reputation of the hero and Jowy in the boy soldier unit? There's a scene of them fighting in the opening, is there some backstory there?

Murayama: There's a scene in the opening where they're fighting. There was a tournament within the unit, and both of them advanced to the final round. They fought and it was a draw, and both of them got the prize. So. They are both top class in martial arts.

—But they were both bullied when they were little, weren't they?

Murayama: The protagonist is an outsider, and most of the adults in the city know that Genkaku used to be a member of the Urban League, so Genkaku himself didn't receive a very warm welcome. So the kids in the city didn't think much of the hero either. Jowy's parents are more respected in town, but he wasn't accepted by his family, and he was bullied because he was close to the hero.

—And what about Nanami?

Murayama: Nanami is so strong that even when she is bullied she kicks the crap out of them. She's always wanted to protect Riou and Jowy.

Early art for Pilika, trying to capture the right "poor" street urchin look.

—What is the cause of the feud between Luca Blight and Agares Blight? It comes up a bit in the game.

Murayama: Yeah, there's some backstory there which isn't depicted in the game. After the truce was signed between Genkaku and Khan, to maintain friendly relations between the Highlands and the League of Cities, Agares, his wife and Luca visited the headquarters of the League of Cities. On their way back, they were attacked by a group of remnants of the Urban League. Only Agares escaped, but his wife and Luca were taken prisoner. They have a child together, Jill. In other words, Luke and Jill are half-brothers and half-sisters. Luca and Jill were eventually rescued by Khan's troops, but the trauma of their captivity left a lasting impression on Luca. That's why Luca hates Agares. After this incident, the League of Cities and the Highlanders started to have repeated skirmishes, though they didn't go to war.

—I see, I didn't know there was such a deep backstory. So Luca's ultimate goal is destruction?

Murayama: Yes, that's right. Basically, it's destruction. In Luca's case, he was driven more by emotion than by reason. I think he was driven by something inside himself. It's not like he was acting with a clear purpose, considering how many people he killed without regard.

—So its instinct?

Murayama: It's pretty close to instinct. In fact, he also hates the Urban League, but in that incident, Agares escaped, and the Highland soldiers also escaped to protect Agares. As a result of this, Luca came to hate Highland itself, and it was not his intention to do anything for Highland in the end. And that's precisely why he ended up losing his men's hearts too.

—He hates everything and kills on instinct. Luca is the strongest of the characters in Suikoden, in human terms, but is there some secret reason behind that?

Murayama: Looked at individually, he is the strongest. He is the embodiment of the strength of Shakuhau. It's not that he has a Runes, it's not that he has a beast of arms or anything like that, it's his own personal talents.

—Doesn't he carry a rune?

Murayama: He uses magic, so in that sense he does carry a rune, but it's not a special rune. That fire magic is more of a tool. Just like a sword.

—He's wearing silver and white armour, isn't he? Why is it white?

Ishikawa: That's because Highland's image colour is white.

Murayama: I wanted Highland to feel like the kind of place you'd see in a typical RPG. There's a kingdom, a king, lots of white everywhere.

Ishikawa: Also, there was a princess. If the princess had been captured, it would have been perfect. (laughs).

—I see. I had the image that Highland is red or black.

Murayama: There are enemies and sides, but we didn't want to make them good or evil. The concept of the game, after all, revolves around governance and military conquest, so we deliberately chose white as the image colour because we didn't want to fix the image of Highland as a bad country.

Concept art for the Earth Spirit.

—So how did Anabelle and Viktor get to know each other?

Murayama: They met when Viktor came to work in Muse. They got along very well, but it wasn't romantic. They got to know each other before Viktor's village was wiped out, but then Viktor had to go after Necrode, and Annabel had things to do as the mayor's daughter, so at that point they started going their separate ways. I think they were quite close until then.

—When Anabelle was assassinated by Jowy, Viktor was surprisingly calm, was he trying to be tough?

Murayama: Yes, it was deliberate. Viktor is that kind of person. No matter how sad he is, he doesn't show it. Maybe after that he was hiding somewhere and crying in private. Viktor is the kind of person who thinks that if he is sad, he might become a burden to the main characters, so he has a "don't worry about it" style.

—Viktor and Flik are older in the previous game, was that intentional?

Ishikawa: I had the image that Viktor would look the same, but it was a bit difficult for Flik. I had a feeling that he had the childish face from the previous work, but if I drew him according to his actual age, he would look very old. So I took a middle ground and drew him looking young for his age.

—Was he one-eyed at first?

Ishikawa: Yes, he was.

Murayama: Yeah. When I first added that detail, I was wanting to show that there must have been a fierce battle sometime between the previous game and this one. I thought it would be a fun surprise if he suddenly appeared with one eye and one arm, but it was rejected. (Laughs)

Ishikawa: It's funny, isn't it? If Flik has one eye and one arm and Viktor was completely healthy.

Murayama: Because Flik has bad luck (laughs).

—Are you a Flik person, Ishikawa-san?

Ishikawa: Definitely yes. I'm the only one in the team.

Murayama: You're the most vocal about the way we handle the Flik.

Ishikawa: No, I'm not. Everyone in the team neglects him too much. Everyone said, "It can't be helped, it's Flik". Strangely, he is easily blown away by balloons...

Murayama: No, you'd get angry and say we were doing it on purpose. I had to explain that Flik's other abilities were high, so he has to have lowered luck to get a good balance.

Ishikawa: Even so, you treated him too poorly!

Murayama: Is it so? You were also angry when Nina came out. I remember that. Oh, and there was also the time when we hid the Unite attack between Flik and Nina. (laughs)

Ishikawa: It was a "special request".

—What's that?

Murayama: There is a Unite between Flik and Nina ["Groupie Attack"], and it wasn't written in the regular planning docs. It was a special instruction that I gave only to the people who were making the Unites. (Laughs)

Ishikawa: It was done without my awareness. One day I was looking at the planning docs on my desk, and when I saw the list of Unites, I noticed something was off. The Unites had been created in great detail with input from the whole team about what kind of moves would look cool... but I'd never seen a Unite for Flik and Nina.

—How did Han and Genkaku get their hands on the Rune of Beginning?

Murayama: They found it in the same shrine as the hero and Jowy, and returned it to the shrine, before the war between the League of Cities and the Highlands began in earnest. It was after that that Han and Genkaku started to fight, just like the hero and Jowy did, and the power of the sigil might have been a factor. Originally it was one rune, but that was a very long time ago. And when two people have it in two parts, it doesn't become one until the two people have fought and died.

—A question that arises from this is that at the good ending, the Rune glows. What was that about?

Murayama: The Rune itself does not become one. It only becomes one when one of them is dead, so it doesn't become one unless Jowy dies, like in the other endings. In the case of that ending, it shines with divine light, but it remains in each of their hands.

—When the battle is over, can the rune be returned to the shrine?

Murayama: Ultimately it will be returned, yeah. It doesn't mean that neither the hero nor Jowy will age, because in that state it is not a true sigil. So when they die, they will naturally go back to the shrine, and they can always return it themselves if they want to, but then there is a risk of the same thing happening again, which is why it's good for them to keep it.

—Was Pilika's visit to the shrine guided by the rune?

Murayama: Well, that's how it works. Her parents are the ones who keep the key to the shrine, and they had something to do with the shrine, so that's why she went there. Pilika wasn't manipulated though, she went there of her own free will.

—Please tell us about the relationship between Jowy and Leon.

Murayama: We don't see much of Jowy's side of the story after he leaves the hero, but Jowy visits Leon Silverberg after the fall of South Window. The reason why he goes to Leon is because the Silverbergs are a very famous military family in that area, and Jowy went to see them after getting information.

Storyboards for the opening movie.

—How was he persuaded?

Murayama: Leon had a dispute with Mathiu, but he wanted to end the war as quickly as possible, with as little damage as possible, so he was on the same page as Jowy. Jowy also felt that Luca couldn't just be allowed to run rampant, so to a certain extent, he also wanted to end the fighting quickly. So they were very similar in their approach to the war.

—Has Leon changed since Mathiu's death?

Murayama: Basically, he has not changed. The only reason he helped the Liberation Army was because he thought that if things continued as they were, the Liberation Army would win sooner. The reason why he pretended to be a recluse after that is because it's his principle to hide himself as soon as there is no longer any need for him. He can't really be described as good or bad in the ordinary sense. He's a man of calculation, rather than someone with a specific desire to help Jowy.

—What's the deal with Yuber?

Murayama: Leon first met Yuber during the Liberation War, and he must have thought Yuber was a useful pawn, but where he got the information is a mystery.

—What were some of the difficulties you had in designing the characters?

Ishikawa: We had the whole design team assembled by the brainstorming stage, so I was in charge of organizing their ideas and rewriting them. There was definitely a lot of work, but it wasn't too difficult in terms of actual design. Everyone drew something they liked, so it was hard to bring all the ideas together, but I had a lot of fun arranging them.

—Many fans say that the characters' costumes are very cool.

Ishikawa: Thank you very much. The person in charge of the pixel art told us not to make them too complicated. He asked us to keep it as simple as possible.

Murayama: That's the thing with small pixel art characters--if the designs are too complex they can't be rendered in pixel form... there were some things that were too difficult.

Ishikawa: Is that so? My designs were pretty broad I thought. Personally, I'd wanted to make them more intricate. There are a lot of ornaments and stuff, which I kept adding because they felt too bare.

Murayama: You said it still wasn't enough. (laughs)

—What about characters like Vincent de Boule?

Murayama: When I wrote the spec notes for Vincent, I wrote "Please try harder than the last game."

Ishikawa: But Simone was more important than Vincent. I was asked to make her as impressive as Vincent. At first the clothes were a bit simpler, but they said she looked totally outclassed.

Murayama: I remember that. For character design, basically we would write out notes, give those to our team of designers, ask them to come up with a design, and then we would pick and choose from what they came up with. Oh, I remember one funny thing, there were some people who said that Meg's second stocking had to be white. (Laughs)

Concept art for Anabelle; the image on the right ended up becoming the basis for Emilia's design, as described below.

Ishikawa: We didn't have any requests for male characters, especially for young men, but we had a lot of requests for female characters. Emilia was one such character.

Murayama: Yes, Emilia. When Ishikawa drew Anabelle she created a lot of different versions. Some of the alt designs she made were good, but not quite what we wanted for Anabelle, so we decided to use them elsewhere, which is how we got to Emilia.

Ishikawa: There was a faction pushing for characters with glasses. (laughs)

Murayama: Yes, there was. (laughs) There were many such groups working behind the scenes. (laughs) I also remember how the only male character that was requested was Shu.

—Do you think that Shu and Huan are too similar?

Ishikawa: There was a big gap of time between when I drew them, so I didn't notice that their designs overlapped. When Murayama told me there was a scene where they talked to each other, I looked at it and found that they were exactly the same. So we said, "Well, let's just give him glasses." Also, I was asked to make Shu a beautiful character, a rare request.

Murayama: Yeah. I gave the instruction that he should be beautiful, and when I collected the ideas, I found that he looked like an older brother of a host club, and I was like, "wait, this isn't right!" (laughs)

Ishikawa: We fought over that. I had to redraw Shu many times.

Murayama: Yes, yes. I rejected many of the designs for Shu. I just can't accept a character as a military strategist unless they look cool.

—As a result, he turned out to be a completely different type from Mathiu, didn't he?

Murayama: Yes, he did. Shu's appearance is more of a sharp and capable person; I'd wanted to go in a completely different direction from Mathiu. So I tried to make him look stylish, but he ended up looking like a host in a host club, and I thought, "That's not what I want." (laughs)

—After all, the times now favor long hair.

Ishikawa: Well, the planning notes did say long hair was an option for him.

Murayama: Yes, but then everyone started to have long hair, which made me feel uncomfortable.

—Was there anything interesting in the scenarios that were rejected?

Ishikawa: In the beginning, Jowy was quite rude.

Murayama: Yes, he used to call himself "ore".1 He was more of a delinquent type of character. But as I was writing the scenario, I got sick of it. I couldn't keep up with it.

Ishikawa: At that point, I had already made a tentative illustration of Jowy. His eyes had a more villainous expression, but when the tone of voice changed, I decided to redraw it. The face became a bit softer. But his slanted eyes were left that way, and are a remnant from the original design.

Early concept art of Jowy when he was still a "bad" character.

Murayama: The characters of Jowy and Luca hadn't been separated yet, so there was that kind of atmosphere. In the beginning, there was a scenario where Jowy was going to take over from Luca, so he had more of that personality. But personally, I felt, "this is no good, he doesn't look like the kind of guy who would be your friend."

That's why, even though I'd written all the way up to the muse, I decided to start over and re-write everything. That was the biggest change of the development. Also, in the beginning we didn't have that ending where you run away from Tinto. I didn't have Nanami in the beginning, so that plotline came later. Nanami is a character who only cares about Riou and Jowy, and that part of the story ended up expanding a lot.

—In a scene from the past, there is a girl. Is that Jill?

Murayama: That's Jill. She has a villa there, and she comes for a summer holiday. So they have met before when they were children, or they have seen each other. Come to think of it, there was a dog there too, wasn't there?

Ishikawa: Yes, there is a dog!

Murayama: Every important scene had to have a dog, it was practically a rule.

—You seem to like dogs.

Ishikawa: Yes, I'm a complete dog person. (smiles)

Murayama: She even changed the breeds of the kobolds without permission.

Ishikawa: Well, you told me that I could draw whatever I wanted!

Murayama: I did, but did it have to be so complicated? No matter how you look at it, Boris is a different kind of dog from Ridley or Gengen. (Laughs)

—Indeed, I was surprised when I saw Boris.

Ishikawa: But I checked with you before I drew him! I asked you, "can Boris be anything?" And you said I could do whatever I wanted. So I did!

Early designs for Ridley, testing out different dog breeds.

—Next, please tell us about the rejected characters.

Ishikawa: Hahaha.

Murayama: Well, there are various stages of rejected characters.

Ishikawa: I would love to show them to you! (laughs)

—I'd like to see them.

Ishikawa: There are tons. There's about 10 cm worth in the file, right?

Murayama: Well, during the planning stage, I wrote design notes for all the characters connected to the main story, but for the other characters, I let the staff do what they wanted. They came up with some pretty wild stuff then. I didn't know if it could actually be used. Some of the designs were just to get a laugh. Among them, the one that made me laugh the most was Monsieur Black Hole.

Ishikawa: Ah, Black Hole. He has a silk hat and a beard, and he wears a cloak, but inside he is only wearing underwear, and when he opens it up, inside the cloak is the universe.

Murayama: I think he was French or something. It was crazy, I mean, it totally clashed with the rest of the setting. (laughs) Wasn't the idea that it was a black hole, and you teleport with it?

Ishikawa: There was also the grandmother who rides and fights in a baby carriage.

Murayama: Right, Vincent's grandmother.

—Finally, I'd like to ask you a few questions about each region. First of all, please tell us about Grasslands.

Murayama: I can't give you too many details about this area because I'm planning to use it in the future. Geographically speaking, Grasslands is in the north-west of the City-states of Jowston. North and west of Tinto is Grasslands. North of the Highlands is the Holy Land of Harmonia, west of that is Grasslands, and further west there's commerce groups and so on. Lucia of the Karaya tribe is one of the tribes that live in the Grasslands. There are a lot of different tribes in that area. And the Grasslands have been invaded by Harmonia and Tinto several times. The atmosphere is similar to that of the Xiongnu tribes around China. So sometimes they attack them. Culturally, they are not so advanced.

—What about Queendom of Falena?

Murayama: It's on a completely different continent, one which doesn't adjoin the one we're on. Farther south of the Scarlet Moon Empire there are various island nations, and the Queendom of Falena is in that area. Characters like Amada are from the island nations, so they had to cross quite a vast distance to get here.

—So, what about the Holy Land of Harmonia, home of Sasarai, that many users may be curious about?

Murayama: Well, we know that they're collecting the True Runes. There is a Shinto chief named Hikusaak, and he is the one who has the Circle Rune. He is also the one who created Harmonia. He's a hero from a long time ago and he's still alive and powerful because of the power of the true runes. He is the chief priest who will never die. He is like an emperor.

—What is the Circle Rune?

Murayama: That's still a secret.

—Does that mean that the civilization itself is very advanced and shrouded in mystery?

—Then what about the rest of the 27 True Runes?

Murayama: I can't talk about this (laughs). You can probably guess what some will be, but that's all still a secret.

—What about the Sindar?

Murayama: They are almost entirely shrouded in secrecy. They are a vanished people. They were a wandering tribe, unable to stay in one place for long, and it was said that they were cursed. So they moved from place to place, leaving behind various remains, and finally they disappeared somewhere. They left ruins in various places, but there's no trace of their whereabouts and no one knows where they are now.

—In the world of Suikoden, do Sindar ruins == treasure, basically?

Murayama: Yeah. There are a lot of people hunting after them. Alex was just looking for the treasure. His motivation was simply the rumor that these places had great treasure. Other people, like Killey, have a different purpose. And then there are some people with more special reasons.

—So this is also a dangerous question, but what about the mystery of the relationship between Sasarai and Luc, and Pesmerga and Yuber?

Murayama: Hmmm. If the Suikoden series keeps up, I'd like to make those things clear. But I think the relationship of Pesmerga and Yuber will be solved only in Suikoden Final.

—Well, you've given us all much to think about, and I'm looking forward to the next one. Thank you very much.

If you've enjoyed reading this interview and would like to be able to vote each month on what I translate, please consider supporting me on Patreon! I can't do it without your help!

  1. A very casual pronoun for oneself, usually used by men. Outside of close friends, it would be considered somewhat rude.


  1. Thank you so much for creating the best childhood game I played and I still play it now but with emu on my phone. Thank you so much. I thought it was a failed bought CD at the time it was gifted to me. But turned out it was the best experience. Until now I still can’t get the clive mission and other areas of the game. I did finished the 3 alternate endings.
    Animation is so cool. Hopefully when the remastered is released i hope an app for ios and android be available as well. I did hate nanami though.
    I wanted a free space but nanami had a role for everything hahaha.
    Runes were awesome. Too bad not everyone can cast it. And the damage for viper, lion, hawk and pixie was not powerful even at max weapon level. But still best game ever especially the critical type valeria… X3 damage falcon so cool. I just wished anita had the same type of skill but instead of a concentrated attack an area or line would have been better. But still a game worth every bit of your time

  2. I really hoped the developers could’ve expanded on the Sindar Ruin part. While digging, I did find some evidence that the Double-Head boss there was suppose to be 3 headed.

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