Lunar I&II Official Design Material
Translation by Maou
Hajime Satou x Katsutoshi Akashi Long Interview
Special Guest/Kei Shigema
Hajime Satou x Katsutoshi Akashi Long Interview
Special Guest/Kei Shigema
Mr. Hajime Satou, World Design Chief
Chief of the world design and illustration for "Lunar
II." He gave birth to many things in the game. Also
chief of illustration in "Lunar I."
Mr. Katsutoshi Akashi, Chief [Visual] Director
Representative director of project design studio "Ikusabune."
Chief [Visual] Director of "Lunar II." Strongly
concerned with the game's movies. Representative work as
**What was the worldview of "Lunar II" in the
Akashi: As far as the image of the town in the desert in
the beginning, we first talked about a very typical, true
desert. However, after that, Mr. Satou came up with more
concrete things like "The Town of Larpa" and sandships,
and with this we are able to create the image of the Lunar
II world's desert.
Shigema: Hiero's House? That was good.
Akashi: There aren't many houses as cluttered
as that, are there?
Shigema: It's disorganized... That's the
first thing you see when you enter into Lunar's world though.
I thought that would be good. Where did that idea come from?
Satou: In a lean-to cabin, you have nothing
but the practical. It's for emergency use. So if for example
something happened in the desert, in order to be able to
escape easily, the ship is on the first floor. And the mast
serves as one of the wall faces, so if something happens
you can spread the sails and hop on easily and get out into
Shigema: Did you think that it would turn
out [looking] like that?
Satou: Yes, I was always waiting for it.
I thought everyone would work hard on that.
Shigema: There aren't many places that do
things as well as Game Arts. People worked really hard,
Satou: They work very hard on particular
sections like that. But whether in the end all those will
come together neatly will be a different problem (laughter).
Shigema: That's definitely true (laughter).
Satou: Well, everything is that way, but
the most important thing is the characters, isn't it? I
tried to prepare a world of the size that the characters
could move through.
Akashi: In the beginning we really asked
you to design freely. So, there wasn't any real atmosphere
then. In that way, Mr. Satou created the atmosphere, like
"the desert should seem sandy like this." In the
beginning the desert was planned to be orange, but after
a variety of circumstances orange didn't end up matching.
Satou: The original design had all kinds
of colors of flowing sand swirling, in the beginning, but
we weren't able to do that.
-When you're giving a shape to the ideas
that aren't solidified in Mr. Akashi's mind yet, you give
it a lot of thought in your own mind, Mr. Satou. Was it
fun working like that?
Satou: Yes, I tend to focus very intently
on one thing at a time, whether on the world design or creating
the towns or on creating the atmosphere. Each time, I have
a particular plan and I'm allowed to work on it, and whether
it's a plan or a design I make it a little bit how I want
it to be. I think it's interesting if the backgrounds can
have their own character. For example, in any temple, the
character of the person who built it will show. And even
if you have temples for the same religion, the layout, design,
and decoration will change depending on the preferences
of the important people and priests of that parish. When
you actually play the game, this isn't relevant at all and
simply seems to just flow by, but if you pay attention to
it, it's pretty strange, with these funny little touches.
Or, even if you don't consciously show them, just by putting
them there, you get a view of the world. I think it's better
to have them than to not have them. This time, I think we
did that well.
Akashi: Visuals are really scary; there's
lots of things that get taken in on an unconscious level
separately from consciousness. In the game this time, there
were the Cult of Althena parts and then the normal towns.
So for the town of the Cult of Althena [Pengatulia], we
tried to make it so it felt like the Cult of Althena. Of
course, there were certain parts we were a little off on
and didn't get quite right. But we asked Mr. Satou to come
up with the feeling of the fearfulness of Althena's Temple
itself along with the splendor of the outside front. We
asked him to make it a building that was authoritarian and
a seemed little unpleasant just standing there.
Shigema: Before the plot development started
you were drawing freely, but this time the orders [for designs]
started piling up, didn't they? Did that end up being unpleasant
Satou: No, not at all, because what I'm
doing is still the same.
Shigema: We were pretty concerned with the
Vargan. The design line changed countless times, didn't
it? What we were aiming for was a fairly simple line, but
you know, in that regard, Mr. Satou wanted something with
a different feel from the start.
Satou: Something a little more fantasy-like...
Shigema: It was very good, but we had said
things like, "can't you make it a little more simple?,"
right? How was that for you?
Satou: Well, honestly, it was a little bothersome.
Shigema: I guess it was a little different
from your original design...?
Akashi: Well, you ended up presenting us
with a really great design, though. There was a period when
the image of Leo was very unclear in our minds. When we
had decided on an exact Leo, you made the Vargan white and
gave it more character. Before, the Vargan was a symbol
of the Cult of Althena, but when we got to the stage where
we settled on it being Leo's Vargan, we asked for more designs
from Mr. Satou.
Shigema: But honestly, in the middle of
the process we weren't quite sure. I think that in having
Mr. Satou design freely the world of Lunar may have been
created. But while he was creating it, we also had our own
design images we created in our minds, too.
Satou: It's good that way. In those cases
I make my designs match [the creators' own images]. When
asked by the scenario writer, Mr. Shigema, for a certain
image, I'd say, "Right, I understand." It's my
job to take these considerations into account and be conscious
of them when I'm designing.
Shigema: So is that interesting work for
Satou: It's very interesting, since a different
sort of image can enter into my work. It's really thrilling
to take those images and match them with my pictures as
I make them.
Shigema: Mr. Satou didn't just do the world
design, he also designed things like monsters and trap ideas,
too. So in that sense, we relied on Mr. Satou for almost
all the designing that Mr. Kubooka didn't do.
-He had all kinds of ideas for the magic,
Akashi: Like Purse and Cat Kick. We really
wanted to implement those.
Shigema: Mr. Satou's ideas could be difficult,
Satou: Yes, maybe. I made them with an arcade
image in mind, visually flashy.
Akashi: I really wanted them to do Lemina's
**From Zophar's Image to His Birth**
Shigema: It matched the character. On the
other hand, in that sense, it might have been a little serious
as far as Lemina was concerned.
Akashi: Purse might have ended up having the same kind of
impact as Rong-Fa's lousy Dice.
Shigema: Rong-Fa's Dice doesn't have a good
Akashi: No, the it's not worth the cost
Satou: Zophar...well, he's a god. But he's
not a Western conception of a god, but rather like one of
the spirits of the Lunar world.
Shigema: That pillar of flesh was used in
the actual game, and I think it's a really interesting image.
Satou: It's a thing terrifying enough to
ruin the world. So instead of something very abstract, it
would be easier to understand if it was something physically
terrifying instead. I thought it would be scarier if, rather
than using a monster's form, he came down in an incomprehensible
shape like a clump of flesh.
Shigema: I really thought it was outstanding
having that battle field be the enemy's body. Until then,
no one had really come up with anything. That picture became
the basis for our image, exactly as it was.
Satou: The final course is fairly pretty
grotesque, isn't it? I didn't want it that way this time.
The grotesque form already showed up in the movie "Butai
X" ["Object X," originally titled "The
Thing" in English]. It was like it would even show
up in the [game's] finale. Design techniques for showing
something gross or grotesque where the object, the body
is destroyed and it changes its shape and fuses together,
are limiting. Lots of games have already done the same thing.
And having the last boss appear in the form of a dark lord
like in Draque [Dragon Quest] is an over-familiar form,
as well. So, I decided he'd make his appearance as a very
typical god, the form of a mighty god. Because he's a god
of this world, and he brings great evil, that's precisely
why he appears in a beautiful form. In his third stage,
he would show his real nature and be still huger, and say
that this castle itself is Zophar, and that inside it is
something like his real body. So you could call it a complicated
or two-layered construction...or multi-layered construction.
It's like an inverted body.
Shigema: I understand that the image's starting
point was "the Buddha's hand." [Buddhist reference
to the Monkey King who is unable to escape from the Buddha's
hand despite his ability to jump very far.]
Satou: Yes, right.
**Mr. Satou's View of the Problematic Points
of "Lunar II"**
Shigema: Ah, I thought so. It was a picture
showing the arrogance of a god who is saying, "In the
end, you pathetic humans are in my hands." The moment
I understood that, I thought, "Oh, I definitely want
to do this," it'll definitely match perfectly. So we
used it just like that.
Satou: But when it became a picture [in
the game] it was a little off.
Shigema: Yeah (bitter smile).
-Are there any things you would have liked
to have done differently?
Satou: I'd say that if would have liked
to keep up intense communication going until the very end
as I made the pictures. There were quite a lot of changes.
The Four Dragons, for example. In the beginning, all of
the real ones were supposed to appear. But...the meaning
ended up being completely different. They ended up being
the False Dragons. If I had been able to say something,
like "Sure, that's fine," or "Okay, let's
Shigema: Or on the other hand, it could
be that the images of Mr. Satou's pictures are so strong
that we couldn't think of anything else so we decided to
use them...conversely that we couldn't think of any other
way.... I'm really very sorry about that.
Satou: Also, I think I would have liked
to put in more game parts [i.e., mini-games or extras] or
secret parts into the game. If we had focused on those,
hard-core fans might have gotten obsessed with them, though.
Maybe some more puzzling parts or something...
Akashi: Elements beyond what are just for
the drama, or in other words unnecessary things, unnecessary
noise, these can be the very things that make a world deep
and profound. The further you get in the second half of
Satou: Right, especially as you continue
towards the end, things like that are all focused. If possible,
it would have been nice to have been able to set that kind
of direction aside here and there. I think it might have
been even better if we had been able to create a world that
vast. But then, this is true for any game. No matter what
you do...it's always so lonely when you finish games, as
you finally get close to the ending. It's lonely when you've
looked around and seen everything and there just isn't anything
you haven't seen.
Shigema: But after the ending there are
a number of places you can go. What about them?
Satou: Well, those are mostly just dungeons.
Something more for fun [i.e. mini-games, hidden events]
would be... That's why at first we had stuff like a ghost
ship and things. We thought it would be good if you had
ended up being able to run as far as you wanted to go.
Akashi: With nothing to do at all with Zophar's
Shigema: No, even if it did have something
to do with the world. So in short, it would be part of the
story's worldview, or part of the daily life there. Not
everything necessarily has to do with Zophar or with Lucia.
Satou: Well, it's often normal for every game, that you
have to work hard to have that degree of extras. So you
have to be very conscious of it or you can't do it. But
in a game world it's okay to have things you don't know
or things you don't find until the very end.
-So even though the character [Hiero] is
the protagonist, that world isn't everything.
Satou: Right. It's like a perception of
the world focused around him.
**The Difference Between SF [Science Fiction]
Shigema: If we were to do a "Lunar
III," what would you want to do, Mr. Satou?
Satou: Hmm, I think I'd really want to do
a fantasy-themed one. I'd be fun to plunge even more deeply
into the myth of Lunar's world. Not that I know what it
would be, though. After all, there's a world that a goddess
controls, and there are sort of monotheistic elements. There
might be the god of another world somewhere, too. It would
be interesting if Lunar collided with that kind of world,
I think. Or maybe it could be about what happens afterwards
to the world of Lunar, which has achieved civilization.
Shigema: Mr. Satou's foundation is fantasy...
Satou: Yes, because it's the most fun kind
of world, a world with many possibilities. SF almost always
has explanations attached. For example, if a monster or
even if a god appeared, in an SF world that would be the
result of gene manipulation or something. You end up understanding
the world in that shape, and the imagination doesn't soar
any further than that.
Shigema: That's exactly right. The beginning
part of "Lunar II" also has quite a SF flavor
to it. We told the story with less and less SF elements
after that, and that one moment become surprisingly SF.
Essentially, SF is part of the vastness of the imagination,
but once you take that perspective in the fantasy world,
there is also disagreeable tendency for the imagination
to be cut off.
Satou: It transforms into a world where
everything can be understood by numbers. Mysteries are not
understood scientifically, but one day they will one day
certainly be solved by science. That type of limit. That's
why SF doesn't go well with games. Even in movies, as long
as SF movies aren't wonderfully unique enough... So if SF
doesn't use the kind of presentation like in "The Year
2001~," in that sense, that lurks in people's minds,
it won't be very appealing. The core of fantasy, I think,
is something like a "jolt to the consciousness"
deep in people's minds. Something like a consciousness in
your dreams that you're unconscious of. But, this becomes
difficult. I think fantasy is like a darkness that you have
never set foot into before. People's minds don't have an
end no matter how deep you go, do they? If you lurk on,
you reach the origin of humanity... There is the possibility
of going on even further. And there is infinite variety,
too. So fantasy that focuses on the human mind is a world
that holds so much incredibly mysterious vastness...that's
why everyone is fascinated by it.
Shigema: I may be wrong about this, but
it certainly may be a very personal thing in essence.
Satou: It's a hazard. If you do something
like that in a game you are selling as a product, it's more
hazardous than it is difficult. If you don't do it well,
it could become something that nobody understands.
Akashi: Speaking from the standpoint of
having taken part in the game's direction, the world that
Mr. Satou created for us where magic exists naturally is
very close to the fantasy that he describes, a different
world, not this world. The moment you enter into that world,
you don't know what will happen. If you offhandedly said
"hello" to somebody, he might suddenly transform,
or something. You might be walking and find that something
you thought was a brick was soft. People believe bricks
are hard, right? But in this world, bricks might be soft.
This is another world.
**What is the current state of games?**
Shigema: That's very interesting, isn't
it? But the question of how to impose a universal drama
on that world or not is tough. But I feel that we can do
it right, that this kind of material will be absolutely
Satou: So in the instance of making make
a game that will be a product, to a certain extent you have
to prepare a familiar story form, since a personal type
of story that no one understands won't do. I think that
to a certain extent, the type of story formula you might
have heard of before is necessary. However, a formula is
used as a container, and if the numbers are different, the
answer is different, too. There isn't just one way to solve
it. In the content of the story you tell, it's good to have
personal words and thoughts. Current games may be too particular
and inflexible about the formula, and while pretending to
tell a story, there's actually nothing being told at all.
I think that these kinds of games have increased greatly
Shigema: A criticism?
Satou: Towards games in general. I think
that's particularly the case recently.
Shigema: Games with stories that don't really
tell a story....
Satou: Right, so I call them little FF's
Shigema: But whether it's a story or a fantasy
worldview, I think it's definitely the case that these problematic
points are being used because they're convenient. Essentially,
you should use this world, use this story because it has
Satou: In short, the question is whether
there are thoughts being communicated or not. And also whether
a conversation can take place with the player or not, beyond
Shigema: Definitely personal material [is
Satou: That's a big part.
Akashi: So you're saying that games should
be works [i.e., of art], too, then. And for it to be a work,
you need an artist. The artist is part of the material.
Shigema: Basically, personal material; recently,
"Mother II" [called "EarthBound" in
its English release] was made incredibly well. In a good
way, a bad way, or a certain way, you can see Shigesato
Itoi's face [Itoi was the creator of the Mother games.]
Satou: It would be good if a lot more games
like that came out. But many people want to make these hum-drum,
Shigema: Hum-drum, "model" games
are made to sell, so... They don't have things in there
just for the fun of it like Game Arts. Did you wonder why
we made this kind of game for the Mega CD?
Satou: Because it's the greatest epic on
the Mega CD (laughter).
Akashi: It was written in a certain magazine
this software is what the Mega CD should be. It's hardware
you really can use if you try...... (laughter).
Satou: I think it's too late.
Shigema: I seems just like other companies
aren't using it at all, doesn't it? (laughter) That's not
true, of course. Well, I support it (laughter).
Satou: I don't think they're using it.
Shigema: No, really, I'll use it.
Satou: Yes, it's true, it would seem cruel
to the Mega CD not to use it.
Shigema: ...I hope that the Saturn won't
meet the same fate.
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