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Tales of Symphonia Interview

Column written by Tales of Symphonia’s scenario writer Takumi Miyajima

“It’s a bit sudden, but I will start this month’s column with some announcement.

The novel I wrote for Symphonia will be published by Dengeki Bunko on November 10. It is a story from Kratos’s point of view. It is meant to be read by players who have already finished the game, so I would recommand you to play Unisonant Pack before reading. There will be more details about it in further announcements.

This month, I would like to talk about the protagonist of this novel, Kratos - as well as the other side of the coin that goes together with him, Zelos.

I feel I’ve been repeating myself on the subject, but what first comes to mind when the topic of Kratos is brought up is the day when we in the development team received Fujishima-sensei’s design. There were many calls of "wow, so cool!”, from grown-ups, most of them men, even. I think that is when Kratos’s role was set in stone. That’s how good his design was. I had already been writing the scenario with a rather clear idea of the character, but the power of images is certainly impressive.

When it comes to Zelos, on the other hand, while I personally found his design appealing, the men in the team seemed convinced that though they themselves liked the characters, the female fans would probably not be very interested in him. Poor Zelos… Since I did my best to tell them it would not be the case and that he would be well-recieved, I was really happy to see how loved he was after the game came out.

I suppose that what you want to know the most about these two magic swordsmen is why you had to pick one between them.

That is because Symphonia is a game about choices. In Symphonia, you can visit towns and dungeons in different order up to a certain extent, the battle system is divided into S-Type and T-Type, and the player often has to make choices. The plan was to have the player form their own “Symphonia” in their minds with the choices they made. That is where, for example, the affection system comes into play.

Since there was to be an affection system, I wrote a scenario where the plot would change depending on which character the player chose, and Zelos was put into a special position. Originally, Zelos was going to die unless he was the one with the highest affection.

Yes, Zelos was destined to die in any other character’s route.

If his affection was the lowest, he would leave the party and die in the middle of the story. If he was ranked from 2 to 7, he would stay until the end and die in the ending. And if he was first, he would live.

That is how I started writing the story, but then the development staff suggested that if I was going to make Zelos leave, why not put Kratos in his slot? We then started discussing how such a scenario would be interesting if it was possible to implement, and in the middle of development we suddenly decided to make Kratos come back. The affection requirements were changed, and that is how the game ended up as it did.

That means that if someone had not said “let’s bring Kratos back!”, Zelos’s death would have become the official route. Now everyone thinks that Kratos means the death of Zelos, but in truth Kratos is Zelos’s savior.

I am running out of space, so we will continue talking about them another time. Till next month’s issue!“

- Takumi Miyajima in Viva Tales of Magazine 2013 November Issue, p.100

Translated by Yume

Special Interview with Takumi Miyajima in Tales of Magazine

Profile: Takumi Miyajima is a freelance scenario writer who has worked on games, novels, Drama CD, etc. She has mainly worked on ToS and ToA in the Tales series.

Overlook of Dawn, the successor of ToS

Dawn is the sequel of ToS. What was your involvement with it?

The one in charge of the main scenario was Mr. Hiramatsu. I made adjustments to the plot and the lines he wrote. Mr. Hiramatsu has a different style from mine, so working with him was an interesting experience.

So Mr. Hiramatsu was the one in charge, while you were just there to supervise and make sure the game kept the “ToS taste”?

Actually, I was working on another game at the time, so I could only do the plot and some supervision. For the plot, I decided the story’s conclusion and on the relationship between Emil, Marta and Richter. At the first stages, I was told that the new characters would be the main character and the heroine only, and I remember facing reluctance when I tried to include Richter (laugh). Also, I wanted all the eight Centurions to show up, but that became difficult for reasons. But in theory they have all been created.

Was Lloyd and the other ToS characters’ involvement in the sequel decided at the plot stage?

On that matter we had instructions to “show them a little”, and also that “they should not have aged too much”.

Fans of the first game would appreciate their inclusion, after all.

The very first plot was set 400 years in the future, but then we were told by the developers that they “wanted Lloyd to appear, so please use a setting close to the end of the first game”. But if we make a game start right after the other ended, that means that we have to come up with new problems, and that’s a bit of a pity considering the characters had just achieved peace. So we asked for it to be set at least two years later. Then we thought about the things that would change by the two worlds becoming one, and that’s how we got the outlook of this game. Lloyd and the others accomplished World Regeneration in ToS, but most people don’t really know what happened. So we thought about how their actions would be seen from the outside, and we illustrated that with Emil, Marta and the townspeople. I have talked about this before, but since Dawn is a spin-off, we could make the main character be “Lloyd’s enemy” – in a way he’s in a last boss position. We wanted to show the world from the eyes of someone who is in the complete opposite position as the main character of the previous game.

A question about the characters. Emil and Marta become a couple unambiguously, which is rather uncommon for the series. Was that decided from the beginning as well?

ToS has an affection system, so Lloyd can be treasured by anyone in the party. Here we chose the opposite pattern. Also, other main characters previously had girls they loved, so this time we made it so it was the heroine who was persistently hitting on him (laugh).

It’s true that it is a first for the series (laugh).

Since Emil is timid, if the heroine was meek too we would easily be annoyed by them (laugh). So at the beginning the story progresses by Marta dragging Emil.

About the character design, was there any special request? For example, I am curious about the Mieu and Tokunaga in Marta’s design.

Mr. Okumura was in charge of the design. I didn’t really ask him anything, personally. Sometimes I give instructions concerning the characters’ height, weight, look etc, but this time I was not involved in the designs. Sometimes I do give instructions about some details, but usually it’s up to the one in charge of character design. Marta’s accessories were all Mr. Okumura having fun. He liked playing around with the character designs in Dawn. For example, Richter. He was just told about his general height and weight, and what we got was a handsome long-haired glasses guy (laugh). Mr. Okumura is very good at interpretation; in the past, he’s made perfect designs based on my super vague explanations. I think he’s a genius. For Emil, I just told him “he has a cute side, but he also have a unique boyish aura”, and from that he designed Emil exactly like I was picturing him!

That reminds me, in the story, it is said that Emil has a star-like mark on his neck. Was that also part of Mr. Okumura’s ideas?

No, that was something that was important for the scenario. Although, since Emil is wearing a scarf, it is hidden on the illustrations. Speaking of specific stuff, that reminds me that a lot of things from Mr. Fujishima’s designs surprised me with the ToS characters. Also, in some interview he said that he was instructed to give Zelos long hair, but I don’t recall giving that instruction at all. I think that was a request from Mr. Yoshizumi (laugh).

Memories of ToS development

It’s been 10 years since ToS was released. Do you remember what you struggled with at the time?

It’s been 10 years, so I don’t remember much (laugh). But when I talk about it about the development staff of the time, they tell me I often looked like I was having a hard time or going wild. So it was probably not a walk in the park… I think… Thinking about it now, it’s true that some things were hard, but I don’t think it was that bad. We had plenty of time (compared to Dawn), and there were a lot of discussions, which was fun.

Mr. Higuchi said he made you suffer with the “synopsis”.

I don’t think ToS’s synopsis was that hard. The people in the planning group made me a chart, and I just had to write following that chart. I think it was probably harder for them than for me (laugh). Personally, it’s the affection system that made me suffer. I had to decide what would raise or decrease whose affection all the time. By the way, the field skits’ role was to allow some affection regulation. The reason they’re not voiced is because they were added later.

The tension during a conversation changes depending on affection, so it sounds complicated.

I personally love games with freedom, so for me writing a game where you can chose with which character to get along etc. is not a chore at all. However, when writing the scenario, I had to pay attention to affection all the time so things would not get weird, especially when I wanted to focus on one character. So in a way, the affection system was hard. There’s also events that depend on affection, which sometimes means nine different scenes, which increases script volume. Since space was limited for the GC version, that’s why some affection-related scenes were not voiced. It’s a bit of a pity that we couldn’t voice everything, though.

Is there something you want to tell the fans who played the GC or PS2 versions, and those who will play ToS-C?

Since there are many characters, it’s a story full of human drama, and I hope everyone will find something to relate to. Everyone has changed in 10 years, and so your way to view the characters might be completely different this time.

It’s true that in 10 years, some players might have become parents themselves. They will probably view Lloyd and Kratos in a new light.

They might see Kratos as even cooler now that they are adults who can think what they would do in his place. Well, he was already pretty cool before (laugh). Also, there are probably people who didn’t like Lloyd’s childishness, but who will now look at him with the eyes of an adult like a parent watches a child, with a certain fondness. Some might find new sides to Kratos, see his careless moments and think he’s still inexperienced in some ways, etc. Views will change. It would make me happy if the people who have already played the games could find new ways to enjoy them like that. I also want new players to see what kind of game we made 10 years ago. The development staff said it before, but ToS’s game concept is a game “where players choose”. There are many choices in the game, so sometimes you might be stuck on what to choose. I wish for the players to enjoy the game, including the dilemmas it presents.

Translated by Yume