Tales of Symphonia Interviews
You worked with Hiramatsu-san to write the script, correct?
I gave the first draft of the script to Hiramatsu-san, and revised it to better fit with the game’s story. I already knew which cities and dungeons to add, but let Hiramatsu-san decide why those places should be visited, the overall summary of the game, etc. He added the meat to the skeletal frame of my story, coming to me for revisions and confirmation.
When did you start coming up with ideas for this game?
Probably before we started Tales of Fandom, Vol.2 (henceforth TOF2). The decision to make a Symphonia sequel didn’t even come up until after TOF2was already released. The ideas steadily came in after that period.
Did you always intend to feature Lloyd and his friends in this game?
I initially proposed a story set 400 years after the end of Tales of Symphonia, however the developers wanted to revisit the original cast, so we went with that. In my original proposal, Raine and Genis would be the only main characters from Symphonia still alive. The developers also wanted a more immediate sequel, rather than seeing the characters all grown up. The world would be reunited, but because of certain events, the story can’t end yet. To include those events, I was asked to set the story two years later.
But the cast has changed, even in just two years. Albeit minorly.
Lloyd’s first journey was over, and he was now seeing how people were reacting to the new world. It’s just like him to have regrets over defeating Mithos. I wrote the story with the assumption that the last two years would make him more mature in a way, if not change him.
What challenges did you have with writing him, now that he was a former protagonist?
Tales of Symphonia had an affection system, so I couldn’t give him any preferences when it came to characters. It would be up to the player to decide whom Lloyd trusts, or even loves. He would have to maintain the same objectivity with everyone. But keeping him in the background also unveiled a lot perspectives on him, and this sequel was my opportunity to explore them. I was more conscious about revealing his inner workings than any other character. Some players may want him to go on a journey with Colette, others want him to have Genis as his most trusted friend. To preserve the players’ preferences, I had to write a little bit of everything into Lloyd, but not lean one way or the other. Keeping all of that in mind as I was writing him was pretty hard…
Yet Lloyd has matured considerably.
I kept that in mind as well. He was raised in his hometown for seventeen years, but remained emotionally immature. In the two years after his journey to reunite the worlds, he had encountered people both good and bad. Those experiences would surely make him more mature. I felt like I had to show that, and ultimately, he was the character that had grown the most. He’s still Lloyd at heart, though. (laughs)
What other things from the original game did you have to keep in mind?
I really didn’t want the players of the original game to be disillusioned by this sequel. Like Lloyd, there were things that I had to conceal, and people whom I’d written to change (while apologizing). But I didn’t want the game to divert any more than that. It’s been five years since the first Symphonia was sold, and people tend to recall those five-year-old memories with nostalgia. I didn’t want to just trample on their feelings. Releasing a sequel would take the fun out of imagining what happened after the first game. For the players to imagine what happens after that sequel, I had to think of a resolution that would keep the in-game world intact.
Who’s your favorite character?
I’m not the kind to pick favorites, but if I had to choose, it would be Alice and Magnar. One of the scenes that Hiramatsu-san wrote had someone basically said, “Notice me, Alice!” I read it and thought, “Oh, she’s that type of character”. And I just really like Magnar.
You like the side characters rather than the main characters?
Right. It’s really rare for me to like major stakeholders like Alice. While side characters don’t appear in the main story very often, I can still write apt backgrounds for them. They end up being featured only in side events, because of that though.
Where did the inspiration for Alice’s personality come from?
Initially, I wanted a character type that had never appeared in the original game. I wanted a girl who was all smiley and innocent, no matter the challenges she faced…and was also a sadist. (laughs) I wanted her to be confident, but also unremorseful, someone that I could never get along with.
It was shocking to see her use a person as a chair in that one scene.
We had fun producing that scene. I didn’t even think to use a person for her chair. I just wrote that she would sit somewhere, and somebody else suggested that she sit on a human. (laughs) I was nervous with that scene at first, if it would push certain boundaries. But I’m sure that Bandai Namco would’ve let us know if it did.
Were there any scenes that didn’t make the game due to their content?
None that concern Alice, but there were some from the townspeople of Luin, who’d say terrible things to Emil. Hiramatsu-san asked me to write their dialogue, and when I did, I just came up with the most scathing insults towards Emil that I could think of. In the end, Bandai Namco told me that it was too much, so I made revisions. I told myself that I can fix any problems that came up with the writing. (laughs)
So you wrote that hurtful dialogue because you could?
I wanted to present a reason as to why Emil was so timid in the first place. However, the townspeople’s insults would be increasingly hurtful for players as they grew attached to him.
What were the most important themes you had for writing Emil?
He was very much a newborn, literally coming to life when Marta called for help. This was at the very start of the game, and he has lived for only six months past that. False memories were rapidly created for him, so he doesn’t have a sense of self; the total opposite of Lloyd. His stances constantly change, and he accepts everything people say to him. But he can’t accept Lloyd as a hero; Lloyd had killed his parents. It frightens him to voice it out though, and that’s how he became so cowardly.
But was he aware of how much he was changing?
He was. The people of Luin tormented him, but then he met Marta and several others. He found out that he can be himself around them without getting scolded. Realizing that changes him little by little, and he was aware of that.
The earlier part of the game had a lot of scenes where he didn’t voice his thoughts.
He’s afraid of the consequences of saying what he thinks. While I had written him myself, I found myself losing my temper when I was playing as him. “He’s such a drag…just say it, already!” (laughs)
Did you want him to be the opposite of Lloyd?
I knew Lloyd was going to have leading roles beyond his original game, and I had to write the new protagonist with that in mind. I also had to make sure that Emil wasn’t too similar to previous Tales protagonists.
His Ratatosk Mode is rather violent, though.
I think the players would’ve quit otherwise. Seeing Emil’s stress manifest in Ratatosk Mode might encourage them to play through the whole story. As for Emil’s hesitant thoughts, they were really only there for the first chapter. I had to show exactly how timid he was at the start, and he’ll retain some of it, no matter how much he grows. From Chapter 2 onward, I refrained from adding his “annoying” thoughts from the script whenever possible.
And Marta is a more assertive female lead than her predecessors.
She’s definitely the opposite of many other female leads. I wanted her to have a personality that was different from the others, and fleshed her out from there. She’ll have contrasts with Emil’s personality too, of course. There are heroines who fall in love with the protagonists, but there might hasn’t been one who can’t help but fall in love with them, overwhelmingly so. I decided to make her a lead that players can draw in.
She’s declared her love several times.
So much that one wonders how sincerely she means it. (laughs) I asked the actress (Kumigiya) to put an undeniable weight behind the words when she says them. I regret making her work so hard.
Was there pressure to make this new cast as good as the original one?
The new characters and the original will be sharing the same space, and players could easily be drawn to the latter. I therefore had to give the new characters distinct personalities. They won’t entirely replace the old characters; that’d be terrible for the players who loved them since the first Symphonia. It would be a different matter, however, if the story deliberately focused on overthrowing the old characters, e.g. by putting the new characters against them. That’s not the case here; we want the players who loved the old characters to enjoy this game as well.
How did you determine the appearances of the old cast?
I decided fairly early that Colette should be the first to appear after Lloyd, being the female lead in the original Symphonia. I’d actually wanted to introduce the old cast according to their affection with Lloyd, e.g. the one that he chose via the affection system in the original game would be the first to be shown in the sequel. In the end, that’s how I decided I would introduce Colette first.
Regal had a lot of screentime.
I wanted characters who were introduced late in the first Symphonia to be in the new party for longer. Zelos appears rather briefly, since he had plenty of screentime already. Raine and Genis leave the party as quickly as they join; whilst Regal remains a near constant member. It just felt wasteful to introduce Regal so late in Symphonia, and Emil and Marta needed a mentor figure for their ages. I hadn’t determined who that would be, so I had Regal fill in.
Presea had little focus by comparison.
Because I felt that she had a very large amount of focus in Symphonia. I hadn’t meant to subdue her so much in this game, but she didn’t have much stakes in this story either. She was a “normal girl” who became what she was during Symphonia, and it feels like she’s in the sequel just for her fans.
Which aspects of Richter’s appearance and personality were you most concerned with?
He would be as strict and as strong as Emil was weak. I wanted him to leave a very intense impression. Unlike Kratos, who reveals this side of him the longer he remains in the party, I wanted to illustrate Richter’s intensity from the very beginning, show how he’s amazing, and also terrifying. I also wanted Emil to be drawn to his strength.
Emil is always so shocked when he sees him.
He is, and I wanted Emil to be like that with each encounter. When I wrote the concept for Richter, I was surprised to see that his art had him wearing glasses. I suppose it’s because he’s a scholar.
What was Richter’s motive behind his plans?
Like Kate from the first game, he was detained in the basement level of the Imperial Research Academy. But unlike Kate, he wasn’t studying exspheres, so he was in a different area. Then Aster came, shining a light in his life. It’s safe to say that Richter’s biggest motivation is revenge for Aster. But he doesn’t want to kill Ratatosk simply out of revenge; he wants to return peace to the world, the peace that Aster desired. It was why they sought Ratatosk in the first place, ending in Aster’s murder. Richter’s plan was born from the desire to grant his best friend’s wishes, no matter the cost.
And as we saw, those costs were extreme.
I think Richter had imagined how Aster would live, and what he’d become in the future. He could’ve gotten a happy marriage, and if he became a father, Richter, a half-elf, would meet Aster’s children. Richter considered that, as well as other possibilities. When that future was torn away, he would to anything to reclaim it. As for the means… he’s not one for optimism. After a history of persecution, and keeping to himself, he felt like he had no other choice.
He’s like Mithos in a way. Mithos had taken extreme measures as well.
Richter wasn’t tormented as relentlessly as Mithos, but both would use any means to fulfill their hopes. Both cases were pretty drastic, though. (laughs)
Because they’re acting for the sake of someone else.
No one would go so far for their own sakes, and when people do, they usually give in halfway. But when an important person in their life is hurt or even killed, they don’t give up. They would think, “I have to do this for them” or “I can’t give up, for their sake”. But of course, it doesn’t always lead to good.
What else about Emil shocked Richter, aside from his appearance?
Not much else, he’s really just surprised that while Emil looked like Aster, he was the exact opposite behavior-wise. Aster approached anyone, even half-elves. Meanwhile, Emil could barely speak up; this convinced Richter they couldn’t be the same person. I’d say that it wasn’t until Richter started paying more attention to Emil that he also began to realize his secret.
Why was Aqua the only one who sided with Richter?
They’ve known each other since he and Aster found her in the Temple of Ice. That’s where Aqua claimed Richter saved her…and where she fell in love. (laughs) He is a fine man, technically speaking. As one who led them to Ratatosk, she felt guilty for Aster’s death, and that’s why she’s accompanying Richter.
How did the Centurions and their roles influence your writing?
We wanted to use monsters as party members, but it was difficult to just add a “beastmaster”-type member. So we decided on mediators between monsters and mankind. We first considered using the Summon Spirits, but because of Sheena’s connection to them, we would’ve been expanding her story as well. But we wanted a third member to join Emil and Marta, and so created the Centurions. A balance in their concept had to be struck, in that they had to be lesser than Summon Spirits, but distinguished from monsters in general.
Tenebrae has quite a personality.
He was supposed to be this blunt and serious character at first, but Hiramatsu-san grew to enjoy writing him, and gave him interesting lines and the running joke were he’s an old man…(laughs). In the first draft, he was the one who knew everything, and we couldn’t really play around with his character, but he was really clever during skits. I think the story would’ve been much darker (pun!!) without him.
Did Tenebrae agree with Ratatosk’s intention to destroy mankind?
While there are exceptions, mankind generally doesn’t impede progress in the world. Tenebrae doesn’t believe their annihilation is necessary, but he doesn’t want to oppose Ratatosk’s wishes, either. He’s more open-minded than Ratatosk, though.
Does he care about Marta?
I believe he does. In the first chapter, Marta planned to return Ratatosk’s core by herself. They’d already found Emil at this time, but Tenebrae still tried to dissuade her. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t have bothered to. In fact, as Ratatosk’s servant, he was supposed to monitor Emil’s awakening and use Marta as a decoy. That he didn’t simply abandon her to die speaks for his feelings.
There was a similar scene later in the game, but in that one, Tenebrae chose to stay with Emil and didn’t stop Marta.
If he had to choose between Emil and Marta, he would choose his master. But he would also save Marta if given the option to help both.
When Emil returns in the final scene, does a part of Ratatosk remain inside of him?
Emil and Ratatosk are one and the same. Their personalities have combined to make one person. Emil-Ratatosk will live a human life with Marta, to return his other half after her death.
Is there anything else you want us to look out for?
I wrote an event for the game’s hot springs! The idea was rejected at first because there wasn’t any time to write it, but I did my best. (laughs)
Translated by Sebz and edited by Texanona
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
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?