Taking a look back on Tales of the Abyss again.
—How is it to look back from the first release of Tales of Phantasia 10 years ago to today, the release of Tales of the Abyss?
Yoshidzumi: When Phantasia was in the process of being created, there weren’t any so-called RPG games from Namco. Phantasia was a game created by a team of staff with the passion that it can go on forever [as a series]. The Tales Studio still has most of the staff from that era. From now on, 5 years, 10 years, and moreover in the future it’s going to stay that way. We are trying to make discoveries and new implements to surpass the previous games, and that’s how it was in those 10 years. Though there were a lot of changes in these 10 years, the passion of these people [team] will never change.
—Isn’t it that the spirit of the staff was quite strong for Abyss, the title that celebrates the 10th year anniversary?
Yoshidzumi: Although the team is mostly filled with people who made Symphonia, everyone is basically aiming at “Let’s put everything that we have throughout the series” while they working on Abyss. …Though that’s what they all think when they made Symphonia. (Laughs) We were wondering if the fans who waited patiently for this game would spot the differences between Abyss and other titles in the series.
Approvals and Disapprovals were taken into consideration?
The different main character designs of Abyss.
—While the Tales of series is a RPG, it wasn’t defined in a solid term that the player must equal to the main character, but it seems Abyss is different, isn’t it?
Yoshidzumi: We are aiming for the concept that the main character start with loosing his memories of the past, and the fact that he has never seen the outside world. Of course, the player is also the same, through the introduction of the main character who knows nothing, the player feel natural as the player experiences the changes and growth of the main character. That is how through the understanding of the story and the world, as well as the main character’s view will bring the player to reach to a state where they understand and come to a self awakening. And though we’ve made some adjustments to the battle screen so that whichever character the player decides to choose will become enjoyable, it is still recommended to use Luke.
—Even if that is so, to have a selfish main character in the beginning of the game is quite rare isn’t it?
Yoshidzumi: During the test play phase, there were approvals and disapprovals. Especially the part where he was sent as a friendly envoy to Akzeruth, his attitudes were too much, because of that, there are some people in the development team who said the players will leave the controllers because of this. Even though that’s how it was, I think it scored a success, because part of the motivation is to see the progress of him [Luke] correcting himself.
—How were the comments from the players who played this game?
Yoshidzumi: There were many benevolent comments that surpassed our imagination [expectation], and I am very happy because of it. Though perhaps there are some people who sent in negative comments. (Laughs) But we are still open ears to all disapproval comments.
—There are also people who cannot easily understand and feel the same way as the main character, is that right?
Yoshidzumi: Yes, that’s how I think as well. The feeling of separation [left out] when a person’s own feelings cannot be transcended to others, the time when people were left alone and was lost in their own thought, this is what all humans have as a minus portion of their heart. And that is why we try to incorporate those elements heavily into the game.
—In a way, this isn’t like a game, but like a feeling that real people carry, isn’t it?
Yoshidzumi: The main characters are always the ones who are right, the ones who are going forward, ones who work hard to achieve what they want to be…… Though it may sound good, there aren’t any people like that in real life. And we often see main characters starting as people who have troubles and mistakes at the beginning of the story in movies and novels, the game also took an approach like this and it took off just as the way we have hoped from the past. With the fact that the Tales of series is at its 10th year, and the video game entertainment is already more than 30 years, there hasn’t been any main characters like Luke that I could think of, so I thought it is something we must work into the game.
Even if you feel the same, or not, I want you to try and ask yourself.
—It seems that whether if the player can support Luke at the event where Akzeruth was destroyed will change how he/she views the story of Abyss.
Yoshidzumi: I think that there are those who can feel the same as Luke, as well as those who will leave [abandon] him. Rather than having the players looking forward to what he can’t do and what changes he must make, we want the players to try and think in Luke’s position.
—That is why Luke’s feelings are easily [naturally] understood by the players. It must’ve been the work of the settings.
Yoshidzumi: To put it bluntly, Luke is a dislikable person. And even Luke himself knows that he is disliked by others, that is why it is expected that he say things that are incontrary to what he truly is because of his realization. It is also expected that he understands his stupidity for believing in every word that Van says, it’s just that he didn’t want to acknowledge it. After the destruction of Akzeruth, one who says, “It’s not my fault!” will look bad, such is what is called the ugliness of mankind. To be denied by something that one does not want to be denied, to become abandoned, it’s a time where the main character has fallen into a bottomless pit.
—Though Symphonia is also like that, Abyss is filled with more traumatic suffering beginnings……
Yoshidzumi: If someone as young as Luke could experience some sort of major events, he will definitely become a great adult in the future. Even though my daughter who became 10 said to me as she played through the beginning of Symphonia, “Why does the story have to be sad like this?”, this [can also be seen as] my educational philosophy. (Laughs)
—The feeling of seriousness is futher emphasized, and it’s around that?
Yoshidzumi: That’s right. We didn’t think about making a special fantasy world for Abyss. The planet, Oldland, where Abyss is staged contains several powers with initiation [the power to lead and guide themselves], there are also disputes everywhere, power struggles as well…… The stage is set in a world where it isn’t much different than the world we are living in. Though it may be a fantasy world, we want the players to go away and feel that somewhere, there is a reality that is connected with the world that they are living in.
—Keeping the balance between an endangering peace with neighbouring countries…… This may have been the sympathetic feelings of Japanese nowadays as well as those in the past about the world, isn’t it?
Yoshidzumi: There are those in the Oldland who took the stance like the younger Japanese population who thinks that wars have nothing to do with themselves, in this story, it’s Luke. And then, in contrast there is Natalia, who looks toward the outside world and thinks there is something that she must do.
Tear and Natalia, each and the one they think about.
—By seeing the looks of Natalia when she met Asch again, it is possible to discover whether if Luke’s existence means something huge to her.
Yoshidzumi: The feelings that Natalia holds for him goes from simple love, to the extent that she has such a strong sense of responsibility to fullfil her part as a princess, where “in the future, I will create a country with this person”. She could feel his attitude as a noble reliable, she respects him, and little by little she…… Though she thinks of Luke as an important existence to her, now that since he has no recollection of the past, it is expected that he cannot recall them. Knowing that Luke is a Replica, and even if she sees him as another guy different than Asch, at the end, the one she really has feelings for is probably “Luke”.
—What is Luke’s existence to Tear?
Yoshidzumi: At the point where they have yet to see the true intention of Van, Tear and Luke share the same worries. Tear often asks the questions, “What should I do?”, “What is the right way?” when she faces against Van and Regret. The one existence who could understand her and help her is Luke. She may be attracted to to his pureness in a sense, because he’s a Replica and he’s a tabula rasa.
—In comparison to Natalia, it is said that there are times she is attracted to the fact that he is a Replica.
Yoshidzumi: Moreover, [that is because] she could understand little by little that Luke himself is a really nice and gentle person.
Anise, Jade, Guy, each of their own views about Luke.
—It is an important point in the story that after the event in Akzeruth, Anise and Jade adjust their views about Luke little by little, is that correct?
Yoshidzumi: In reality, especially to these two who were also critical about Luke, they also have part of themselves that are being saved by the presence of Luke. Specially Jade, though he doesn’t reveal what he thinks in his heart, he was being helped and cured by Luke…… It is expected that at the end of the game everyone would be saying that “It’s great to have Luke with us”.
—Guy carries out his place as a good friend from the beginning to the end.
Yoshidzumi: Of everyone in the party, if Tear acts as Luke’s mother, then Guy would probably be his father. It could also be said that the part where he waits for the return of Luke at Aramis and reflects upon “rearing him the wrong way” is the feeling [emotions] of a father.
—What sort of feelings does Guy have towards Asch?
Yoshidzumi: Honestly, I think that he doesn’t like Asch all that much. [Because] ever since Asch was born, he receives special education for the gifted, along with a strong sense of feeling that it is his duty to change his own country. Therefore, there are times where he suppresses and kills his own emotions, and that’s how it didn’t make Guy sympathizes with him. On the other hand, though Luke is very selfish and egocentric, Guy could probably feel that Luke is a very natural, straight forward, intimate person. Guy could understand well that Luke is actually a gentle and hardworking child at heart. (Laughs)
—As well as the tough adventures of Abyss, after surpassing [getting over] the bonds [ties] with the friends, it will feel like things have changed.
Yoshidzumi: Everyone in the party including Luke all led a dramatic life. They don’t think that they must be choosing the right path. There are times when they hurt others though they never have the intention to, made to die, and to confront secrets and truth that they don’t even know…… Those who bear the wounds within their heart, or the people who received the wounds fabricates and comprises the story of Abyss.
—Could it be that the catch phrase “RPG that understands the meaning of life” points to that?
Yoshidzumi: Fujiwara from Bump of Chicken who wrote the theme song has questioned in the past about a theme on what sacrifices must be made to live, the deprivation of another person’s standpoint [if he were to live]; and that is an exact match with the theme that we are trying to narrate through Abyss. The catch phrase “understands the meaning of life” is borrowed from one of the phrases in Karma. It’s truly a collaboration that surpasses the area of being a theme song.
The vast enjoyable elements are the fruits of Love and Persistence!
—With Tales of Dragon Buster and others, the enjoyable elements of this title are grandeur, aren’t they?
Yoshidzumi: Though the ones who came up with the idea of Tales of Dragon Buster are staff from Tales Studio who really liked the original version, because we don’t have enough people for that matter, we recruited programmers from Namco and worked ourselves off at the end.
—That means the vast gaming elements of Abyss is created with many different preservation and persistence from the staff, isn’t it?
Yoshidzumi: Things like Anise bad mouthing whenever Luke and Jade are not in the battle party are specifications quietly slipped in by the staff. Though there is a scene where Anise’s hidden bad mouthing was taken to pieces by Ion, Ion’s seiyuu Ootani Ikue’s acting is impressive…… In reality, I think that I do want to let Anise say it.
—Alicia (Presea’s sister) in Symphonia, and the lines of maids queuing up in Luke’s mansion…… You can really see the persistence in putting the maid elements into this title. (Laughs)
Yoshidzumi: There is also a title for Tear’s maid costume too. It seems that the chief director also has experiences with regards to having afternoon tea with maids. He really has an ardor for research. (Laughs) [NOTE: There are shops in Japan that made their employees wear maid costumes to serve the customers. These shops are mainly in Akihabara XD.]
—Natalia’s costume titles have a lot of skin showing, don’t they?
Yoshidzumi: For Natalia, she has never considered the amount of skin showing is [related to] being sexy. It’s probably because after she baths, she has servants to dry her off and she doesn’t have a strong sense of “I can’t let others see me like this” as other women have.
—So it could be said that Tear and Natalia are exact opposites of each other?
Yoshidzumi: In a sense, Tear hardens her own realization of shame. (Laughs) She is firmly aware of herself. She thinks that as a soldier, it is embarrassing to show others her girl’s side.
New techniques for the main character one after another!
—To the players who are familiar to this game, Majinken and Kogahazan are not on Luke but on Guy.
Yoshidzumi: Most of the time we think that the player will be using the main character. That is why for the sake of having a degree of reality and playing in a new title, we came up with a lot more new techniques for the main character to play around. (Laughs) On top of that, we want to emphasize the fact that Luke and Asch’s special techniques were taught by Van.
—If that is so, then about Guy’s sword techniques……
Yoshidzumi: In the story, the Albert Style is set to be a technique that is independently developed on the island of Hod. Although it is familiar to the players of this series. (Laughs)
—Ever since Symphonia, the main character’s techniques’ combo hit seems to give off the impression that they have wind down. What is really happening?
Yoshidzumi: In Symphonia, Lloyd’s attack hit number is high, his speed is fast, the damage is great…… He became the strongest main character in these 10 years, that’s why we have to reflect upon that. (Laughs) If the main character is too strong, then the battles will become much easier, and we worried that people must choose the main character instead of others. Luke as well, he moved slowly in the beginning, and he lacked the speed, so it took us some work to get it fixed. Though Guy’s techniques are high speed, in terms of damage, Luke is still better than Guy’s in general.
Free Run was a double edged sword?
—In the history of the series, the Free Run is an epoch making invention?
Yoshidzumi: We were able to keep the Linear Motion Battle tradition. As for the Free Run, it is something that the players of Symphonia suggested and are looking forward to. Even though the basic system of Free Run itself at its early stage of development was completed, we spent a lot of time tuning and adjusting its balance. Because if one becomes a pro at this, they can walk away from the battle without suffering any damage to their characters.
—Other than the fact that it has a lot of freedom as its name implied, in a certain aspect, it’s a double edged sword, isn’t it?
Yoshidzumi: If it is a battle with the minions, it is indeed very hard to get away with no damage having the boss as your opponent as well. The enemies are set to target at the character that the player is controlling as their top priority…… That is why when you are fighting against the boss, it is better to use the overlimit and the secret high ougi along with foul techniques.
Aiming for a game system that is both deep and wide.
—The Field of Fonim also has exhilaration preeminence.
Yoshidzumi: We kept on making countless effects of techniques non-stop, at the same time, we are also hitting [nailing] many of them. (Laughs) The FOF system is the same as the Free Run, though there weren’t any major changes from the beginning of development to the end, it is the part where we have to touch up that takes most of our time.
—It was a great combination that as the character’s levels go up, it is possible for the players to chain up FOF one after another.
Yoshidzumi: For the C Cores as well as AD skills, the more you are able to use them, the more you will want to master them. Though this can be said in general for the system, we are aiming for something that it is also possible to clear he game without paying attention to these, as to those who are aware of this in the beginning, we hope that they will make more combinations together and try them out.
—The Tales of series is often heard amongst the female gamers, [after all], it is the depth of the game that counts, isn’t it?
Yoshidzumi: There are also a lot of people who are interested in the collaboration between us and Bump of Chicken. Though there are many things that I want to challenge Abyss accomplished, there are still a lot more ideas that I would like to challenge as well. I intend to work harder and keep on creating more Tales of series titles!