Scarlet Nexus and Tales of Arise Developers reveal how they created iconic monsters! (pt.2/2)

An untold amount of effort goes into crafting game antagonists. Join us as the dev crew for SCARLET NEXUS and Tales of Arise reveal the inner intricacies which make RPGs tick. (part 2 of 2)


Today we're here with the Scarlet Nexus and Tales of Arise dev crew, along with special guest Masakazu Yamashiro, designer of Scarlet Nexus' "Others" enemies. We'll be talking about what comprises a genuine JRPG, in addition to unveiling an all-new Other, specially designed by Yamashiro-san for this very interview.


What's more, in celebration of this momentous sit-down, at the very end we'll be accepting requests for custom illustrations featuring characters from Scarlet Nexus and Tales of Arise. The setting is entirely up to you! Should your concept be approved, either one of the interviewees or dev staff will be drawing up your dream art. Look forward to something magical!




Another "Other" Comes This Way


Here it is, folks. The never-before-seen Other, created by Yamashiro-san for this very interview!




Iwamoto: Wow. Now that's intense!




Tomizawa: So, I'm the one who proposed we do this segment. Since we have the designer and dev squad under one roof, I figured we should talk about how this new baddie would go about doing battle. Now, I originally expected a rough sketch to come... But, yet again, the art is totally finished, polished, and perfect.

Yamashiro: I pulled another Winery Chinery. Ah well.



Please, your honest opinions regarding this new Other.


Anabuki: Honestly? I'm excited. I said this before. When something surpasses my expectations, I get super hyped. This design came in during a particularly busy time at work. But when I saw it, I got goosebumps—and an instant burst of energy. The fact that Yamashiro-san drew up this design just for this interview is an incredible honor.


The cloth draped over the top of the creature. Now that's curious. I almost want to lift it. And then at the same time...maybe not. But in all seriousness, it gets you thinking as to what's underneath.Were we to integrate this in the game, what combat mechanics would the creature utilize? I can't help but wonder and wonder.




Yamashiro: Oddly enough, that reaction is exactly what I was going for. The humanoid section of the creature was made to resemble a woman, lying face up. While there's no clear indication that something's under the cloth, it is a major feature of the design. I'm glad it got through to you.


Anabuki: Iizuka-san? Opinions?


Iizuka: I see... Is really all I can say right now. And I meant that. Sorry, heh.


Anabuki: Oh you joker, you.


Iizuka: Well, the more you examine the design, the more you realize what a detailed piece it is. You see it has wheels—and then you see chains attached to said wheels. And what kind of bones are those? What are those tree-like structures springing forth? Those wings? It's all quite mysterious. Then again, maybe I shouldn't overthink it.


But yes, the cloth. It certainly evokes a fierce struggle between one's fear and curiosity. These are the elements which you really have to mull over and decide how to implement in-game.


Scarlet Nexus producer

Scarlet Nexus producer, Keita Iizuka


Tomizawa: The more I look at it, the more I don't know what I'm looking at. Let's see. It certainly bears the surrealism of an Other. There are feminine contours, but the flipped-around head makes the whole deal rather eerie. I'm sure a sizeable percentage of people would say this is the stuff of nightmares. The fact that it gets Anabuki-san so hyped is certainly...something.


Anabuki: Guilty as charged.


Tomizawa: On the subject of how the creature would move, my game dev instincts tell me to first examine the joints. And when you consider this will eventually be reworked into a 3D model, you need to consider another spectrum of possibilities. Will it stand? Or perhaps move via the wheels? Maybe it will plod on its appendages. Will the player character ever find him or herself gazing up at the red section underneath? If so, what surprises can we integrate there? You know, it almost feels like I've undertaken a challenge from Yamashiro-san. How would I make this thing move and be in line with what Yamashiro-san originally intended? The more I look at it, the more questions arise.


I can't believe I proposed this segment. Discuss an all-new Other, I said. Boy am I regretting it now. I wasn't expecting such an ordeal.


Tales of Arise producer

Tales of Arise producer, Yusuke Tomizawa


And how does this Other strike you, Iwamoto-san?


Iwamoto: Well, it certainly meets the conditions for an engaging enemy which I previously laid out. It gets me pumped. I want to fight this fantastic creature. What's more, it seamlessly matches the Scarlet Nexus world. If this were a Tales of game, we'd first narrow down the components used to attack. Then we make them pointy, hard, etc.—thus demonstrating a whack with these things would really hurt.



The Tales of Arise Mantis


But this Other has wheels, which are, naturally, round. And those wings, or perhaps plant-like structures, give a very soft impression. The hands, holding flowers that have yet to blossom, seem as if folded in prayer. I'd say she looks rather downtrodden, and the piece evokes something akin to pity. And the cloth does indeed catch my attention. Perhaps the creature's second form will make use of it—standing.






That's quite a lot of ideas.


Iwamoto: When doing design for Tales of, I always say not to take a bunch of complete unknowns and jumble them together. Only combine elements you understand. That way, when something new arises from the mixture, you know exactly what you're dealing with. But this. This is stuff of a completely different dimension. And yet in spite of that, I can't help but be mesmerized. You look at this design, and you want to wonder. That's how compelling a piece of art this is.


Yamashiro: Thank you. There was a phrase you mentioned which I felt was in line with one of my thematic motifs. You felt something akin to "pity," yes? You see to me, I felt the Others were somehow not entirely free. Perhaps victims of some misfortune. I'm glad that aspect resonated with you. One more thing. It's incredible how you were able to put that into words so effectively and succinctly. I am genuinely amazed.



Scarlet Nexus designer

Scarlet Nexus designer, Masakazu Yamashiro


Iwamoto: Is that a nail in its eye?


Yamashiro: Yes. When creating Others, human facial elements are used in a way that does not exude emotion, generally speaking. In this case, however, I used the face to demonstrate a profound sadness these creatures bear in silence.


Iwamoto: Incredible. The piece is saturated with a vast range of emotions, right down to every last detail and contour, something the viewer is able to recognize immediately. It's a rather intense experience. And yet one can't help but continue looking. A truly thrilling work.





The New Other is Death Personified?



Were this new Other to make it into the game, what kind of battle do you envision playing out?


Tomizawa: Oh boy. Who's idea was this again? Anabuki-san, over to you.


Anabuki: Well, personally, I was hoping to include a character that personifies death. Someone with Grim Reaper-like tones. I think this Other fits that theme quite well. It has chains, which likely make noise when it moves. So, hear the clanking of the chains and you know—that thing's coming. Would be good for creating this looming sense of threat. It also has wheels, allowing it to tear along at high speeds. Players will be panicking to put distance between themselves and impending doom. I think the concept has potential.




Tomizawa: And combat. How would that unfold?


Anabuki: Though the arms seem to be held in place, at some point, the restraint would be blown off, I feel. And with a real bang too. So yeah. Once its health drops to fifty percent or lower, the cuffs go. Then it attempts to claw you or something like that. Something wild and barbaric.


In regards to psycho-kinetic countermeasures, using pyrokinesis to burn the cloth is one possibility. And once the cloth is disposed of, something crazy is revealed. And the ensuing attacks become even more deranged. Or, alternatively, one could use clairvoyance to see what's happening under the cloth, informing the player when to attack.


Tomizawa: Absolutely brilliant. Yamashiro-san, Anabuki-san. You're a pair of bona fide geniuses. Devs and designers coming together in such harmony is a thing of beauty. I'm sure a producer like Iizuka-san would agree?




Iizuka: It's a real treat to hear Anabuki-san's unfiltered thoughts about possible gameplay mechanics. During the development cycle, a director must think about how to realize drawing board ideas in-game. Not an easy task, to say the least. So it gives me joy to see Anabuki-san freely bubbling with ideas.


Anabuki: Right, because now we're just rambling. We don't have to think about actual in-game integration.


How about you, Iwamoto-san?


Iwamoto: The first thing I thought was—I'd like to flip the thing over. Right now, it's hard to tell which side's the top and which side's the bottom. So depending on whether it stands or which side's facing up, the creature could end up being something entirely different. It would also be nice to use movements that challenge convention. Something players wouldn't dare fathom.


As there are flower petals strewn about, we have a lot of thematic freedom, allowing us to explore beyond physical attacks. The creature could be some kind of energy parasite, for example. Or, it could command poison, magic-like attacks, and so on. At the same time, the intensity of its physical attacks should definitely be off the charts. As for what's behind the cloth...perhaps its own severed limbs? When you look at it like that, the wheels could actually be chainsaws, used to sunder itself. Now that makes the creature even scarier.



Tales of Arise director, Minoru Iwamoto


Anabuki: I think we've rambled for long enough. Let's hear what Yamashiro-san had in mind while drawing the piece.

Yamashiro: Uh oh, now I'm in the hot seat. Flowers bloom in many places across the wide world of Scarlet Nexus. These are actually dinner companions to the Others.All Others, regardless of type, will generate these flowers when feeding. This particular Other is gathering these flowers for some reason.

Oh, this was mentioned as a possibility before, and even though I'd rather not, I now have to confirm it. Yes—the creature stands. Previously, Iwamoto-san expressed the feeling of aversion that comes over him when looking at the Others is not unlike looking at insects. That comment stayed with me. I realized I'd never really done anything insect-like...until now. So, this is my bug Other.




Anabuki: This is a bug?

Yamashiro: It is. So when Iwamoto-san said he wanted to flip it over, in a way, he'd already solved the mystery. What a sharp man. Hats off.



The Unique Beauty of JRPGs, Rediscovered


The discussion until now has been dedicated solely to enemies. I'd like to shift gears for our final topic. In the context of what has been discussed thus far, enemies included, have any elements that are essential to JRPGs been touched on? What are some core aspects of the unique JRPG appeal?


Tomizawa: In the realm of RPGs, the JRPG has its own distinct domain. This is due to a unique and balanced blend of factors. Real characters. Palpable experiences. Creative freedom. And the bizarre. I think the Others are a prime example of these qualities made manifest.


An anime world, Scarlet's hero roster, and the Others. Usually, you wouldn't find these three things together. But the medium of the JRPG allows us to challenge such norms, and combine it all in a cohesive manner. You can immediately tell the enemies set before you are of an entirely alien make. That's exciting. That balance between grounded realness and the bizarre is very apparent in Scarlet Nexus.


The world of Arise on the other hand, was built with consistency in mind. This applies to the enemies as well, and represents a totally different approach. Neither is right or wrong. What I want to highlight here is that the JRPG allows for variety. And because of this freedom, engaging enemies can be born. Both titles utilize different methodologies, for sure. But it's conversations like today's which drive the creation process and produce something uniquely Japanese, I'd like to think. I'm proud of that.


Iizuka: I think you're right. The freedom to balance a diverse range of attractive qualities is a hallmark of JRPGs. For example, take RPGs with a fantasy setting. How much the game world is distanced from reality is entirely variable, differing from title to title. The addition of other thematic elements on top of that creates a wholly unique experience, filled with settings and enemies of all type and manner. That is the JRPG, no?


Then, by incorporating a narrative and characters with genuine depth, enemies become more than another in-game obstacle. You understand them on an intimate level. Empathize with them. I think JRPGs shine in that area.


Iwamoto: I think the standard Japanese person has grown up around anime and manga, and in no small amount. It's because we've been touched by so much of this special, stimulating form of entertainment that we don't just make RPGs—we make JRPGs. But the essence of the JRPG doesn't lie in the anime/manga aesthetic. It's the wild thrills we felt as kids. And because we haven't forgotten what that's like, we can craft experiences to relive those same sensations. The result is the JRPG.


If I ever have the chance, there's something I want to try my hand at: having characters relish their food. You see this a lot in video media, I think. Characters with sauce smeared on their cheeks. Drooling, etc. Eating heartily, and making a mess in the process, accents a character's humanity, stimulating an empathetic bond.


After a meal like that, in the battle to follow you say to yourself, "Wow, that slob is putting it all on the line!" That contrast between the dire and mundane has the power to create emotions, ones Japanese creators have been quite familiar with since they were yea high. And it's when a team of these people come together to create something grand—that something uniquely "JRPG" is born.


Anabuki: Hearing Iwamoto-san's answer, I thought perhaps an important aspect of JRPGs is providing shades of déjà vu. JRPGs promise to deliver on certain fronts, and in a certain way. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a "J." I'm sure a lot of people are of the same mind.


"I've seen something like this before. At the same time, there are components I've never seen—which is why I know I'm in for a fun time." Being able to relive the past in new and vivid ways—that's an important quality of the JRPG, I feel. That very approach was used when choosing which psycho-kinetic powers to go with in Scarlet. At some point, I was exposed to an idea for an ability and thought it would be fun to use down the road. Such déjà vu undertones are woven into the JRPG DNA. Even Yamashiro-san's Others evoke images from my past. The resulting contrast is exactly why I can appreciate his art.



Likewise, I appreciate JRPGs in a whole new light, thanks to this in-depth discussion about enemies. Gentlemen, thank you for your time today!





Interview Pt.1


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In a far distant future, a psionic hormone was discovered in the human brain, granting people extra-sensory powers and changing the world as we know it. Just as humanity was entering this new era, deranged mutants known as Others began to descend from the sky with a thirst for human brains.

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