SCARLET NEXUS Story Demo Release: Special Interview with Miyajima Takumi
Q1: Can you please tell us what inspired the concepts and themes of "connecting brains" and "creating weapons with human brains" in SCARLET NEXUS?
Miyajima Takumi: It's because I have been interested in "brains" since I was a child and felt the potential of using it as a theme for this title.
In my childhood, I was interested in "brains" as a lot of books I read stated the not-yet-understood elements and hypotheses regarding the hidden potential of "brains", which greatly increased my interest.
I still remember one book expressed that "the brain is like a computer," and it really left a strong impression on me. A lot of anime and manga titles have "brains" as the theme for their fictional world, which further fueled my thoughts on the potential of the brain itself.
In the modern world, we don't only connect our computers and smartphones, but also electrical appliances and technological devices to make our lives more convenient and bring things closer to our reach. Based on this, I thought, "why not create a fictional world where people connect their brains and create new powers and new uses for the brain that we don't have in the modern world?" That's where the idea for SCARLET NEXUS's "brain-connecting" theme came from.
Q2: In your story-writing, it seems like you create the world's background and pre-stories that are never presented to players, before getting into the main story. What are your intentions with this way of story-writing?
Miyajima Takumi: I take a slice out of the long history of the story's universe and insert it into the story our players see now. That ensures *all* characters' words and actions correctly and strictly reflect the past of that universe.
Rationally speaking, the past history before the start of SCARLET NEXUS that our players see is really influential on the main story itself and acts as an anchor for future story creation. By letting myself and the devs know beforehand what happened in the history of SCARLET NEXUS's universe, we are able to construct a more consistent and error-free scenario for players to immerse themselves in. This is usually how I construct the stories I am handling.
For example, in SCARLET NEXUS, there is the line; "An Other alert? But today's Other forecast said that there was no threat in this part of Suoh!" There are definitely base-setting elements leading to this line, such as the Others' existence being a normal occurrence and humans in this world having already developed scientific ways to predict their appearance, etc. These base settings are further strengthened by these conversations and the actions of the characters in the game.
I always do my story-writing in this style, and there are even some hidden story settings that the game devs don't know about.
However, I don't create story settings that are all cut and dried, so players can use their imaginations while enjoying the game as well.
These days, it is unusual for a single scenario writer to write the whole scenario during a game's production, so we also want to make sure that all staff members who are working on stories and scenarios know the basic world perspective, so that the whole story will be more faithful to the established past history in the universe.
In other titles I have worked on, there must be "pre-stories" that aren't told in the world settings or in the main story. There are even hidden story settings that aren't shared with the dev team. The reason for that is so it won't affect the game's production, as they are neither key nor essential bits of information. But personally, I create these settings for fun and to expand the world, for example, by thinking about characters that don't even have names attached to them, or by imagining unimportant things that happen in that world.
I try not to make everything sound cut and dry, but rather, I create gaps in the story where players' imagination can take the reins. In the case of a game, players are always actively controlling the main character, so I think it is more interesting and fun if there is room for players to imagine.
Q3: You said that you basically always create the story by expanding on enemy characters first. For SCARLET NEXUS, how was the story constructed?
Miyajima Takumi: SCARLET NEXUS has a double protagonist element, so unlike the usual "enemy" approach, I started creating the story from the protagonists.
The reason why I start from enemy characters is that a game's protagonists need to have a goal, and to achieve that goal, there is always an opponent they need to defeat. In such cases, the story is usually imagined and created from the angle of the "protagonist" and the "final boss."However, for SCARLET NEXUS, there are two protagonists, and we want the fights and hostility between the two to be an obstacle to the protagonists' goals, above all, so I started with the protagonists in this game.
On top of that, I set the protagonist's ultimate goal as being "keeping peace in the world," and rationally it becomes the extermination of the Others by turning the gears and inner workings of the universe, and on top of that, I construct what will be the "final boss" that poses a threat of obstructing this goal.
In the pre-stories, I concluded that I didn't want the "final boss" to be one of the Others, so I searched for another potential enemy that could pose such a threat to the protagonist.
The SCARLET NEXUS storyline that players see in the game is the one between the constructed "past history" and "future" of its world. The stage and characters — everything setting-related — are considered to be my "world perspective" for SCARLET NEXUS.
Once you have a rough idea of the protagonist and enemies, the next step is to create a rough overall world perspective as the core of the game. Then, to incorporate the elements of the game, such as psionic battles, defeating Others, and the fundamental purpose of the battles, the world was constructed starting from the "past."In addition, I had a rough idea of what the future might look like after the game was cleared, and I constructed the entire world so it would lead to that. Please think of it as me slicing out a piece from the long history of the universe, and using that particular piece as the story enjoyed by our players.
So I am often asked questions like "where did I start?" and "how did I create it?" but actually, they're quite difficult to answer. I try to create the main character, the final boss, and the world perspective including the "past history" and "future" all at the same time, based on the particular orders I receive at that time. Sometimes I am asked to create them separately, but since the setting of the characters and the setting of the world in which they exist are all related to the "world perspective" for me, I end up creating them all together.
Q4: How were the unique and characteristic protagonists and characters created from scratch?
Miyajima Takumi: I created all characters based on their balance in the player's group and their relationships with the other characters as well.
For allied characters, I used an overview approach by looking at the whole group as one and decided how each one of them should be balanced and made interesting for the player. After deciding on their personalities somewhat, I decide on their relationships with the other characters and the protagonists.
So rather than building up the characters only by themselves, I often place a character who is a counterpart or closely related to the character and create the setting in the context of his/her relationship with the other characters.
Fundamentally, no characters are specially treated, and the "world perspective" is created in a way so that every one of them actually has the potential to become the protagonist in SCARLET NEXUS.
In my case, I basically make it so that the story can be told by whoever is the protagonist in that world. I think I can make episodes with group members other than Yuito and Kasane as protagonists if I want to. Whether or not it is currently reflected and seen in the game, from the start, I have a rough idea of what every character has in mind and what their emotions are, and how they end up at the end of the scenario.
Just as in the creation of 3D graphics in game production, there are parts of the game that are "invisible or not shown to the public," and it just so happens that Yuito, Kasane, and Karen were the main characters featured in the main storyline in a way that they are clearly visible to players.
Q5: How were the protagonists Yuito and Kasane created?
Miyajima Takumi: Yuito was created to be more emotional and to resonate with most players. On the other hand, Kasane was created to be more eccentric and less empathic toward the player.
As for Yuito and Kasane, I created them with the intention of dividing them into two types: the type that resonates closely with the player emotionally, and the type that is eccentric so the player cannot understand or sympathize with them easily, respectively.In order to make the gameplay not end up with the same tastes, Yuito's team is created to have a leader with a sincere personality and allied characters who have positive feelings toward him, and Kasane's team is created to have an eccentric leader and also highly characteristic allied characters. Although they're different, the common point they have is that when they cooperate with each other, they are able to make the best use of their powers.
The game devs had specified the psionic ability specifically for each group member, so I first created each character somewhat in accordance with their power. Then, I considered how the personalities would fit in with the protagonists and their relationships with each other. Later I added and rigorously adjusted their personalities while considering their powers' characteristics, their personalities, and their synergies.
Taking Gemma as an example, we came up with a personality like a "firm and mature male with a strong sense of protecting his friends" based on his defensive Sclerokinesis power, so he ended up in Yuito's team.
Q6: Can you please tell us what was considered about Karen's position and the balance with respect to the two protagonists?
Miyajima Takumi: I think the fact that there were two main characters strengthened Karen's presence as a result. The way in which Episode Karen's story was delivered through cutscenes was so good, I'm now quite embarrassed to say that I cried with emotion even though it was a story I wrote myself…!
I was conscious of the fact that Karen would be a key person and an obstacle to what the protagonists wanted to accomplish. While doing so, I made sure that Karen would have some kind of connection beforehand, rather than appearing suddenly at some point in the scenario.
As mentioned earlier, for SCARLET NEXUS, it is not simply the opposition between the protagonist and the last boss, but also between the two protagonists themselves. By thinking of the positions and balance of all of them, I think Karen kind of ended up being a hallmark and a major part of the story.
Q7: Can you tell us the similarities and differences between "SCARLET NEXUS" and the "Tales of" series scenarios that you were in charge of?
Miyajima Takumi: Although the tastes of the scenarios for both games are somewhat similar, in SCARLET NEXUS, we had the premise that life and death, and the lives of people in the story, would be more seriously and heavily portrayed, especially when constructed in a world much closer to the modern reality that we're in.
As both scenarios are written by me, the tastes might end up being similar for both. However, the level of reality for both is definitely different.
In worlds where magic and swords are used, there is more space for me to deform the world.
But for SCARLET NEXUS, the world is closer to our modern world and reality, so revenge drama and "good-versus-evil scenarios" are rather difficult to portray in such worlds. That level of reality determines what I create in the title's world and how realistic and suitable it is for that title. This way, the story is more easily accepted by the audience.
Q8: Can you tell us about the highlights of the first parts of the story and the scenario as a whole?
Miyajima Takumi: I hope players will enjoy the story of "broken and scattered everyday ordinary life" in the first parts of SCARLET NEXUS leading to the grand story later.
Players can play until the end of Phase 2 in the new and free SCARLET NEXUS Story Demo, and that part of the story features "broken and scattered everyday ordinary life."
By everyday ordinary life, I mean the everyday routines and daily lives of OSF members fighting off Others and protecting the world. However, things aren't as simple as they look, and how this ordinary life scatters is one of the points of interest in the first parts of the story.
Overall, I hope players will enjoy their own emotions toward the choices made by the protagonists throughout the game.
A lot of new challenges and suffering keep pouring down on Yuito and Kasane after Phase 2, and how they try to overcome all this and what future they choose are important points we want our players to pay attention to and enjoy.
We also wanted to trigger first-hand emotional responses toward the protagonists' choices and to have players enjoy themselves alongside the story.
The "loneliness" in Yuito and Kasane, as well as the value of "bonds with others," are also important points we want our players to experience in the game.
I thought that for humans, by just leaning on someone else without being independent by themselves, no "bond" in-between would emerge. I believe that "bonds" are created when people reach out to one another and cooperate from a state of "isolation," where everyone thinks and acts on their own without fully relying on anyone else.Also, the "bonds" portrayed are not just characters simply helping each other out because they are allies. It is because they are all in some form isolated and lonely that their "individualities" are developed, so that they see what they and their allies are lacking. In order to make up for that, they join hands and ask to borrow each other's strengths. This is also reflected in the in-game "bond system." The burden is not placed on either side while borrowing powers, but rather it is as if both are using the same power, so a "bond" is created.
For example, in Yuito's story, Yuito has built a bond with his friends based on his independence and his support to his allies, so that when he is weakened, the power relationship flips, and his allies reach out to help him. Any one-way reliance on others doesn't lead to strong "bonds."
Yuito, Kasane, and their friends all have "loneliness" somewhere inside themselves and are "isolated." That is why the "bond" formed is precious and strong. I hope you will experience both perspectives throughout the scenario.
Q9: Do you have any messages for those who are interested in playing or are going to play SCARLET NEXUS?
Miyajima Takumi: There are expressions, portrayals, and perspectives that can only be seen on the respective journeys of Yuito and Kasane, so please do try clearing the story for both protagonists and see for yourself!
SCARLET NEXUS is available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.