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Creator's Talk Interview #5: Akira Yoshizumi
translated by Chris Winkler, Eve C.
This feature series' last interview will focus on Namco's hit title Tales of Destiny 2. Its producer Akira Yoshizumi entered Namco in 1988 and after amounting a lot of experience in both sales and promotion, he was appointed Tales producer last year. Despite boasting sales exceeding 800,000 copies in Japan, a stateside release of Tales of Destiny 2 looks more and more unlikely. Currently Yoshizumi is one of the key figures at Namco's newly-established Tales Studio, the new development studio currently working on Tales of Symphonia for GameCube, Tales of Phantasia for Game Boy Advance and a new yet to be announced Tales title.

Q: When I was trying to play the game, I was surprised. Various means of expression, animation, 2D and 3D have been packed into the game. It felt like an RPG that went to the limits of the expression techniques.
A: Because we have animation movies, CG movies field screens in 3D, the character conversation scenes are 'screenchats', the towns are dot-by-dot 2D maps and last but not least there are 3D dungeons.

Q: All kinds of RPG expression techniques have been packed into the game. By changing hands (persons) and the product, there are surprises for the player, aren't there?
A: The base was 2D. From there, we chose the most suitable expression technique depending on the respective scene. Because this time it was on the PlayStation 2, one of the themes for us was to try various different ways to express things.

Q: It feels like in Tales of Destiny 2 one can notice the evolution of expression techniques of (used in) RPGs. When did you start the development?
A: Since it was right after we had finished Tales of Eternia, it has been about two years. This means the actual development process took about two years, however as we carried over story and setting from the prequel, we had been working on that part of the project before, so in that sense we've been working on it for more than 3 years. It has been about five years from the previous title, (Tales of) Destiny and from that time onwards the idea was heating up in us.

Q: Why did you think of doing a sequel to (Tales of) Destiny?
A: After we had created the PlayStation version of Tales of Eternia, we wondered whether we should do a new title or a sequel. Back then it seemed to us, that a sequel to (Tales of) Destiny was the most interesting (choice). In the world there was a comet impact and after several hundred years there were the Heaven and Earth Wars, and then the heroes Stan and Ruti appeared, and went on their adventure to find the sword Sodian began. In this historic background, what would happen afterwards? After Stan and Ruti got married, you would think they'd have a child. And at that time, what would everyone else be doing. At this point, we thought why not create a game, whose theme was "fate"? Wasn't there a world we wanted to create? And then it was decided to make the first number two, the first sequel in the “Tales of” series.

Q: After the revival, the setting is 18 years later?
A: Because in the time of Stan of Ruti, the world was drifting into a crisis of ruin. Through the crust destruction weapon it has been in bad shape and the towns have been destroyed, too. From there on towns were revived or rebuilt and suddenly people with a new consciousness appeared. There was a feeling of the world having become very active.

Q: How many people did it take to develop Tales of Destiny 2?
A: Basically, on average, about 60-70 people were usually working on the game. When they were many people it went up to 100 people. During the first phase, there weren't many people, but still about 30.

Q: Who did the animation?
A: The animation parts of the Tales series have all been done by Production IG. This time the animation part was the longest of all titles. The opening theme was the longest as well. The song by Mai Kuraki was 2.5 minutes long, but for these entire 2 minutes and 30 seconds we had to put an animation (sequence) in place. And right after the game begins, we inserted the final scene of the prequel Tales of Destiny.

Q: This feels like a lot of extravagance.
A: This time, Mutsumi Inomata did create the character designs for us, however the pictures had to be adjusted to fit the animation and this became the center of the planning. First, we made Ms. Inomata's drawings into 2D dot-by-dot pictures. From this point on, we created a spread of the world, by making the world you walk through outside (towns) 3D fields. While we were verifying this bit by bit, we plugged in the expression techniques.

Q: The backgrounds, like ruins or jungles are beautiful as well.
A: There was a point when we were doing the effect where the characters look zoomed up, well, we made it so that even if the backgrounds are zoomed, they will not be ruined, as we made them with four times as much detail from the start.

Q: The images have been done up to the smallest details.
A: This was tough. Really. The game's content is not (limited to) only the story, but for people who want to fight battles or collect items, we fairly incorporated (those elements as well). Afterwards, we worked as if we could collect titles for it, this time.

Q: Ah, if you are talking to people, you surely will receive a lot of titles.
A: There are titles, which you don't obtain easily. If you start collecting them, there are various ways of having fun, I think. You can focus on cooking or save battle grade points. We have prepared many features until you have played to (reach) the game's limits.

Q: The Tales series' battles are action-oriented, (but nonetheless) you (manage to) incorporate a new style each time.
A: As a matter of fact, I'm not really skilled when it comes to such battles. However, I like playing with a feeling of speed. In fact, the AI which is controlling your fellow characters is pretty intelligent, they are falling behind the player character and fighting tightly for you. It may take some time, but if you set all battles to auto mode, you'd win.

Q: Oh, that is pretty clever.
A: Of course, by using items for instance you have to help them, but that way you could defeat even the final boss. It just took time, though.

Q: On the contrary, there are a lot of users wanting to go all the way into the battles.
A: This time it was not about aiming to strike the enemy with a 999 combo. The focus on combos has disappeared. By implementing the so-called Spirit Gauge, your offense gets tired, if you are attacking too often. When the Spirit Gauge reaches zero, your offense breaks, because you are plucking, if you pull it off beforehand, it's good. Being well rested, you can attack again. This is a human-ish system.

Q: Because you need to fight well, don't you?
A: This time, when the battle is over, you obtain points called grades, that way a battle evaluation is being done. You can fight a lot and the balance will not become unreasonable. Are you going with a good balance, are you not forcing. If you use items or heal, your grade goes down.

Q: When your grade evaluation is high, what happens?
A: You don't know how many grade points you earn while playing. Not everything is a plus point, since some are minus points - it varies. In fact, after you beat the final boss and watch the ending, you can save the clear data, but afterwards a surprise is waiting for you. At the time I was playing it, I too was surprised and thought "what the heck is this?" There is only one place in the game where you can ask what grade points are used for, and the answer to that line is that it doesn't have anything to do with the present world. This is where you will get the answer.

Q: That is to say, after your cleared the game, there is a report (summary).
A: Yes, there's even such a refined feature as this. You need to play quite a bit.

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