– Did the character design progress concurrently with the systems themselves?
Yuuichi: Yes. The characters are small and move quite comically, don’t you think? We had intended it be that way. One way in which things have changed greatly from last time is how we wanted to add a wider variety of L-size units. Also, since we made it so that all units can enter into water, we needed some new visual tech in order to make that happen. This is a bit more of a technical discussion, but when you’re dealing with large units like dragons or beasts it’s difficult to strike a good balance between objects (units) and the background, since you’re trying to project a 3D element onto a 2D space. When something enters into the shade beneath a cliff, you need to erase the part that’s covered in shade. L-size units, however, are twice as wide as humanoids and have many more ways their graphics can overlap than regular units do. We struggled a lot with that. We also worked a lot on magical effects. In Let Us Cling Together, the visual effects of magic were limited to single panels. Because of how the graphics were made, trying to widen their effects to cover a greater range would cause a drop in visual fidelity. After thinking on it for a while, we were worried that players wouldn’t be satisfied with such small effects in this day and age and decided to do everything we could to increase their impact. By that I mean, for example, if we have an effect that causes a bolt of lightning to fall from the sky, we would make it so that the flash of lightning illuminates everything currently covered in darkness, allowing you to see things hidden in the shadows for a moment. Or deliberately skewing the visual consistency of different elements on the battlefield when summoning magic is used and the background is erased. We were ironing out finer details like those up until the very end.
Takuji: It was the same with having characters enter water. As-is it just looked like they had been cut in half, so we had the team work to make it look as though they were properly immersed.
Yuuichi: That’s right. Trying to fix that problem head-on led to all sorts of problems, so we ended up needing to fix it through the magic of long hours and manual labor. (laughs)
– The characters are pretty cute. About two heads tall, I guess?
Yuuichi: We started off by making characters that stood between 2 to 3 heads tall and went on creating different graphics that could be expressive at that scale. Illustrations came after that.
– Do you tend to make characters smaller for games on handhelds?
Yuuichi: We do. When we made Ogre Battle for the N64, we wanted to go for a deformed look but still maintain a sense of realism, so we made the characters around 4 heads tall.
Takuji: We used 3D models on the N64. We created renders of the 3D models from all sorts of directions, and all we needed to do then was create animations for them. But since we used pixels this time…
Yuuichi: Yeah. This game is actually made almost entirely out of our designers’ tears. (laughs) The first thing we did was make the default, standing sprites for every unit in the game, and went on making animations for each one individually. We kept telling ourselves that we wouldn’t animate them, but after realizing how much we wanted animations in order to better illustrate the differences between weapons we ended up having our designers put it absolutely horrifying amounts of work. I’m glad we did, though.
Takuji: The debug staff were overjoyed–they said there was so much variety in the graphics that they could play forever without getting bored. I think players at home will feel the same way.
– I see! Between luck, elements, and compatibility between individual units, there are a lot of different factors at play. There must have been a lot of tweaking on the system side.
Yuuichi: You’re right about that. Balancing the combat was difficult–we were making small adjustments until the last possible minute. We did our best to not over-complicate it, and didn’t want it to be the kind of game where you’d get a game over just because an attack missed. We figured we would be able to find an effective way to balance the game if we approached all of our problems logically, but making those changes was definitely a challenge.