Originally posted on 30 March 2015
Source: Siren 2 Maniacs, page 180-183

Siren 2: Takafumi Fujisawa Interview

Siren 2 - a new challenge to inspire the world once again, retaining the soul of a "Japan original"

When the first Siren game was proposed by Mr. Toyama, Mr. Fujisawa, the producer, surprised him with his attention to even the finest of details. He probably thought that a title with several innovations, such as sightjacking, would require the utmost effort in even the smallest of areas, he had seen a strength and ability to stand on its own within the rough proposal written by Mr. Toyama. It was his recognition of this that allowed the unique Siren to make it out into the world.

Producer: Takafumi Fujisawa
An SCE producer who is known for having worked on the startup sound for the original PlayStation. Aside from the Siren series, he has also worked on the PaRappa the Rapper series.

―I would think that you would have to remain conscious of the first Siren game during the planning of Siren 2... Please tell us what it was like, beginning there.

Fujisawa: It is a reality that the unique worldview and depth of the first Siren means that it occupies a kind of special status. I think it's only natural that, when you're making a sequel to something like that, there are struggles with its creation. However, it's the producer's job to say what it is you want to say, without concerning yourself with the struggles of the workplace (laughs). Of course, I do lend some assistance when the staff seem to be really having a hard time... In terms of completion, then the first Siren definitely is top class. Even still, once the project was over we still had things we hadn't been able to do, or elements we'd dropped. There was all kinds of reasons for this - for example, limitations with time or technology. Both Toyama (director Keiichiro Toyama) and myself felt this way, so we wanted to put out the things we had been unable to add into the first game. In an incredibly natural manner, this led to us challenging ourselves to do another Siren. The problem this brought up was, what kind of story should we have this time? The story of the first Siren was complete, so we couldn't just slide in a sequel set a few years after it. We considered the possibility of a sidestory using characters who hadn't appeared in that of Hanuda, but it seemed like it would reach its limits right away. We spent a lot of time puzzling it over, at which point the conversation began to progress towards the notion that we had no option but to change the setting.

―At roughly what stage did you start discussing these things for 2?

Fujisawa: It was right around the time when we were working on the overseas localisations for the first game. The first time I really got a chance to have a proper talk about it with Toyama was when we went on a press tour for Siren's European release. In the space of about a week we made our way around Madrid, Paris and Berlin, and as we went I was able to talk a lot about it with him, which was a big part of it.

―It does seem as though, even if you did have things from 1 left over that you couldn't do, there were other ways you could have packaged them in a different format to Siren and challenged the world with them that way, though.

Fujisawa: It was right around that time that we got offers to make a movie version of Siren from a bunch of companies. For one thing, I believed that, if we were able to link the film with the game somehow, that would be a big draw. I had also had the chance, just by working on Siren, to really feel the troubles and issues of creating something totally original from scratch. The only thing that really stands out in the gaming industry these days is sequels, but I think that Siren 2 works a little differently to that. Whilst continuing to employ a Japanese setting and the sightjacking system, we decided to totally shift the setting and challenge something new.

―Before, when we interviewed Mr. Toyama about Siren, we talked about his surprise at your detailed examination of his proposal, saying that he found it quite harsh (laughs). What were things like for the planning stage of Siren 2?

Fujisawa: I think that, from the very start, Siren itself stood on its own two feet with its own originality. As a result, the first game received quite high praise. In that sense, this time around we had quite high expectations to meet. I think that's what's meant when people talk about leaving a mark. The team had proven its capabilities, and it seemed to me like I had to step in far less than before.

―I think Director Toyama would have explained to you what kind of game he wanted Siren 2 to be. What was it like?

Fujisawa: First of all, he said that adding the Yamibito as a third being would set the story up as a three-way standoff. When I heard this, it seemed like it would expand the story and make it more interesting. Also, perhaps due to the influence of the FPS games Toyama was so hooked on at the time, it also seemed like it would up the amount of action, as well as the amount of gimmicks by using things like cars. There was also a huge influence from moving the setting from a mountain village to an island off the coast of Japan. Unlike the first game, which only had old wooden buildings, this time we depict ruins of iron and concrete, with a hard feel to them, so I think it's also visually distinctive. I thought that, keeping the foreign market in mind in particular, it was something people would want. With their wooden walls, sheet iron and tiled rooftops, these unique Japanese ruins aren't something foreigners will ever have seen. However, if you have ruins made of iron and concrete, even they, with their culture of building with stone, will probably sense some familiarity in it.

―We've heard how your goal was to transmit a Japan original horror to the world with the first Siren, but at the time, you said that you wanted to appeal to the rest of the world by making the most out of Japan domestically.

Fujisawa: It's basically like something Siren-like, where the mindset and the way it got started are the same. We were careful to make sure that its content didn't get watered down, putting together the things that worked with the rest of the world in mind. It's still based around being a Japan original, and that hasn't changed one bit. Japan is Japan.

―Did you give any directions from your end this time?

Fujisawa: The first game was really hard for casual players to get the hang of, I think - it's a game with really high hurdles. That being the case, it's the duty of the creators to put in the effort and make it into a game that's easy to get the hang of. I asked them to do that.

―In terms of, for example, marketing, did you have any analysis of the number of players who never made it to the ending of the first game?

Fujisawa: No, not at all. In actual fact, all I hear are players talking about how interesting they found it, having exhaustive knowledge of the whole thing. Not many people make the effort to report that they gave up halfway through (laughs). But if you experience it for yourself or read reviews online, I guess it's a possibility. A surprising number of women played the first Siren. In a way we'd pictured the userbase being more hardcore, but it actually leaned in a slightly different direction. Siren is also known for the depth of its story, so I'd like if it people would play to the end.

―The difficulty is a big part of summarising the first game.

Fujisawa: "Difficult" doesn't mean "boring", though, does it? That's another story. I think in Siren's case it ended up being something that was hard, but fun. The key point is that it's worth the effort...

―With Siren 2, there's also a separate movie version called "Siren: Forbidden Siren" (2006, Yukihiko Tsutsumi).

Fujisawa: Actually, right after Siren's domestic release, from about the end of 2003, we received several proposals about turning it into a film. If we were going to do it, though, we wanted to properly develop it into something that would link into Siren 2, so we spent a long time going through a process of discussions. The deciding factor ended up being the idea of having Director Tsutsumi the one behind the megaphone. The development team agreed completely.

―Roughly how much did Director Tsutsumi know about Siren itself at the time of filming?

Fujisawa: That's actually what I was worried about before met up. I was half expectant, half concerned, but when I spoke to him he had a really good grip of what Siren as a game was about. Not only that, but he had a lot of ideas. He wanted to rebuild the story, basing it on the game but not just completely following the original. That was when I really felt glad that we had entrusted the film to him.

―Did the existence of a separate Siren movie influence Siren 2's development team in any way?

Fujisawa: We wanted there to be connections between the film and the game, so maybe that somewhat increased the amount of work. For example, the folk song "Konagihishoka" that's used in Siren 2. A song with the same melody (editor's note: both have differing lyrics) is used in the film. Both have lyrics by Naoko Sato, in charge of scenario and background on the development team, but I think it would have been quite hard work to write two different sets of lyrics for the same song, at the same time as preserving the unique worldview. I was also impressed by the interest shown in the game's archive items by Director Tsutsumi. They exist in the movie world as props, but he was interested in the way they existed in the game world, created with CG... He also gave his seal of approval to their level of completion and quality, and there are scene in the movie where a few of them actually appear. The staff were delighted.

―Are there any big differences between the development of a game and the set of a movie?

Fujisawa: I actually visited the set on Hachijo Island, and it's completely different. Game-making is a professional job as well, but movies add the tension of having to work alongside nature. If you move too slowly then the sun will set, and you'll lose a precious day of filming. It feels like everyone on set is thinking five seconds into the future about everything. I was surprised by that. All of the work on game development is conducted indoors, and everyone has their own jobs... so I guess you could say there's a bit more time to think. The atmosphere in the office, something like the tempo - it's totally different. Also, everyone on the film's shooting crew is amazing at research (laughs). As is common knowledge, Toyama and Siren 2's development team go around the country to research at all kinds of places, so they can share information about even the strangest or hardest to gain access to places in the country. Even they were shocked by the pylon that actually appears at the climax of the film. They had no idea that such a place truly existed, and that they could even climb it to film... Everything in the game aside from the characters is depicted using CG, so you could feel the team's underlying potential in their insistence upon using something real rather than just a set. I think that having both a film and a game gave Toyama and the development team useful feedback. Whether it's film or comics, I think Siren's visibility has increased in a way because of the multimedia approach, but I get the impression that the most important thing gleaned from it all is the interaction with the creation of something completely different to a game.