Good evening. This is Clockwork Toyoda. Thank you for visiting.
This blog aims to show off the charms of Siren: Blood Curse. This blog has been brought to you, updated at 3am each night, for the unheard-of duration of 33 consecutive days, and this is the final update. Today is the final part of the interview with director Keiichiro Toyama and head of scenario Naoko Sato. Since it's the final update, I tried throwing out a few daring questions.
Clockwork Toyoda (below, Toyoda): We've got a good idea of the levels now. Finally, I'd like to ask about the story. Given the limitations of a new translation, was there anything you found tough to do when building the scenario?
Naoko Sato (below, Sato): Hmm... It was overall really difficult. Siren was based on a clear concept, or aesthetic sense, with an expansive background made with youthful energy... I struggled for a long time over what to leave in, what to have as the foundation, how to interpret it. I discussed it with Toyama several times, about whether we should link the two up, or make it completely parallel. Toyama's final conclusion was very similar in terms of keywords, but took shape as something totally different... The background was based around Siren, but it took quite a while before that started settling into its own, completely separate story. That was something I worried about a lot. I'm sure there are lots of people who would be happy just with it being set around a world they know and love, but I also thought there would be players whose dreams would be crushed if we changed it even a little...
Keiichiro Toyama (below, Toyama): I particularly didn't want anything to get in the way of Kyoya Suda and Miyako Kajiro's story, which was so neatly finished. We changed her name to Miyako (with different kanji), making her a separate equal to appeal to people, and made sure that this nuance came across properly.
Toyoda: Do you mean you had decided on the concept of showing it from a western viewpoint from the start?
Sato: Yeah. We thought that if we widened our boundaries, it would also lead to players worldwide accepting it. From the very start we knew it was going to be set in Japan, a new interpretation by switching primarily to the viewpoint of foreigners, and putting in foreign characters.
Toyoda: There must have been lots of things you had to consider, right? You had to figure out how foreigners are led along by the story, as well.
Toyama: At first, I was worried about whether Sato herself could easily and happily write the way she always does, but my fears turned out to be unwarranted (laughs).
Sato: With the series so far, our intention has been to do things the way Japanese people think, and make something with a shared understanding that people will have because they're Japanese, so that the players would accept that. So I thought there would be a strong backlash with people thinking, "I can't feel what a foreigner does," but...
Sato: I guess it's the other way around? I guess it came from me wanting to make people think, "Isn't Japan freaky? Isn't Japan cool?" (laughs).
Toyoda: Ohh, I see. Hoping to make them think, "Japanese old ladies are scary!" or something...
Sato: Yeah, yeah. I'd be happy if someday foreigners come to Japan on holiday, see an old lady working in a farming village and think, "Ah! Scary!!" (laughs). Asking, "Are you a Shibito?" and asking for a handshake (laughs).
Toyama: No. That will never happen (laughs).
Sato: You think? (laughs).
Toyoda: (laughs). I think it must have been tough settling on having eight main characters...?
Toyama: Actually, we had a lot of pairs at first, so we planned to have a total of ten main characters.
Sato: We had issues with balancing our resources, and ended up with eight...
Toyama: But cutting down on the number of characters upped the density. Some ideas also came from narrowing them down. Like the gimmick of having the story loop midway through. From the start of planning our goal was to extract the best-received levels from Siren and put all of those in, but that gimmick allowed us to include everything we'd planned.
Toyoda: Had you already decided by that point that you weren't going to use the link navigator?
Sato: That's right. We decided quite early on not to use the link navigator. There were remnants of it at first, though, like branches...
Toyama: I guess maybe you could say we took a big plunge with the release of the download version... I had known in my head before the release of the download version was decided that the system was going to have a big change from before, but it hadn't changed enough. There was still something big missing. Though it was to expand it, there was still some resistance. Then we decided on a release date, and had the idea to make it a series of episodes with an opening and ending, and that's when it got really interesting.
Sato: Remaking your own game isn't something you'd normally do. So even though we were breaking down something we'd already made and doing it over, we couldn't break much. But we also had to think within the confines of a different set-up to a retail version, which meant there were things we'd have no choice but to leave out, and rearrange some things to fit. That was a big leap that began not just with us, but also due to external factors.
Toyoda: When I introduce the game, I try not to use the word "remake". The characters, story and ending are all different, after all. The only thing they share is the background. It's easy to call something a remake, and perhaps it wouldn't technically be incorrect to do so, but calling it a remake seems far too simplistic, I guess. The word ends up taking priority.
Toyama: I agree. I'm grateful that so many fans who've been with us since the first game in the series have bought the download version and given it such a warm reception...
Sato: It made me really pleased - it's like a dream (laughs). Just hearing how much the core fans who have been following along with distribution like it makes me so happy...
Toyoda: There were lots of people happy about the changes, weren't there? Oh, going back to the story - I'd like to ask about some things I didn't understand during the game. First of all, what kind of being is Miyako?
Sato: If I had to compare it to something, it would be something like the old gods of the Cthulu mythos, with which she has a connection. Further than standard gods; a massive god who surpasses morality. Hanuda Village is on the border of the Other World, so Miyako is meant to have blood relations with those from the base world. When Manaism came along later and tried to paint them out, they decided to get rid of Miyako's bloodline by using them as human sacrifices. The religion erased and took over all of the local religious beliefs, like an invasion. This was the family of Miyako, who is a descendant of a being who was like the area's religion's goddess.
Toyoda: So because Miyako is special...
Sato: Whether Miyako's specialness means she's worshipped as a sacred being or revered as a sacrifice depends on the trend of that generation.
Toyoda: When it's said that "Lady Miyako has the Sign", does that refer to her first period?
Sato: That's what it was in Siren, but 17 years of age is too late to have your first period, so it's not that. It's a kind of "the time has come" thing."
Toyoda: What's meant by her becoming a "bride"?
Sato: It means her being offered up as a sacrifice. Those with a special sign are at best deified, and at worst "removed". Miyako's blood is special, so she is used by Manaism as a tool, either as a sacrifice or one of their objects of worship. Miyako says she wants to fight against fate and doesn't want to be sacrificed, pointing out that their true power is sealed by their framework and values. That's why she asks Howard to remove the seals.
Toyoda: She says "I don't want to die anymore" - does this refer to the way that women named Miyako have been killed over time?
Sato: Yes. Miyako is the name of all of the sacrifices. It will spoil it, so I won't say it outright, but those who find Miyako's grave don't know where it began or where it will end. It's a kind of time paradox. Is Miyako the name of the girl who is sacrificed, or is the name of the sacrifice Miyako? There's no beginning or end; it loops.
Toyoda: Something is said that seems to imply Saiga has stolen the fruit; when did he take her blood?
Sato: When he saved Howard, Saiga took in Howard's blood as well.
Toyoda: I see. So he performed a transfusion.
Sato: But only a little, and he has no actual ties to Miyako, so it was just barely not enough. Saiga himself knew that, though.
Toyoda: Oh. Now I understand!
Sato: Oh, you do? I'm kind of happy (laughs). It looks like there are lots who don't (laughs).
Toyoda: By the way, does the game support downloads? For example, are you thinking of doing any additional episodes to download...?
Toyama: Hmm, to be honest, if we had the resources for that they'd be in the main game... It's not like we couldn't forcibly inflate it with bonus elements, but with this game we went through the process being conscious of a broader player-base, and I didn't think they were necessary for understanding the whole picture.
Toyoda: I'll ask this to the point: do you have any plans of doing a numbered title?
Sato: Do you have a good answer for that, Toyama? (laughs)
Toyama: I'm not sure. I'd like to be asked that with a completely blank slate, but if we did make another Siren, I don't think we would turn back the clock. For example, if you consider the idea of going back to double the number of main characters, preparing 100 archive items in HD quality, and only having Japanese people appear in it... with production costs and foreign users who came onboard with BC in mind, it's pretty hard to imagine.
Toyoda: Now that the game is out, has the standard shifted from Siren to BC?
Toyama: Hmm... I'm not sure what to say; I don't think it would make either the developers or the players happy to repeat pretty much the same thing two or three times. You lose the freshness...
Sato: There's also the fact that we've had to reduce production costs. Players who like Siren's worldview ask me why we won't make a squel, or if we'll talk about the past, but I think in the end that's related to decreasing production costs. The team wants to keep Siren's soul going, but always challenge themselves...
Toyoda: This is just an "if", but if there was another game made by the Siren team...
Toyama: There will be another one, for sure. What we don't know yet is what form it will take, or if it will be another Siren. We have Siren, Siren 2, and BC. Based on this, we can't go back to Siren, but I suppose we can't repeat BC either. I want to figure out where we take it next based on everything we've done so far.
This section will be ending also. Finally, I want to show my respect for the staff who worked so very hard, whether they were researching in Nagano or resting at the hotel. I also want to extend my gratitude to everyone who enjoyed this section. Thank you very much. Until we meet again! (Toyama)