Originally posted on 6 February 2021
Source: Siren 2 Official Art Book, page 158-159

Siren 2 Official Art Book: Keiichiro Toyama interview

The world of Siren 2, where the line between normality and abnormality is blurred

Questions we asked to director Keiichiro Toyama

1: What led from the first game to the development of Siren 2?

Since the first game was extremely experimental in nature, we were constantly coming up with new ideas during the development process, and we were driven by the want to create something that incorporated all of those ideas. The biggest push of all came from the voices of the players who wished for a sequel.

2: What was your concept for the game when making Siren 2?

Upgrading each individual part of it. Ordinarily, when you have a game that's working under strict memory limitations, there have to be some trade-offs if you want to make radical improvements to certain elements of the game, so we were relying on the accumulated know-how of each team member to make it happen.

3: I feel as though particular effort was put into the images and visuals within Siren 2. Please tell us about where your focus lay with regards to the visual side of the game.

The worldview is one where "the line between normality and abnormality is blurred", so of course we focused a lot of our effort on the realism of it. Rather than simply try to make a direct copy, though, I think we worked hard to incorporate realistic things such as wavers and noise, while consciously trying to recreate the atmosphere and feeling of the time and place.

4: You can really feel "Japanese fear", something that's unlike what is seen in standard horror games, from Siren 2. Do you have any thoughts on it?

I think maybe it's the culmination of the history and culture built from our traditions and environment. I wonder if the core of it lies in the feelings Japanese people uniquely feel within, the sort of thing you might refer to as "pathos".

5: This is a question about your fixation on ruins. Why did you theme the game around ruins and abandoned buildings?

The impressions I felt when I actually visited them and the emotions that welled up from within were a very important part of it. I think their unique atmosphere especially emphasises things like the hustle and bustle and human activity that used to be there, but no longer are - the things that have vanished.

6: Please tell us how you chose which locations to visit.

Sometimes they give us ideas for gimmicks within the in-game locations, such as using the rice fields to create a level full of different levels where things could hide, but there are also times when I'll be looking through websites or photobooks researching the setting and see a place that makes me think, "I'd like to be able to explore that in a game!" as well.

7: Please tell us how you create your imageboards. How do you move from a photograph to the creation of something along the lines of an imageboard, and how do you turn that into something within the game?

The melding of elements necessary for the story and things such as photographic information captured during research trips is primarily considered and scrutinised by Takahashi, the art director, and a mock-up of its final form is created as part of the process. This also functions as a sort of blueprint for the members of the dev team who don't actually come on the trips.

8: With the appearance of a new threat, the Yamibito, the game depicts the struggle between light and dark. Please tell us what led to the addition of the Yamibito.

From the time when I came up with the "light and darkness" theme, I believed that it needed to not merely be restricted to visuals, but also be depicted in an obvious manner as part of the gameplay itself, and from that were born the Yamibito who, whilst being more powerful, are extremely vulnerable to the light. We also saw a lot of cases where players of the first game would keep their torch - the one precious source of light - switched off, because it made it easier for enemies to detect them, so we also wanted to do something to improve upon that.

9: One of the notable elements of Siren 2 is that unlike other games' mighty protagonists, its characters have an overwhelming level of human weakness (both physically and mentally). How did you come up with the backgrounds for the game's characters?

The most important thing for us was that the player could empathise with the characters. As such, their appearances and histories are close to something you might find in real life. We also tried to portray them in such a way that would make you feel their internal struggles and fears, something anyone could sympathise with.

10: While I was working on this book, going to the convenience store in the middle of the night felt as frightening as if I were on Yamijima myself (laughs). Are there any people working on your team who don't do well with horror? Also, please tell us of any mysterious happenings that occurred during the making of the game.

It was actually made by a real scaredy-cat (laughs). I guess being so easily frightened is what gives me such a good idea of what sorts of places are scary, or what things I'd hate to go through. As far as scary experiences while on location doing research go, after we'd been exploring a supposedly empty underground tunnel, one of the team members said to me, "I couldn't wait to get out of there, because I actually sensed a human presence inside..."

11: Please tell us what sort of message you would most like to convey to Siren 2's players.

There isn't any particular message behind the game's themes, but I think it'd be interesting if it gave them cause to question the ground upon which they stand - to think about how amazing, and also how precarious, the everyday lives they lead actually are.

12: And finally, a comment for the readers of this visual book!

Thank you so much for having such a thorough interest in Siren! I hope this book has made you aware of an even deeper layer behind the scenes of the game's world, and that it helps expand the picture in your head.