We spoke to Junko Kawano, Shadow of Memories' planner, character designer and general producer, during the game's development.
●I'm sure you have many fans from your Suikoden days. Please tell us your role on Shadow of Memories.
On Suikoden I drew the main designs, character lines and maps, but this time I'm directing, so I did the planning, scenario, character designs, plus I made some of the 3D models and handled directing.
●Could you tell us why you chose this theme and this kind of game?
I was basically trying to make something original, so I wanted to make something that would have a strong impact, and I also wanted to do something themed around time travel and death. I'm personally a fan of Goethe's Faust, so it was while wondering whether I could use elements of it to create something new that I began working on this game.
●Having the protagonist die right at the start of the game isn't something that has been done before, is it?
No. I wanted to deal with the idea of dying in a different manner from the way games normally do. Instead of actually dying and saying, "Okay, let's start over," I wondered if I could make something meaningful with regards to that... and also something that wasn't stressful, which took some trial and error.
●Was there anything you struggled with in creating the game?
I actually started planning this game for the PlayStation. We switched to the PS2 midway through, so one of the struggles was playing around with the way things were set up with the PS2's specs in mind. We had to stick to a schedule, after all. I think it was worth it in the end, though.
●Did you have fewer cutscenes or something like that in the PS version?
Yes. We weren't at a stage when we had put much detail into them yet, though, so the basic composition is the same. If I had to point out something, it would be that the image quality seemed cheaper than it is now. Moving to the PS2 meant that even though they were both shown as real time events, our capability to express things like emotions in their facial expressions was totally different... So, of course, some things came up where we decided to have them speak not through words, but through their expressions, although it was interesting.
●I think that the characters' movements are truly rich. Were they created using motion capture?
That's right. They're motion captured. Although their bodily proportions are quite different from real world proportions, so some of them look a little doll-like (laughs).
We used a method where we would have the children captured by adults, and then remake them as children afterwards. Still, it ended up being about as difficult as it was to transplant them onto someone as tall as Eike.
●Did you not actually have that many models undergo mocap?
No; we only had about four main ones. We rented out a studio and basically spent all day working on it. We needed to capture for about three hours of the game, so in total we spent tens of days holed up in the studio.
We didn't dress them up in costumes, but we did a variety of things - if for example the character wore a long skirt we would wrap something long around them, or adding a fringe to the person playing Eike since he's always conscious of his.
●Were things like the cats created normally?
Yes. Those definitely weren't mocapped (laughs). I put in cats because I personally like them. I brought in videos I'd shot as a hobby and asked for them to be used as references.
●The story is complex, with you going back and forth in time. What did you pay the most attention to when you were thinking it up?
I'm sure everyone thinks the same about anything like this that deals with time paradoxes, but most of my effort went into making sure that there were no contradictions and that the story didn't hit a dead end.
At first I had been making something that unfolded in a different way, so that caused a lot of trouble. I would change the story midway through, but just changing one thing would have a profound effect on other things, so near the end there was almost no wiggle room left (laughs).
●Did you start off by creating the all-important framework, or did you start off with something like a substory?
At the very beginning, I created a general framework. After that, I sort of added on any inessential details so that they wouldn't affect anything.
●Was there anything you struggled with regarding the substories away from the main body of the game?
Nothing in particular. I remember them all as having been enjoyable to make. They had to match up with the situation of the main story, though, so I am disappointed that we had to make the timing with which they trigger so severe.
●Eike is killed in a variety of different ways. Were there any ideas you scrapped and ended up not using?
Quite a few, yes. The most impossible of the bunch would be the idea to have a big tower standing in the middle of the square instead of a large tree. The idea was that a crane or something similar would bang into the tower and knock it over, pinning Eike underneath. But we ended up saying, "How would you set up the timing so that Eike's there?" and decided that it was impossible and we would give up.
Aside from that there were lots of things, like making a sewer underneath the town and having him fall into it, but even one of them would have expanded the scope of the town, so they were cut. I really did want to have him drown, though (laughs).
●The game feels to me as if it's made like a film. Were there any works that influenced you?
Nothing that had a direct influence. Since the subject matter is time travel I of course watched a lot of films dealing with it as reference, but it's not like I would watch them and point out a specific scene or anything.
However, it was a given of our discussions at team meetings and things like that that all of the staff would be watching these films. When we were deciding on the rules for time travel, we would say things like, "For this part, let's use the rules of Back to the Future."
●Being based on Goethe's Faust, what parts were inspired by it? And what was the reason behind using the names of characters in Faust for the names of characters in the game?
What parts were inspired by it? Hmm... Faust is a tale in which in exchange for his spirit of enquiry and self-indulgence Faust is able to travel to a variety of worlds and have a variety of wishes granted, but eventually realises that the truly precious things in life are the unimportant elements of everyday living. I wondered if I could create the kind of story that would make people see this, too, so I suppose it was inspired by that.
The characters' names are intentionally the same, and I think that anyone who is quite familiar with Faust will look at their relationships and think with a grin, "So this character got their name from this relationship." Rather than simply giving the names to characters I chose their names based on whose relationships fitted them, so I think you'll understand if you read the original.
It was when I was at university that I read Faust properly. I had read manga versions of it by people like Osamu Tezuka long before that, but that was the first time I'd actually read the original.
●May I ask once and for all who Homunculus actually is?
I'm not sure exactly how much I would need to say for the answer to be satisfactory, but in terms of the roles within Faust, I suppose he's kind of like Mephistopheles. Well, he is suspicious-looking... (laughs). I can't really say it in the beginning. He's actually said to be a demon who's sealed inside that red Philosopher's Stone... so I hope that's the kind of position you think of him as being in. It's not mentioned who sealed him inside it, though.
●Also, is there anyone who took care of Dana when she was a child? Does she have any memories after being brought to the present?
I'm sure there was someone who took care of her, but they don't appear in the game, so... With regards to Dana's memories, she has been living a completely normal life since being brought to the present, so she has the usual memories that a person of this time period would have. It's sort of like she was brought here right after being born, so she has no memories before the present day.
●Despite there definitely having been someone taking care of Dana, does she no longer have any relatives?
Yes. I created her with the intention of her having lived at a place like an orphanage. I never thought up a particular surname for her; all I used was her first name, Dana.
●There is quite a commotion when Dana is taken away. Did anything happen when Margarete was taken from the middle ages?
Nothing really; she was basically just taken without incident. Some people thought that her mother would notice that her daughter had been switched, but she really had only just been born, so... (laughs). I guess it is a bit strange, though (wry smile). Compared to the hustle and bustle of the modern day, though, it does feel a bit like the switch in the middle ages went very smoothly.
●Regarding time and fate - have there been any times when you felt as if your own life had "branched off" like it does in this game?
...This is really trite, but I think there are huge diversions, like whether you pass or fail a test. So you might think, "If only I could go back a little in time and study a bit more." But then if you did it and studied non-stop, when the time came again you might think, "If only I'd enjoyed myself more..."
●If you could use the digipad just once, where would you go?
Hmm... If it was just once, I think I might like to boldly go way back into the past. If I could use it over and over, it would probably end up being some time yesterday, or some time a few hours ago (laughs). In that case, I would probably either try to do something about it from the start, or not use it...
●Finally, please give us a message for the players.
Did you enjoy it? (laughs). I think that the most interesting things have been brought to as much of a conclusion as possible, but there of course will be things that aren't mentioned or blanks that aren't filled in, so I hope you try imagining those things for yourselves.
●After people play the game, I think they'll be thinking up substories or drawing manga...
...Please do (laughs). I'd really love to see them. I think there's a lot of room left for imagination, so let me know when they're done!