trapped in revamp hell
- Nov 1, 2009
Gamer has released a new interview with the key staff behind NEO: The World Ends With You as they look back on development, discuss their thoughts about the game, and share their favorite characters and quotes by the infamous an0ther aka Motoi.
Tetsuya Nomura (Creative Producer & Character Designer)
―I'd like to ask you, without spoiling anything: among the characters you designed, who is your favorite and why?
Shoka. It's interesting because I had to design her so that she didn't look like the heroine of the story. I also had a bad impression due to how straightforward she is, so I put a lot of effort into making her attractive through the voice acting without having to alter the scenario. As a result, I think she has a charm that no other heroine has.
―The scenery and trends have changed a lot between the Shibuya of 10 years ago and the Shibuya of today. Why did you decide to depict present-day Shibuya rather than carrying over its presentation from the original game?
I wanted to attract new players as well as fans of the original. If I depicted the Shibuya of 10 years ago now, it'd be a different world for today's teens and wouldn't be realistic. It's also pretty rare to see those old flip phones these days. Capturing the rapidly-changing Shibuya of today is what TWEWY is all about, and I think that's what makes it interesting.
If you were to experience NTWEWY a decade from now, then you'd be able to enjoy the differences it has with the Shibuya of that era.
―What, if anything, were you aware of when changing the setting to modern-day Shibuya?
The extreme distortion of perspective that is unique to TWEWY. Even after 10 years have passed and we made the jump to 3D, I'm still obsessed with it.
―Rindo is a faithful representation of modern youth, which is unusual for a protagonist. Why did you decide to use a character like him as the main character?
It's not just limited to this game, but I want the main character to be the player. I've always thought that way, even if the character isn't an original, RPG-like avatar, but a character with a personality. I want the player to be able to identify with them, even if he or she has a completely different disposition and way of thinking. That's why, in this game, which is based on a more modern and realistic world, I made the main character a true-to-life young man who could be found anywhere.
―Some of the characters that you designed for the original game were left to the other two designers this time around. Did you have any advice for them or points you were particular about?
I designed Neku myself for this game. For Beat, I think there were more scenario-based instructions than my own advice. For Beat and Rhyme, I had the designers draw a few rough sketches, and then gave instructions on how to combine them. As for Shiki, I had already created an image of her for the previous game, so it was easy for [Yamashita] to design her.
―Gatto Nero, a brand designed by Shiki, was featured here and there in NTWEWY, and some of its merchandise was actually made into real goods. Are there any other Mr. Mew-themed products that you would like to see commercialized in the future?
If we knew they were going to be produced like this, we should have designed them with that in mind. The fact that they are [canonically] handmade by a high school girl didn't make them seem like merchandise [we could sell]. On the other hand, I would have liked to redesign Mr. Mew a little more nicely.
Tomohiko Hirano (Producer)
―A sequel to TWEWY has been released more than 10 years after the original game. Please tell us about the difficulties you faced, as well as any secret stories you have from simultaneously developing the anime and sequel.
There was a strong desire for NTWEWY and the TWEWY anime adaptation to coincide with one another. In fact, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the anime was broadcasted three months earlier than planned due to how smooth production went. I also remember coordinating with the development team so that the game could be released as early as possible. It wasn't so much that it was difficult for me, but rather that I put a lot of pressure on the team.
―Are there any characters that are particularly popular among fans who played the game, or characters that became more popular after the game's release than you initially thought they would be?
For the characters that are popular among fans, I feel that the party members that appear in the beginning of the game, such as Rindo, Nagi, Shoka, and Minamimoto, come up often. Among them, Fret tends to be seen as the typical cheerful friend when people first meet him. However, as the story progresses, the character's charms and backbone become much more apparent and players are able to sympathize with him more strongly, thereby boosting his popularity.
―Motoi's quotes, such as "All around us, everywhere. Not just sky, but also air." were wonderful. Is there any one you recommend?
For me, it has to be, "You can't walk up or down the street without the ground touching your feet." It reminds me of the rule of walking races, which requires that one of the feet on either side of the body never leaves the ground.
―The music and the previous game struck a good balance between popular songs and new songs. Do you have any secret stories about the soundtrack, composed by Takeharu Ishimoto?
We'd asked Ishimoto to create songs that surpassed that of the original's. Ishimoto suggested that we develop each genre of music in a more pointed direction, so we decided to include more rock and metal songs.
In fact, thanks to Ishimoto's connections, members from The BONEZ also contributed to the soundtrack. I hope you will listen to it and feel their power.
Tatsuya Kando (Series Director)
―This title was packed with many different elements, from character designs, battles, scenarios, pins, brands, each character's unique psychs, food, etc. Were there any in particular that you focused on or were aware of?
In order to make each of these elements consistent within the world of TWEWY, we implemented them by associating them with one another based on the narrative. Including all that detailed text may seem useless, but they're not. Every single item is an important element of that world, so we try to delve into it as much as possible.
―There are a lot of returning characters from the previous game, yet the story is so well told that even if you play NTWEWY first, you'll be able to understand what's going on and want to play the original.
It's been 14 years since TWEWY, so I thought it would be crazy to make this sequel expecting every player to be familiar with the original game. In order for newcomers to enjoy this title as much as possible, we decided early on that the story would be focused on Rindo and the Twisters. After prioritizing the drama surrounding the Twisters, we figured out to incorporate returning characters who left a strong impression on the fans, such as Minamimoto. We were very careful about the power balance between them, and whether or not they would overshadow Rindo.
―"Bodies of Water" (the art exhibit introduced during W1D5) is pretty popular within the main story. Despite not being an important element, it's a very interesting setting that is intertwined with the narrative and can be enjoyed naturally. Who came up with this idea?
The main staff, including myself, decided on the overall major story progression and game progression, while the direction of said story and fun details therein were left to the scenario writer, Ishibashi (Akiko Ishibashi). When I read the scenario, I thought that only she could deliver the impression that something like this could really happen, that the boundary with the real world could become blurred, and that that particular word choice was only possible within TWEWY.
(T/N: The Japanese title for this exhibit is "河川擬人化" meaning "Rivers Personified".)
―Please tell us who your favorite characters are, and why. Also, are there any characters that are particularly popular among fans who played the game, or characters that became more popular after the game's release than you initially thought they would be?
All the characters are well developed, so I'm sure everyone has their favorites. For me, I'd have to say Rindo. His personality is somewhat similar to my own, and I unconsciously sympathize with him in some ways.
Also, Motoi! I'd love to hear more of his quotes.
―Please share your favorite Motoi quote!
"If you shed a tear, don't fret. That just means your eyes are wet."
They're terrible, aren't they? (laughs) Just awful (laughs).
Hiroyuki Ito (Director)
―Among elements such as character designs, battles, scenarios, pins, brands, each character's unique psychs, food, etc., which in particular did you pay close attention to?
Just like the previous game, NTWEWY takes place in the real city of Shibuya, so I wanted to express that familiar vibe of hanging out with your friends at the usual stomping grounds, which isn't possible in a big adventure RPG. I was conscious about keeping the game systems at a casual level so that anyone could relate to these characters, such as by the way they'd have light conversations while walking, or order food one at a time around a table at a restaurant.
―The battles in the original game were designed to "make the best use of what the DS has to offer," but this time, they were designed to "bring out the best of the Switch/PS4." What were you aware of in your endeavor to make it "TWEWY-like"?
I think it's important for the battles in TWEWY to be both sharp and addictive, and for anyone to be able to say "I'm good at this!" This time, as a result of pursuing these goals with a controller, we've come up with a system that makes full use of the buttons to control the entire party. Although it seems completely different to the original gameplay system, once you try it, I think you will feel that it's very "TWEWY."
―I know the difficulty settings and leveling effects are designed to keep players from getting bogged down in battle too much, but do you have any pin combinations to recommend that will work for almost any situation?
There's no end-all be-all combination, but I recommend the pins that activate the Stop-and-Go Ensemble, which you get as a reward for first place in the Scramble Slams. They have cute designs created by B-SIDE LABEL, and you can use them in challenging situations.
That being said, we strived to create a balance where the best combination varies from person to person, so if there are pins you like, I believe that's the correct answer (laughs).
―Please tell us your favorite character and why!
Personally, I like Nagi. Her Straight Man routine always makes me laugh because she gets right to the point. I love how her character is consistent throughout the story, but your impression of her changes as the game progresses. The characters on her T-shirt also change in various ways during battle, but I especially like the one during the last boss.
―Do you have a favorite quote by Motoi?
I like them all (laughs). But the way he says, "If you want your wet clothes to dry, hang 'em where water's in short supply."
All I could say in response was, "No kidding..." I thought Ishibashi (scenario writer) was a genius (laughs).
Gen Kobayashi (Character Designer)
―Among the characters you designed, who is your favorite? Feel free to include spoilers.
My favorite character is Fret. The reason for this is because I had a hard time designing him at first, and also because I relate to his inner struggles: even though he seems like a good communicator and can get along with anyone, he's really not that good at facing people. Thanks to Kanon, he was able to reclaim his true self, but that episode made me cry.
―You designed a character that couldn't be revealed before the game released. Please tell us what you were aware of in designing them since the original game more than 10 years ago.
The so-called "spoiler character" I was responsible for was Beat. In the story, he is mistaken for Neku, so he will inevitably be different from his original image, making him quite difficult to design. I think he's the one that had the most drastic change in appearance among all of the returning characters.
Yamashita was in charge of the designs for other returning characters, but I gave her some advice on how to preserve their main characteristics. Since it's been so long since the last game, we kept in mind current fashion trends for the outfits and tried to avoid changing the characters' image too much from the original game.
―Nomura, Yamashita and yourself were responsible for the character designs, but the worldview was so strong that you probably wouldn't know so many people were involved unless someone told you. How did the three of you share the unique world of TWEWY?
The original game already exists, and it'd been decided that we would proceed in the same direction, so I think that was a big factor in matching our images. Yamashita had been studying TWEWY for a while by the time she joined the project and was able to create designs that looked good at first glance, so I only had to give her some pointers. After that, I made some adjustments to the body shape and balance when I drew the illustrations for the game so that everything would be uniform.
―Your current designs aren't very "TWEWY," so did you have any difficulties while working on the sequel? Also, you've shared various illustrations of NTWEWY since the game was announced. Are there any characters that are easy or difficult to draw?
It'd been such a long time since I drew anything in line with TWEWY, so I had a hard time recapturing that vibe. In the early stages of the design process, Nomura would often tell me that the images looked different, so I had to draw quite a bit to remember.
The easiest characters to draw are Fret, Susukichi, and Shiba, all of whom I designed myself. I also find it easy to draw Kariya and Uzuki as their images haven't changed much since the previous game. The ones that are difficult to draw are the characters designed by Nomura, such as Rindo, Shoka, and the now mature Neku. It was difficult to recreate the particular nuances of those characters since I wasn't familiar with them.
―What do you think is the essense of TWEWY?
I think it's a place where you can really feel the youth culture of that era. The worries, ways of thinking, fashion, subcultures, etc. of that time period is expressed in the game's worldview, scenarios, and character designs, and I think that's what makes it so unique. Also, I can't leave out Ishimoto's sound!
Miki Yamashita (Character Designer)
―Of all the new characters you designed for NTWEWY, who is your favorite?
Nagi is my absolute favorite, but I adore Ayano and Kanon as well. Kobayashi was responsible for their base designs while I handled the outfits. Ayano was initially established as a cool beauty, so I emphasized her body and used a patterned jacket and high heels to make her look intimidating. She's usually pretty aloof, but when she gets sweet on Shoka, it's really cute…!
―Nagi, in particular, was a character whom my impressions of which did a complete 180 from the first time I saw her picture to when I actually played the game. Please tell us about your own impressions of Nagi and the story behind her creation.
In order to differentiate Nagi from the heroine, the team and I discussed and designed her to be a unique character. I tried to make her gestures and expressions quirky, but when I read the scenario, I was surprised to find that she was much more active and sensible than I had imagined. Unfortunately, her boots were quite difficult to draw, so I regretted making a design like in such a visible location…
―You redesigned many of the characters from the previous game, such as Minamimoto and Coco. Was there anything in particular you were aware of during the process, or anything that was fun or difficult?
Minamimoto was the first character I started on, and he gave me a really hard time…! On the other hand, I'd quickly gotten used to Kariya and Yashiro, so it was fun to imagine what sort of outfits would suit them. The strawberry patch on Kariya's chest is meant to evoke a heart, and I tried to connect it to the rib motif from his original design.
―What do you think is the essense of TWEWY?
The image of people in the crowded streets of Shibuya, wearing what they want and expressing themselves however they choose… I think it's a work that makes you realize that no matter what other people may think, you can live your life doing what you love, knowing that there are plenty of others out there who are just like you.