Playstation Interview: The Production Team

As the parent company of all six of the Yamato Playstation games, Bandai put together a colorful website (now defunct) after the PS2 trilogy was completed. One of the features there was this round-table discussion with five key members of the production staff, all of whom were on board for the entire Playstation lineup. It is presented here for the first time in English.

Commemorating the Conclusion: Main Staff Discussion

The hot new trilogy recently reached its conclusion! The five main staff members gathered to commemorate it. They looked back over their work on the PS games and recalled the passion that was put into the series…

The participants:

Hisaya Yabusaki

From Beck Co., Ltd.; producer of all Yamato games for Playstation and PS2. Was involved in game development since the LCD age, became a developer of consumer arcade games

Kuro Hone: Also from Beck; Supervisor of development and voice recording

Kishi: From Enuke Corporation; Planning director and designer, script director.

Nishida: Also from Enuke; Programmer

BP: Publicist for Bandai; in charge of packaging and promotion of the PS2 games

Interviewer: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules. Can you each describe your participation in the games?

Yabusaki: I was there as a Yamato fan in 1996, so I was appointed to make the games.

Nishida: I was the main programmer at the development company.

Kuro: I was invited to become a development producer for Yamato while I was on another planning team.

Kishi: I was dragged in by Yabusaki. (Laughs)

Kuro: In my case, I was doing another project for Beck and Yabusaki asked me, “don’t you want to do Yamato, too?” I remember he said it would be a great opportunity. So can I say I was dragged in, too? (Laughs)

BP: When I heard it was starting up, I asked “please let me do it.” Yabusaki didn’t have to drag me in. (Laughs)

Yabusaki: Dragged in? Kishi, didn’t you tell me you were a fan?

Kishi: Oh, I did, just don’t tell anyone.

Interviewer: Is there something I shouldn’t say? (Laughs)

Kishi: No, there’s nothing to hide. Enthusiasm is important to the job, I just don’t want to claim too much authority.

BP: It was driven by Yabusaki’s enthusiasm. We can say that.

Yabusaki: But I get the feeling everyone was pretty passionate.

Interviewer: Did you go after those who were passionate, or was it your passion that drew them in?

BP: When we found someone who seemed that way, we voted them in. (Laughs)

Kishi: I think Nishida and I were called by accident. Then we became passionate. (Laughs)

Yabusaki: We also had Keisuke Masunaga on character design and Kazutaka Miyatake on mechanical design. That got everyone fired up.

Kishi: I get fired up just hearing their names.

Yabusaki: That plugged some passion into the game staff?

Kuro: It sure did.

Interviewer: What was it like, specifically?

BP: Their drawings put a sparkle in everyone’s eye at the time.

Yabusaki: I was a fan of Miyatake’s since seeing Zerotester on TV in 1973.

Kuro: I was surprised to see Mr. Masunaga even specify how to draw the eyes of the characters. Instead of just giving directions, I felt like his hand was in every detail.

Kishi: It really got going when his work started.

Nishida: Yabusaki’s passion got him through that all-night debugging session.

Yabusaki: It was only until 2 am.

Kuro: I got nervous around 2am and went back to my hotel to check out before the workday started. (Laughs)

Kishi: It was on the Farewell to Yamato game that we had a deadline to finish debugging by 2 am. It was unrestricted on the first game…

Interviewer: Was it killing everyone to stay up all night?

Kishi: Working on game 1 was the first time in my life I pondered death. (Laughs)

Nishida: I’m sorry. At the time, staying up all night to debug a PS game was something completely new.

Kishi: I averaged about 2 hours of sleep per night for over six months…but Yabusaki wasn’t affected. (Laughs)

BP: He’s some kind of superman.

Kuro: It was amazing. And I thought Nishida was tough.

Yabusaki: Developing the first game was hell; I couldn’t sleep anyway.

Interviewer: Your passions influenced each other.

Kishi: We always do our best, but we wouldn’t have been able to keep it up without the driving force of Yabusaki.

Yabusaki: It was the year of working in silence. I feel nostalgia for it now.

Interviewer: What’s the main difference between the PS and the PS2 games?

Kishi: The main thing was that we managed all three of the PS2 games simultaneously. But we only worked on one game at a time in the first round. The PS2 games were more about action and shooting, and the earlier ones were more of a simulation to keep the crew alive. After all, Yamato can’t exist without a crew.

Yabusaki: That affected everyone who was involved with the first game. Moving the ship, firing the guns…

Interviewer: And in the PS2 version…?

Kishi: For the PS2 the main simulation activity is to command a fleet. It doesn’t focus so much on the crew.

Yabusaki: It was in the PS2 trilogy that 3D ship battles were realized.

Nishida: Even the hand-to-hand combat became a full-polygon production. We could use a lot more polygons, so that made it possible to do things with 3D we couldn’t do before.

Kishi: I turned 2D backgrounds into pseudo-3D for the Farewell game.

BP: The first time I saw the Kodai “cut-in” figure done with 3D polygons [for the PS2 games], I was shocked. It was like Mr. Masunaga drew a 3D character with lip sync! (Laughs)

Nishida: I thought it was great that the production went to full-polygon. The exchanges on the bridge became more realistic, too.

Yabusaki: But the workload it took to animate the mouths was huge.

Kuro: When I heard you wanted all the characters to talk, I thought, “are you crazy?” (Laughs)

Kishi: It made me doubt my own sanity.

Nishida: We had a tool to manage the lip-sync, otherwise we could never have done it by hand.

Yabusaki: The scripts for all that mouth movement looked like three telephone books.

BP: Before this, I felt as if the expressions on full-poly cut-in characters weren’t genuine.

Kuro: Originally when a 2D character was rendered in 3D it couldn’t change direction.

Nishida: You could only observe the model from one angle. The angle was decided by the hairstyle.

Kishi: Whenever I built an illustration with polygons facing in only one direction, it became impossible to reproduce it from another angle. It became 3D only from a single viewpoint. But now it’s possible to show full facial expressions even for Dr. Sado in 3D.

Kuro: I remember roaring with laughter the first time I saw Dr. Sado moving so much. (Laughs)

Kishi: However, turning 2D characters into full 3D took a lot of trial and error.

Yabusaki: The effort of recording those lines from the scripts was a big workload. Kuro had a big collection to work with.

Kuro: Yes. There were lines we didn’t use from the first game even though we recorded them for the sake of convenience. But we used everything on the Farewell game. Because the PS2 games were able to store much more, the amount of resources was enormous.

Kishi: I have to kneel to the ground and give an earnest apology to all the voice actors for the amount of work they had to do.

Kuro: Because of the sheer amount, it was hard to schedule all the recordings. The number of lines for Kodai took a huge jump after the Farewell game. Then the same happened with Sanada.

Yabusaki: Koichi Yamadera [Kodai’s voice actor] was recording all the way up to the final days of production on the trilogy.

BP: When I was working on another title with Hideyuki Tanaka, who did the voice of Shima [Venture], the topic of Yamato came up. He said, “it was amazing! The script was thicker than a phone book!” I told him it was more like three phone books. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Let’s talk about the story. I’d like to hear each of your favorite points.

BP: I think it expanded on the original very well.

Kuro: The game was a great catalyst for memories of Yamato. What were some of the new things we came up with?

Yabusaki: The relationship between Yamamoto [Hardy] and Shiina [the female pilot] was a big one. I wanted to have a branching scenario like we did in the Farewell game, where someone lives or dies depending on how you play, so I asked Kishi to create an original character for that.

Interviewer: What about other original elements in the script?

Kishi: I started with the intention of retelling the original story. I personally view Part 1 as “the classic,” Farewell as “the debate” and The New Voyage as “the dispersion.” That’s how I think of them, though other fans might not. Part 1 had a sense of inviolability, and the conclusions of Farewell and Series 2 whip up controversy. The New Voyage takes into account our wants and needs.

I remember talking a lot with Kuro and Yabusaki about how to adapt the flow of the story, what we could change for the PS2 version, what kind of storyline could excite the fans. The difficult part was trying to decide what fans would accept. Our conclusion was that it’s about reaching a crossroads in life. We had a lot of fun in meetings developing new characters and concepts.

Interviewer: Was there anything in this area that gave you a particularly hard time?

Kishi: There were various points, like “how did they retrace the year-long voyage from Part 1 in just a few days?” The “continuous warp” gadget didn’t come up until the next story, so it became necessary to invent a new temporary gadget to perform that function.

Interviewer: Did the modeling of Yamato change for the games? What was the basic feeling about the mecha?

BP: Mr. Miyatake changed the design of Yamato.

Kishi: Yes, it is changed completely. I modeled it according to his new design. It was a strong extension from Yamato the battleship to Yamato the spaceship.

Interviewer: I was glad to see what you did with the Comet Empire mecha [in The New Voyage game].

Kishi: I wanted to do that by all means. I decided on it from the very beginning of the concept.

Kuro: Me too. I also wanted to see more fighting against the Comet Empire.

Kishi: In the original, the Comet Empire is completely wiped out at the start of The New Voyage. Yabusaki had the idea of bringing in a surviving fleet. In the plan, I remember they had begun to build a new imperial city on the 11th Planet.

Yabusaki: There was a design Mr. Miyatake drew of the Comet Empire under construction. I felt like fans missed them after Farewell and Series 2.

Kishi: It was a factor in the “growth” theme of the New Voyage game. Along with the personal growth we wanted to show growth in the Earth Defense organization. We were able to depict that through the appearance of Comet Empire remnants. I personally liked what we did with the Kitano character.

Yabusaki: Kitano was a strong character and definitely matured in the second PS2 game.

Kuro: I liked how he was handled after The New Voyage. I felt like I was there with him. I also liked the recycled Yukikaze. (Laughs) That was my favorite ship after Yamato and Andromeda, and it was a pleasure to work with it.

Nishida: I liked the battle between Goruba and the carriers.

Kishi: If I could pick another favorite element of the New Voyage game, it would be the “heat” of the Gamilas army.

Kuro: Toru Furuya the voice actor [for Orion Jr.] sent us a great compliment after the recording was over.

Kishi: He thanked us for the memory of a lifetime. (Laughs)

Interviewer: We’re running out of time, so I’d like you all to summarize what you’d do next with Yamato if you could.

Kuro: I’d want to make a final game that goes to all the remaining places in the series.

Nishida: Speaking as a programmer, I’d want to create a system with more degrees of difficulty.

Kishi: Although we’re talking about what we’d do in the next project, I’d go back to Part 1 if that was possible. I’d like to see what it would be like as an ordinary member of the crew, taking battle orders and running to your post. Maybe having a station on the third bridge, various things like that.

Nishida: You want to fight for Yamato as one of the nameless crew? That sounds like Gunparade March. (Laughs)

Yabusaki: If there’s an opportunity to do another game for Part 1, you should also have the chance to be Kodai, commanding the ship on the trip to Iscandar.

Interviewer: Finally, please give your closing thoughts.

Nishida: Play one day of the game in one hour, then go outside and play with all your might.

Kishi: That is brutally frank. (Laughs)

Interviewer: I don’t think it’s possible to clear one day in only an hour.

Kishi: I think the [game] world of Yamato is suitable for every fan. I hope you enjoy whatever option you choose. And this has nothing to do with the game, but somebody please do a remake of Part 1. (Laughs)

Kuro: The game is good, everything in it including Kishi’s remake of the story is worthy of a closer look. It’s like a great big three-dimensional object.

BP: Buy all three PS2 games so you can get the extra DVD and shed tears over the animation from Farewell to Yamato.

Yabusaki: The PS games are an expression of Yamato remade with modern technology. I want whoever takes Yamato into the next age to make a real masterpiece. Thank you for supporting all six of our products.

Interviewer: Thank you for taking time out of your busy days!

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