Astral Chain devs on original plan for Legions, protagonists weren’t always twins, more
PlatinumGames has shared a new Astral Chain developer interview with director Takahisa Taura and character designer Masakazu Katsura. During the lengthy discussion, they spoke about initial plans for Legions including wanting players to be able to catch anything they fought, how the protagonists weren’t always designed as twins, and more.
We’ve attached the full interview with Taura and Katsura to this post. You can read the discussion in its entirety below.
-Katsura-san, you designed the Legions that serve as the focus of ASTRAL CHAIN, as well as many other major characters.
K: Designing the Legions was a lot harder than the other characters because I started out with almost no information to work from. At the early stages there was a lot of trial and error. I would just repeat the same kinds of parts in different combinations, trying to see what kind of look I could get.
T: We didn’t ask for many retakes of the human characters, but as the Legions are kind of the cornerstone of the game, while I felt bad about it, I asked for a lot of different iterations. We started off with giving them a very organic look. At some point we changed them to be a bit scarier, but I went back on that and tried to make them look more heroic-
K: I liked what we had, but yeah, they wanted something that looked more like a hero.
They also told me the Legions can float so lose the legs, and then later asked me to add them back… but to also still have them float (laughs).
T: We would come up with ideas on our end while he was still working on the designs for us, and we would get new ideas after actually receiving the designs, which just led to more and more iterations. We were pretty much still figuring out what Legions were while Katsura-san was designing them which I feel bad about.
K: Yeah, the requests were kind of a puzzle to figure out.
T: I remember he would write questions directly on the art, like “what do you actually want?”
K: Did you want something cool, something empathetic… I think you had trouble figuring that out yourself. Right?
T: I didn’t want that to be apparent to someone outside the company, so I tried to hide it… but we still ended up going back and forth a lot. Still, I’m very happy with what we ultimately came up with. I think having the head area kind of opened up and hollowed out looks awesome.
K: I’m of the Ultraman generation so I wanted to see if I could do my version of the Eye Slugger (a throwing blade attached to Ultraman character Ultraseven’s head). I think attaching the right and left parts of the head to make that open space was pretty novel. They also asked if we could open up the chest as well. I thought that sounded pretty cool so I just drew something on the spot (laughs). (To Taura) So, when exactly did you come up with the idea of Legions? The game’s initial concept was supposed to be about catching monsters to fight against other monsters, right?
T: Right. We ended up having five different Legions you can switch between, but our initial idea was to be able to capture anything you fought. The problem was, that would limit the total actions we could give each individual monster, which didn’t feel right for an action game. Eventually, we switched course to where we are now. And because of that, there’s lots you can do with each Legion, which I think overall was the better decision.
K: The Legions were actually the last characters they asked me to do. I’d heard the game was about catching monsters so at first I was pretty thrown off when the request came in, but I thought using Legions to centralize the partner mechanic made things easier to grasp in the long run.
T: You’d been doing characters and other concepts for us and we kind of just slid Legions in there at the last minute. We’d just begun putting together the mechanics for Legions and still hadn’t decided anything regarding their design at all.
K: But I had a lot of fun doing the Legions. And honestly, it’s kind of boring if all of your work gets approved on its first pass. You start to think, do they actually like what I’m doing? Of course it’s easy if you just get a “sure, looks good” to anything you draw, but it starts to make things dull after a while.
-Regarding the other main characters: the protagonists are a pair of twins, one a boy and one a girl with short hair. Was this always the plan from the get-go?
K: In the initial documentation I received, I remember they weren’t twins. They both had a kind of messy look to them, so they seemed like they wouldn’t care about their hairstyle or anything.
T: We didn’t mention any specific kind of hairstyle we wanted, but when I looked at the first concepts from Katsura-san I thought “…we’re going with this, definitely” (laughs). And yeah, they weren’t twins at first. I just wanted to have a game where you could chose the main character’s gender. But after we received the design concepts, we thought adjusting the story to include the twins angle would make things more interesting.
K: I’d been told you could choose the protagonist’s gender, so I tried to give both of their faces a similar look. That might’ve been the catalyst. I think had I given the girl a more cutesy look, no one would’ve picture them as twins.
T: Right, if her art had been like that, I don’t know if we’d have thought to make them twins. That’s just one more way I think your art was able to inspire new ideas from the team.
-The box art for the Japanese Collector’s Edition makes it very clear that they’re twins. What did you want to make stand out in this illustration?
K: I wanted to give it a really beautiful silhouette. The original work order didn’t ask for a chain, but I thought that would help balance things out so I added that in as well.
T: I first saw it while we were still working on the game, and the moment I saw it I thought there was nowhere I could criticize it (laughs). (To Katsura) You were really able to draw out the power in the characters’ eyes. It’s so awesome, one of my favorite drawings. We first did the right side of the drawing in-house, based on Katsura-san’s designs, and then handed it to him to touch up our side and finish the rest of the picture. I hope the story in the game speaks to you looking at this picture.
K: It was fun adding the fade and wear to the “POLICE” letters on the uniform, just like they are in the game.
– (To Katsura) Do you have a favorite character?
K: Of course I like them all, but I particularly like the engineer character.
T: Everyone on the team’s collective jaws dropped seeing Katsura-san’s concepts when they first arrived.
K: I had a lot of fun with it. I remember thinking to myself, maybe I’ll give this guy a bit of a hunch, etc… it was fun to do the drawings while putting together lots of little ideas like that.
T: All of the memos and explanations on your concepts were always fun to read. I never imagined you’d write that much detail for us, and it made making the characters that much easier.
K: If I were to do the same thing for anime concepts, there’s a high probability anything I’d write would just be ignored. I mean, I’m just scribbling my personal ideas, so that’s fine though (laughs). Now that I think about it, I kinda liked Jena too. Were you able to make it look like her makeup’s running in-game too?
T: We did. If you don’t know, Jena’s actually (spoiler omitted).
K: Was that decided later?
T: It was. When we went back and revised the story, we changed a few of the assumptions we had at the start of development.
K: It all makes sense now. When I first heard the idea for Jena’s character, I pictured her as someone who doesn’t have time to take care of herself, and gave her tattered clothes and messy makeup.
T: Those visuals were one way that inspired us to expand her story.
K: When I first showed Jena to my wife she told me she looked like a zombie, so I thought I might’ve gone a little too far.