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Illustrator and composer talk Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions in new interviews

Posted on December 8, 2019 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch eShop

There’s a lot going on with the SaGa series as of late between the recent launches of Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. Key aspects of these games are the iconic illustrations and music score, led by illustrator Tomomi Kobayashi and composer Kenji Ito.

Square Enix has passed along new interviews with both Kobayashi and Ito. Below the two discuss working on the SaGa series, discovering new insights into how they bring these worlds to life.

An interview with Tomomi Kobayashi – SaGa Series Illustrator

1. Who was your favorite character to design in Romancing SaGa 3, and what were your inspirations when designing the characters?

It was very fun to design Leonid and Mikhail. I liked designing Thomas as well. Back when I designed the characters in Romancing SaGa 3, I admired people who were elegant and intellectual, and that comes through in my designs. I suppose that’s youth! In those days, I enjoyed designing good-looking, classic, cool characters.

2. How does it feel looking back on the series after 24 years? Were there any particularly memorable moments you recall from making the original game?

Looking back, I feel an attachment to the two Robins. I think they presented an impressive contrast. I actually drew Robin (not the fake one) in his everyday form and as his true self. I initially made him good-looking, but then Akitoshi Kawazu (the game’s director) asked me to re-do the design… He told me, “It will be too obvious who he really is,” so the design was shelved.

3. There is a lot of variety in the character designs in Romancing SaGa 3, with some characters having more western designs (Monika, Thomas) and others having more eastern designs (Sarah, Khalid). How did you go about creating these different designs, and what was your thought process for giving Romancing SaGa 3 an overall unified look?

If I remember correctly, the original request documents didn’t say, “People from a country in the South” or anything specific like that. I used the different tones of the names as inspirations for the character designs. When creating characters, I imagine which part of our current world they would be from, depending on the sound of their names. I am also very conscious in differentiating the designs from those of characters I have already drawn. For this title, I recall designing Monika or Mikhail first. And in terms of differentiating the designs, the sleek and laid-back Mikhail and the rough and tough Khalid are good comparisons.

4. Were there ever any aspects of a character’s design that changed substantially?

I consciously try to change up small details and the overall feel of my illustrations. And through working on titles with various storylines and lore, I’ve also made conscious efforts to change up the details. The amount of time I spend on a single illustration has also changed. I’ve learned when to call it a day.

Also, in all of the years I’ve spent designing SaGa series characters, I’ve felt it would be better to have variety among the character designs.

5. How does it feel to see the characters you drew actually moving about in the game?

I was surprised by the unique presentation of the characters in the game, which is quite different from their presentation through words or manga. Similar to novels and manga, there is a storyline to the games, so I wanted to know what the characters go through, what the world lore is like, and how the story unfolds. I am the kind of person who does their best to finish the games in order to find these things out.

6. Are there any characters in SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions that you really like?

I love Kahn, and I enjoyed designing Marquis of Parm. I also enjoyed designing the blond, classic character Antonius, which was the first character like this in a while.

But at the end of the day, my favorite is Kahn. To describe him, I’d use the expression the ‘utility pole effect’. Basically, it refers to men who are reliable and won’t budge even when you lean on them, and I think I was able to illustrate a reliable, broad-minded man like that through Kahn.

With regards to female characters, I would say Taria is my favorite. When I initially started designing her, I was going in a very different direction, but I ended up where I imagined in the very end. The original premise was that she is a women with a dark, lonely past, so I designed a women as bright as the sun — a bright, positive woman who overcame her sad, lonely past. I would say it was something similar to the women that Yumeji Takehisa (a famous Japanese artist) would draw. But in the end, that version of her design was shelved.

7. Were there any particularly memorable moments when creating the character designs for SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions?

I started off Leonard’s design as a good-looking guy with a dark past, but I was asked to redo the design as it wasn’t in line with what the director had imagined. It seems he was looking for a Northern Kanto feel [laughs]. I should say, in Japan that area is infamous for young delinquents, so I could understand immediately what he meant! In the design request document, “James Dean-like” was also mentioned, but I wasn’t able to put my finger on what a “young man who is like James Dean but also has a Northern Kanto feel” would look like [laughs]. Even after working with the director for close to 30 years, I felt I still hadn’t completely figured him out and there is much more to him [laughs].

8. What sort of things are you conscious of, and what do you put your heart into when drawing?

I feel it is important to see various things as a character designer. I think it’s unavoidable for your design to steer toward your preferences, but back when I took on a task to create illustrations for a book whose genre wasn’t my cup of tea, I was able to expand my horizons in terms of design. It’s most definitely important to go through different experiences. Having various ideas and knowledge to pull from will be key for character design if you are in it for the long haul.

I try to keep my preference as my design core, and when the time comes for me to incorporate it into the designs, I let it all out.

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