Awarded as ‘Nintendo Game of the Year’ at the 2018 Golden Joystick Awards, Octopath Traveler has astonished thousands of game-lovers across the globe with its rich story-line, unique characters, beautiful soundtrack, and sophisticated pixel arts. Exploring tales of eight individuals destined to accomplish each purpose and dream, you discover caves, dungeons, sanctuaries, and forests in search of the truth.
Developed by Square Enix in collaboration with Acquire, Octopath Traveler will always be cherished. So, How did such a legendary game come to birth? Behind the scene of its development, there are numerous untold stories and secret ingredients in this masterpiece. The team members’ dedication to character design and illustration is a part of them.
Members of the Octopath Traveler development team
Asano, Tomoya – planning and producing
Ikushima, Naoki - character design
Miyauchi, Keisuke – director
Takahashi, Masashi - producer
First of all, the characters in the game have their “feet on the ground” as the members of the team described. Explaining that the game’s core ideology is realistic, Ikushima, a character designer and illustrator comments that “I paid extra attention to make the characters ‘whose feet are on the ground’. Instead of making the characters cool, I considered each character's personality, perspectives and the area of residence. For instance, when Primrose dances at a local pub, she creates melancholic vibes as the target of the misery of life. Being aware that there are unfortunate people struggling to survive in real society, I design.”
Illustrating an individual whose “existence” is palpable, the team succeeded in creating unique characters that ordinary folks like us can relate to and sympathize with. In fact, to design each of the characters, the team referred to “public figures” in Japan. Allegedly, Cyrus was designed in the imagination of two actors from Japan named Masaharu Fukuyama and Dean Fujioka.
Furthermore, one member has expressed his feelings toward Olberic, telling a story about his father. Ikushima reveals “a secret background story” that he has not told anyone: Olberic’s earnest attitude of living with loyalty despite the various burdens the soldier bears has reminded Mr. Ikushima of his earnest father whose “birth year is one-digit, from the Showa Era*. Ikushima adds, “Olberic was kind of like a gorilla who had a similar vibe with my father at first”, and that has always been the impression of the character for him. (*Japan changes the name of the era corresponding to the reign of a new Emperor. Showa era, which lasted from December 25, 1026 through 1989)
Among the eight characters, the team explains they struggled to create and design Ophilia, describing as follows: “Her design was based on her kind-hearted personality, and her eyes so bright. Within, we expressed her strong-willed spirit that motivates her to embark toward the truth, determined. Nevertheless, at last, we wished to prioritize her kind-heartedness for the main expression.” In fact, such a personality is expressed on the game’s package cover. Ikushima describes that “Along with all the other characters going forward, Ophilia checks back on them, showing her consideration and care for the squad. By the way, for Therion, I considered his anxiety from a life full of hardship and skepticism, as he assured his back is secured.”
Furthermore, the team has dedicated their efforts to designing the characters’ costumes. Takahashi, a producer recalls having a hard time pixelating Ophillia’s skirt and the fur on Haaint’s back as follows: “When it comes to designing the costume, I had a hard time pixelating Ophillia’s and Haaint’s. The light blue on Ophillia’s skirt, the fur on Haaint’s back- I was wondering, ‘Can I express these with pixels? (bitter laugh). Ikushima then adds, “Each pixelated character has been adjusted to be the best quality. For instance, Olberic’s blue clothes are not very clear on the illustration but bright as pixelated.”
In fact, the team had once struggled maintaining the balance between the system of feet-on-the-ground and personality. For merchant Tressa’s outfit, the team thought it would be ordinary and cliché if they focused on the system of feet-on-the-ground too much; however, they could not really have her wear custom-made, unique clothes. Gradually, the team figured out that designing ‘Merchant Tressa’ instead of ‘one girl named Tressa’ would be the strategy.
Octopath Traveler’s eight protagonists individually have a tale to tell, and as an adventure, you explore them all. Behind the scene of development, character design and illustration has played a significant role as the team members have dedicated themselves fully to it. Next time you play the game, you will find yourself sympathizing with the protagonists even more.
ロマンシング★嵯峨 編集部. ファミ通.