JRPGs have a tendency to follow a series of tropes — some classic ones being that the main protagonist is a happy-go-lucky kind of character or a character that suffers from amnesia. Regardless, whenever players get a hold of a JRPG, they can expect to go on an epic adventure full of highs and lows. FuRyu and Spike Chunsoft’s Crystar, on the other hand, doesn’t seem like it’ll be like any JRPG we’ve played before as one of its main gameplay mechanics is crying. We couldn’t help but cry out for more details about the upcoming melancholic action RPG, coming to PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam on August 27.
At GDC 2019, we had the opportunity to interview the game’s producer and director Fuyuki Hayashi, Spike Chunsoft’s marketing coordinator Mimi Saito, and Spike Chunsoft’s project coordinator/content & product translator Hiroya Watanabe (who helped with translating Fuyuki’s answers) to find out what exactly Crystar is all about.
Brad Crespo: Can you explain the relationship between Rei and her sister?
Mimi Saito: Rei and her little sister get dragged into the afterworld called Purgatory and they get attacked by a monster. Rei tried to protect her little sister by unleashing her internal power, but the power went out of control and then Rei accidentally kills her sister. Rei signs a contract with demons in order to revive her little sister and that’s when the story begins.
BC: It looks like there are a number of real-world elements in Purgatory. Will the player find out why this is the case as they play through the game? How did you go about creating each stage?
Fuyuki Hayashi: There are eight chapters in the game, and the scenery [in the game’s world] changes based on what’s happening in the story. These changes are explained as players progress further into the game. One of the stages is actually a scene of a tragic bus accident, so you’ll see elements of that, like broken glass and other things as well.
BC: Crystar clearly has an emotionally-driven story that’s generally not found in other JRPGs. Most JRPGs generally have a high-and-mighty, brave hero who wants to save the world. Why did you decide to have a more dramatic story and main character?
FH: One of the many motifs and ideas that I wanted to implement in this game was that anyone can move forward and overcome hardships. So instead of showing this strong and badass hero, we wanted to show more internal and personal conflicts of this one girl and how she overcomes that and becomes stronger. I think that way it’s more relatable and personable for the player, so that’s why we decided to do that.
BC: Basically, you realize that players themselves could be going through their own struggles, so you wanted to have a main character that players can truly connect with.
FH: Exactly. That actually ties in with the reason why we decided to make Crystar an action RPG because I think it’s easier and better for players to step into Rei’s shoes since they’re really playing as her and experience the struggles she faces.
BC: As far as development goes, what was it like, especially since the game is so dark? Were there any issues or hardships that came up while making the game?
FH: There were some things that we struggled a bit with, like the main motif in the game which is tears. We wanted to really focus on creating the characters beautiful eyes and we wanted to really depict a lot of emotion within them. We also focused on the crying animation and the voice acting and making sure everything was perfect.
BC: How deep does the game get with its storytelling?
FH: To add a deeper level of emotional storytelling, we have this element called “Memoirs of the Dead” where after you defeat enemies, which used to be humans, you get a glimpse of their memories from their life before. The more enemies you defeat, the more memories you get and we have a lot of different stories for each enemy in the game. So, there’s a lot of lore in the game for players to go through.
BC: Oh, I see. So, the player needs to go out and piece together the story themselves?
FH: That’s right. The main story is about Rei, but players can enjoy going deep into the game’s lore, which is what we wanted for players.
BC: There are quite a few notable names in the English voice acting cast for Crystar. As far as English voice acting talent goes, is that something that Spike Chunsoft or the developer focuses on to the point that it matches the quality of that of the Japanese voice-over audio?
Hiroya Watanabe: So, they [the developer] leave it up to us to handle the English voice-over audio. We’re involved with voice over cast selection, and when we record English voice-over, we listen to the Japanese voice-over as well to ensure that it matches well.
MS: He’s [Hiroya] been recording for a long time, so he’s like a specialist in English voice-over work.
FH: I believe that the mood and just the overall voice quality for the English audio work match the Japanese audio work very well.
BC: What can we expect post-launch? Any additional content, like additional storylines?
FH: Nothing like that is set-in-stone, at the moment.
MS: I can answer this a little bit. In terms of other additional content, we plan to release a lot of costume DLC, like seasonal costume DLC — for example, there’s a winter themed one that has a Santa Claus costume.
BC: One popular Twitter account “Can You Pet the Dog?” shares games that let players pet dogs. I noticed there’s a dog in Crystar, so I have to ask: Can you pet the dog basically whenever you want?
FH: Yes, you can pet the dog. Players in Japan love that you can pet it too.
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