[Dengeki PlayStation] We wanted to make a game that left people wanting to talk about it: an interview with Maruto and Nakamura of White Album 2
Good evening. This is Negitoron from Dengeki PlayStation. Continuing from yesterday’s interview with Aquaplus president Naoya Shimokawa, we bring you an interview with scenario writer Fumiaki Maruto (writer for PC games, now active as a light novel author as well—his book How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, with Fujimi Fantasia Bunko, is now on sale to favorable reviews) and lead artist Takeshi Nakamura (key artist with Aquaplus, character designer for titles including Tears to Tiara and ToHeart2)!
As this edition is a port, this enlightening interview also touches on responses from players who have already played the game on PC. That said, there are no outright spoilers, so no worries there. Now, let’s get right to it!
Making their own White Album
—To start things off, please give us some of the particulars of the production of the PC version of WA2, and tell us about the roles you played.
Fumiaki Maruto: Nakamura-san and I were the ones who planned the project at the beginning. I was mainly in charge of areas pertaining to the text of the game, such as the number of parts in the story, and the branching storylines of the scenario.
Takeshi Nakamura: I was in charge of character design, with a particular focus on the main heroines, Setsuna and Kazusa.
—You two were at the heart of the planning for WA2. How did the characters, like Setsuna, Kazusa, and Haruki, take shape?
Maruto: First, I came up with the personalities and backbones of the characters, and presented them to Aquaplus. But I wasn’t all that focused on their outward appearances—their visual styles, measurements, and so on—so I left everything in that area up to Nakamura-san. After that, I looked over the designs Nakamura-san came up with, and we worked together that way. It was fun to see how his ideas differed from mine.
Nakamura: Maruto-san was working with a clear vision for the game from the start, so I designed the characters to fit with that. This game has a lot of minor characters, and we found that we had some differing thoughts about their designs, for example, but by and large, I think I was able to design in a way that went along with the initial mental picture.
Maruto: We did also have discussions about what we favored in terms of chest size, and things like that. (laughs)
—You had a clear concept for this game from the get-go. What were the themes that you wanted to depict?
Maruto: I wanted to make a WA game, plain and simple. That feeling the original WA has—it’s so dreary and hopeless, and yet everyone is so nice… and you just get stuck deeper and deeper. That was the kind of story I wanted to depict. I wanted to try to recreate the parts of WA that I was so obsessed with at the time, and to add in points for what I would have done in that situation. WA2 is what was born from that desire. Just as with the first game, I wanted to create something that would leave people eager to talk about the story and characters after they had finished playing.
—This game is a WA game after your own fashion. What points were you particularly fixated upon?
Maruto: One of them is that, in the previous game, the protagonist ends things in an ambiguous way, but I wanted him to make a decision. The fact that it was deliberately left ambiguous definitely added to the painful, hopeless feeling of the first game, but this time around, for better or worse, I forced the character to come to a decision and discover an answer to these tangled relationships. However, as a result, I had a lot of players of the PC version say, “This protagonist is terrible.” Just like with the first game, even if you do reach a resolution, when there’s no right answer, there’s no right answer. (laughs)
Nakamura: This is a guy who’s going to make a girl cry no matter what he does, so I feel like it’s pretty much impossible. (*1)
Maruto: By the way, everyone, have you ever been in a situation like Haruki’s, where two girls have fallen for you at once?
—I don’t think anything that enviable would ever happen. (laughs)
Maruto: Ah, well, it’s never happened to me, either. I’m just trying to assess Haruki fairly—you know, “He’s such a good guy, and yet…” (laughs)
—Nakamura-san, as you were designing the characters, what were the points that this game in particular caused you to focus on?
Nakamura: Setsuna and Kazusa and the others are bishojo game characters to the end, so I had to make an effort to show the girls’ appeal. However, the characters in this game are more human in a lot of ways than in other games, so I endeavored to depict that as well as I could.
*1: “In a story that gets muddled up in a love triangle, you probably aren’t going to find a lot of people who think the protagonist is especially cool. (laughs)” —Producer Naoya Shimokawa, who happened to pass by during the interview
—Ever since the PC version released, it has received very high reviews. How did you take this?
Maruto: By and large, the responses I’ve received to my previous works, whether positive or negative, have largely fallen within the range of my estimation. But when it came to this work, I was surprised by how many user reactions there were that surpassed my expectations. In particular, the people who developed strong attachments to the characters, to an extent that I had never seen before, left a deep impression. And, for better or worse, the responses were very intense. (laughs) A lot of my previous works had happy endings, but this time, I included components that differed from that model, and I get the feeling that there were many who spent some serious time considering the characters and story.
Nakamura: I received many responses that were vastly different from the responses to the other bishojo games in which I handled character design and key artwork. Up until now, my design focus had been on making the girls cute, but this time, I placed a higher priority on drawing scenes that fit with the scenario, which brought a level of difficulty that I hadn’t felt before. (*2) This game is about more than just drawing the characters. For example, in a scene in which Haruki and Setsuna are having a conversation, I don’t just draw Setsuna—I show a scene of the two of them talking, and include any minor characters nearby. I feel this is the way Maruto-san’s scenarios are depicted—the more I read, the more scenes like that come into my head, and those are what I end up drawing.
—Do you have any particularly strong impressions in your mind of players’ reactions to Setsuna and Kazusa?
Maruto: I’m afraid that might lead to spoilers, so I’m going to keep that to myself for now. (laughs) What I will say is that I was deeply interested to hear people talking about “As a WA game…” or “As a Fumiaki Maruto scenario…” In the end, it follows some of the “rules” of WA, and some of the “rules” of my scenarios, and then there are also parts that are deliberately detached from either of those, so there isn’t really a “right” interpretation.
*2: “For some reason, every single artist who makes a game with me tells me that, for this game, they did their art with a different touch from their usual work. I’ve never asked any of them to do anything particularly special or different, and yet…”—Maruto