[Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Nal & CG Artist Koichi Talk Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

Sakuna_-Of-Rice-and-Ruin-Key-Art-2-700x423 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Nal & CG Artist Koichi Talk Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

Hello and welcome to Honey’s Anime. We were given the opportunity to have a wonderful interview with the staff members of developer Edelweiss, Nal, the Director, and Koichi, the CG Artist, for Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. We got to ask some burning questions on our minds as we have been following the title since its first announcement at E3 2017. Since then, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has gone through some changes and fixes to present all the wonderful world of fantasy and rich Japanese historic aspects as well.

Let’s go ahead and present to you the wonderful interview we had with Director Nal & CG Artist Koichi. Enjoy!



Interview with Director Nal & CG Artist Koichi

How did the team come up with the idea of an action platformer that also combines rice harvesting and a lot of other Japanese elements? Farming games are a thing, of course, but this one looks so unique. Especially when compared to other indie titles.

We originally envisioned Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin originally started as a sequel to our previous game, Fairy Bloom Freesia, so we decided to make it an action platformer from the outset.

We added in RPG elements on top of that, and considered making the game a village-building simulator. But we knew it had to stand out from existing games with similar premises. We thought long and hard about what we really wanted to do, and finally realized we wanted to create a game that focused on a single thing in great depth, rather than a variety of things with a surface level of detail.

Japanese people are familiar with the sight of rice and rice paddies, but very few of them actually know anything about the process of growing it, so it seemed appropriate to focus on that for our central theme.

The design of the game looks beautiful and a huge improvement from the beginning of development. How was the idea of using color palettes that have a soft glow decided?

Since Sakuna doesn’t run on a major game engine, we developed post-processing effects and gradually added them as we went. Once the visuals were in good shape, Murayama-san (who did the art for Sakuna) checked them for us, and we did everything technologically possible to make the game live up to his art.

We noticed from a few years ago when Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin was introduced, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin looks quite different. What was the deciding factor for making this huge change to the game?

Sakuna’s core ideas have changed only a little since its early development. It simply took us a very long time to implement everything we had planned.

Since Edelweiss is a small team, preparing all the resources needed to present a new scene can take a while. We updated temporary assets in the village hub several times and polished its buildings and plants over and over again. As we mentioned earlier, we also gradually improved the rendering performance and added both shaders and post-processing effects along the way.

My point is that Sakuna didn’t undergo a single sudden change during its development. Rather, we slowly but steadily increased its quality with dozens and dozens of small, nearly imperceptible changes.

Regarding how much has changed, were there any parts/sections/ of the game itself or the story you had to scrap until you found the one you all liked/approved?

I rewrote Sakuna’s plot several times to suit changes we made to the gameplay. At one point the game was set in a liminal region that belonged to neither the world of gods nor the world of men. The humans passed through multiple generations in that version. Once we decided to focus on growing rice, the plot took a form much closer to its current state, but the original ending was far darker. My team members scolded me for being so heartless, so I changed it to what you see in the final version. I do think the earlier version of the story had its own charm, though…

The mechanics and combat are unique and we love how Divine Raiment is used as a grappling hook as well as other uses. How difficult was it to balance all attacks and their skills to the game while providing some very unique combos and special powers/skills?

Designing attacks and skills is my area of expertise and feels second-nature to me. While building a finely tuned set of controls and creating special effects is by no means easy, I had plenty of ideas and experienced little trouble with that part of the game.

But I did have trouble getting things right with our new idea, the divine raiment. Making sure it extended in a satisfying way, creating animations for when Sakuna swung behind enemies, confirming that it pulled in enemies on a natural trajectory to a location where the player could continue their combo... All these things took a great deal of time, not to mention trial and error.

We also decided to remove a few common combat and action game mechanics, namely rolling and blocking. We didn’t hesitate to remove rolling because you can use the divine raiment instead, but we felt less certain about removing the blocking mechanic. For a time we included it, but ultimately we took it out because we wanted players to defend themselves with the divine raiment. All that remains of the original blocking mechanic is the option to deflect arrows from rabbit archers by moving Sakuna forward just before they hit her.

The demon island in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, is it the same island from the Momotaro story?

They resemble each other in name only. We didn’t borrow anything else from that story.

How many different parts of Japanese culture were used in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin?

It has a mix of historical and modern elements. Some of the modern elements include how the characters think and act, how rice is grown, and how we portray mealtimes. Ultimately, we prioritized creating characters that the players could relate to and empathize with over making a historical recreation. However, we did recreate the meals from historical documents, so you’ll see some dishes that we rarely eat today. Kinta and Yui also speak an original dialect based on that of the Sendai region, which proved quite difficult for me to create.

With Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, what are the main factors you hope consumers would take away/learn from this game? Considering there are a lot of moral messages about becoming a better person, improving one's life, and learning Japanese harvesting culture, and more.

At the end of the day, we created this game purely for entertainment purposes and have no lofty ambition to educate anyone. Still, it would make me happy if our game caused a positive change in somebody’s life.

How many hours of gameplay can we expect to experience with Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin?

Our testers finished the main story in around 25-30 hours. We plan on releasing an endgame expansion patch on launch day that should add another 10 hours to the game. The expansion adds an additional 200 floors to Amagaeshi Shrine to provide more challenges for players who have completed the story.

How long was Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin in development from beginning to end/completion?

The planning stage lasted about a year while we finished up our previous title, and then actually developing it took about five and a half years.

Was there a character the team really enjoyed working on?

I am fond of all the characters, but I feel I had the most freedom writing Princess Kokorowa, since she had fewer in-game limitations.

I personally have a soft spot for Kaimaru. Like a small animal, he’s delightfully cute no matter where he shows up. We also included a huge number of animations for the dogs and cats, as well as the ability to pet them, not because we thought them necessary, but rather because we wanted to.

Are there any future plans on more content for Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, or will this be the only installment?

At the moment I feel that we have finished Sakuna, so I have no plans for a sequel right now. This game took us five and a half years to make, after all. But I could always change my mind later.

Is there a special message you would like to share with your fans about Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin?

Delivering the final product to our players after such a long period of development is always a special moment. Preparing it for a multi-platform, worldwide simultaneous release was particularly challenging. We are delighted that we achieved this and can let people all over the world play Sakuna. I hope you enjoy our unique little game about Japanese culture and rice cultivation.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it folks. Another great interview done. We definitely learned a lot from it and really appreciate the interactions you have with the characters in the game, as well as, experiencing the wonderful culture Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin brings to the table for fans overseas. As much as the team didn’t expect to educate anyone, you can honestly learn a great deal about certain historical aspects which hopefully would have you appreciating it more by the time you finish the game.

Make sure to check out Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin as it is available now for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. More information about the game, please visit at www.sakunaofriceandruin.com. More information about XSEED Games’ products can be found at www.xseedgames.com. Fans can also follow XSEED Games on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, get in depth info from their localization blog, and join the discussion on their Discord server at: http://discord.gg/XSEEDGames.

There is also a standard and digital deluxe edition available while supplies last so make sure to visit the links and grab your today! We hope you had a great time reading this interview and also learned something along the way. Make sure to keep coming back to
ore goodness and make sure to follow us on our social media platforms.

Jya ne!

Sakuna_-Of-Rice-and-Ruin-Key-Art-2-700x423 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Nal & CG Artist Koichi Talk Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

Editor in Chief

Author: Alfonso "Fonzy" Ortiz

I'm a Geek, Nerd, Writer, and lover of all video games, anime, science, technology and the internet. I previously worked for STFUandPlay.com, a contributing writer as the Japanese Corespondent at TheKoalition.com and founded a website called Transcend-Gaming.com! I currently live in Japan as Editor in Chief of Honey's Anime and its very talented writers! I'm down for anything! What do you want to do?

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