[Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Tetsuya Ootsubo from Sakura Wars

SakuraWars_8-700x394 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Tetsuya Ootsubo from Sakura Wars

Honey’s Anime was thrilled to get the chance to interview several people responsible for the amazing JRPG title Sakura Wars. We interviewed Tetsuya Ootsubo—the director of Sakura Wars—as well as producer Tetsu Katano and the localization producer, Andrew Davis! Armed with questions, we were truly surprised by some of the responses we got and we hope you all enjoy this fun interview!

Tetsuya Ootsubo

Interview with Director Tetsuya Ootsubo from Sakura Wars

While creating this new Sakura Wars title, what themes did you want to retain/change from the previous entries in the franchise?

To me, the underlying core theme of Sakura Wars as a series is leadership, or "the feeling of commanding a team". This was the first new title in the series in well over 10 years, so while games have changed their modes of expression over that time in some ways, we still wanted to keep that overarching theme consistent.

How does this newest Sakura Wars entry make it easier for newcomers to enter? and, were there any challenges in making the title more accessible?

One of our strategies for making the game more accessible to brand-new players was to introduce a new cast of main characters, including the protagonist, Seijuro Kamiyama. Getting the cast right also proved to be one of the primary challenges; in particular, Sakura Amamiya's character model took a great many revisions before we were able to settle on her final form.

Did you face any challenges—aside from the pandemic which has clearly been a challenge for all developers/creators—that made Sakura Wars even harder to create?

From the beginning, we knew we wanted to expand the audience for this game from Japan into other parts of Asia, along with Europe and the Americas as well. This meant that one of our major challenges was to make choices in development to avoid stirring up controversy regarding ethical issues or our manner of expression.

As with most giant JRPGs, did localizing Sakura Wars prove harder than expected? Or did you anticipate the challenge from the get-go?

Andrew Davis, Associate Localization Producer

To be perfectly honest, this project wound up going a lot more smoothly than other JRPG-size titles I've seen, even though our teams were handling four languages! A lot of it comes down to the great support we got from SEGA in Japan; they were testing our localized scripts on their side and flagging all sorts of formatting issues, so by the time the game was served up to our QA team, it was in a very clean state. Because there weren't any major issues, our QA pros were able to get to the polishing phase a lot earlier than they can usually afford.

The biggest challenge might simply have come from localizing a moving target. When a game is already finished in Japan, the text is 100% final and locked by the time you start localization, but if it's still in ongoing development, scripts can be a lot more fluid. Entire scenes may be cut, rewritten, or even re-recorded—which is a normal part of game development! But if that happens to sections you've already localized, it becomes wasted work. With Sakura Wars, there was enough going on on the development side at one point that we actually paused localization and pushed back our schedule a bit to wait for things to settle.

While making Sakura Wars, did the team debate which direction the game should go in? or did you already have an idea of where the game would end up being from the start?

We brought together various people within SEGA and had many discussions before settling on a final direction.

Who is your favorite girl from this latest Sakura Wars title and why?

Producer Tetsu Katano

If I'm putting myself in Captain Kamiyama's shoes, I wouldn't be able to choose! But personally I do enjoy Hakushu's ridiculous puns.

We noticed the music has stayed similar to the original Sakura Wars anime/game. Did you feel the music needed to be kept this way?

The music of Sakura Wars has always been very popular and a crucial component that fleshes out the world, so we brought back the longtime series composer, Kohei Tanaka, and asked him to flex his compositional muscles once again.

Was it your goal to make sure Sakura Wars came out in the West or was it decided after the game’s release in Japan?

Ever since the project got off the ground, we were intending on a Western release. We reached out to the Western localization team while the Japanese version was still in development.

Did any other franchises inspire the development of this latest Sakura Wars game?

We used the same game engine as the Sonic series (Hedgehog Engine 2), and to that we added the cinematics dev environment from the Yakuza series, so actually both series had an impact on this project behind the scenes.

When the game finished and was ready to ship out, what element of the finalized title stood out the most?

The story event scenes came out better than we expected. The characters wound up being very expressive, and their charm really shines through during the cinematics.

Was there a reason you decided on a newer cast for this latest Sakura Wars title?

In the Sakura Wars series, we traditionally assemble a new team of voice actors when we come up with new characters.

Will there be plans to port Sakura Wars to other consoles aside from the PS4?

We definitely want to give more people the opportunity to play the game. We'll be doing our research to gauge the level of demand, then internally evaluate what will be feasible from a business perspective.

What real-world elements inspired this newest Sakura Wars game?

We'd like to leave this to your imagination.

Did any anime series inspire the team in the development of character modes/art style or did you solely look towards the original franchise for inspiration/ideas?

The older Sakura Wars games definitely had a very "anime" style. While this is still present in Sakura Wars on PS4, we also incorporated many aspects of CG animation into the style, so there isn't a specific anime or past game that served as the model for this one. Rather, we developed the visuals based on the latest CG technology, while at the same time considering how to mesh that with an anime style.

If you could add anything else into this already huge title, what would it be?

I'm thrilled to hear you consider this to be a huge title! But I actually feel like we weren't quite able to convey the appeal of Ginza to the fullest degree. If I had the chance, I'd really like to add more elements showing off what's fun and exciting about the city of Ginza.

What are your aspirations for the franchise now? Plan on making even more Sakura Wars titles?

The development team would certainly like to see that happen! We're pushing for a continuation of the series, so we'd appreciate your support!

Last question, what inspired the team the most during the development of Sakura Wars?

It's tricky to single out one particular inspiration, but I know that the warm messages we receive from fans have been a huge driving factor for the development team.

Final Thoughts

It was a real honor to have the opportunity to interview some of the bigger members of the team behind Sakura Wars. We wish to thank SEGA and director Tetsuya Ootsubo as well as Tetsu Katano and Andrew Davis for their time! If you readers out there haven’t checked out Sakura Wars we were blessed enough to be able to play it and review it so check our thoughts on this wonderful game! Be sure to keep stuck to our hive for even more amazing interviews done by us here at Honey’s Anime!

SakuraWars_8-700x394 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Tetsuya Ootsubo from Sakura Wars


Author: Aaron

Hey everyone I’m Aaron Curbelo or Blade as I’m called by my YouTube Subscribers. I’ve been an anime/manga fan since I was a young kid. In terms of anime I have watched nearly a thousand shows and have read hundreds of manga series. I love writing and honestly was so happy to join Honey’s Anime to get a shot to write articles for such a wonderful site. I’m a firm believer in respect in the anime community being the most important embodiment we should all have. We all love anime and we have varying opinions of series but we should respect one another for those differences! Life is too precious to spend it making needless arguments in a community that should be the shining example of loving an amazing medium. I hope as a writer for Honey’s Anime I can bring you folks some amazing articles to read and enjoy!

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