The Utawarerumono series is quite well known in Japan for its strategy based gameplay from its previous titles, but director Tsutomu Washimi decided to take things to the next level and introduce something better. With an art style that helps to better suit the series and 3D character models to better accentuate realism, Utawarerumono ZAN is an action title that truly embraces everything about the series, but expands on it even further. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Washimi-san to hear his thoughts about the new direction in the series, and what his inspirations were to help bring the vision to life. Honey’s Anime have also written a splendid review on Utawarerumono ZAN so after reading this interview be sure to check it out!
Honey's Anime Exclusive Interview with Director Tsutomu Washimi - Utawarerumono ZAN
What inspired the name Utawarerumono and the series altogether?
: *laughs* to be honest, even amongst the development staff we actually don’t remember. During the development of the title 17 years ago there wasn’t a name for the title and we all needed to come up with a name. So there was a scenario where we all just had a discussion and that title popped up….I think that’s where it came from. *laughs*
As far as inspiration, instead of focusing on creating a more visual novel experience, we decided that perhaps we could add in more elements like RPG and strategy aspects, which is what we went for, then with ZAN more action oriented.
What made you decide to transition from the traditional strategy aspect of the game, into a more action-musou oriented style?
Tsutomu-San: The previous iterations of the series were mostly known for the more ‘Chibi-style’ characters but over time, the developers thought that having a more realistic graphic style that complimented the story and stay faithful to the art design of the game was more impactful. So within that, making the characters look more proportional akin to what a normal human would look like, would better suit the action-oriented style we were aiming for.
If there was another series that you’d like to collaborate with for the next title, which would it be?
Tsutomu-San: The only idea we had in mind was ZAN initially and Tamsoft of course as you know, are the ones behind the Senran Kagura series and so looking at that game we drew inspiration from that due to its fluidity in gameplay. So we thought it would be cool to work with Tamsoft in that regard. Personally I think it would be a great idea but then again Marvelous publishes Senran Kagura and Koei Tecmo are the ones behind Dynasty Warriors (Sengoku Musou in Japan) so it would be tricky *laughs*.
Japanese and small bits of Chinese mythology were implemented into the game to cater to the Japanese audience. What goals did you have in mind to market to the western audience to make it more understandable?
Tsutomu-San: In Japan, a lot of Japanese people find various cultures fascinating such as Egypt and the Pyramids along with the mythologies that surround it. China and its mythology around the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is another cultural fascination that we admire and so hopefully, just as much as we appreciate other countries for their cultural beauty, that those in the west can find that exoticism in our culture as well.
“ZAN” what’s the meaning behind that?
Tsutomu-San: In Japanese, the literal meaning behind ZAN is Slash/Slice, but the main reason it was chosen was actually quite interesting. The president of the company came across this old PC game called ‘ZAN’ and the name itself in Japanese had an impactful feel to it and so he thought, “Hey this would be pretty cool,” and so from that point everyone on the team immediately agreed on the name.
If you had more time to add more content into the game, what types of content would we see?
Tsutomu-San: By far the most important aspect of the Utawarerumono series is its story and so, particularly towards the end of the story of ZAN, there’s a really climactic scene that utilized a lot of the 3D features we implemented. However, due to the limitations we had it wasn’t possible to implement that feature all throughout the game and so, much like you said if there was more time and money we would’ve loved to use more 3D cinematics to emphasize our vision. In the end, we still want our fans to enjoy that scene!
Will there be any future DLC down the road?
Tsutomu-San: All the DLC included from the Japanese version will be ready in the western release! So look forward to that. But no other DLC will be made afterwards.
Going back to realistic proportions for characters this time around. Was it simply for the art style or were there other reasons?
Tsutomu-San: With better character models this time around and with each character representing their own distinct fighting style, it was easier to convey their emotions and movesets more concisely. Thus, realistic proportions really helped us in that regard.
One defining factor that makes ZAN so great is the eclectic choice of music during gameplay. What was your inspiration behind this?
Tsutomu-San: Interestingly enough, the president actually stepped in and contributed in this area. As you already know, the Sangoku Musou series is revered for its hard rock tone and so, given that our game is within the same realm, maybe trying hard rock would be cool. So we tried and it worked but we thought, “well, is this what we really want to aim for?”. We then decided to opt for a Eurobeat/Rave style and in the end, it really helped to lend itself to the gameplay we aimed for. The overall feeling is what resonated with our team at that point and it totally matched the style of Utawarerumono ZAN.
Do you have a final message for your fans overseas?
Tsutomu-San: In Japan, jumping into the world of Utawarerumono ZAN is quite different and in that regard, those in the west may also find it odd at first to jump in. However, there are a lot of great elements within the game that are exciting and we only hope to grow the series even further. We highly encourage fans to check out Prelude to the Fallen which is slated to come out next year and course Utawarerumono ZAN, which is out now!