[Riviera: The Promised Land Official Complete Guide] → Ito x Tobe Interview
The scrapped CGs that Tobe references are, of course, the revamped bath scene ones that were only included in the North American PSP release.
The usual rules apply: Linking to this translation is fine, but don't just copypaste it without credit, as that is p disrespectful.
First, may we ask about your experiences porting Riviera to the PSP?
ITO: Hmm… let’s see, while we were working on “Yggdra Union”, it was a hot topic of discussion within the company.
Specifically porting it to the PSP?
ITO: The previous GBA version would still be playable on a DS, so the decision was made to port it to the PSP instead this time.
Was there any discussion of including new systems or extending the scenario?
ITO: Concerning “Riviera”’s systems, I believe that we stopped fiddling with them after the original WonderSwan version was completed. Because of that, as long as we were still releasing the game under the name “Riviera”, we decided not to change the game system drastically. If we did anything too weird with it, the players might be upset, you see… For the GBA version, we included things that definitely couldn’t have been done on the WS, so this time too, we wanted to fully savor the capabilities of the PSP.
That being the increase in event CGs and the game becoming fully voiced?
ITO: Yes. The PSP has a lovely display, and the media storage likely had more than enough space to add all the voice files. It’s just that in order to recreate the game for the PSP, most of the graphics had to be completely redrawn… so we worked on that at the same time “Yggdra” was in development.
Tobe-san, when did you enter the picture?
TOBE: I got tapped in right about when my illustrations for the cards in “Yggdra” were done and I was feeling relieved (laughs). While I was exchanging emails with Ito-san, the topic got broached, and then I learned that we were going to be including many more pictures, and at the time I responded “as long as it’s only about 20”, but I had a long time to work on them, so I wound up drawing a lot.
How did it feel to create art for “Riviera” again?
TOBE: When I was working on the GBA version, I wasn’t yet used to it, and by the time I was comfortable with the characters and such the job was already done. I had regrets like “I could draw everything so much better now!”, so I was happy that I wouldn’t have to feel like that any longer.
For the GBA version, the preexisting CGs in the WonderSwan version were there to serve as a guide, but this time all of the scenes you would draw were completely new, so was it very difficult?
TOBE: No, thinking of compositions from the start is a fun job in and of itself, and this time each request for a CG came with movie clips that showed which part of the game it would be, so it was very easy to draw.
How long did you have to work on your illustrations?
TOBE: Specifically regarding the game CGs, I think it was about from the beginning of the year until Golden Week—about four months.
ITO: Over that time, I wound up adding in a lot more new CGs, too… (laughs)
TOBE: It was kind of like, as long as I don’t have any new emails from Ito, I can relax… (laughs). But from the beginning, there was an upper limit of 50 new CGs at most, so there wasn’t actually that much pressure. I actually had enough time to draw new bust-ups for CGs that got scrapped. In the end they weren’t used, so I’m glad that they will be included in this book.
Would it be all right to ask if there were ever times when Tobe-san had trouble keeping deadlines?
ITO: Yes. In fact, she never turned anything in late.
TOBE: I was attached to a company before I went freelance, so the mentality of “deadlines are law” stuck with me (laughs). But isn’t that normal?
…Hmm (laughs). I wonder.
ITO: Hmm (laughs). Oh, but Tobe-san has been connected with the worldbuilding of “Riviera” from the very beginning, so there were almost zero retakes. I waited for the new illustrations to come in like, “Man, this will be nice too…” and it felt almost like a competition with “Yggdra”.
The PSP version’s main draw was that the game would be going full voice, so I believe the work with the voice actors must have been fairly intense.
ITO: Yes. There were some very slight changes, but I asked all the same voice actors that contributed before. It looked like coordinating their schedules was a bit hard on them, but with the cooperation of many people, we were able to make it work. The script had gotten pretty hefty, too… it seems like recording was quite an ordeal.
TOBE: The voice actors are all amazing, being able to vary their voices to that degree.
In the end, the final product has a sense of nonstop dialogue, doesn’t it.
ITO: Yes. The NPCs and enemy characters who were previously voiceless even got voices this time around, so I think there’s much more potential for emotional investment in the characters and story.
Were there any other parts of porting that caused a lot of trouble?
ITO: In the end, I think refining the graphics was the most work. The character sprites and icons all had to be redone, and the scenery and objects were redrawn too, and finally all the effects were redone in 3D. Also, the event CGs were used at their original size and color, so I think maybe with the PSP version, Tobe-san’s beautiful shading can finally be expressed in its true form.
So did Tobe-san also do all the color work of the CGs herself?
TOBE: Yes. I did everything from the roughs to the lineart to the coloring to adjusting the size and completing them.
That’s a lot of work, isn’t it?
TOBE: No, I’ve been doing this kind of work from the beginning, so I think it’s only to be expected.
ITO: Personally, I love Tobe-san’s coloring style, and I was always frustrated that the colors had to be compressed and the gradation became harsh for the GBA… I’m glad her pictures got to stay beautiful this time.
Now then, let’s return the topic to the original development of “Riviera” for the WS… Is it true that you had approached Tobe-san to be the character designer at the beginning?
ITO: That’s true. It was my very first original game, and I didn’t actually have any know-how or connections within the game design field, but I still got told “Anyhow, go figure out what you’re doing for the art and story and sound by yourself”…
By who? (laughs)
ITO: By distinguished people in the company (laughs). Well, if that was how it was going to be, that was how it was going to be, so I was looking around illustrators’ websites on the Internet when I went “Oh, this is nice!” and got stuck on Tobe-san’s site. When I tested the waters by showing one of her pictures to the team, it became a perfect inspiration for the visuals. Then let’s offer to hire her right away… was what I was thinking, but Bandai was our publisher then, and we had to get the okay from them, and because I couldn’t talk to them directly at my rank, I asked the rest of the company.
Who contacted you in the end, Tobe-san?
TOBE: Yamafuji-san (Sting’s president). (laughs)
ITO: When I heard about it later, I was a little shocked (laughs).
So the president was really thinking of the good of his employees! (laughs)
TOBE: I was incredibly touched that they would go so far as to contact me for this just from having seen my website. It was just that at that time, I was actually working for a game company, and I couldn’t just accept a character design job from a different company by myself, so in the end things turned into a discussion between companies. But in the end, they couldn’t come to a consensus very well…
Ito-san, how did you feel when you learned that Tobe-san couldn’t do the job?
ITO: I basically went into emergency mode (laughs). The project was already rushing forward, and Bandai had our basic plans… when I was flailing around going “what now?!”, I was introduced to Takatsu-san and Iwanaga-san, who were both active in the anime world.
How did you broach the topic with them?
ITO: At the time, I had no idea how anime production worked, so even though I was thinking “oh my god, am I being really rude?”, I just showed them Tobe-san’s art and said straight out that I wanted to make characters with this kind of feeling to them. At that time, they told me “this kind of thing is very common”, so I remember being relieved. In the end, while I was dealing with the two of them, a new kind of character aesthetic with its own charm was completed, and I was pleased with that.
Tobe-san, when you heard about these developments, what did you think?
TOBE: I only heard about what happened at that time really recently (laughs). At the time, I really regretted that I didn’t have any detailed information, and I was also really sad about how things had turned out.
ITO: It really was frustrating at the time, but at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe we could try again with another game (laughs).
In the end, “Riviera” was released without Tobe-san’s design and became a big hit, but how did it come about that you asked Tobe-san to work for you again for the GBA port?
ITO: At any rate, this time the timing was really good.
TOBE: At right about that time, I became a freelancer, and during the WS version incident, Yamafuji-san had told me to contact him if I started working free, so I sent a basic greeting email. And right after that, I got brought into the discussion.
ITO: On our part, that was right when the topic for a GBA port was running around the company.
I believe it’s actually a big risk to redraw all the art in a hit work, but…?
ITO: That’s very true. The fans’ reactions at the time were very mixed. But so long as we were going to port it, I wanted to realize a lot of things that hadn’t been possible for the WS version. Having Tobe-san do the design work was one of those things, and I had her draw everything from the CGs to the character sprites to the monster illustrations.
Tobe-san, what do you remember as being the hardest part of that job?
TOBE: The amount I had to draw and the time I was given to draw it in weren’t a problem, but I really wanted to preserve some of the feeling of the WonderSwan version, and I just couldn’t really draw it like that.
ITO: I thought that we might as well give the GBA version a different touch from the WS version. So I told her that it was fine to change the design as much as she liked as long as the expressions weren’t drastically different.
TOBE: Once he said it that way, it was a lot easier on me.
And the GBA version drew even more fans and became a breakout hit, and even became short of stock.
ITO: I’m kind of sorry that the available quantity became so low… At that time, I was being pulled this way and that by the old and new fans… And maybe because I also had my hands full working on “Yggdra”, I think I wound up treating it a little like it was somebody else’s problem (laughs).
With the PSP port, may we consider that the world of “Riviera” has reached a new level of completeness?
ITO: Personally, I feel like any time we’ve remastered anything, we’ve gone and put a period on it. Of course, there aren’t particularly any things I failed to put in, but… even with that into consideration, it feels like we’ve reached its limit as a game. So because of that, personally, I prefer the challenge of creating games with new systems and designs rather than doing remakes and sequels, even if it’s risky. Oh, but if someone else ever made a sequel to “Riviera”, I’d be happy to play it! (laughs)
What is “Riviera” to you, Tobe-san?
TOBE: Let’s see. It’s the very first job I had as a freelancer, after all, so I had a lot of fun working on such a big project. It’s a fun game to actually play, too.
Do you look at pictures of “Riviera” characters drawn by fans?
TOBE: Yes, I’m always looking around at fanart sites. But even now, I feel very much like I’m just one more “Riviera” fan having fun drawing pictures.
Then, finally, let’s ask for a message from Ito-san for the fans.
ITO: In the PSP version, you’ll be able to see a lot of Tobe-san’s artwork, and because it’s fully voiced, I think Ein and all the others will seem even closer to you. Please enjoy all the new charm “Riviera” has to offer.
Thank you very much.