Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness - Aligning the Stars Panel @ Anime Expo 2016
During Square Enix’s Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness – “Aligning the Stars” Panel at Anime Expo, Star Ocean Director Hiroshi Ogawa, producer Shuichi Kobayashi and Japanese illustrator and character designer Akira Yasuda (Akiman), as well as the English voice cast shared some interesting thoughts about the game and the voice acting industry.
Ogawa: The biggest change is that we incorporated a seamless transition between battles and events and roaming around on the map and this is because tri-Ace president Yoshiharu Gotanda wanted to have a dynamic a cutscene incorporated into the game or a “seamless cutscene sequence” that is why we had all the battle sequences and other events seamlessly connected together but we also wanted to have that kind of RPG feel that we had in previous titles, and to leave the feeling you get when you encounter enemies.
Kobayashi: The story-line for Star Ocean 5 takes place before Star Ocean 3 and all the story line in the history is connected, and we wanted to keep the traditional RPG feel.
Crispin Freeman: Compared to previous versions of Star Ocean the platform is allowed so much more detail. Working on the earlier Star Ocean titles, we were limited in how much they could put in the game in terms of voice acting and story. The power of the current platform is so much greater that things can be more nuanced and more detailed than they were before.
Eden Riegel: This is my first time doing voice work for a Star Ocean title. With so many impersonal relationships, as an actor, it was really wonderful to be able to tell such a comprehensive story, and I loved being a part of it. I felt like there was a lot of attention to performance and telling the story in a real and emotional way in addition to the excitement and the adventure and the battles which I think are extremely dramatic and fun and in transition between the story and the battles will be so seamless that it will feel like this huge comprehensive tail that you will get to experience by going through it and the ark is really cool. I was thrilled to be a part of this game and play Mikki and be able to tell this awesome story.
Christopher Corey Smith: I just got my mind blown because I did not know Star Ocean 5 takes place before Star Ocean 3. Having previously voiced a character in Star Ocean 4, this was a tremendously fun experience to work on this particular Star Ocean title. Emmerson is such a great character and I had a blast with him and I would come in and I would get to hear all the other clips that everybody else had been doing either that day or the previous days that I got to work off of and everyone did a wonderful job and this cast is so amazing and I am really honored to be a part of it.
Tessa Netting: This is actually my first time recording a video game ever so it was blowing my mind in all the best ways. The character Relia is so cute and so small with the way she has to run up to catch up to everyone else and I just remember how many times I had to say the word, Fidel. I had to say his name probably 100 different times in different ways. I really loved Relias relationships with all the other characters and how they brought out her personality being very shy at first, but then later seeing them as more of a family. It was a great experience and I loved it so much.
Eerica Luttrell: I had a blast recording Star Ocean 5. It was so amazing and one kind of hilarious moment was one of the battle terms I used that may have not made it into the game was “Hammer Time”. I had a blast with such a great cast and it was such a beautiful game, seeing it in its entirety blew me away.
Aimée Castle: Usually when you get a breakdown as an actor for an audition you’re seeing it in black and white so when I first saw Fiore I thought, OK cool costume, nice skirt, big hat and big diamonds on her skirt. So I thought they were really nice tights and then when I got to the session I saw her in color and I realized it was skin it took on a whole other level. So thank you to Akiman for designing such a beautiful character. Every tweet I get is about her costume and I really enjoyed playing that character. It was really great to be part of such a fun cast.
Akiman: Because the producer wanted to have characters that were closer to the image of Star Ocean 3 and with Star Ocean 4, we took an anime like approach but the game still maintained a photo realistic look. JRPGs in general, are based off the aesthetics we grew up with, for instance, Japanese Anime and Manga culture so it does skew towards more of an anime type art. Because it is on the PlayStation 4, I tried to create something that’s in between manga and realistic art.
Crispin Freeman: Whenever we have to dub something from Japanese into English, there is the question of what is the process and sometimes what will happen is we can do whatever feels right in terms of timing. Sometimes we are told it must be no longer than this amount of time because that is how its done and so if it's shorter that’s ok it can’t be longer.
With Star Ocean 5 we had to match the exact timing of the Japanese line within about two-tenths of a second. This causes a sort of “left-right brain shuffle” in your head in trying to maintain the technical accuracy of the timing but without losing the emotional performance of what your trying to do which is some of the most difficult acting I know is out there which can be compared to opera or musical theater, where you have to match the timing with something precisely and be emotionally believable, “but that was a tense of a second too long, so we have to do it again” and so that can be really challenging but when you succeed it really works and its very satisfying and definitely worth the effort we put into it.
Eden Riegel: I have an amazing sense of what exactly one tenth or two-tenths of a second is and felt at times I felt like I was a human metronome that I would do a take and say “that it was about .1 seconds too long we have to do it again”. It was extremely technically challenging, but in the recording process we never lost focus on what was important which was performance and I felt they were very generous on the amount of time that we could take to get a line just right in terms of intonation and the emotional contagions for it and also fitting into the technical specifications so that they could get the most possible information on to this game so we could tell such a huge story and I really appreciated that.
Tessa Netting: It was very musical for me while I was recording especially for screams because screams had to go on for a certain number of seconds. I found myself doing this sort of tribal dance so I would scream and keep the beat with my feet and It was finding and taking that length of time and finding it in your body and then it was recording it and putting the performance on top of it so it was very technical at first, but it got easier the more that you practiced and the more you felt what was too long and what was too short and overall it was very satisfying and fun.
Aimée Castle: I don’t know if I am speaking for all the actors up here, but I think there is also a sense when you’re doing a game like this that already has a different language version and you’re doing the English, you want to create the character and make it your own but you also want to give a nod to the other voice actor who has done it previously, so for me I felt like the fight scenes particularly was something I was trying to match and I believe the Japanese voice actor for Fiore had a little bit of a higher pitch than me, so I would try to match her screams and like Eden said intonation is a big thing and the rest of the time trying to create your own character.
Christopher Corey Smith: To follow up on the aspect of timing, I know that all of us have spent a lot of time dubbing from Japanese into English and when you dub anime you’re obviously working with existing picture and you have to match lip flaps and what does is that sort of robs us as actors of doing it with our own timing because we are already locked into the timing that exists in the picture.
So while it was slightly limiting to have to fit our performances into the parameters of ins and outs it was very nice to be able to imbue our characters with our own sense of personal timing because we didn’t have to match the literal performance that had come before us and I really had fun with that and really appreciated that aspect of it and one of the things that where kind of funny was that we all did get really good at matching the timing and we would try to get as many lines done in a session as possible and there was always a goal. “Crispin did this much, how many can you do?”.
So I would come in and be like “All right! I’m going to do this!” and there were a couple of times where we got up to whatever the magic number was and I would go “one, two, three, beyond it! yes!” and say “Yeah, got the goal for the day” and then I would come in next day and find out, “nah you didn’t, Eden came in and she beat you!”. So that happened two or three times with Eden and I knew if I was in first and she was in second it was going to be a short-lived victory.
Kobayashi: So there was some talk about graphics earlier cause with JRPGs, I feel that the story for the game is the experience you want end game and it is more based on the Japanese anime and manga. So instead of creating your own experience, I feel that it should be something where you could become the protagonist and maybe become popular with girls inside the game, but just have that experience that you are the main character and that’s what I really want everyone to enjoy this game.
Akiman: I was a creator for Street Fighter before, however more games in the past were simple pixels and you couldn’t really try to draw cleavage well so after I left Capcom and became a free illustrator and when I got jobs I found out I was now able to draw beautiful cleavage and it’s like I am getting revenge on what I couldn’t do before.
Ogawa: Since it’s been seven years since that past title I really wanted to keep what was good in the past titles but still keep up with the current generation the feel or tempo and the driving fuel you get with a current generation game so I did want to try and keep that experience and especially for those people who have never played a Star Ocean title we tried to keep it so it’s really easy to get into.
Crispin Freeman: I just have, to be frank, I am a little worried now because I am a little insecure about my own cleavage I didn’t realize it would be so important so hopefully, people will still enjoy the game.
Eden Riegel: I am also most excited about the cleavage. I am really excited for people to delve into Miki’s nerding out over signaturgy because she is pretty entertaining in those moments.
Tessa Netting: I am really excited for you guys to meet Relia and go on her journey and go with her through this story with all of these friends that she makes and since they help her, I hope you can help her too!
Aimée Castle: I think the word epic is thrown around a lot these days, but I have to say making this game really felt epic and seeing the game it feels epic and I hope you have a really epic experience, especially with Fiore’s cleavage.
Eerica Luttrell: I am very excited for you guys to experience fantasy and adventure and above all magic!
Christopher Corey Smith: I think you guys are really going to enjoy all the character interaction. The dialogue and the characters are first-rate and I am particularly fond of the character interaction between Emmerson and Anne. “I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Erica for this comment”. If Star Ocean 5 had a human resources department, Emmerson would be called into it frequently and get lectured.
The floor was opened up to the audience for a short Q&A.
Q01: With Star Ocean being such a huge franchise with a lot of history and with so many different stories. What does that mean to everyone of you?
Kobayashi: Star Ocean really is a big title and I am actually a big fan of the Star Ocean series as well and it’s not so much to say I am at Square Enix Just because I wanted to work on Star Ocean and I might even quit if the Star Ocean franchise doesn’t go well anymore. I am very happy to see everyone here like this today and It really does give me a lot of energy and hope for the future. I also think games should have more cleavage.
Ogawa: So when I first started at tri-Ace the first game I actually worked on was Star Ocean 2 second story and then there was Star Ocean 3, but it has been a while and now there is Star Ocean 5. There were some mentions about cleavage. I am able to really put what I want into this title and they gave me a lot of freedom to do what I liked and I had a lot of fun working on Star Ocean again.
Q02: What was your most memorable moment of being part of the Star Ocean Universe?
Kobayashi: I am actually not popular with girls but with Star Ocean you can really enjoy being popular with girls! That’s what I like about the Star Ocean series.
Crispin Freeman: “I am not popular with Japanese game developers, but in Star Ocean I get to meet them and be on stage with them!”. I can tell an anecdote when I was working on Star Ocean 3 playing the character Albel Nox. We broke the Recording program. Back then we used a recording program called Pro Tools and Star Ocean 3 had 14 hours of cutscenes and they had loaded it all up into one recording session and as we got further into the session the computer refused to record anymore and it just stopped and gave up and said no. So with Pro Tools it would only let you record a session that was 12 hours long because who would record a story that’s more than 12 hours long?
Christopher Corey Smith: “First of all Crispin I am convinced that once you work on your cleavage, you will be much more popular with Japanese game developers”. The best part of working on Star Ocean 5 was being in this amazing cast that I am really proud and honored to be among. When I auditioned for Star Ocean 5 they didn’t tell me what the project was.I went in and I read for it and it was titled “Project RED” and that was the way they referred to it and I remember going in on the first day of recording and when I finally saw the script and realized it was Star Ocean I was so happy to be back.
Q03: With other JRPGs like Final Fantasy that are trying to move away from traditional RPG formulas but Star Ocean 5, it seems to be trying to evolve inside of the traditional RPG formula. What was the decision process behind that?
Kobayashi: It’s been seven years since the last Star Ocean and for all the fans and newer players we wanted to create a game that doesn’t confuse them so that when you pick it up and play you will know its Star Ocean and that is why we went for a more traditional approach which was actually on purpose. The developers do want to take on new challenges so it could be possible to do something new and I would really like to challenge ourselves to do something completely new next time.