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This article contains spoilers for the Etrian Odyssey series, including Etrian Odyssey Nexus

The Sekaiju no Meikyuu X and V (Etrian Odyssey Nexus and V) artbook, SQ Art Museum, was released on 1st April 2019. In addition to art from the two games, the book also includes interviews with staff, including one with series director Komori Shigeo and character designer Himukai Yuuji.

The interviewer begins with pointing out how the survey put up on Famitsu’s website in January 2019 received a large number of participants, showing how fans’ passion for the series remains high, and Komori says that the staff too are extremely glad that they were able to release V and Nexus, which are together a culmination of the series. The interviewer inquires into this, and Komori says that V was a culmination of the series for the developers, featuring all the knowhow gleaned from previous instalments in a numbered title, resulting in an entirely new Etrian Odyssey. When they looked back at it after it was completed, however, they were unsure if it was the sort of culmination that series fans wanted.

Himukai says that when the Nexus project started, Komori told him that he wanted to do things that they had not before, all the ideas that they had saved up, and put their all into this last game. That was what V was for Himukai, however, and so Nexus was more of a “bonus stage” for him, which worked out just as well as he had something he wanted to try- He says that when Untold II was released, combining new characters with classic mode and III’s sovereign, all of whom had different art styles, the response from players was greater than he imagined. and that resulted in him wanting a chance for a mix of old a new art in character creation, even if it would mean not having a sense of uniformity in the art. Komori says that the developers shared the fans’ nostalgia while working on Nexus, and that he is truly glad that the game came to be.

Next, the interviewer asks about Himukai’s involvement with development, and Komori says that as Himukai is a fan of dungeon RPGs, they get him involved early on in projects and discuss ideas with him and ask him for his opinions, calling him the “litmus paper of Etrian Odyssey”.

Himukai says that because he likes older dungeon RPGs, however, he initially felt conflicted over whether they need character illustrations at all, saying that he while he was happy when he received the offer to work on the first game’s character designs, he was unsure if his art would be appropriate. He says that he was the sort of person who felt that having art for the characters at all was off, saying that the genre should have players use their imagination looking at the illustrations on the game box or instruction manual.

Komori says that while it was the first game’s director who brought Himukai in, he feels that it was a great choice, and that the characters are now a part of the series and one of the reasons why players support it. The interviewer mentions that the survey had a question asking players about things they liked about the series, and how 90% listed Himukai’s art, and to this Komori says that when they started work on the first game, the developers still hadn’t managed to get together a feel of what the finished game would be like, and Himukai’s designs for the Medic and Protector were what first gave them a direction for it.

On the topic of Himukai’s art, the interviewer brings up how some survey participants asked about changes in it, namely why he now puts highlights in the eyes. Himukai says that he takes a different approach when designing NPCs, who are characters, and player characters, who are avatars. Up till IV, he designed PCs as avatars, and the lack of highlights were because he meant for them to be blank slates for players to breathe life into. However, while he intended these to be avatars, many players saw them as characters, and he came to the conclusion that the designs are in fact characters as soon as they are released to the players. Switching to that direction resulted in the designs in V and Nexus: A character-centric approach, which included highlights in the eyes.

They next discuss the clothes in the series, and Himukai says that in retrospect, the clothes in I contain huge spoilers. He recalls spending a lot of time wondering how much of the past civilisation should be used in costumes, and Komori adds that they spent a lot of time deliberating over leaving in the sneakers, saying that they did not want to spoil the surprise of the fifth stratum. Himukai thinks the sneakers ultimately worked well as foreshadowing, and Komori says that in the end he figured that over-thinking things is not good, and so tries not to fuss about details too much.

The interviewer next presents them with another question from a survey participant, asking what job classes were hard to come up with. Aside from the Gunner, due to guns being a clear indicator of the level of civilisation, Himukai says that while he usually says Sovereign when asked this question, he recalls that the Wildling was also problematic. Komori says that they began with the idea that they wanted a summoner-type character, and came up with many different kinds, like a puppet master, shaman, and devil summoner. Himukai elaborates on the shaman, saying that it would have summoned spirits to possess a totem pole, and also recalls that Komori says every time they work on a game that he wants to make a chef class, to which Komori says that he ended up satisfied with the cooking elements in Untold II and V. Himukai also brings up how the Hero class was supposed to have a gimmick where they combine the sword and shield to form a special two-handed sword, which he says was to work as a hero transformation like Untold II’s Fafnir’s, which Komori says they found too hard to implement due to shields not having attack stats; This gimmick was ultimately used as Blót’s special move.

The interviewer next shows Komori and Himukai the results of the survey’s question asking participants what their favourite job class is:

  • 1: Nightseeker (112 votes)
  • 2: Imperial (110)
  • 3: Landsknecht (94)
  • 4: Sovereign (72)
  • 5: Ronin (65)
  • 6: Protector (60)
  • 7: Medic (59)
  • 8: Harbinger (54)
  • 9: Hexer (52)
  • 10: Zodiac (50)

Himukai expresses his surprise at Nightseeker coming in first, and says that it was designed by him going back to and redoing the Dark Hunter of I. The interviewer points out how many of IV’s jobs seem to be remakes of I’s, and Himukai says that this was done deliberately, as IV was the first game for the 3DS. The designs were done by extracting elements from I and III’s and recomposing them.

They next move on to the Imperial, and Komori points out how the Imperial and Nightseeker both have high firepower in addition to the popular designs, though their firepower was reduced in X for balance. Himukai says that the Imperial girl was designed as “a Protector fallen to the dark side”, calling it “Dark Teach”. He also points out how four of the ten top jobs, Nightseeker, Imperial, Harbinger and Hexer, are “dark-ish” classes.

Part 2 of this interview is available here

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