The 2019/9/12 issue of Famitsu includes an interview with director Taura Takahisa, supervisor Kamiya Hideki, and producer Nishimura Eiji regarding Platinum Games’ latest release, Astral Chain for the Nintendo Switch.
The interviewer asks about how the Astral Chain project started. Taura says that it began with Platinum Games’ Inaba Atsushi asking if he had any ideas, and he submitted a proposal. This was before development started on NieR: Automata, and they ended up using leftover resources and materials to make a working prototype over a month with a team of 3-4 people. The setting of the game at this point was completely different, featuring a middle ages-styled European sword and sorcery world.
After that they were invited to work with Nintendo, and started considering coming up with a hook for a new IP. Taura himself wanted to stick with a fantasy setting, and kept sending Nintendo new proposals, but they could not settle on one, but when he changed the direction completely to a science fiction setting, they liked it. Counting the initial work as a small team, they spent a total of five years working on the game.
Taura is asked about the setting and plot of the game, and he says that he came up with the base ideas and then worked on it with game designer Naka Akiteru and art director Kimura Hajime. A Nintendo staff member with expertise at plot writing also helped out, exchanging opinions with them and writing parts. The story went through a lot of changes, with the two player characters not originally being twins, and Max not being their father.
Kamiya was the one who gave Taura the idea to make them related to give the story more depth with a familial theme. Kamiya had told him that since Max was important to the story, it would make it easier for the player to emphatise if he was the player character’s father, and Taura got the idea to make the protagonists twins extrapolating from this suggestion. Taura also says that there are many other story details that did not make it into the game itself, which can be found in the Collector’s Edition’s artbook.
The concept of controlling multiple characters at the same time was in the proposal from the beginning, but Taura reveals that in the initial iteration the player was to control not two but three characters (the player character and two summons) at the same time. He says that they reduced it to two (the player character and one summon) because while it was fun, it was hard to control and confusing. When Kamiya saw the initial prototype with the character taking control of two monsters at the same time he thought it was very interesting as it was something not seen in any previous Platinum games.
Next, the interviewer asks about the tokusatsu-esque aesthetics, and Taura says that this was a result of there being tokusatsu fans in the team, and how they decided to go with it to help make Katsura Masakazu’s designs stand out. When they switched the game’s fantasy setting to a sci-fi one they discussed what to do with character designs and initially decided on handling it internally, but Nintendo suggested using an external designer, with Katsura at the top of the list. As a famous manga author, they were all already familiar with his work, with Taura saying that he is a fan of Zetman, and Kamiya and Nishimura prefer Wing-Man.
They first met with Katsura directly and explained to him what the world of Astral Chain would be like. Katsura then came up with roughs, and they came up with the final designs bit by bit together with Taura providing input. The character designs were finished quickly, but the Legion designs took more time, as at this point they had still not finalised details and were thinking of having the player capture and use enemies. Because of the large number of enemies in the game this meant each Legion would have a limited number of moves, and after discussing it with Nintendo they decided that it would be better to have quality over quantity, and settled on the five seen in the game.
As this was happening at the same time as the design process, they did not just provide Katsura with input on the Legion designs, but also gained inspiration from him. He notes that the Collector’s Edition artbook includes many of Katsura’s rough designs, and Kamiya says that he likes the one which looks like Wing-Man. The interviewer also says that depictions of women’s buttocks in Katsura’s art are especially popular and asks if they took care to replicate this in-game, and Taura says that they did, and that even if the designs were not by Katsura, good presentations of buttocks are part of Platinum Games’ fate.
The interviewer next asks about the option to be able to choose the player character (from two genders) and Taura says that it was something he wanted to include from the very beginning that he stuck with. He personally likes games with character customisation, and says that having the protagonist silent and letting the player change their clothes results in the player being able to emphathise more.
The theme song having male and female vocals was also an idea that came from the game’s current format, and Nintendo introduced them to Avex which provided them with samples, from which they selected Aoyama William and Beverly. Taura also notes that that the version of the insert song that plays in the game depends on the gender of the player character chosen, with female vocals for a female character and vice-versa. There are currently no plans to release a soundtrack separately, but Taura again brings up the Collector’s Edition, saying that it comes with a soundtrack CD.