Mega Drive Mini 2 Release Kei Shigema, Noriyuki Iwadare, and Toshiyuki Kubooka Interview Translation

Note from translator: For readability and sanity, I am omitting the original article's random bolding, numerous links to Wikipedia and other Beep articles, and image captions that consist of no commentary but a flotilla of credits. You know that Game Arts made Lunar and Sega made the Mega Drive/Genesis, right? You wouldn't be here if you didn't.
Last updated 11/3/22, what should be the final time, with the Toshiyuki Kubooka interview.

CELEBRATING the confirmed lineup for the Mega Drive Mini 2!

A number of Mega-CD masterpieces have been confirmed for the Mega Drive Mini 2, scheduled for release on October 27.

Among these titles are both entries in the Lunar series, the RPGs synonymous with the Mega-CD—an announcement that has caused a sensation among fans from the Mega-CD days.

This feature from Beep21 features Lunar series mainstays—script writer Kei Shigema; character designer Toshiyuki Kubooka; and Noriyuki Iwadare on music—as each looks back on the untold stories from the production of these Mega-CD titles.

Here, we present a number of those tales from the perspective of each creator, 30 years later.

Lunar: The Silver Star Liner Notes:

Here, we pass the baton to Lunar series script supervisor Kei Shigema as he looks back on tales of those days.

We hope you enjoy it.
*Sections of the piece below contain spoilers, so you might want to read this after enjoying the game... In other words, it might be prudent to save this until after you complete Lunar on the Mega Drive Mini 2.


It was June 26, 1992 that Lunar: The Silver Star went on sale as a Mega-CD exclusive. If you told me at the time that we all would still have the opportunity to enjoy it now, 30 years (!?) later, I probably wouldn't believe you.

The widespread rejoicing at the news that Lunar will be included on the Mega Drive Mini 2 has reached my ears as well. The reaction is beyond anything I could have expected. I'm beside myself, and I'm so grateful to you all—and a little embarrassed.

Kazunari Tomi, formerly of Nihon Falcom, /reached out to me, and we founded a company called "Studio Alex." I developed this game in a room of a 2DK apartment where I stayed overnight while on the job for Game Arts.


So far, I had written novels and scripts; for game development, I had taken on producer and production management-ish jobs at General Products (Gainax). This was my first time, however, building a full-fledged RPG from scratch, and it was a process of trial and error.

I couldn't just write a script; I had to order character designs, collect key frames for anime cutscenes, order music, create art materials, engage in PR, deal with the bank, negotiate with Game Arts—even now, I find it mind-boggling. It's amazing what you can do when you're young! However, experiencing the many aspects of game production in those days gave me a strong foundation for writing subsequent game scripts.


When writing Lunar, the initial premise that came from Mr. Tomi was "a tale of how Sakamoto Ryoma* spreads democracy in a blockaded fantasy world."

We racked our brains, but that idea went unrealized. I suppose there are traces of it in the Magic Emperor and the Grindery etc. I put the Grindery in because I originally wanted to do steampunk. I think I had an idea of something like a culture where steam-powered technology had advanced significantly in order to survive on the dark side of the moon, which was devoid of magic.

*Note: Sakamoto Ryoma, whom you may remember from Live A Live and who apparently is hot shit in newly-au courant 16-bit RPGs for some reason, is a samurai, swordsman, and thinker considered basically the father of Japanese democracy and a driving force behind its modernization. His Eight Proposals While Shipboard outline the governmental and societal reforms Sakamoto argued Japan needed to undertake to become a major player on the world stage. If you've played killer7, the Yakumo ("Eight Clouds"), the almost-divine plan for a perfect Japanese government sought by several parties in the story, is likely a reference to the Eight Proposals.

caption: still of the Magic Emperor from the TSS attract mode
You can certainly sense the steampunk influence.

caption: still of the SSS Grindery
This Grindery is from the Sega Saturn version.

I had no experience in writing RPG scripts, so I just jumped in and played it by ear, not knowing what was proper or how things were done, so Lunar: The Silver Star showcases me at my purest and most unguarded—it embodies the very origins of storytelling.

When I was a student, I was interested in writing novels and scripts, but I was stuck in a rural area, so no one around me worked in those fields. I had no idea of how to study for those professions. Therefore, I took as my textbooks my beloved Star Wars: Episode IV in the action-adventure department and, for some reason, My Fair Lady as a boy-meets-girl story. I saw these movies again and again and wrote down their lines, and at every cut, I would dissect the scene and analyze, in my own way, how it was structured.

Star Wars actually has a story structure that can be traced back to myth, as explained by Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. At the time, of course, I was completely unaware of that.

Even so, I think I felt that there was some sort of new myth there. I wanted to take these story structures, higher ideals, and likable character types that people universally find appealing and put them into something I could understand—to convert them into my own personal code, so to speak.

At the same time, there's that scene of Luke Skywalker gazing at the twin sunset on Tatooine—that unvoiced yearning to be somewhere, anywhere else. The call to far-off adventure. That so resonated with me, who, due to various circumstances, was stuck in a remote rural town.

When I set to this new task of writing an RPG story from scratch, I drew upon this old code that had become part of me—that was in my blood—to create this story.

This is how the hero Alex became this boy who looked up to the Four Heroes and dreamed of adventure.
This is how Lunar: The Silver Star was born as what looking back now is a relatively-classical "there and back again" tale.

By the way, My Fair Lady was where I learned about tsundere (though they didn't have that word at the time)! This might have something to do with Lucia from Eternal Blue—or maybe not.

Hi; this a woman speaking. Given the movie's age, I know this is unlikely, but if you are taking how Higgins treats Eliza as any sort of ideal for a relationship, please do not approach any woman ever. Thank you.


Another thing, when putting together the tale of Lunar, was the awareness from the very start that this was a historical drama, a long-running tale—a Taiga drama.* I'm not saying that I had sequels lined up or anything. What I mean is that there was somehow this sense that it was part of a larger tale.

*Note: Taiga dramas ("big-river dramas") are big-budget historical TV miniseries run by Japan's NHK network; they often feature a generational component to their stories.

So I emphasized to the staff starting in those early days: Lunar: The Silver Star is actually Episode 2 of the Lunar story!

Episode 1 was the story of Dyne & Ghaleon and the Four Heroes.
This is Part 2. And the next story will be Episode 3.

NHK's long-running "Taiga" period dramas can basically be described as the story of three generations. The hero is the 2nd generation. The second-generation hero inherits the hetupratyaya and karma*—the ties, obligations, and work—of the previous generation, of his parent, and breaks free—and, with a view to the next generation, there's a transition from age to age.

That's how the story became that of this game's hero, Alex, overcoming the past—the hetupratyaya and karma of the previous generation—as symbolized by Ghaleon.

*Note: Shigema uses words here—因縁, innen, and 業, gyou/gou—that can be interpreted either as generic or specifically Buddhist terms, hence the double translation. 業 can mean either one's work or one's karma. 因縁 can refer more generally to one's destiny or one's ties and connections with others, or it can refer to the Buddhist concepts of nidana and hetupratyaya—which both describe the events and contributing circumstances that lead, directly or indirectly, to current conditions or, more specifically, problems.


caption: that image art from the TSS arrangement CD where all the characters are reflected in sword blades
The characters reflected in swords; the one on the left edge is Ghaleon.

At first, I was really at a loss with the last boss, Ghaleon-sama; I didn't understand him well. Like, what are you trying to do? Who are you?

The first person I approached with this was Takeshi Hino, who had joined us as an associate writer.

caption: image of page from Beep!
From the March 1993 issue of Beep! Mega Drive. In an interview with Mr. Shigema and Mr. Hino before the game went to retail, they talk about Lunar's script and NPCs etc.

He told me: "Ghaleon is an anarchist!". And I was like, oh, really? And that defined him...

The anarchist idea was not a concept that was part of my personal character-creation code at the time, so initially, I was ???. But that was ultimately a good thing.

You see, Ghaleon-sama was always a mystery to me, and so I wrote him while he was a relative mystery. His treatment of Xenobia and whatnot was pretty horrible...

While writing Ghaleon-sama's lines, he would surprise me: oh, you're saying this, you think this? Then there's a scene in the Grindery where the fairies talk about Ghaleon-sama's nature, and while writing it, it was like it all finally clicked: ah, so that's the kind of person you are, then.

It was like I was able to have a conversation with Ghaleon-sama, like: We call you an anarchist, but ultimately, you were this surprisingly romantic, mushy person, weren't you?

But I'm really not that man's master. I try to kill him in the script, and he lives; I try to make him live, and he dies. Maybe I don't understand him well after all...


Lunar: The Silver Star was first created as a ROM (cartridge) game. We were developing it on a Sharp X68000 with homemade circuit boards stuck in it. It wasn't an official Sega development tool; I think it might have been a Game Arts original? I didn't exactly confirm it, so I don't really know.

We knew that the Mega Drive's unique display and colors would blur and run, and determining how faithfully everything would be reproduced on the TV screen was a process of trial and error.

I remember we went out and purposefully bought a little cheap TV monitor to test and see.

About...midway, I guess? through development, it shifted from a ROM to a CD-ROM title, but integrating support for the format from the ground up into the game was difficult, so we ended up making the opening an animation and playing the music via CD—we didn't know what to do with the space, really. CD-ROMs are huge!

That frustration was resolved with the sequel developed at Game Arts, Lunar: Eternal Blue. I understand that they were stressed for space on the CD-ROMs we thought were so huge and it was horrible.

I say "horrible," but—well, it's a funny story; Takeshi Hino, the writer, took it as a given that he would be staying overnight at the office in any event and just wouldn't go back home at all. This habit of his continued with Grandia.

That's fine, but he wasn't really bathing!...
So, every morning, when I went to work, the room would just be filled with this beastly odor... So my first order of business would be to go around opening the apartment windows while crying.

And so the development was good & well delayed, and the release date was adjusted several times (sorry; it was initially planned as a launch title). On June 26, 1992, the first installment in the Lunar series, Lunar: The Silver Star, was released.

The illustration on the disc jacket* was by Toshiyuki Kubooka, the character designer. The sword shining is due to optical processing at the time that the analog photo was taken. Mr. Kubooka and the photographer, Akinori Nakajima, worked hard to get it right, and I think that it—as well as the jacket and promo poster for the next game, Lunar: Eternal Blue—are masterpieces of the analog photography of the day.

*Note: Shigema refers to the illustration of Alex with his helmet off and Luna holding the sword.


And so, right after the launch of Lunar: The Silver Star, I separated from Studio Alex.

Of course, video game production is very fun and worthwhile, but I wanted to concentrate a bit more on my job as a writer.
While writing this script, I so keenly felt: "I want to be a writer who's nothing but a writer."

As I was leaving, Mr. Tomi made a prediction: "You'll come back to game production, Shigema. That's the magic of video games."

"Don't think that's gonna happen," I replied—but now, I see he was completely correct.

And so...
I had returned to freelance writing for a while when I got a call.
"This is Yoichi Miyaji at Game Arts. Mr. Shigema, do you have a moment to weigh in a sequel to Lunar?"

And so onward to Lunar: Eternal Blue!


The following segment is presented in a question-and-answer format.

Now, Kei Shigema responds to questions submitted by all of you!

- How was it that you came to work with the character designer, Toshiyuki Kubooka, and the composer, Noriyuki Iwadare? Also, please share any memorable episodes from your time together.

Mr. Kubooka, I worked with when I was involved with producer and production management-type duties on Cybernetic Hi-School Part 3 at Gainax.
And I couldn't help but just think: whoa, wow, this guy's awesome!, and I really wanted to work with him on an original project someday.
Shortly after I set to work on production on Lunar, the president of General Products, Yasuhiro Takeda (Kaiketsu Noutenki), got married, and I met up with Mr. Kubooka again at the ceremony. Right then and there, I made an offer to him asking if he would handle the character design, and he accepted—and that was how that happened.
And when the first rough sketches came in, I really thought: I'm so glad that I asked him to do this!
For this game, we really didn't have that much of a back-and-forth about the story or anything, but Mr. Kubooka liked the Russian animated film The Snow Queen and often talked about it. I think the relationship between Kai and Gerda has an influence on that of Alex and Luna.
The key frames for the animated scenes in the main game were done by Shunji Suzuki—through my Gainax ties, as with Mr. Kubooka.
At night, when I went to collect the key frames, I'd go to this anime studio in Egota named Graviton. Graviton was this studio Hideki Anno and Shoichi Masuo and others had set up in this apartment, in one room, and when I'd go there, it'd be Mr. Suzuki, Mr. Kubooka, Mr. Masuo, and Hiroki Takagi all crammed in there.
While waiting for the key frames from Mr. Suzuki, I'd be talking with everyone about everything, and I was extremely fortunate to be able to see first-hand the realities of an animation production studio.

Mr. Iwadare, I first met before the start of the Two Five music production company.
Through introductions via Game Arts, I met Isao Mizoguchi, alias Don McCow*, who would be handling music production, and it was determined from there that Mr. Iwadare would be the composer.
It wound up my responsibility to order the in-game music. I'd never done this before, so I was at wits' end trying to figure out what to do, when I remembered that I'd happened to catch a glimpse of Mr. Anno handling the same job in my Gainax days.

Mr. Anno had a huge collection of personal CDs, and he'd go, "I'd like this composition to sound like from 1:20 to 2:15 on track 2 of this CD," so I thought, well, this is the way you've got to do it.
So the meeting for the music began with me handing over this enormous amount of CDs, going like, "I want the battle theme to be like track 3 on this CD." I learned afterward from a composer that this was extremely rude, and I was so sorry—that was no way to start a working relationship with someone!... Mr. Iwadare just laughed it off and took it like: Oh, it's fine; it's actually very easy to understand~! Of course, it won't turn out like just the sample tracks, though~! The ultimate result was of course completely different from the samples, but it subtly followed along the lines of what I wanted. I remember I was so impressed—he was a real pro!

*Note: About Mizoguchi's alias: The Newtype 100% SSS artbook translates it as "Don Makkou," in Roman letters, which I have followed previously. The cover of a 1997 compilation of some of his video game work, however, reveals that this is supposed to be "McCow," though the sounds don't match up (the "ou" in the raw "Makkou" rhymes with "owe" or "whoa" and does not make the English name of the animal that goes "moo"—though some aspect of Gaelic with which I'm unfamiliar is probably going to rear its head at this point). I'm using "McCow" here, though if the man's own collaborators didn't know the intended romanization of his stage name, I sure can't be expected to guess it.

- For the NPC dialogue, Lunar has a gigantic number of lines prepared for NPCs in villages etc. Even at the end of the story, if you go back to the very first towns, there are lines responding to the situation—that surprised me. Why did you write so many?

Well, um, I was making an RPG for the very first time, after all, so I didn't know how tough it was going to be. If I had known...well, I did it, I guess.
I wasn't satisfied with the "signpost" NPCs in the RPGs I had played up until that point—I wanted to depict the NPCs as individuals who were inhabiting this world, who gave a sense of it.
So I tried to update their dialogue continuously, as much as I could. After all, they were inhabiting this world along with the player, so it's only natural that as circumstances changed, what they said would, too.
Even at the climax of the story, you can go back to those very first towns and villages, so the hero fighting to save the world (the player) can remind himself of what he's fighting for and confirm to himself that this world is worth saving.

Lunar is basically an action-adventure story where, in saving the girl, you happen to also save the world in the process. But when you're on this long, long journey and happen to look back, you see how much you've accomplished, you see these people and have come to know part of their lives, and, above all, you want to protect not just the girl but these people, their tomorrow—that's what I wanted the hero (the player) to think.

That's the hero's motive for fighting, I believe.

caption: TSS illustration with Alex & Luna gazing over the landscape on the left and Alex, sword raised, with Luna & dark Luna in the background on the right; used on many of the TSS U.S. CDs
In this light, Alex's motive for fighting really comes through in this image illustration, doesn't it?

- How did you wind up working with Game Arts?

Together with Mr. Tomi, who would found Studio Alex, we took our proposal around to several game makers.
I'd worked with Game Arts in my Gainax (General Products) days, and I was aware they were a very creative group. We didn't have a single system in place yet, and they still took our proposal very seriously, gave us support, and worked together with us, providing us backup.

- What was your initial image of each character?

The old materials collection has Mr. Kubooka's early sketches; almost all the main characters stayed close to their initial concepts.

caption: cover of Lunar I & II artbook w/ pages on Luna
The Lunar I & II Official Materials Collection (April 1995, SoftBank) is a treasure trove of documentation of the Lunar series.

caption: Lunar I & II artbook pages on Alex
It's clear that the initial rough sketches were used in the game almost unaltered.

At the time, I didn't really like RPGs with female warriors fighting in bikini armor (though I do now), so I drafted a storyline that started from this backwater northern farm village—like, "it's cold; put some clothes on." Also, Celtic culture wasn't yet that trendy, so I went with that impression, that the village might be geographically located in Ireland or northern Europe.

As for character creation, I created Nall with the idea that talking animals were a staple. Alex wasn't going to speak, so Nall would speak for him. Feature-length Toei Animation projects such as Puss in Boots, Animal Treasure Island, and The Little Norse Prince were my starting points, so, well, that's how that happened.

Luna, I envisioned as something like an idealized version of the female childhood friend who would be the same age as you but kind of acted like she was older, the big sister. And there's usually an evil Luna sleeping in those types...

Note: The caption of the image here—a portrait of Luna from Harmony—contains solely creator info and no commentary, and I've been skipping captions of this type for brevity. I will note, though, that the usually-assiduous captions credit solely Toshiyuki Kubooka for the character design. While this is of course correct, Akari Funato has claimed on Twitter that she was the one who actually drew, uncredited, the Kubooka-style portrait art in the Harmony PSP remake. (Also, given the revelations in these interviews, Shunji Suzuki should start getting some co-credit with Toshiyuki Kubooka for the in-game TSS cutscenes, shouldn't he.)

Jessica, Kyle, Nash, and Mia came together in my writing just like that, with almost no difficulty whatsoever. Even I was amazed; it was like they had been in my head all along. They somehow seem reminiscent of U.K. children's literature, so maybe they come from there.
Ghaleon-sama, I said before, but he's a mystery to me even now.
Dyne has a role where he has to commit a mythological parricide, so I made him as great and big-hearted a man as possible—a father figure for a boy. The voice work for him in the Saturn version by Akio Otsuka was perfect!

Admiral Mel—thinking back now, I get the feeling for some reason that he was inspired by Captain Dyce from Future Boy Conan. Lemia-sama, I...don't really know. She must have been a real tomboy when she was younger—though she herself would have hidden it. Also, I don't think Ramus was modeled on me. Mr. Kubooka said that, but I just can't see it...

Anyhow: I just threw myself into this project practically totally unprepared, totally unready, and played it by ear, having to create a game completely from scratch, and everything within me just came out raw, unfiltered, and immature. That's the Mega-CD version of Lunar: The Silver Star, I think. I'm really embarrassed people are playing it after 30 years, and I kind of wish I could run and hide, but...well, still, looking back on it after all this time and thinking of all that followed, I can say that it wasn't a mistake, how it came out, it wasn't bad, and I'm glad I made it...I think. Right?
I hope you all play it on the Mega Drive Mini 2.
I'd love for all the Uncles from Another World* out there to play it, too...

*Note: The titular character from the Uncle from Another World manga is evidently a big Sega fan who's very disappointed to learn of the company's withdrawal from console manufacturing during his time in a coma.

—By the way: all this happened at least 30 years ago, so I might be misremembering some things. To everyone involved: I'm sorry! I apologize in advance.

Next time, I'll be talking about Lunar: Eternal Blue, so if you have any questions, please send them in.
If there's anything I remember about Lunar: The Silver Star, I'll include that, too.
Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the Mega Drive Mini 2. The composer, Mr. Iwadare, and I are talking about how we want to do an LP!

Lunar: The Silver Star:

Sound guru Noriyuki Iwadare speaks!

In this installment: Noriyuki Iwadare, head of sound.

How did he tackle the task of composing for Lunar on the Mega-CD?

Mr. Iwadare's first job for a Mega Drive game was actually the sound for After Burner II!

This column is full of never-before-told stories. We hope you'll read it to the very end.

Hello! I'm composer Noriyuki Iwadare. First of all, I'm grateful that we have such a devoted, passionate publication as Beep21 out there, and to all of you taking the time to read an article about stories almost 30 years after the fact—thank you. You're all really awesome! Thank you so much!!!

Well, then, without further ado, allow me to look back on today's topic: Lunar: The Silver Star.


After I graduated from university, I moved from band stuff and playing my keyboard every day to joining CUBE, which specialized in creating game music—something with which I hadn't had much experience at the time. I'd composed a number of pieces as a hobby, but doing it professionally, for money? ...The idea never entered my mind. Well, my first job was for the Mega Drive port of After Burner II, so I set to work rather lightheartedly—"FM sound, huh? Well, it's all good; I have a Yamaha DX7, I've done that."

caption: photo of After Burner II on the Mega Drive
Mr. Iwadare says his first job was actually After Burner II for the Mega Drive (*this was news to our editorial staff at the time, too). He says it was pretty difficult to replicate the guitar sound on the Mega Drive, but afterward, that led to many other Mega Drive jobs. But that's another story...hopefully, one that will be told in Beep21. Anyhow: After Burner II is also on the upcoming Mega Drive Mini 2, so be sure to check out its sound!

Afterward, I was involved in a great many game titles, where the composition jobs were less "frantic" than "enjoyable." I'm afraid I have to leave out the more interesting stories from today's article... I racked up a variety of experiences and accomplishments, and I finally—or should I say "suddenly"—wound up with my first job for Game Arts: the challenge of composing for Lunar: The Silver Star, their first title for a new platform called the "Mega-CD."


At first, you know, I was told, I heard, "don't expect a new contract with Game Arts"—because Game Arts was working together as a tag team with Mecano Associates for Silpheed and Zeliard, you see. So there had been a lot of people who had been told, "we don't have any room for new hires!", apparently—there was this understanding. But for some reason, Isao Mizoguchi (later Don McCow), who was handling sales for CUBE at the time, came in saying, "I got us a job! Looks like it's gonna be awesome!" But, you know, for someone completely ignorant like me, I was happier that I'd finally be liberated from internal sound sources (FM sound) rather than about all that adult stuff.

To give some semblance of an explanation (though I suspect it's probably too late for you reading this article), the Mega Drive had the bad-sounding PCM sound produced by playing around with FM sound, PSG sound, FM sound—anyhow, it was FM sound! The DX7 came on the market in 1983, but the freshness, the shock, the infinite expressiveness of the sound that resulted from the transition from the sound of the analog synthesizers of old to digital just took the music world by storm. Listening to the music of the time, everyone was using the DX7 in their compositions—the influence was just earth-shattering. I myself had the opportunity to come in contact with the DX7 in my university days. After I graduated, I bought a DX7 a friend had and subsequently enjoyed creating lots of different sounds on it, but it was never omnipotent. The fatal flaw was when it came to strings. The strings never came through, no matter what you did. With FM sound, where clarity was the appeal, it wasn't very good at those "aggregated" sounds, you know? That's why CD-DA [Redbook] music playback was so appealing. The PC Engine and whatnot were already using CD-DA for music playback, and I thought, "ahhh; that's the stuff"—but finally, the CD age had come for the Mega Drive, too! It was just so overwhelming for me, the Mega-CD! Such a blessed union! And we all know how boys are all about those blessed unions, don't we! (Get your mind out of the gutter.) It's just—those two huge AC adapters...they were a real problem! Well, the AC adapter nightmare continued after that, but let's leave it there...


The Game Arts staff were all battle-tested veterans. Toshiyuki Kubooka, the character designer, with his masterpiece Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water..."hey, I know that!" Kei Shigema, the scriptwriter, with his masterpiece Silent Mobius..."hey, I know that, too!" ("Hey, Ramus is Mr. Shigema, isn't he?!" was my first thought when I met him.) I was just a bundle of nerves, collaborating with such luminaries—my heart was just pounding! There was an idea to have me do the music all by myself, but...of course, I didn't have the skill, or the guts, to do that with this crew. I didn't have the confidence, at any rate, and so I worked together with everyone at the company at the time.


This was the Mega-CD, so we'd be using CDs, of course, but with a standard music CD, the best you can do is 74 minutes of audio tracks. I thought, "it's a CD; I'll have so much time!", but... This was a game, of course, so we had graphics, programming, and anime cutscene movies to put on the disc, too—so it ended up that the actual amount of space I could use for music was only 30 minutes! When I divided that up by the number of compositions, it amounted to—30 seconds for each track?? At the time, game music tracks were generally 1-minute loops standard, so having to create good music tracks the player wouldn't get tired of hearing again and again at half that length...uhhhh. This was far different from what I'd done in the past, and far more difficult! I also learned that in order to use CD-DA playback, the composition has to loop back to the very beginning from its very mean, I couldn't loop compositions in the middle, like I'd been doing so far? I have to really think about these compositions! But the coup de grace was the seek time! I was told it would take time to transition from the end of a track back to the beginning, and I learned that in the meantime, the sound would cut right out—snap! This dead air—the "seek time"—it was about a whole second...I mean, come on. These were 30-second compositions, so if it impacted the start of the tracks too heavily, it'd rapidly get annoying hearing it again and again—having to keep the seek time in mind while composing would make for some difficult-to-get-into compositions. I felt that a mountain of problems was piling up even before I could start composing.

As for my equipment: at the time, I was using a PC-98 computer. I had a hometown Epson PC-286VF upgraded to a 486, plus a 98NOTE notebook and a Come On Music Recomposer for a sequencer. For sound sources, I used a Roland S-330 (sampler), a SC-55 MK2, a Juno-106, a D-110, a U-220, a TR-909 (rhythm machine), plus a Yamaha DX7 and a TX81Z and a Korg M3R*, I think. Maybe I had a little more than that? I don't really remember. I think I recorded them to DAT using a Soundcraft mixer. I think I also used an Akai S900. Everyone just brought all the machines they owned into the company and just piled them all together! I'd turn them all on, turn off the lights in the room, and just bask in the lights on the machines... Well, anyone who worked in a music store at the time did the same thing! I just loved my sound equipment—I used it until it fell apart.

I want to go into way more detail, but I don't have at hand any of the materials at all I had at the time; not even the track data exists anymore, actually. I looked up the data on the notebook I was using before, but for some reason, it doesn't exist anymore. I imagine I have a backup somewhere, but it'd be on a 5-inch 2HD floppy. I'd be thrilled to find it, but it's like: how would I get anything off of it? And I'd have to find the disk in the depths of my home first! (I still have my PC-98. I have the monitor, too! I don't know if it still works, though...)


But I did some research. For Lunar: The Silver Star, there are 51 CD-DA files in all. Sometimes, the same track was used in different places, so I think the real number is actually like 35? About 8 tracks were done with FM (internal) sound. There were 140 sound effects. The composition was handled by Hiroshi Fujioka, Yoshiaki Kubodera, Isao Mizoguchi, and myself—four people. Each used his own sound sources to record, but I arranged and recorded Mr. Mizoguchi's work. I composed the main tracks: the title screen; the opening theme, "LUNAR"; Burg village; Ghaleon's theme; the battle themes; the pub singer's theme; Luna's theme, etc.


I actually put particular effort into that scene where Luna sings at the spring. Having the accompaniment be just Alex playing along with his harp was kind of difficult, so I ended up adding more notes. The songs were all sung by Mayumi Sudo. She specializes in vocal mimicry, apparently.

Finally, the game got finished, and went to retail, and when I actually played this "Lunar: The Silver Star"...I've never actually confessed this before, but I actually was just filled with self-loathing. There was just so much where I thought, "I should've done it more like this..." There was a whole ending track that I created but threw in the trash...

Of course, there were many tracks I liked, but there are also a lot of tracks where I'm: why did I do it this way? RPGs are tough! But the fun of this project really shone through for me.

That was the view from my perspective, anyway—but I am truly filled with emotion that the time has come that we can finally again play Lunar: The Silver Star, a game filled with such bittersweet memories for me. I hope you play this game—and enjoy the frustration, joy, and passion that the rest of Lunar's musical body of work inherited, and look forward to how it all evolves.

caption: article in Beep on CUBE
The first time we were featured in Beep Megadrive! Ah, the memories!!

caption: photo of packages of Saturn EB, Saturn SSS, Game Gear Strolling School, Mega-CD EB, and Mega-CD TSS, plus a Working Designs Playstation SSS
Mr. Iwadare has the Lunar series archived at his house like so.

The Secrets of Making the Characters:

Important Note: The following section of the feature, focused on character designer Toshiyuki Kubooka, differs from the previous two sections in a few ways. First, there's no unique prelude; it just launches into the interview. Second, it's in an interview format—not like the part where Kei Shigema responds to reader questions; it's a back-and-forth conversation with (apparently) a single journalist.
Third, the overly-helpful interviewer or a meddling editor has evidently added a slew of mostly-pointless "explanatory" comments to Kubooka's words. I say "evidently" because these comments are in parentheses—not in brackets, as is standard practice to differentiate clearly between the interviewee's words and material added in editing. To muddy things, a) at a couple points, the parenthetical comments do indeed seem to be asides by Kubooka, not "clarification" from the interviewer, and b) there's one paragraph, marked below, where I think the comments cross the line into outright putting words in Kubooka's mouth.
I considered simply changing the parentheses to brackets, but the couple places where the parenthetical text does seem to be Kubooka speaking would force me to make judgment calls I'm not comfortable making—we don't need another layer of unreliability here. I've therefore kept the parentheses in place, but keep in mind that you should probably treat the parentheses as brackets—as
Beep! speaking, and not Kubooka.


—Mr. Kubooka, we realize you're busy with your current work; could you first tell us about what you're working on presently?

Kubooka: For the past several years, I've mainly been involved with directorial work for TV animes. They've already aired, but there's been the Kirara-style gritty, tropey sports drama Harukana Receive, with everything from shaving drama to tears of passion, and Wandering Witch, where the pretty little full-of-herself witch Elaina wanders from place to place and has just a horrible time. Coming next year (2023), I have Handyman Saito in Another World, where everyman powers explode onto an isekai, and the bird-headed battle action anime Shangri-La Frontier, where a guy who likes kuso games takes on a top-flight title! Check them out, if you like!

—Thank you so much for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule to speak with Beep21.
Lunar was released in 1992; it's been 30 years. Before getting involved with Lunar, you were just wrapping up the TV anime Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water...right?

Kubooka: After Nadia, I joined a different studio for an OVA job; it was probably around that point. That OVA job was delayed for various reasons, and I was doing the character design (along with Akihiko Yamashita) on Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still—it was a rush job. It was probably then; I remember slipping in the Mia character as the design for the heroine to save time...

—Mr. Shigema was saying that he himself approached you about the job; was that how the topic of Lunar came up?

Kubooka: Yes, it was. It was when the Gunbuster OVA ended and I was doing a little work on a mah-jongg game that's difficult to talk about to other people. Mr. Shigema, who was at Gainax at the time, was overseeing it, and he approached me saying that he was making an RPG next and asking if I'd do the character design. That was how it all started. I didn't go to Game Arts for the initial meeting; I went to Studio Alex, which was handling the planning & production. There, I met Mr. (Kazunari) Tomi, one of the fathers of Lunar. At this time, it was still rare to see people from the anime field (in gaming), so I remember being praised that "your art has such a sense of motion to it."

How about your first meeting with Yoichi Miyaji, (formerly) of Game Arts? What was your first impression of him?

Kubooka: I visited Game Arts afterward, and it was this vast space with these computers and just these mountains of thick technical books, and I was overwhelmed. I don't really remember my first meeting with Yoichi Miyaji, since it was just obliterated by that subsequent memory, but he was a hot-blooded man: he always ran about 5°C hotter than the room. I also heard that around the time of Eternal Blue he got completely absorbed in development and would stay overnight at the office, which would cause problems for the employees. I have lots of various memories of him, but it really hits home with him how essential the presence of a passionate producer is to a good work.


—Mr. Kubooka, had you played video games before your involvement with Lunar?

Kubooka: I'd just gone to the arcade once in a while. Around the time that I did Lunar, though, I think I hardly went (to the arcade) anymore. I don't think I had any home game consoles or anything before doing Lunar, either. My memory's a little hazy, though. I have a memory, maybe around the time of Eternal Blue, where I couldn't beat the last boss of FFIV (4), and I asked someone at Game Arts how to beat it, so maybe I had an SFC. Together with Mr. (Shunji) Suzuki, doing the sakuga for the anime parts of Silver Star, we got from Game Arts a valuable Wondermega together with software, and we played a lot of stuff on it. I was obsessed with Sonic, even though I was bad at it!

—Until that point, you'd worked mainly in anime. From that perspective, what was your impression of working in games?

Kubooka: It was a world I didn't really have much to do with; the topic of games didn't really come up among my colleagues. RPGs seemed fun, but I kind of had a problem with the visuals—the chibi characters, etc. The head-body ratio—it just looks like a joke, like it's for kids.

—Were there other colleagues of yours (from the world of anime) who worked in games? What about the differences between working on games and working on anime?

Kubooka: Moving from the anime industry to the game industry, there were some (a few) who changed careers to doing graphics for game companies—that's it. I've long forgotten my own experiences, but actually, at the first anime company I was at, I did some game work.

—On what kind of games?

Kubooka: There was this anime game that seemed inspired by Dragon's Lair—it wasn't much different from a regular anime job. The developer was Data East, and the animation studio was Toei, and I even visited Data East headquarters.

—The animation in Dragon's Lair was so innovative at the time, wasn't it?! Was this game ever released?...

Kubooka: They actually had test plays and everything, but unfortunately, I heard the game was shelved afterward.

—What?!... That's such a waste!

Kubooka: It's difficult (for the player) to make judgments based solely on animated footage, so you control it based on arrows on the screen, but in action, you didn't need the video on screen to play it, so—plus, it didn't have the charisma of Dragon's Lair, and so it never came out...that's what I heard, and it didn't surprise me. But I managed to draw some good key frames for my abilities at the time, and it's kind of a shame it didn't come out.

*Addendum from our editorial staff:

Actually, the next day, we got some information from our editorial staff: could this be Chantze's Stone? Released in 1994 as a LaserActive Mega LD title under the name Triad Stone, then subsequently in 1995 for the Sega Saturn under the new name Strahl: The Seven Secret Lights. When we asked Mr. Kubooka...

Kubooka: That's it! So it did come out!... Here I am, seeing it 30-odd years later. The sakuga are way better than the OVAs I was doing at the time at the company, too. Oh, I remember—"Power! Power! Power! Power!" That was a catchphrase for a while among everyone. Such memories! Anyhow, I'm glad all my effort didn't go to waste. Thank you.

The editorial staff also remembers that "Power! Power!" was also popular among the writers who were playing the game on Mega LD at the time.

An oddity: Toshiyuki Kubooka is not listed in the game's credits—but Isao Mizoguchi and Noriyuki Iwadare are, in the "Special Thanks" section.


—By the way, Lunar was a Mega CD title; did it feel different in any way, being a CD-ROM game?

Kubooka: I didn't really understand the hardware, but it really felt kind of next-generation to me—I understood that because of the hefty specs, we could add an opening like in a TV anime, or play voice acting over game screens. Even so, making it run like a regular anime was still beyond its limits, so you had to draw all in pixels, revise stuff by hand, and it was a struggle to make things quality—that was my impression. I felt like it was a world where craftsmanship reigned: the art for faces and such would change depending on who was doing the drawing.

—What parts of the work exactly did Game Arts ask you to do, Mr. Kubooka?

Kubooka: For Silver Star, I mainly did the character design and promotional illustrations. I mean, basically, that's all I did. I look on the internet, and I remember doing the face screens (for the cast) and some event art like with Althena, but this wasn't much of in terms of work volume. All other event art, the opening and ending storyboards and sakuga—they were all handled by Shunji Suzuki. Eternal Blue was initially planned to be the same way, handled by Mr. Suzuki, but things happened, and I ended up handling it (Eternal Blue) myself.

—When designing the characters, was there any particular vision you had in mind or anything you paid particular attention to?

Kubooka: It was presumed that the characters (in the game) would be chibi, so Mr. (Kazunari) Tomi at Studio Alex told me at a very early stage that they'd need to have points that would be very identifiable. V shapes on the chest, horns on their foreheads—that kind of thing would be good, I was told. I said, "got it," and I have a memory of adding stuff like the protrusions on Ghaleon's headpiece on the spot.

—I see. So that's how the design of Ghaleon's headpiece came to be.

Kubooka: That's the reason for those character parts and characteristics being added; they didn't really have any functional meaning. It's particularly apparent in the very first Lunar; I guess there are a lot of easily-identifiable characters (we didn't pay as much attention to that in Eternal Blue). Also, there was an idea that the world of Lunar was a little cold, so one distinguishing trait was how fur was incorporated here and there. With Luna, I incorporated folk costume-ish elements whenever possible—I wanted it to seem somehow as if she were from an unknown foreign country somewhere. It's like she lives somewhere in northern Europe. She's pretty much the character who represents the look of Lunar to me.

—That ties into something Mr. Shigema was talking about! By the way, who were the very first characters you worked on?

Kubooka: Alex, Luna...I guess. I don't have specific memories of the (design) period, but I think it took me a while, since there were parts of the job with which I wasn't that experienced, and I was trying to come up with some more ideas.

—Who are your favorite characters, and who are the characters with whom you had difficulty? Also, did you choose the voice actors, Mr. Kubooka?

Kubooka: My favorite characters are Mia and Jessica. The character I had difficulty with—I guess it's Ghaleon, right? I don't really know (laughs). The voice actors, I wasn't really that familiar with them, so I left the casting completely to others.

caption: still from Mia's introduction in SSS
From Lunar. Mia Ausa, daughter of Lemia Ausa, one of the former Four Heroes, and the next Guildmistress. *Image is from the Sega Saturn version.

caption: still from Jessica's introduction in SSS
From Lunar. Jessica Alkirk, only daughter of Mel, governor of the free city of Meribia. *Image is from the Sega Saturn version.


—What did you think when you saw the game screens in motion on the Mega CD? What were your impressions?

Kubooka: I remember enjoying the game at home as usual. Going to stores that had it on sale and seeing it, too. I have this vivid memory of this boy about middle school-age staring at the opening playing on loop in the store and muttering, "cool." There were greater limitations compared to anime, so I was wondering how it would turn out—so for that reason in particular, I was rather relieved.

—Any memories of Lunar, looking back?

If you're a fan from way back, you might know that there was a TV commercial. By the time that talk of this TV commercial (and doing the work on it) came down to me, there was, of course, about two weeks until it hit the airwaves—no more. It was pretty horrible. I also did key frames (for the TV commercial), but looking on YouTube, I see that the Earth's 3D, and the camera movement's all digital-like; I have to wonder how they did that in that age. At the time, too, we were still in the heyday of film, but I have no memories of sending stuff in for compositing or anything around that time. I had a Mac and Photoshop somewhere too, so it might have been digital coloring, but I don't really remember. I have a memory of visiting a—3D, maybe?—studio somewhere, so maybe I did just the whole thing there...maybe. It really is a mystery. By the way, that's Ms. (Mayumi) Sudo singing the song in the commercial there.

From the editorial staff:

Actually, we published the secrets behind the production of the Lunar TV commercial in the "Be Mega CM Detective Squad" feature in the August 1992 issue of Beep! Mega Drive. We present it here for your enjoyment.

Note: This translation does not present this puff piece for your enjoyment. Go hit up Sega Retro's magazine archive if you're interested.

caption: brief puff piece on TSS TV ad
The comments from the Sega PR department contact mention that: "Actually, except for the couple and the grass in the foreground, it's all CG processing! If you don't look reeeeeeally close, you'll miss it, but there's motion there that's just not possible in traditional anime!" The article also states that the commercial started airing on June 11, 1992, while recording began on May 27—a tight schedule. Plus, the article preserves important information such as the name of the production companies.

Note: Dentsu and Vis are the production companies. Otherwise: This article is like two paragraphs of marketing text from marketing execs about a marketing tool. It's not freaking Herodotus.

—Have you ever played Lunar, as a game?

Kubooka: Yes, I've played it, and enjoyed it as a player. To me, it was both the first game I worked on and the first RPG I played, but I really loved the cozy, laid-back atmosphere that's unique to Silver Star. Combined with that vast map, that might be the real essence of Lunar.


—How did you react after hearing of the upcoming Mega Drive Mini 2 and Lunar's unbelievable revival after 30 whole years?

Note: The interviewer seems to have put words into Kubooka's mouth in the response to this question. Please see the note below before quoting this paragraph in any capacity.

Kubooka: I was shocked that it had been 30 whole years—time really got away from me. And that makes it all the more moving: for a game that had been as forgotten as the hardware that ran it to come back. With anime, productions can hang around for one reason or another, but with games, there are aspects where it's like it's their fate, in a way (to not be played anymore when the hardware goes away*), and it's tough, you know? With Eternal Blue in particular, the timing was bad (overlapping the release window of the Sega Saturn*), and it ended up being an obscure title, so everyone involved must have been just bawling at this revival. I'd like there to be a digital archive, too (for example, on the cloud*), but's it's of course good that you can get your hands on it again! It's like this little kid's backpack you can just tote with you!

I don't know if these parenthetical comments are additions by our overly-"helpful" interviewer or not. I suspect the former, since they concern market stuff like console release windows with which Kubooka, who professes to be ignorant of the in and outs of games, wouldn't be familiar. If so, their length kind of oversteps the boundaries of what's acceptable parenthetical clarification vs. putting words in someone's mouth. My advice is to treat the italicized text above as not actually spoken by Kubooka.
Also, who interprets a wish for a "digital archive" of a game as wanting it specifically to be "on the cloud"? Do you understand what "the cloud" is?

caption: photo of Game Arts CEO Yoichi Miyaji holding a Mega Drive Mini 2
The Mega Drive Mini 2 is really small in your hands, as you can see from this photo of ours of Yoichi Miyaji. So many games with so many memories are packed into this little console! *Our interview with Mr. Miyaji will be released in the coming days; we hope you look forward to it!


—Fans also rejoiced at the Lunar series illustration you drew to commemorate this release, Mr. Kubooka. Are there any comments about this illustration you'd like to share, or things you'd like to point out?

Kubooka: It's probably not good to say I delivered it by midday the same day (as the livestream), is it? (cries) Anyhow, I guess I'd like to point out (about this illustration) that even after 30 years, I still, naturally, forgot to draw the tattoos on Hiro's cheek. I often did before, too, and sure enough, I did it again. It's been a while, but for some reason, this time, I just wanted to try drawing Lucia with an intense expression. It's like, emotion has sprouted in Lucia, and she's become less goddess-like and more human, and there's this rage and hatred that can't be repressed. Now, when I do Eternal Blue, it's like I get more messily emotional, I guess. I've never really liked it when the violence and fear from these goddess-type characters is just talk; I've always struggled to show a lot more in the visuals. Like, we have when Daenerys crossed the line in Game of Thrones, but I think, like, the fear of a goddess lies in this capacity for savagery.

—One last question. For those who are going to play Lunar with the upcoming release of the Mega Drive Mini 2, is there anything you'd like them to check out, anything you'd like them to keep in mind while playing, or anything you hope they enjoy?

Kubooka: In brief, I think Lunar is a simple, straightforward RPG, and I don't know how much of that intention comes through 30 years later. I imagine some will just think it feels old, but in some ways, we were trying to make a timeless classic—in fact, I'd say that was our primary goal. Some might say it was the easy route or the well-trodden path, but I think Mr. Shigema and those on the development team to some degree probably shared that sentiment. It'd be my pleasure if you enjoyed this moving story unshaken by time and the game that serves as its framework.


—Thank you very much! We have coverage for the sequel, Lunar: Eternal Blue, planned for our special issue for the Mega Drive Mini 2 release, so if you'd like to preview what revelations you have in store for that, please go ahead.

Kubooka: There are several scenes from Eternal Blue that didn't make it into the remake; one of them was the part with Lucia singing to the birds on the ship etc. I'm planning to talk in detail about that, with stories about the remake mixed in, plus a story about Lucia and a certain idol game character, and more. Look forward to it!

caption: in-game still of Lucia just arrived from the Blue Star
Don't miss Mr. Kubooka's upcoming tales of Lunar: Eternal Blue! We hope you're looking forward to them!