In addition to the large interview on Fire Emblem Echoes; Shadows of Valentia featured in Nintendo Dream’s July 2017 (released May 2017) issue, there was a section with Hidari (character designer) and his comments on some of the various aspects of character design of the game.
You can also learn more about the illustrator himself. There is also some concept art shown here and there.
This took me some time to scan, edit, and translate (not to mention buying the magazine), so if you’re feeling generous, please feel free to leave a donation!
The Gods Behind Character Creation
In this corner of the magazine, we ask questions to the artists who breathe life into the characters of the game! Today, Mr. Hidari, a character designer with a varied portfolio spreading across light novels, anime, and games appears! He is the designer behind Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (from here on, just Echoes).
Profile: Mr. Hidari
Freelance Illustrator. Illustrator behind novels like Usotsuki Mii-kun to Kowareta Maa-chan*, and anime like Fractale, Natsuiro Kiseki**, and Room Mate. He handled a wide range of character designs for three games in the Atelier Ayesha (Dusk) series.
*Lit: Lying Mii-kun and Broken Maa-chan
**Lit: A Summer-Colored Miracle
When did you start drawing illustrations?
I always liked drawing pictures since I was a kid. While my friends would draw people like Goku and Vegeta (*1), I would usually be drawing weapons, dungeons, logos, and other inorganic things.
I fell in love with manga in middle school. Through imitating other artists, I came to be able to draw people much more naturally, too.
I think the biggest turning point in terms of drawing people for me came with the advent of CG. From age 20 I was able to start coloring my pictures, and so began to pay more attention to all the intricacies of coloring.
Alm’s initial design. As it was a remake, I had to consider how much the character should resemble the original, and often sought consultation on the matter. His blue armor retained its regal air at first, but from these drafts one can see I was trying to decide whether to go on a “simple” design (based on the fact he was raised in a village), or one that was more “out of place (to the context). [-Hidari]
I draw illustrations with a Cintiq 24HD Wacom Tablet, and use the program Clipstudio. I didn’t really have to do anything too out of the ordinary for this game when it came to my drawing process, though I did have to remain aware of special metallic effects such as dents in the armor and all that. [-Hidari]
How did you come up with the various character poses?
The poses had to be something that could express the characters in a suitable way, but since there were quite a few characters, I had to come up with quite a variety of poses to avoid them becoming dull or repetitive.
In Awakening and Fates, the designer Mr. Yusuke Kozaki’s (*2) characters were shown from all sorts of angles, such as back view or sitting down. Seeing them drawn that way, I realized that he set a precedent that I too could get away with doing!
On other media I’ve worked on, I’m used to hearing, “Please make it front view [only]” or “We can’t see their waist if they’re sitting [so don’t do it.]”
What was your aim with Echoes?
Well, as a whole it was designed as a remake, so I sought to retain the air of a “good old fantasy” while also aiming to appeal and be acceptable to today’s players. I had to actively strive to maintain a balance between the two.
Regarding the clothes, there were already different types of established outfits for each class. So I arranged for each of the characters to wear clothes based on these designs. When it came to these designs, I carefully designed it as not to be too overly complex. Other games have such gorgeous or showy characters, and so their designs often call for being rather dense. Things like this have been drilled into my very nature, but since this was a remake, I tried not to add an excessive amount of accessories… despite that they still came out a little more complex than before.
When thinking of armor designs, I often reference familiar things as a motif. It’s hard to put in words exactly, but things like a [Japanese] sliding screen, a gutter, a steel rack or pillar, etc.
This illustration shows the main male and female character standing back-to-back, with the air of a “historic war tale.” It has been arranged in a way that the castle, troops, and dark clouds express how difficult of a journey lies ahead. After some discussion, it was chosen as the main illustration for the game. Though it’s not the most stylish composition, it has a lot of components crammed into one image like the original work from 25 years ago. [-Hidari]
What do you think is the most important part of making a character?
It’s a bit of a vague answer, but I would say “charm.” I personally don’t think I’m that good with enchantingly flashy designs, so I have to rely on gestures and facial expressions to bring out a character’s “charm” instead.
TN: The word he used was actually “艶” (tsuya), which means many things. Glossy, charm, youthful, feeling, etc. You get the idea.
Seven short questions directly to the Character God!
1 What was the first human [shaped] thing you drew?
The Decepticon logo from Transformers. (*3)
2 What other illustrators or manga artists do you lie?
Masters Jun Suemi (*4) and Hiroaki Samura (*5). Master Suemi influenced my coloring style, and Master Samura my drawing style.
3 What characters do you like?
In Echoes, I’d say the simple characters Gray and Robin. They are childhood friends now fighting a war together as comrades in arms with different degrees of confidence. The way Kliff contrasts with the two in his own growth is also great, I thought.
4 What’s your favorite game of all time?
There’s no way I can name just one!
5 What games have you been playing lately?
As I answer this question, Echoes has just been released, so I’m in the midst of playing that at the moment.
6 What if you were not in this line of work?
I’m not exactly sure, but I do have an interest in music. So if I was unable to live up to my dream [of being an illustrator], I’d probably be doing something in music.
7 Tell us something that has impressed you lately.
Glasses-free 3D on the 3DS screen! (I’m a little late, since I bought a 3DS just for Echoes).
*1: Characters that appear Akira Toriyama’s manga Dragonball. Goku is the main character.
*2: A manga artist, illustrator, and character designer with an extensive portfolio. He worked as character designer on games such as No More Heroes, and anime such as BBK/BRNK.
*3: Transforming robot toys from TOMY, which became a comic and animated show. Decepticon is the name of the group of antagonists.
*4: An illustrator. Did illustrations for the Guin Saga novel series, as well as the Wizardry series.
*5: A manga artist. Best known for Blade of the Immortal.
That ends Hidari’s segment! I hope you enjoyed and learned something new about the artist.