Square Enix’s Paranormasight was a fairly obscure title prior to its release. But its unique story and aesthetic have been quite well-received among its fans. We had the opportunity to interview Takaya Ishiyama, who was the writer and director for Paranormasight. He’s also worked on Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wing, Blood of Bahamut, and Schoolgirl Strikers in the past.
Stephanie Liu: When did Paranormasight development start, and did you experience any issues due to the pandemic?
Takaya Ishiyama: I can’t provide the details of the development period, but at that time, Square Enix had already adopted a work from home system, so development went smoothly with no particular impact from the pandemic. Working from home is truly wonderful.
When structuring the story with its multiple endings and controllable characters, what difficulties did you run into?
Ishiyama: We had an ending for the story, but the most difficult part was rearranging the story like a puzzle, trying to figure out the order in which the events and information should unfold for all the characters’ issues to be resolved, while providing a different experience depending on how the player chooses between multiple chapters, and bringing the story to a conclusion!
Why did you choose to set the game during the Showa era?
Ishiyama: For those of us who live in the Reiwa era, the mere mention of the Showa period alone evokes a sense of mystery. Culture and lifestyles have changed so drastically in the past few decades that it seems like a vision of a bygone era for adults, and like a mythical world of historical fantasy to young people. If this is the case, it is not surprising that supernatural phenomena, for instance the appearance of a cursed shadow, may occur and are perceived as realistic.
Despite the horror mystery genre of the game, a lot of the dialog is pretty lighthearted, such as the banter between the cops, as well as the conversations between Richter and Harue. Was it a conscious effort to keep the game from being too scary? How did you craft that kind of balance between comedy and dramatic tension?
Ishiyama: During uneventful, peaceful scenes, my style is basically to engage in comical banter. I believe that by doing so, one has fun progressing the game, attachment grows towards the characters, and in turn serious scenes are further heightened. Therefore, it can be said that it was not a conscious effort to keep the game from being too scary, but in fact an effort to enhance the scariness by creating this contrast. While the balance was adjusted by feel, we made sure not to mock any of the characters’ duties.
Who was your favorite character to write for?
Ishiyama: The strong-willed characters from this title are all impressionable, and I have a fondness towards them, but speaking of scenes that were easy to write for, I immediately thought of Tetsuo and Erio bantering about whether or not they have a pen. So fun. I’ve watched it over and over.
What specific Showa pop culture or events influenced Paranormasight? The theme that plays for Tsutsumi and Erio sounds really familiar, as did the schoolgirl murder brought up in the game.
Ishiyama: As you pointed out, when designing the atmosphere of this work, we were very much aware of Japanese TV dramas broadcast during the Showa period, especially detective and mystery dramas. The same was true for the sound production. The “occult craze” mentioned in the film was an actual movement that was taking place at the time, and we were mindful of its atmosphere.
How did past Square Enix adventure games like The Centennial Case and Nanashi no Game influence Paranormasight‘s development?
Ishiyama: Although we have no direct connection with those projects, we’ve released many ADVs in the past, so we knew that the current release would not be so out of the ordinary and is a genre accepted by the public. Some of the ADVs released during the Enix days had great influence on me as a general user at the time!
Paranormasight has some unusual character designs and aesthetics. How did you decide on an art direction for them and what were your influences?
Ishiyama: In keeping with the period setting, we adjusted the noise and filters based on the concept of artwork that looks like old CRT TV images. Our titles are dominated by high-definition graphics with high color saturation, so our aim was to make this title stand out from the crowd.
If Paranormasight ended up becoming a series, what would you like to do in a possible sequel?
Ishiyama: Wow, a series! Sounds wonderful! I’d like to ask for everyone’s support for this to become a reality! It’s a complete blank slate as of now, but it’s for certain that paranormal activities and folklore will be a theme, so please do submit us your requests as well!
Paranormasight is readily available on the Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.