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Picture: Kamui Fujiwara

Terranigma is an SNES title that holds a special place in the hearts of many RPG fans, which is remarkable considering that it was only released in Japan and Europe, and completely bypassed it. ‘North America. Part of Quintet’s loose RPG trilogy (which also includes Soul Blazer and Gaia illusion), Terranigma has become a cult classic of modern times – so much so that fans are now asking Square Enix for some form of reissue on modern systems.

Manga artist Kamui Fujiwara – author of Dragon Quest: Roto Emblem the genius behind Terranigma’s character design – recently participated in the “Hero Resurrection Festival” (or “Heroes Easter”), an online event hosted annually by Terranigma fans on Twitter. He tweeted a new piece of art every day to promote the Terranigma-themed art exhibition that it will hold from September 3 to 13 at ACG_Labo. For the occasion, Miyoko Takaoka (maiden name Kobayashi, composer of Terranigma) is also creating a brand new song.

Before these events, the Italian game developer and super fan of Terranigma @b_layDEV got a chance to talk about the game with Fujiwara-san, and you can find the exclusive interview below.

Do you remember how you were first approached to work on Terranigma?

Fujiwara: Terranigma was distributed by ENIX (now Square Enix). At the time, ENIX was publishing the manga (Dragon Quest) “Emblem of Roto”, so it was easy for Quintet to contact me for work. It wasn’t a job I wanted, but I enjoyed working on it. Above all, I love action RPGs.

What guidelines did you follow when creating the art of the game?

After Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia, we had Terranigma as our “third game”. a lot of freedom [in] how I designed the characters. I was free to design whatever I wanted.

Which Terranigma character do you like the most? How did you imagine its design?

I didn’t have a particular preference for the characters. I designed them before playing the game. It is only when you play the game that you get emotionally involved with the characters. After playing the game, I liked Meilin a lot. I think the complex way she expresses her emotions is really good. The main character was the only one I had to redraw a few times, but the rest of the characters were done rather smoothly.

How involved were you in the game mechanics and the development of the story?

I couldn’t work on the game for very long as I was working on a manga series. I was involved from the start. Overall, I provided the visuals that served as the framework for the project. After the game was released, my [design note] material for Terranigma was published at the end of the book of illustrations Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshō – Kamui Fujiwara II Art Collection.

Did you try to play the game a lot before its official release? If so, do you know of any major content that was removed during development, from initial planning to final game?

I played the game once before it was released. It was almost done, but there was still a debug mode, so I remember being able to move around and explore different places (through the closet at the start of the game).

There is data in the game that suggests a third phase of battle for the final boss (Dark Gaia). Did you know ?

Not sure, I don’t know.

[Later, Mr. Fujiwara was able to recover and publish the original (lost) Design Note of the game. In this document, we can see some never-seen-before sketches showing some discarded ideas for the final boss fight. You can also notice how one Dark Gaia discarded form got recycled to create another boss in the final release (Stormkeeper).

We translated the notes from the sketches: the first one says that in that battle phase, Dark Gaia was supposed to be an overlay of three identical sprites of the boss, with three different % of transparency. Each pair of arms moves/attacks independently.

The second one says that, if you tried to go behind the boss, he would have smashed the columns.]

Collectors are looking for the first (beta) version of Terranigma. Do you think it is still possible to find it somewhere?

I think I have it. I don’t know if it’s still functional though.

[At a later time, we examined Mr. Fujiwara’s copy of the game and we were able to confirm that it’s not the infamous beta version of the game. Instead, we discovered it’s an unpublished pre-release version of the game, almost 1:1 of the final release, besides 4 bytes. The sticker on the cartridge says “513027 No. 180”, with “180” probably being the build number. The team kept publishing beta footages till 8th September (Family Computer Magazine Sep. 8, 1995 No.18) so, probably, the cartridge is dated after that.

When we said to Mr. Fujiwara that his copy wasn’t the beta, he replied with something very inspiring:

I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m glad I found out about it. It means the quest is not over, right? It’s nice to be able to keep moving forward.

We also found out that Family Computer Magazine published a monthly preview about the game starting June 1995 till November 1995. Those magazines are now collectors material. This way we were able to track down the source of the beta photos that have been circulating around the Web in the latest years: those are taken from Family Computer Magazine June 2, 1995 No.11, the beta footages known to date. Mr. Fujiwara says the beta is still out there waiting to be found.]

Are you still in contact with original team members at Quintet?

I don’t know about Quintet, but I contacted the writer and composer (of the game) once on Twitter. I don’t know about the director, Mr. Tomoyoshi Miyazaki, because he seems to have disappeared. Probably the reason the game was not remade and subsequently sold is that Mr. Miyazaki cannot be contacted.

Have you been involved in any way as a supervisor of manga and novel art production?

I provided my [design note] material to the person who drew the manga. For the novel, I provided the illustrations. I remember the book cover of [Dragon Quest] “Roto’s emblem” was horizontal, so I “dared” to use a horizontal illustration for the novel.

People are trying to collect all the Terranigma related items to preserve them. In your last tweet, we can see blue haired Ark from a page named “Secret collection n ° III”. Can you tell me more about this document?

This is a print layout for a collectible card that I recently created for myself. It was not commercially available at the time [of the game release].

It was not commercially available at the moment and it will not be in the future. It’s called “No. III”, but it’s actually one of the 48 cards. The contents of the cards are drawings from my previous work. The reason I named it “Secret” is that it won’t be a [public] art book.

Do you own any original Terranigma art or content?

Of course, there are still some sketches and new content. Additionally, due to the loss of the original manuscript, some of the illustrations (sketches and finishes, etc.) have been lost.

Would you like to work on a remake / reboot of Terranigma? What would you change in Ark’s design? How would you draw it today?

Of course, I’m in favor of a game overhaul. I think with today’s technology, [Ark’s] the hair could be pictured with its original blue color, and I would love to do that. Blue is a symbol, it is the color of the incarnation of the Earth.

Last question. Is there anything else you would like to say and share for all Terranigma fans around the world?

It’s a game that has been loved for so long. I’m sure it will be relaunched at some point, as I’m sure many others are thinking. If a remake happens, I’d love to hear Ark speak to the fans, not me. “I made you wait! You’ve waited long enough!” I look forward to any new take [on Terranigma] which will lead to new emotions.