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Ghost in the Machine: Getting to Know Soraya Saga Print E-mail
Written by GABRIAL CANADA   
Tuesday, 04 October 2011
She was involved in the creation of two games that rank in the top ten in almost every gaming poll I've read. Chrono Trigger and Xenogears and she has an incredibly passionate fanbase that view her and the team she was a part of as the people who presided over the birth of the modern role-playing game (RPG) and made the Japanese role-playing games (JRPG) a genre to be respected.

Soraya Saga was part of the fabled "dream team" that put together Chrono Trigger a classic famitsu and IGN both list as among the ten greatest games ever created. The integration of story and game play was key to this success along with FFVI another title Soraya collaborated on it helped change storytelling in games forever. By popularizing an approach that put the story in the hands of the player the creators’ ensured storytelling wasn't just expansive - it was immersive. The player’s decisions have ramifications determining how the story ends with twelve epic conclusions to choose from in Chrono Trigger the stage was set for modern RGP's like Mass Effect and Fable.

She continued her collaborative efforts as the co-creator of Xenogears another defining series for the RPG genre that makes its way onto top ten lists. Over the next decade she and her husband designer : : created a direct sequel and a new franchise Xenosaga that shared many of the same ideas and design elements from Xenogears and brought a cinematic flare with hours of elaborate cut scenes and an ambitious orchestrated soundtrack.

Each of these titles has provoked an unusually passionate response amongst fans. More than ten years after Xenogears was release, a used copy can still retail for more than seventy dollars, its strategy guide is listed at over one hundred and collector’s editions can approach a thousand dollars. Chrono Trigger consistently has calls for a direct sequel and fans can be seen at virtually every convention in elaborate cosplay of their favorite Xenosaga characters such as Kos Mos and Momo. That fandom reached a fever pitch is year with Operation Rainbow an organized efforts to bring the latest successor to her work on Xenogears to the U.S. Xenoblade. Passionate fans flooded the Amazon pre-order page, pushing it to number one in the rankings overnight. While Soraya only contributed some ideas early in the development for this latest title, and was not an employed by Nintendo at the time, fans were enlivened when she thanked them for their efforts on her twitter page.

With such an expansive catalogue of must play games for RPG fans( touching on the most popular franchises in the genre's history with Final Fantasy, Xenogears, Xenosaga, and her own original work Soma Bringer), Soraya Saga has touched many gamers lives with her stories, maps, and character designs (this writer included). While Soraya Saga makes it clear that she doesn't represent any of the companies she has worked for in the past, she was kind enough to talk about game design in general and about her storied career. Providing insight from one of the most acclaimed design teams in history and some hope for the future of role playing games and gamers.ggv

How much overlap do you see between game design and the creation of Anime and Manga? Both in the fan and creative communities in Japan?

In my opinion, they look close but not the same. Both are sharing a common fan base to some extent, though. Chiefly because games should be interactive.

You have used biblical elements in your storytelling in the past. Do you feel it is critical that Japanese designers should use storytelling elements Western audiences are familiar with when trying to reach a Western audience and what was your motivation for drawing on religious figures?

Not quite. I believe elements we've referred to were subjects of general interest regardless of time and place. The power of beliefs and philosophies are what make us human, that's the reason we tend to put it at the center of storytelling.

Do you feel gaming and more specifically RPG as a genre have a wider level of acceptance in popular culture than when you began design work in the 1990s?

While it has gotten a broader population than before, it still seems to remain in a sub-cultural category. It may take some more time for games to be classed as art.

Where there any games that inspired you to want to get involved as a writer or storyteller growing up. What made you choose this medium?

The Legend of Zelda (1986), Dragon Warrior (1986) and Final Fantasy I (1987) inspired me a lot. Those let me know a new type of fun that differed from what other media e.g. books and movies had.

As a developer what do you hope to see from the next generation of consoles and have you ever experienced any major obstacles in transitioning from one generation to another?

Transitions always give us developers more pleasure than pain. Existing consoles have made much progress visual-wise in recent years, so I'm looking forward to seeing something more immersive and intuitive to play with."

Can you comment on when we might see some of your original manga projects such as The Stones?

It's up in the air for now. I'm not sure if its overlying dark tone fits with the times. Mainly because it's deeply influenced by deaths in my family I experienced back then. I presume more uplifting messages would be the needs of the age today.

What advice do you have for aspiring game designers and artists starting out today?

Games, particularly RPGs are kind of like a journey, and game designers are like tour guides. Always be with players, walk a little ahead of them, but never leave them behind. Your work will be completed when players clear the final stage.

You have designed mobile games both for phones and handheld systems. Do you feel the market exists for expansive storytelling in games for phones?

Phones and handheld systems are actually good for text-heavy games, but those have some limitations too. So it can be said that there are both merits and demerits in them. What we have to keep in mind when we design story-oriented games is those must never be e-books just to read.

Your games have many passionate fans. What is it about your characters that evoke such a strong reaction? Also what do you feel when you see someone cosplay as one of your creations?

Thank you. I guess it evokes a reaction when characters have something people can relate to. As for cosplayers, I'm impressed with their efforts and enthusiasms.

Are their genres other than RPG's that you have considered developing in and do you anticipate more cross genre experimentation for RPG developers in Japan as we are now seeing in the West?

Some war games and visual novels were what I had partially involved in the past. In general, more cross-genre approaches will likely happen because RPGs today don't necessarily need to stay their old self. I assume RPGs would bring more expanded experiences in the near future.

Comments
Good article
Written by Guest on 2011-10-06 22:16:10
An extremely impressive resume. I was unaware that she was also responsible for Soma Bringer, a gem of a game. 
 
Good questions in the interview. 
 
One correction, though: it is Operation Rainfall, not rainbow, an hopefully its efforts will pay off with global localization of Soraya Saga's Xenoblade (and others).
More corrections.
Written by Guest on 2011-10-11 14:57:30
Soraya Saga is an inspiration to me, but this article... not so much. She wasn't involved in Chrono Trigger at all and Xenosaga is not a direct sequel to Xenogears. If anything it would be a prequel, but it's more of a spiritual successor and re-imagining of its universe, really. Please do some further research beforehand next time.
Yikes
Written by Guest on 2011-10-16 17:58:08
It's quite clear you guys didn't do much background research ... the opening paragraphs were full of factual mistakes
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