Taking place in an alternate reality of 1980s Japan, Nini's adventures in Loop8: Summer of Gods take place in the beautiful coastal village of Ashihara. We spoke to the game's designer and scenario writer, Yuri Shibamura, about his inspiration for this beautiful setting, and what brings this authentically Japanese locale to life.
New to the town? Relax at some of the beautiful vistas in our "Locales Trailer", set to "Love's Sweet Sorrow" a track from the game's soundtrack by composer, Noriyuki Iwadare.
What was your inspiration for Ashihara?
Inspiration came from a comment I often got when giving sightseeing tours to my friends from overseas: “I want to see schools and beaches like the ones you see in anime!”
Add to that the fact that, even though they loved what they saw in manga, they didn’t really understand the Japanese school system. This is why I made Loop8.
Did you grow up in a similar place to Ashihara?
No, but it’s the kind of place any Japanese person alive in the 1980s will be able to remember.
What was your favourite place to create in Ashihara and why?
My favourite place is the slope leading to the house. It’s just like the landscape of Kure, a place I lived for a while. It seems very inconvenient though as there’s no way you could drive up it!
Did you visit coastal towns in Japan for research?
No, but even though I didn’t go, I can remember it well - the good and the bad.
How did you create the nostalgic 80s atmosphere in-game?
This perhaps isn’t limited to Japan, but one of the things that’s key to Japanese scenery is that it can’t be separated from history. So that’s where we started -- with history.
In the early 1980s, there were many old buildings, as Japan had yet to define its earthquake resistance standards, and there hadn’t been a construction rush from the economic boom.
If you take a map of Japan from the Jōmon period and all of its updates until the Edo period, you can simulate the damage from tsunamis and see where the houses were built each time to avoid the next one.
It’s the reason there are so many houses on the side of hills; flat areas are no longer residential areas but have become shopping districts over the remnants of where people once lived.
Are you a fan of anime? Were there any specific animated shows or movies that inspired the setting/atmosphere?
I watched the kind of anime that was always on American cable TV about 10 years ago, so I could show my friends around.
A clichéd answer on the setting might be Ponyo on the Cliff, simply because the region is similar in appearance and also takes place overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, but I think the atmosphere is different.
Which aspect or theme of Ashihara do you hope fans pick up on the most while playing?
Would you fight someone who had been your friend until just yesterday? Another theme for this game is that Japan loves to delve into the affairs of its enemies.
Did the team consult any cultural institutions or famous locations (countryside shrines, etc.) while researching Ashihara?
Yes, I did - Japanese people have historically ‘outsourced’ their beliefs, and so even when you ask the locals who the deity a shrine is dedicated to is, they often don’t know the answer. They may hold festivals and worship without knowing the name of the deity. Because of that, I had to do proper research into the kinds of deities that would historically have been enshrined in these kinds of places.
For example, even when a deity’s name has been changed or forgotten over the years, it’s still possible to trace the original deity once you start digging, by following the lineage through things such as the way the shimenawa sacred rope is tied. Even when the original deity has been completely forgotten in the local area, the written records of the Edo-era shrine commissioners may still hold the answer.