Since around August this year, I've been working on redoing the portraits of one of my favourite, untranslated Japanese RPGs from the 90s.
As I wrote this post, I unfortunately wrote a brief summary of the game. So... apparently this post will be dedicated to a short run-down on the game, and then displays of the work in progress!
Vain Dream is a semi turn-based, random encounter RPG created by Glodia in 1991. The particular port I'm playing is the PC-9801 version, though I wish I could get the FM-Towns version to work.
Glodia made some very unique RPGs during the height of Japan's computer game golden age. They are known for Emerald Dragon, which is fairly well known in the West among Japanese computer aficionados (the SNES version was fan translated), probably because ED simply has more conventional appeal and, well, anthropomorphic dragons of course... A few games that I have yet to try from them that seem particularly interesting are Bible Master, Different Realm, and Zavas. Interestingly enough, their first game was Lyrane, a frustrating shooter that has Asteroid mechanics.
Vain Dream has a certain quality to it that makes it unique among the many other computer RPGs of the era. It has short and action packed cut-scenes (a big deal) that provide the player extra juice on the characters, making them more than just a cute top down sprite or a large, mouth-moving portrait during conversation. The game is fairly simple; grind to make your way. However, there are some quirks that add an eccentricity to the mechanics. Boss fights have proved difficult, requiring reloads to 'get' right and a certain amount of strategy: while you can't control anyone but Tris (the MC), you can give commands through the in-game battle menu. So if Raphael (squishy, ranged character with a feathered musketeer hat) is about to be obliterated, you can tell him to stay away or try to shoot farther away.
Now I don't want this post to be long winded, so I had to cut off some of what I wrote. In my next post on Vain Dream, I'll go over the unique money system, and how it can make the game difficult.
On to the artwork.
I'm having a blast recreating the portraits of the characters. It's not the easiest to recreate characters. For me, there needs to be authenticity and homage to the originals, and this can be difficult; if not done right, there's a feeling that I've taken the characters and make them "my" intelligent property. And it's a statement to reboots that modernize old characters or change them to the point that they are unrecognizable. It's just not fair and seems to be rooted in making money or popularity, rather than displaying authenticity.
I first started by choosing the main characters that have spent quite awhile in the party:
- Raymia (actually I don't know how long she stays in the party since I just got her, but she's a really cool character)
Palette: I then set out to make a limited palette of no more than 30 colours. The exception is that while painting, newer colours would be formed, so there aren't strictly 30 colours, but I can only work with 30 colours. I used a PC-9801 palette to select my colours. It took several hours to get these colours together.
Originally I was going to use the original colours from the pixel artwork, but this would only look good with a cel shade style.
Next in the process comes the designs of the characters. I wanted them to have the same appearance and movement in their original portraits. The original portraits, being that they are in anime style, have a select few expressions available but due to the pose of the faces, certain characters such as Raymia, Raphael and Ames have a dynamic appearance to them. Must have rubbed onto my designs because out of the four I've done so far, Tris is the least dynamic, similar to his original portrait.
Portrait Box: I've also been working on the actual portrait boxes that contain the faces. I'm using Adobe Illustrator to create the basic designs, due to ease in making decorative borders in the software. The Vain Dream portraits have little dragons, which I illustrated for the final box: