The tactical RPG on Nintendo 3DS, Fire Emblem Awakening, with character designs by Yusuke Kozaki

Japanese manga artist and game character designer Yusuke Kozaki was in Australia for the first time at SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show. We were lucky enough to get a few words from him. Here’s a transcript of our chat.


Gamers Classified: Yusuke, you’ve been designing gaming characters for well over a decade. Over the years, have you noticed a change in what gamers expect from game character design compared to in the past?

Yusuke Kozaki: That’s a hard question! It would be more detailed characters. What I’ve noticed in the last ten years is that American games, in terms of the graphics, have become more a lot more detailed. As more Japanese gamers see those games, and begin to understand and appreciate how detailed the graphics are, it makes an impression on them. They start to raise their expectations of the level of detail they want to see in games. To compete with American game graphics and to excel at what they do, the Japanese game industry is really pushing its designers hard to get up to that standard.


Gamers Classified: We’re hoping you’re enjoying your first time in Australia! If you had to design an Australian gaming character, what do you think this character will be like?

Yusuke Kozaki: Something to do with bugs? Or Australian beef because it’s famous in Japan? *laughs* No, seriously though, if I had a client who needed me to design an Australian gaming character right now, I think it would have to be a character with a boomerang. That would be cool.


Gamers Classified: Games, especially the recent installments of the Fire Emblem series, have really been taken up by the cosplay community. Is there a character you’ve designed that you think would be very hard for a cosplayer to do?

Yusuke Kozaki: Everyone! I think Fire Emblem in general is really hard to cosplay!


Gamers Classified: You’ve designed characters for fighter games like Tekken, RPGs like Half-Minute Hero and even characters for augmented reality games like Pokemon Go. Do you have to change your approach to gaming character design depending on the genre and game style? Or do you have a process that works for you that you follow every time?

Yusuke Kozaki: The main thing I think about is what the gamers would want to see. For example, if it’s a fighting game like Tekken, I’d think of something with a harder kind of design. If it’s like Pokemon Go recently, it’s a walking game, so I’d think of what kind of character would make players want to walk, search for and capture Pokemon. So yeah, it’s all based on how the game is designed and thinking about the gamers.


Gamers Classified: Speaking of Pokemon Go, did you catch a Kangaskhan yet?

Yusuke Kozaki: I’ve caught seven!


Gamers Classified: We’ve seen animes that have turned into games. And we’ve seen games that have turned into animes. Which do you think works better and why?

Yusuke Kozaki: Game to anime is better. For game to anime, you can make any type of story. There are no constraints. I reckon this makes the standard and quality better. However, if you were to make an anime into a game, it’s a bit more challenging and difficult because the audience of the anime follows the story and they’re looking for stories. When it gets made into a game, there’s the challenge of somehow being able to fit the story into the game. Sometimes there’s also the difficulty of how creative and how much extra can be added onto an anime for it to be made into a game which limits what the designer can do. That’s why anime to game is tricky.


GC: Thank you Yusuke Kozaki for you time. Hope you get some more oysters, Aussie beef and Vegemite while you’re here.

Yusuke: No, not Vegemite! I like beef. I like oysters. But not vegemite. There was one time when an Aussie guy was living in my neighbourhood and he gave me toast with Vegemite *cringes and laughs* I didn’t like it. Anyway, thank you so much.