(Want to watch a retrospective of this story over a nine year period? Watch the corresponding documentary I made on Tomie and Yamamoto!)
Follow your dreams.
That is what people have told me all my life. And in recent years, from the loss of best friends, my grandfather, mental health struggles, my data loss crisis, my phobia of death and the unknown, and worries about my self worth, I always feared I’d ultimately have this website be without a major accomplishment. Sure, I’ve interviewed lots of indies, reviewed huge games, but I still felt like I hadn’t done anything I dreamt of doing for years, or anything memorable or noteworthy. My self-esteem isn’t that high, to be frank, and it’s thanks to support from readers and my friends that I’m able to keep myself somewhat sane.
Until, after a nine year quest, where upon beating the end of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity and paying attention to the Scenario Writer’s name while crying my eyes out to the ending, I decided to owe my thanks to the man who arguably shaped my childhood post-adoption, and pretty much wrote the scenario for the game that broke me out of the shackles of a rough childhood as I moved onto dealing with a new side of my family, and find a way to interview him.
After many leads and turns… I found him. We had a good conversation and I hope today’s article teaches everyone lots of fun things about Chunsoft, Tomie, and other aspects, and introduces the PMD fanbase to him! A lot of folks don’t actually know who wrote the stories they loved so much, but it was primarily Tomie, along with Emiko Tanaka, who worked on the first 2 games. I don’t know where she is unfortunately, but maybe that could be a future goal to aim for?
Anyhow, you won’t be getting burning PMD lore questions here: that’s all blocked by contract stuff and I didn’t feel like asking stuff such as “Doesn’t the human player’s family miss them in the real world?” and the like. But what I was able to ask and get answers for, are stuff I think will satisfy both Pokemon and non-pokemon MD fans. And really, just show how lovely this man who write some of the best games in the roguelike genre truly is!
I am super grateful for being able to reach him thanks to the aid of Lou Raguse, and for Tomie answering my questions, and to my pal Kody Nokolo for translation.
For the sake of transparency (and so Tomie-san/the JP MD fanbase can read this, even if they may need help with this intro portion + the conclusion), I’m including both the original Japanese dialogue and the english translation for the interview, though of course the English portion will get the most polish due to that being my native language. Let’s get into it!
Shinichiro Tomie Interview
Translation by Kody NOKOLO
The Dream Nine Years in the Making!
SFG Q1: What interests you about games?
ST A1: “I guess what interests me is that they’re a place you can immerse yourself in. Games carry a sense of immersion and accomplishment. There are different kinds of games, each one with different feelings, but I think immersion is at the heart of why games are so appealing.”
SFG Q2: As Lou Raguse mentioned in his interview, you seem to have started working in the industry for Tekhan/Tecmo on their sports games, some of which are pretty well regarded here in the West. According to that interview, you don’t play more recent games nowadays. I’m curious if you played other Tecmo games during your time at the company.
ST A2: “While I was at work, I wasn’t able to play any games. When I came home at the end of the day though, I played Ninja Gaiden and Captain Tsubasa.”
SFG Q3: Another company I noticed a lot on the Famicom who made some pretty ambitious sports games were the folks at Technos Japan, who made sports entries in the Kunio-kun series around the time Tecmo hit it big with Tecmo Bowl and Captain Tsubasa. Did Kunio-kun influence you at all?
ST A3: “Kunio-kun wasn’t really influential to me, but I think those were good games. Super Dodge Ball was very well made, it was a lot of fun to play.”
SFG Q4: What year did you start at Chunsoft, and why as a writer? Did Chunsoft’s Sound Novel games such as Otogiriso inspire you in any way?
ST A4: “I think I started at Chunsoft in 1992. I started working there as a writer because there wasn’t anyone else there to do it. I wasn’t particularly inspired by Otogiriso, but I think it was a very innovative game. Those kinds of games are one reason why I started working at Chunsoft.”
SFG Q5: The Mystery Dungeon formula has been very effective for working with so many different game brands. How are you able to make your ideas work with its game design?
ST A5: “I think the Mystery Dungeon design is very unique. From a writer’s point of view, the gameplay is very important to preserve, so I try to write scenarios that don’t interfere with it.”
SFG Q6: On the subject of Shiren the Wanderer, one of the most interesting entries in the series was a version of the original Shiren for the Super Famicom’s Satellaview service, which gave your story live voice acting for the first and only time ever, if I’m not mistaken. What was it like having your work adapted for such a service, and would it ever be possible for BS Shiren to be rereleased?
ST A6: “That’s nostalgic. It didn’t actually have voice acting, though. I thought it was a fun version. Sorry, when it comes to release plans, I can’t answer anything about that.”
SFG Q7: Spike Chunsoft has made so many great stories for their games, and I can’t help but think that’s mainly due to your influence. What influences your writing style?
ST A7: “Here at Spike Chunsoft, I think everyone that’s written a great scenario has created a good game. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve played much of a role in Spike Chunsoft’s success.”
SFG Q8: The Shiren the Wanderer series has a pretty simple writing style, yet the plots still motivate you to play, with Koppa providing a lot of funny moments. I’m curious what your process is for writing characters, and if you ever think of backstories for the cast in the main hub areas or even for the monsters.
ST A8: “Thank you. I have a process for creating characters, but I don’t make much for their backgrounds. Since Shiren the Wanderer is a continuing series, the amount of character backstories keeps growing though.”
SFG Q9: Here in the west, those who try Shiren the Wanderer games usually come to appreciate the scenarios in each game. However, the story-heavy Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series is more popular, so I’ve come across players who are nervous about trying the Shiren series due to the more simple story. Do you have any advice for fans of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon who are unsure if they can get into Shiren?
ST A9: “I think Shiren the Wanderer games are pretty tough for most people. For Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, I think more people play them because they bring out the best about Pokémon with its appealing characters, and its style is a little more like an RPG. My advice would be that Shiren the Wanderer is more difficult to appreciate than Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, but after you try playing a few times, the challenge starts to become fun, so don’t give up! …I guess that’s the kind of feeling it has.”
SFG Q10: A lot of people really admire the Mystery Dungeon series overseas, with people creating their own strategy guides, wikis, music remixes, and communities. Several of my own friendships are thanks to the franchise! Have you been aware of the huge fandom the Mystery Dungeon series has in the west?
ST A10: “Nope, none of it has ever reached me unfortunately, but I’m so glad that there are these kinds of fans out there! Thank you for letting me know!”
SFG Q11: On the subject of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, those games are a lot more story-heavy and often contain several emotional moments. For me personally, the ending to Rescue Team helped me get through a rough period of my life. Do any favorite moments stick in your mind from the series? What scene was the most difficult to create?
ST A11: “First, thank you very much. If Rescue Team could ‘rescue’ you, that’s great, Connor! Every day, I’ve thought about who the games we ship out would help, and I couldn’t be happier that we were able to do that! Thank you so much for telling us!
As for my favorite scene, it’s hard to pick one since I love them all. I guess if I had to pick, it would be the credits scene from the ending of Explorers. Meetings and partings are common themes of the series. When development started, I thought of expressing those themes through bubbles at the beginning and end of the game. I was motivated to give thanks to every name that appeared in the staff roll at the end of the game like this. They were also difficult scenes though, I had to keep pushing the programmers for the bubbles to move. People around me said it was my magnum opus.
Also, I know you didn’t ask, but my second favorite scene is the ending of Gates to Infinity. When the protagonist ascends into the sky at the end, the way their partners look up from the ground is so heartrending. What really satisfies me and leads me to love this scene is later on when you learn the strength it took for them to keep looking up.”
SFG Q12: One of the most fascinating tidbits in my research was learning that a former Nihon Telenet employee, Masayasu Yamamoto, worked on programming some of the GBA Mystery Dungeon titles and helped program the Valis series on the PC-88. It’s a fascinating coincidence that he worked on two of my favorite series! Have you ever met Mr. Yamamoto?
ST A12: “I know Yamamoto-san well and I’m still working with him. He also had a comment to pass on to you:
‘This is the programmer for VALIS: The Fantasm Soldier and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Red/Blue. I’m still here and still clicking away at coding programs.’”
SFG Q13: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon scenarios are highly regarded overseas. I have to wonder, what inspires you to give it your all when writing scenarios, and do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
ST A13: “I was influenced by everyone on our staff. As you know, the appeal of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon stories comes from things like their directions and sounds, not just their scenarios. When we were making things together, we inspired each other. I’m so thankful for all of our staff. The Pokémon Company also gave me a lot of advice. They always had great input on how to make each Pokémon’s appeal really shine, and some back-and-forth brought us to the scenarios we have now. So many thoughts and influences are in each Pokémon.
For example, Wigglytuff’s line in Explorers, ‘Truly bad Pokémon don’t really exist,’ is a line I thought of and included in the story, but I think that was also a central idea for The Pokémon Company. If I have any writing advice, I’d say the first step is to find a good group of friends.”
SFG Q14: This question is from a friend of mine in Chile who’s also a fan of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series.
Have you ever been given thanks before or sent nice letters from fans who loved Pokémon Mystery Dungeon? Have you had interactions with your fans often? Did you know that your work is famous across the globe?
ST A14: “Sometimes we’ll receive letters from Japanese fans, but we don’t receive them from overseas fans. I’ve never met any of my fans, and I had no idea that my work was famous worldwide. If that’s really true, that makes me so happy!”
SFG Q15: Of the games you’ve worked on, which do you consider to be the one you love the most?
ST A15: “It’s hard to say which one I love the most. I love these ones (in order of production):
- – Tehkan World Cup [Arcade]
- – Captain Tsubasa 2 [Famicom]
- – Tecmo Super Bowl [Famicom]
- – Shiren the Wanderer [Super Famicom]
- – Shiren the Wanderer 2 [Nintendo 64]
- – Shiren Monsters: NETSAL [Game Boy Advance]
- – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky [Nintendo DS]”
SFG Q1: 冨江様のゲームへの興味は何ですか?
ST A1: 没入感や達成感も含め、夢中になれるというところでしょうか。
SFG Q2: ルー・ラグースさんのインタビューによると、冨江様は最近のゲームを
ST A2: テクモでの仕事での間は仕事をしていたので、ゲームを遊ぶ余裕は
SFG Q3: 「テクモボウル」とか「キャプテン翼」とかが有名になるの間中、
ST A3: 「くにおくん」に特に影響は受けませんでしたが、「くにおくん」は
SFG Q4: 冨江様は何年に株式会社チュンソフトの仕事を始めましたか?
ST A4: チュンソフトに入ったのは、1992年あたりだと思います。
SFG Q5: 「不思議のダンジョン」のデザインは色々なゲームのブランドに
ST A5: とても独特なデザインだと思います。
SFG Q6: スーパーファミコンのサテラビューの「風来のシレン」は面白いですね。
ST A6: 懐かしいですね。フルボイスはありません。
SFG Q7: 株式会社スパイク・チュンソフトは色々な凄いストーリーをつくりました。
ST A7: スパイク・チュンソフトには、これまで素晴らしいシナリオを書かれる方々が
SFG Q8: 「風来のシレン」の文章は単純なのにプレイヤーを動かします。
ST A8: ありがとうございます。キャラクターを作る過程ですが、背景とかは
SFG Q9: 「風来のシレン」の文章は単純なので、海外の人々は複雑な
SFG Q10: 多くの海外の人々は「不思議のダンジョン」シリーズが好きです。
ST A10: いいえ。残念ながら私のところまでは届いてはおりません。
SFG Q11: さらに「ポケモン不思議のダンジョン」は感情的なストーリーがあります。
ST A11: まず初めに、ありがとうございます。
SFG Q12: 山本雅康様という前株式会社日本テレネットの「夢幻戦士ヴァリス」
ST A12: 山本さんは良く知っていますし、一緒にお仕事もしたりします。
SFG Q13: 「ポケモン不思議のダンジョン」のシナリオは海外で有名です。
ST A13: 影響を受けたのは、スタッフ全員からです。
SFG Q14: チリ共和国で「ポケモン不思議のダンジョン」が好きな友達から、この質
ST A14: ファンレターは、国内からはたまに頂くことがありますが、海外からは
SFG Q15: 冨江様の作品では何のゲームがいちばん好きですか?
ST A15: 一番は難しいですね。これらが大好きです（制作順に）
Thus… With those fifteen answers, My nine year goal has been accomplished. Originally when teenage me thought of meeting Tomie, I wanted to fly out to Japan, meet him in person or even possibly apply to work at the company itself. Eventually I got content reviewing stuff for Spike Chunsoft US, but unfortunately, a bunch of their big games launched in 2019, which just so happened to be the year my mental state and productivity derailed due to those two deaths I’ve mentioned previously, so I’ve still need to get on the stuff they sent me from that year such as Zanki Zero. (sorry guys!) Even then though, I’ve continued to buy their stuff and especially support MD whenever I can, and I’m working on a huge Pokemon Mystery Dungeon video retrospective right now, despite my own life getting pretty busy with this site and a full time job.
With that said, I personally feel that it’s very understated how important Tomie is to the core of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series: being the only writer to work on all five games (six, if you are counting the recent DX remake) he pretty much built the core of the lore and the world millions of players have come to love: finding a partner Pokemon to consider a lifelong friend, going on journeys together, and somehow managing to write well made stories that often defy the tone of those found in the main Pokemon franchise. Three officially licensed manga exist for the series as well, but only one (Blazing Exploration Team) I argue comes close to the essence of Tomie’s writing. While Chunsoft has lots of legendary writers, and even their Spike half has some writers who have created some great stuff such as Danganronpa, I personally feel that Shinichiro Tomie is one of the best scenario writers not just of the company, but of all time, and I desperately wanted to let him know that his work is cherished and beloved here, especially when it comes to Explorers of Sky, the big fan favorite in the west.
After the interview, I thanked Tomie-san yet again for bringing us six great games in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon franchise, along with their work on Shiren. While I don’t know if we can be pen pals or if Tomie will ever know the extent of which his work in the west is greatly cherished, I hoped to have at least helped make his day, just like he helped me, all those many years ago, and to help show the fanbase that yes, there is a man behind the stories that have changed and inspired so many, just like me! If this interview leads to an outpouring of support and more folks being aware of the scenario writer, then my goal is accomplished.
Who knows what the future brings for Mystery Dungeon? Super ended the main storyline of the PMD series back in 2015, and a remake of the first game hit Nintendo Switch in 2020. Shiren The Wanderer 5, from 2010, got a recent port on Switch in late 2020, so will a Shiren 6 happen, or a DX version of the acclaimed Explorers of Sky? The gears of time are the only ones that can answer that…
Regardless, let my quest teach you all that if you are determined to meet someone, or even reconnect with an old friend of yours you haven’t spoken with in ages, and are hopeful and in your heart to find them, let the message from the end of Rescue Team guide you.
If you wish, and wish very strongly…
Perhaps you will meet again.
Thanks a million to those who read the entire article. I’ve written tons of interviews and opinion pieces over the eight years I’ve ran Seafoam Gaming, but this is my most anticipated and favorite work to date, and likely will continue to be. Tomie-san is a great man who’s very kind, and while I won’t disclose his contact info to anyone, I will definitely try to do my best to forward the feedback from this article to him, to help show him that yes, people in the west do truly cherish his work!
So please, if you have any sort of thanks, fan art, or something you want me to relay to him somehow (just no more questions!), like a collage or whatnot, reach out to me on Twitter @SeafoamGaming, or via my business email found on the SFG youtube. Anyone who wants to talk with me for a podcast/website/video on this subject is free to also use the business email to ask me for such, and likewise, this interview is of course usable in any projects any readers wanna make as long as you cite and give credit to this source properly…
Special Thanks to the following people who helped make this possible in some form, big and small. I couldn’t have gained my courage and strength to push through this without you all!
Kody NOKOLO from Source Gaming, for translating me to Japanese to reach out to Tomie, and translating his words back into English for the readers!
Lou Raguse from KARE11 NEWS, for this article that got me on a lead to finding Tomie, and for ironically, being a person I watched on TV during my summer vacations! He’s the only other person to have interviewed Tomie in english, to my knowledge.
Mohammed Taher, from Brave Wave, for being a huge Tsubasa Fan that made me alert to Tomie’s involvement on that front… and was arguably the person who made me realize “yes, Tomie-san can be found!”
Shaun Musgrave from TouchArcade, for being a person I vented to during my rough data loss struggles and for being a helping hand in communication and for proofreading!
The companion known only as “Zee”, for being one of my best friends that re-energized my PMD spark back in 2015, helping me gain full hype for Super Mystery Dungeon and creating many great friendships in the fandom, and for being supportive of this effort!
Bespinben and Fiddledo, both for being some of the first PMD fans I ever met on the internet… And for helping me through many rough times with their music. Seriously, listen to Fiddle’s Frism cover, you won’t regret it!
The Mystery Dungeon Franchise Wiki Staff, for allowing me to use this as a source for their wiki to help flesh it out: look forward to it!
“Vic” Victor, for being the kind soul who I chose to ask Tomie Question 14! As one of the biggest Sky fans, I had to have let him know and offered to have him ask the writer of his favorite game something.
And most importantly…
“Catherine “Lillian” Burns, the namesake for my PMD partner, and my birth Grandmother. When fighting Articuno in the Frosty Forest, I was reminded of you, the parent I lost as a child… The name “Lillian!” would echo in my mind after I beat the game, and I recently learned it was your nickname. I know you’re watching over me. Even if my Lillian partner in the games and my headcanon of the PMD world i made isn’t the same as you… It’s a good luck name.
And now, to end this with my favorite line in gaming history…
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