Fairy Tail creator talks manga beginnings, the new game, and his dream party

Fairy Tail released last week, and we couldn’t be happier with the response from fans and gamers alike. So, we decided to add to the magic, releasing all-new costume DLC today, which includes 48 outfits along with the highly anticipated photo mode (via a free update) to help them shine. In the coming weeks fans will also be able to look forward to the addition of Lyon Vastia, Levy McGarden, Lisanna Strauss, and Elfman Strauss to the already stacked roster, along with all-new dungeons to explore and high-level quests to take their favourite party members on.

But that’s not all, as we were lucky enough to celebrate alongside Fairy Tail creator and mastermind, Hiro Mashima, picking his brain about everything from his art style to video games. 

Here’s what he had to say in this exclusive PlayStation Blog interview…

Kikuchi: When I was young, I knew I wanted to be a video game designer. How about you? When did you know you wanted to be a manga artist?

Mashima: I loved drawing since I was really young, so becoming a manga artist just seemed natural. I would sit down and copy my favorite comics, imagining who would win in a fight between the characters while I drew them. That’s the moment I knew I wanted to pursue this profession. I loved fantasy and battle-focused series when I was young, so I would always draw things like that. It’s more fun to use your imagination. If I were to draw a car or a building, something from real life, you can’t really make up what it looks like. People would say “that’s a different car,” or “that’s a different building,” whereas with fantasy-themed drawings, you can just say, “this is what I came up with” and you don’t have to worry about being wrong. So that’s why I still love fantasy to this day. 

More images from Fairy Tail

Kikuchi: Ever thought of jumping into video game design?

Mashima: It was an option I considered early on. I used to take the role of game master and create different characters out of paper, and then my friends would move them around. It was like we were playing a tabletop RPG without any dice. 

Kikuchi: That’s funny because when I was young, my parents wouldn’t buy me a video game console, so I would go over to my friend’s house and look at the characters on TV until I burnt a hold through the screen. (laughs) I’d go home and redraw the characters dot by dot to match their pixel art and then cut them out of the paper.

Mashima: That’s amazing! I designed stages when I was young, too. I would redraw the characters from games and move them around to play with, just not in pixel form like you. 

Kikuchi: Amazing how all these years later, both our dreams have come true and now we have collaborated on this game. While promoting the game to media and fans, so many people have asked me about the similarities between the series and the game, and to me, it all comes back to “creating bonds with your party members.” Did you have this in mind while developing the game with us?

Mashima: Creating bonds with party members was definitely something I had in mind during the development process. You see, I don’t really have a lot of friends (laughs), so when I was writing the manga for Fairy Tail, I would always think about the kinds of friends I wanted and then incorporated that wish into the story. 

Kikuchi: When making Fairy Tail, I realized one aspect that was definitely the most different from the manga was the feeling of the “tempo.” A game has a large goal, along with middle range and smaller goals, and the structure of the game is created around repeating those goals, but a manga has episodes that can be of various lengths, right? For your manga series, what do you take into consideration when coming up with the size of each episode?

Mashima: It really doesn’t have a specific structure at all. (laughs) At the beginning, there aren’t a lot of characters so it’s really easy to put everything together in a nice little package. So one episode, or story arc, could be about 1 to 3 volumes. However, as the number of characters continues to increase, you have to draw a lot of different scenes, so when you realize that one part of the story is over, it ends up being five to six volumes without much problem at all. Personally, I like to be able to condense everything into shorter stories, but I think the story getting longer and longer is the fate of all manga series.

Kikuchi: So when we first sent you an early build of the game and you saw Natsu moving around on screen for the first time, what did you think?

Mashima: When I was actually walking around Magnolia in the game, I felt like one of my dreams had come true. I’m not really the kind of manga artist to create plans or blueprints, everything is just in my head, so when I actually saw Magnolia in the game, I was really surprised about how great it came together in 3D. 

Kikuchi: It actually took us about six months to create Magnolia. We studied a lot of different angles from every anime and manga we could get our hands on.

Mashima: Every time you read or inspect the manga, though, the city is always a little different. Sorry about that. (laughs) 

Kikuchi: We received a lot of feedback from you during the development process of the game, and you always looked at everything through the viewpoint of “what would make the fans happy.”

Mashima: I really put a lot of emphasis on that, didn’t I. 

Kikuchi: One great thing about the game and something we’re sure will make fans happy is enabling them to mix and match their own dream team party, some of whom we’ve never seen team up in the series. What considerations did you take when having an enemy character join the main group when you were writing the story?

Mashima: When you look at Gajeel and Juvia, I didn’t consider having them join the main team at the beginning. In fact, both of them were considered temporary characters. However, I became very fond of both of them so I thought it would be a waste to not have them join the party. I thought it would be really unexpected if they joined the main team, so I had them become part of the group. Weekly published manga series really do grow a lot throughout their lifespan, so the reactions of the readers and the ideas of the writer really change as the story goes along.

Kikuchi: You seem to have a knack for making charming enemies.

Mashima: The thing is, every time a new enemy shows up, it has to be even stronger than the last one. I would constantly try to think of new variations, just to make sure every enemy didn’t turn out the same. I would think to myself, “this time I want the villain to be really intimidating,” or “I want this enemy to have a cackling laugh.”

Kikuchi: So how about when you play the game? Any specific party you have in mind? 

Mashima: I’d like to put together an all-female party: Lucy, Erza, Wendy, Juvia, Mirajane. That would be spectacular. I really want fans to have fun with their own specific combination of characters in their party, and with photo mode added in now, I hope that players around the world post pictures of their parties. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the pictures, but most of all, I hope everyone has fun playing Fairy Tail!

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