Tell us a bit about Les Grande Odalisque. What can we expect from this title?
Jinnai: Les Grande Odalisque is about a harem in Asia. The game features two protagonists:one is the princess of a small nation in Western Europe,and the other is her best friend. The setting is based on early 1900s Western Asia. While the game incorporates a lot of adventure fiction elements, it is at its core a Japanese otome game. The story portrays the friendship between the two protagonists, as well as the romance and conflict that springs forth as they meet and befriend people born and raised in a culture entirely different from theirs.
Kano: Things can get pretty complicated on certain routes, but for the most part you'll still have a good time just focusing on the character drama if that's your preference.
What inspired you to develop this game?
Jinnai: When I read Takaco Kano's project proposal, I was smitten with the historical aspects. I also appreciated that the characters were designed to be relatable to modern audiences despite the antiquated setting. The story takes place during the equivalent of Japan's Meiji period, so I thought it would be interesting to portray an outside perspective on both the Western and Eastern cultural values of the time. When I worked on "Valpurga no uta -Walpurgisgedichte-," one of the core themes was the combination and contrast of Western and Eastern sensibilities. This time, however, I believe we've put a whole new spin on it. Kano: Harems are a fairly common aspect of stories targeted at the female demographic, but for this title I think the most weighty element, moreso than the geographic location, is the time period. Once we established the three main points—two female protagonists,a harem, early 20th century—only then did it feel like the project was finally coming together.
This title seems like a bit of a departure from Kalmia8's usual fare. What led you to release it under this specific brand?
Jinnai: Until recently, I had restricted all Kalmia8 products to casual, short or medium-length titles with two romanceable characters, but the scale of my projects has gradually expanded... and with this title, that restriction has officially been lifted. Les Grande Odalisque is not a casual game, and there are more than two romanceable characters, but it has a certain unique charm that I don't think any brand but Kalmia8 could achieve.
Have you considered porting your games outside of the Windows PC platform? What about multi-language releases?
Jinnai: We're thinking about it. Unfortunately, under the current Japanese rating system, a lot of the content featured in the game would only be permitted for sale as a PC title. Specifically, one route in particular will be exclusive to the adults-only version. Kalmia8 has a lot of fans outside of Japan, which is why we opted to translate parts of the teaser site into English. Due to the sheer size of the game itself, however, we can't confirm any localization plans yet. For now, I hope you'll look forward to the Japanese PC version.
How many romanceable characters can we expect from this title? Will Eli and Alexia be able to pursue the same men?
Jinnai: There are four romanceable characters total, and for the most part, they don't overlap. Each protagonist has two eligible bachelors: In Eli's route, the player can pursue Aslan or Dietrich; in Alexia's route, Selīm or Faruk. In certain endings, however, Eli and Alexia may form a relationship with the same character. Kano: Each route has what is considered a "regular happy ending" where there's absolutely no crossover. For the most part, that's limited to bad endings only.
What level of sexual content can we expect to see in this title?
Jinnai: In Japan, this game will be classified as adults-only. There will also be an all-ages version with the sexual content completely cut out.
Can you sum up the overall story for us?
Jinnai: It's about the protagonists coming to terms with themselves over the course of a long, arduous journey they never saw coming. They meet people with different values, clash with them, then eventually come to respect and befriend them. Maybe they don't always understand each other, but they push forward nonetheless. Granted, the fruits of that conflict—the introspection, ambition, hopes and dreams—may differ between routes and endings.
Kano: Right from the start of the project, I knew I wanted to write a story in which love and ambition were at odds with each other, where choosing one would mean losing the other, that sort of thing. Each route has a "regular happy ending," but I get the feeling not everyone will unilaterally agree it's the "best" ending.
Tell us more about Eli and Alexia.
Jinnai: With Eli, based on her background at the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and all that, it's obvious she isn't as conscious of her femininity as Alexia is. She's highly committed to protecting Alexia, moreso than anyone else. As for Alexia... She's a princess with both wisdom and undeniable beauty, but at the same time, you get the sense that she's given up inside. To her, Eli is a symbol of hope.
It's rare to see a game with two protagonists. What led you to take that route?
Jinnai: In the country of Anatolia where the story is set, the protagonists are outsiders. And while they're both young European women, their contrasting viewpoints and social standing allowed us to depict many different sides of the Les Grande Odalisque setting. Not only that, but the relationship between the two protagonists, both friendship and conflict, forms the core of the story. However, because the story is designed so that the romanceable characters are split between the protagonists, players will be unable to mix and match their ideal pairing. This may be a turn-off for some. Kano: I always wanted to write a story with two very different protagonists. Add in the harem element, and bam, suddenly I had a project. For female-targeted games in particular, I believe what matters most for player immersion isn't the romanceable characters but in fact the protagonist. And with a story of this size coupled with my own shortcomings as a writer, I struggled to cover it all with only a single female lead. With two, however, I feel that all the bases have been covered nicely. I agree that the biggest downside is being unable to mix and match your ideal pairing between both protagonists and all four romanceable guys. On the plus side, however, I feel this setup might actually highlight the unique qualities of each male character. Now that I've finished writing the script, I can say with confidence that Aslan, for example, would likely never fall for Alexia, and Faruk and Eli would never make it out of the friend zone, etc. Of course, it all depends on how you look at it, and everyone's welcome to enjoy the game in whatever way they see fit. Personally, I hope it conveys a special sense of exclusivity—"he wouldn't fall for just anyone, it had to be her" and vice-versa.
It looks like there are quite a lot of side characters. Will the protagonists interact with non-romanceable men? What about non-romanceable women?
Jinnai: Yes, definitely. There are a lot of female characters, too. Kano: I know some people out there might think, "Why put in female characters when you can put in more hot guys instead?" and I get where you're coming from on that, I promise. That said, in writing this harem story, I needed to establish the protagonists not as all-powerful sole heroines, but as individuals within a much larger group, at least to a certain extent.
Is there any extreme content (depictions of violence, etc.)?
Jinnai: Generally speaking, this game is best suited to those who don't require content warnings. That said, there won't be any same-sex relationships between the protagonists or the male characters. Kano: This is not a story where pain, anger, and injustice conveniently don't exist. That said, the point of this game is not to glorify those more extreme elements, but use them as tools of storytelling or as the consequence of a choice. At least, that's how I see it.
Any notable features of this game?
Jinnai: Due to its massive length, I anticipate the title will be only partially voiced. We're also considering selling each protagonist's route as its own separate game, but for the time being, the plan is to sell the whole game as a PC title. Seriously, the game is huge! Kano: This game features a total of 20 endings, and we intend to put unique CGs in each of them. My hope is that anyone who plays this game can find at least one ending that makes them think, "This ending was designed just for me."
How was the story script produced?
Kano: Faluk's route and all related branches were written by Nikai Ninomae. In comparison to other routes, it has more intense plot developments, with characters taking dramatic action. Of particular note are the changes that occur within the protagonist. The rest of the routes and overarching plot were penned by me, and for the most part I wrote it to suit my own tastes, but I've asked numerous professional scenario writers to review my work, so there shouldn't be anything too out of the ordinary. And of course, Jinnai has been helping me with every facet of my work as well.
Any last comments to Kalmia8 fans?
Jinnai: If the story synopsis has you intrigued, I hope you'll look forward to the game's release. Right now we're all working hard to make something special. Kano: This project wouldn't have been possible without Kalmia8 and its legacy of developing female-targeted adults-only PC games. I hope you'll look forward to the beautiful artwork, music, special effects, and more!