How did Monster Octopus and the THEATRHYTHM team create the super-adorable characters of THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE?
By Masanobu Suzui and Monster Octopus

Hello again! THEATRHYTHM series director Masanobu Suzui here! I have overseen the game design from the beginning of the THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE project.

  • Favourite FF games: FF4 to FF6 (The combination of pixel graphics and storytelling that were cutting-edge at the time is just amazing)
  • Favourite FF music: “Blinded by Light” from FF13 (The impact of the opening part to the chorus really gets the adrenaline pumping)

In this article I’d like to talk about how the character designs for THEATRHYTHM were created!

Monster Octopus has done the character designs for THEATRHYTHM from the first game onwards. This was touched upon in our first blog article “How Theatrhythm came about”, but the art style was entirely predicated on the characters and monsters being drawn by him.


A vital mission and key challenge for the development team was to make Monster Octopus’ illustrations move in as vital and dynamic a way as possible on the game screen.

THEATRHYTHM Producer Ichiro Hazama explained the idea for the rhythm action game to Monster Octopus, who had already collaborated with Square Enix and Mr. Tetsuya Nomura on KINGDOM HEARTS MOBILE, and he agreed to us using his designs in the project. They went on to discuss all the details, such as how to split the different parts, model data conversion, gradation and motions etc.

Apart from the characters and monsters that he had already drawn for KINGDOM HEARTS MOBILE, Monster Octopus designed all the characters for THEATRYTHM from scratch, including the weapons they carried. We also had him add in some extra details to their clothing and decoration.

The designs were planned through individual discussions for each character, going into what form each small detail should take and what references from the original games should be used.


We had 4 new monsters drawn up for THEATRHYTHM FINAL BAR LINE.

As you’d expect from his name, Monster Octopus is incredibly skilled at drawing monsters. He really is exceptional in how he can differentiate their silhouettes, get just the right balance of stylisation on the different parts and judge the right level of detail perfectly.

Every time a new design comes in, the whole dev team nod approvingly and are motivated to give that character movements and textures that do it justice. It is a really good mutual working relationship that we have, and it inspires both sides to strive for even higher quality results!


I have talked about the character design from my perspective as part of the game development side at indieszero, but please also allow Monster Octopus to give you his thoughts from the perspective of the actual designer.

Monster Octopus, character designer for the THEATRHYTHM series here! Mr. Suzui has asked me to give a short introduction to how I approached the designs!

  • Favourite FF games: FF12 (I like the world of Ivalice)
  • Favourite FF music: “One-Winged Angel” (This was the song I played the most across the whole of the TFF series)

People often think of super deformed character designs as just reducing the amount of visual information and creating a simpler design with shorter proportions, but I don’t see it as stopping there. My own approach to super deformed designs is to adjust the level of visual information to a suitable place for each platform, while simultaneously working out how to maximise the inherent appeal in each one.

For each individual character design, I first start by gathering together as much reference material as possible. I use these to deepen my understanding of the original designer’s intentions, looking at the interpretation of each line that Mr. Amano has drawn or how Mr. Nomura or Mr. Itahana have realized their creations in pixel art or 3D.


On top of that I also consider how the fans have experienced these characters and what they memories of them they cherish. I then work out the best way to incorporate those aspects of their appeal into the super deformed design too.

The team’s trust towards me has led to quite a unique workflow for THEATRHYTHM games. My collaboration with indieszero feels a lot like a band’s jam session.

The guys at indieszero ad-lib suggestions about the kinds of textures and motions to apply to each character and really try to understand what I want to express as they work up the designs for their incorporation into the game. When the indieszero team split the designs into detailed sections, they will sometimes sneak in areas where they pass on the colouring. At other times there are parts that you would normally never expect to move, but because it is indieszero, I am always absolutely sure they will animate them!

I always look forward to seeing the finished characters and monsters in the game, and they never fail to exceed my expectations.


Of all the enemy characters that I designed for this game, the one I have the fondest memories of working on was Ardyn.

When I started working on him, it was hard to figure out how his complex clothing was constructed. I really wondered how indieszero would split the design up to move freely. The other thing was the sheer number of weapons he used with his Armiger power! It was quite a headache and I spent time mulling over how to approach these.

If I added too much detail in how the weapons were drawn then it would overload the player with too much visual information and also get in the way of Ardyn himself, but at the same time I didn’t want to make them too simplistic. I also had to make subtle tweaks to work out how best to express Ardyn’s mysterious side.

Please take a look at the finished Ardyn in game to see the results!

It’s me, Suzui again!

Monster Octopus also did the hand-drawn graffiti style note images shown on the right hand side of the party selection screen. He more than delivered on this request from the development team and came up with as many as 5 different versions for us to use. All of them are incredibly cute, so look out for these in the game too!


See you for THEATRHYTHM THURSDAY next week!

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