First, everyone please introduce yourself and explain your connection to Wii Music.
I’m Kazumi Totaka. I’m in the Sound Group within the Software Development Department of the Entertainment Analysis and Development Division (EAD). I was the director of Wii Music.
You’ve always worked on sound, so was this your first time to be game director?
Yes, it was. This project was full of first times for me.
I’d like to hear more about that later on.
I’m Junji Morii from Group 2 of the EAD’s Software Development Department. For Wii Music, I worked on the sequencing and lessons.
Morii-san’s main job is design, but when it came to his other responsibilities this time…
That’s right. It was my first time.
(laughs) You’re next, Wada-san.
I’m Makoto Wada. I’m in the same group as Morii-san. I worked on mini-game and game text.
So he’s responsible for the slightly barbed introductory text for the musical instruments.
Yep, that’s me. (laughs)
Okay, tell me how Wii Music began.
Well, to begin with, when we were planning Wii Play, one of the mini-games we prepared was a ‘conducting game’. (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san demonstrated this to open the E3 press conference two years ago.
At the Kodak Theatre.
Right. After that we decided to develop it as a music game separate from Wii Play.
So, does that mean that the conducting game would have been one of the lineup for Wii Play if we hadn’t decided to create a whole new game based about music?
That’s quite a shock. (laughs) Do games usually branch off like that?
No, it’s fairly rare. But when it did, I left the Wii Play team to work on what would later become Wii Music. It was the first time I’d ever done something like that.
Everyone keeps using the phrase ‘first time’. (everyone laughs) So, for a while after that, you were in charge.
Yeah. It was just me, one other guy and an orchestra waiting for instruction.
When this project broke away from Wii Play, the whole company was placing every effort on the release of the Wii console.
That’s right. Development of games like Wii Play and Wii Sports were just finishing up.
What was it like, under those circumstances, to step to the side and start thinking about what would come next?
Bewildering. I was assigned to make a music game, but hadn’t really been involved in sound before.
Can you tell me a little about the games you had worked on previously?
Sure. Let’s see… Way back when, I had worked on Punch-Out!! for the NES.
Super Punch-Out!!?! (laughs)
Well, not just Punch-Out!!, but also games like Pilotwings 64 and Pokémon Stadium. For Pilotwings 64, I did some direction but mostly worked on aspects of design, such as modelling and animation. Then I joined the Animal Crossing team and started writing text.
Wada-san was Mr. Resetti! (laughs)
Mr. Resetti?!* (laughs)
I hope no one thinks I only write stuff like that! (laughs)
So it sounds like when it comes to music…
You got it. I’d never worked on it.
Had you ever learned to play a musical instrument?
So it must have been hard for you to be on your own like that.
Yeah, it really was. I’d thought of some games sort of like mini-games involving music but absolutely nothing substantial.
You’re very blunt about that.
Yeah, all the ideas I came up with were for more conventional music games. You know, doing something in time to rack up points.
Oh, I see.
When I tried working on the ‘conducting game’, which everyone had thought was fun, I tried to turn it into something that would feel more like a game. We were quickly losing sight of the simple enjoyment of musical performance that was at the heart of the project.
It sounds like you had a hard time.
In the end we came back to something almost the same as the conducting game demonstrated at E3. It was a long and winding road. Ha ha ha!
Seriously, we even had musical notation showing up on the screen.
Yeah. You had to swing a conductor’s baton in time with a music score. It was just a conventional music game.
So in other words, it was a completely opposite way to play than it is now.
Yeah. There were times like that in the past. Ha ha ha!
How long were you groping around like that?
Um…when did you join, Totaka-san?
January of 2007.
Then I’d say we were lost for over a year.
How did it end up?
I gave up! (everyone laughs)
But I thought never saying never was a part of Nintendo’s culture.
I threw up my hands and gave up, saying, ‘I just don’t get it! I don’t understand music! I don’t know what to do! Somebody, help!’
What a dramatic way to give up! It’s not something you see every day. Who did you tell this to?
First I told Eguchi-san (co-producer of Wii Music), my direct superior. Then Tezuka-san and Miyamoto-san got involved, and it became a big deal.
It was out in the open…
Then Totaka-san was assigned to the project.
I see. Someone who knows music. Totaka-san, were you told to be director right from the start?
No. Koji Kondo just suddenly asked me what I thought about Wii Music.
That’s a funny way to lure you in! (laughs) How did you respond?
I was in the same department, so I’d seen them working on it. I just came right out and said, ‘This is what I’d do!’
And that settled it.
I guess it did. I didn’t have any experience as a director, but I agreed to do it as if it were nothing. I didn’t notice until later what I’d gotten myself into.
Wada-san, what did you think about Totaka-san coming on board?
As if a tremendous burden had been lifted! (everyone laughs) I thought, ‘Whew! Now I don’t have to suffer!’
(laughs) When did you join, Morii-san?
About the same time as Totaka-san. After working as the art director for Wii Sports and Wii Play, I started working on Wii Music.
You came on as a designer, right?
So when did you take on directorial responsibilities?
Let’s see… When I first joined, they were mostly still experimenting, so there wasn’t much need for design. What needed to be designed hadn’t even been decided yet, so I thought I should think about how to push things forward. Then Totaka-san said he’d never been a director before, and he was taking on directorial roles so I thought maybe I could be of some use in that area.
He basically chose the role for himself.
In assigning work to the designers, I thought it was important to serve as a pipeline to the director. Otherwise, the work wouldn’t flow well.
Right. If you don’t make clear decisions, a lot of work might go to waste.
Exactly. So I took charge of the game structure and sequences and gradually defined the shape of the game.
I see. What did you think about that, Wada-san?
You can always count on Morii-san! (everyone laughs)
Still, giving up with such grandeur is unusual. There’s another way to look at it, though. You act like you weren’t accomplishing anything, but you must have had something working for Totaka-san to be able to look at it and form an alternative opinion. By heading to the completely opposite direction, you showed which paths wouldn’t work, thereby making Wii Music as it stands today possible.
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