Since we’ve got a little bit of time, let me ask you: What kind of twists and turns have there been since the development of Band Brothers started way back in the Game Boy era?
Well, at first we were planning to make a dance game. That kind of game was really popular at the time.
Why didn’t you end up making a dance game?
We couldn’t dance. Not a single one of us.
That wasn’t a very well thought-out plan in the first place, then!
I was originally a designer - I’d never made a single game before. After that, I calmed down and took a good look at the staff. I realised that there were people who were really into playing musical instruments. That’s when I thought: “Dancing is out, but we could maybe make a band game…”
…so, not having a clear goal in the first place naturally meant the project direction strayed.
I was really serious about it, though.
You wanted to unleash Barbara onto the world, after all… You thought you could combine your desire with the sound chip, and if dance games were no good, you could probably do something with a musical instrument game, right?
The idea was probably a bit simplistic… There wasn’t much storage space on the Game Boy Color’s cartridges, so we knew we couldn’t include all instrument sounds on one cartridge. We knew that we had to do something, so we came up with the idea of having a different cartridge for each instrument…
Another slightly simplistic idea… (laughs)
But it was that idea that people would be able to come together with different instrument cartridges to play Jam Sessions that was the origin of the Band Brothers concept. The development of the Game Boy Advance solved a lot of problems, and we were able to exhibit at the 2001 Tokyo Game Show…
At that time, you could only hear the instrument that you played yourself through your console speaker, so it became our mission to enable users to hear each other’s instruments. That’s why we had the idea of including a separate speaker in the game package. I thought that created a great visual impact…
Just looking at the software being presented really dazzled people. The development team – you included, Kitamura-san – would play and seem to be having so much fun. You went all around the company doing presentations, didn’t you?
Yes, and in order to strengthen the impact of these presentations there was a period during which we’d practise Jam Sessions in order to work out what kind of performances we should do. We’d also put on costumes before going out to perform.
You did a presentation in Yamauchi-san’s (President of Nintendo at the time) office, didn’t you?
All I remember about that is how nervous I was.
How did you feel when development was suspended?
It was a real shock… That’s why when you became President and sent that questionnaire around, Iwata-san, I had the mindset of, well, “a drowning man will clutch at a straw” as they say, and thought you had thrown a lifeline.
This questionnaire was something I sent by email to all Nintendo development staff because I wanted to know what everyone in the development department was thinking at the time. 99% of people responded dutifully to my questions, but there were some people who wrote at length about matters not mentioned on the questionnaire… Kitamura-san was one of these people. (laughs)
“Let us do Game Boy Music again!” was what I wrote.
It was a bit longer than that, if I recall… (laughs)
I really don’t think Band Brothers would have seen the light of day if it weren’t for that questionnaire. The title was your idea as well, Iwata-san.
Anyone can see the similarity to ‘Super Smash Bros.*. I don’t think it would be allowed under normal circumstances. (laughs) I remember thinking it would be nice if a lot of people felt close to the software and abbreviated it as BanBro. *The Japanese title of Super Smash Bros. is Dairanto! Smash Brothers, whereas the title for Jam with the Band is Daigasso! Band Brothers.
I thought that the words Barbara and Banbro had a similar feeling, so I thought it was a great name.
How did Barbara come to be in the first place?
We didn’t want to create a conventional character. We wanted to create the kind of character that hadn’t been seen in previous Nintendo titles.
I see, so that’s why she’s got a bit of an edge to her. But now Barbara, the character that nobody wanted to use in a game, has appeared in other software titles apart from the original Band Brothers, such as this version of Jam with the Band and English Training.
Yes. I feel really grateful for that.
How did you decide on Barbara’s personality?
I first drew her with a simple ‘baddie’ image in mind, but when it came to her personality, it wasn’t just my creation. All the staff members contributed to making her the way she is. She’s also a really convenient character to have around. Whenever something goes wrong in the game, we can blame it on Barbara. It didn’t matter who wrote her lines, she’d always manage to make them her own. (laughs)
But when I wrote some text and sent it to Kitamura-san, when it came back it sounded just like Barbara.
Eh? I told you, I didn’t modify it at all.
Actually, when Kitamura san was so forceful in trying to bring this project to market, I did think she looked like Barbara’s double. She’s not usually like that, but there were times when she did seem possessed. (laughs)
If I were going to be possessed by something, I’d choose to be possessed by a Bubblegum Pop star!
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