Please allow me to change the subject a little. What did you think of Nintendo 3DS when you saw it for the first time?
I’d heard it was stereoscopic, but I imagined the effect would be more subtle. I was really surprised at how solid and three-dimensional everything looked.
Now, this is a thought I had when I saw the Kingdom Hearts game you made for the Nintendo DS as well: you’re one of these people who isn’t comfortable unless you’re making as much use as possible of a console’s features, aren’t you?
I suppose so, yes! (laughs)
I remember thinking the same when I saw The World Ends With You20. I think it’s therefore fair to say that your fans are thinking “what is Nomura-san going to do with Nintendo 3DS?” 20 The World Ends With You is an action RPG released for the Nintendo DS in July 2007. Tetsuya Nomura was the main character designer and creative producer.
I suppose so... With a brand new title like The World Ends With You, you can be really adventurous and try all sorts of new things. When I think of Kingdom Hearts’s fans, however, I know I can’t go that far. Instead I’ve tried to find ways of using the new features wherever it seems possible. The thing I’m happiest about with Nintendo 3DS is that it supports analogue controls. Analogue controls are really important for action games, so this was a big relief for me.
The free-flowing action in this title seems to be the most dynamic of any game in the series so far. Looking at it, you do feel that analogue controls are a must.
That’s right. The Nintendo 3DS system is a really bold machine, and the stereoscopic graphics give an incredible feeling of depth. That’s why the visuals are so dynamic. Free-flowing action was actually the first feature I wanted Kingdom Hearts 3D to have.
This free-flowing action was part of your original vision of the game?
Yes, it was. This idea was born from the fact that the Nintendo 3DS system has both stereoscopic graphics and analogue controls. In fact, staff who’ve been working on this latest game now complain that the movements in older games like BBS21 and KH II are too slow. They say things like “once you’ve experienced the 3D free-flowing action, you can’t go back”, and “a Kingdom game where you can’t jump-kick off the walls just isn’t a Kingdom game.” (laughs) 21 BBS refers to Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, an RPG released in January 2010 (in Japan).
So even your own staff said they couldn’t go back to enjoying a previous title after experiencing the free-flowing action in this one! But was it difficult to build a game using such dynamic visuals?
It certainly wasn’t straightforward. Because you can now kick off a wall to jump as far as you like, we had to make maps that are much bigger than in usual Kingdom Hearts games. These jump-kicks are also a little difficult to control, but...they’ll make you laugh! You won’t believe how far you can jump! (laughs)
You laughed at a feature you added yourself!? (laughs)
I did, but then I thought it’s probably a good thing that it’s funny. What’s more, learning how to control moves like that is part of the fun of an action game.
You can certainly get addicted to such things. Watching somebody play it really makes you want to give it a try.
I think so, too. My favourite part of Mario 64 was in front of the castle. You didn’t have any particular goals there; you could just run around, jump and slide. Woosh! That’s the kind of thing I had in mind when I was imagining Kingdom Hearts 3D’s free-flowing action.
Ah, I remember (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san saying that he wanted to create the game where just picking up the controller and moving around in the world was fun, even when there was no particular game mission to complete. When I saw that he’d actually managed to achieve that, I was really impressed, as it was something I had wanted to do myself. Mario responded exactly to your intentions when moving, and it looked like all his motions were smoothly connected. I think Mario 64 changed action gaming forever, actually.
I agree. Being able to freely jump around is at the very root of what action gaming means. In this game, we tried to make it freer than ever. Jumps are not easy to pull off at the beginning, but they are incredibly satisfying once you have mastered them.
I hope lots of people get to experience that satisfaction. Now, how many of the new action game ideas that have made it into the game were things that were part of your original vision, and how many of them were things you uncovered or worked out during development?
I don’t think anything’s made it into the game exactly as I originally imagined and drew it. Many staff members contributed their ideas, and I was happy with that – as long as they were fun. Actually, it wouldn’t be that much fun if the things made it in the game exactly the way I’d imagined. I’d had the original vision for the game in my head for a long time, but when other people shared their opinions, this vision really grew, and I could say “we’re doing something audacious here”.
I suppose you always believed there was a good common solution lying ahead, so you had the faith to carry on searching for it.
Yes. I can never deviate from the course that I set originally, and I always keep in my mind this image of a rather vague and broad goal where we should finally arrive. So, even when the newly proposed ideas aren’t exactly what I had originally envisaged, it is OK as long as I can feel they are fun or interesting.
Alright. Now, I’d like to ask you about the benign Dream Eaters .
They came about because my family had cats and dogs when I was a child. The thing with pets is that you’re present from the moment they’re born all the way through their development, so you develop a real affection for them. That’s why I thought that, if some Dream Eaters became players’ companions as soon as they were born, players would feel a similar level of affection towards them as they do to towards their pets. That was my motive when I created the friendly Dream Eaters.
What’s more, most of the games up to now that have allowed you to befriend your enemies involved command-based battles. I wanted to try doing that with full action battles.
There certainly aren’t many action battle games that allow you to befriend and fight alongside characters that originally appeared as your enemies.
Actually doing that was quite troublesome, but I was determined to do it before anyone else did. I knew that fighting alongside your former enemies in such audacious action battles would be really fun, so I wanted to be the first company to achieve that. Sora can now swing his companions around and throw them, ride on their backs, and all sorts of other things.
You casually mentioned “riding around” there, but actually implementing riding in a game always massively increases your workload, doesn’t it? (laughs)
Yes, it’s certainly easier said than done! (laughs)
So the concept of friendly Dream Eaters was born from your pursuit of an original game system and your vision of unique visuals, in addition to the fact that you had cats and dogs when you were a child?
That’s right. Nintendogs22 made an impact on me as well – the way that game puts you in contact with your pets. I always had battles in mind, though. I wondered “why can’t I make my Nintendogs fight?” (laughs) 22 Nintendogs is a communication game, released for the Nintendo DS in April 2005 (in Japan).
(bursts out laughing)
When you take your Nintendogs for a walk, and they meet other dogs via StreetPass23... Imagine if they could have a battle! 23 StreetPass is a communication feature that allows you to swap data with passers-by, simply by leaving your Nintendo 3DS switched on and carrying it around with you.
You wanted to fight against the other dogs you met!? (laughs)
I did occasionally think “are they going to fight...!?” But of course, they never did. (laughs)
(laughs) But, of course, whenever we encounter brand new creative works, we always receive some inspiration from them. In that sense, we’ve been tossing the invisible ball back and forth amongst ourselves, so to speak.
I suppose so. I’ve always made RPGs in which the battle system has been pivotal, so I find it quite hard to think of something other than the battle system. I told the THEATRHYTHM team to add battles to the game as well. I said that I was imagining four people, lined up, and four rows in front of the enemy...
Oh, I see. It seems you feel quite strongly that a game revolves around its battle system, then, Nomura-san.
That’s probably a reflection of what I want from a game. Maybe I’m just not happy unless I’m fighting! (laughs)
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