Aside from the network functionality, what other changes have you made since the Game Boy Advance version?
I’m not sure what the best way to explain this is... In the normal run of things, when you’re working on a game series, you’ll have sequels, “2”, “3”, and so on. There’s a tendency to increase the number of elements in the game with each version.
The majority of games work like that, don’t they?
That was something I was determined to avoid. On top of that, when it comes to simulations, you might have, for instance, three choices: A, B or C. But it might be immediately obvious that the right choice is A. It’s a real pain for the player to have to select even the most obvious things.
Those were the parts I wanted to cut out. There are also those games that allow you to skip the match and just see the result. There was absolutely no way I was allowing that.
As I spoke about a little earlier, I didn’t have any intention of making a simulation, and that was the case when I made the baseball games, as well as the horse racing games. I wanted to create something where the player didn’t have to keep making all sorts of changes in order to get on with playing the game. I wanted to minimise the number of things a player had to do but, at the same time, I wanted to make sure they’d never get bored. It was incredibly difficult to do the fine-tuning required to get this balance right.
So rather than making endless irritating demands of players, you wanted them to be able to enjoy the matches.
That’s right. I wanted to create a game where your eyes would be glued to the action during these really intense matches, and that would be enough for you to have fun playing.
Just now you said that there was absolutely no way you’d ever allow the player to just see the results without watching the match. You’ve gone to the trouble of making it so players don’t want to miss a second of the matches, and being able to simply skip to the results would be removing the very thing that’s so fun about football. So it makes perfect sense that you’d say you wouldn’t allow that.
Right. That’s why we’ve made so much effort to make watching the games enjoyable, and given them this realism. When I say “real”, I’m not talking about the level of detail in the graphics, which makes it rather difficult to define... It’s now on Nintendo 3DS, but that doesn’t mean that when you first see the game you’re going to think the visuals have changed dramatically since the days of the Game Boy Advance.
Yes, that’s true. I’m certain that there are people out there who will see screenshots from this game on Nintendo’s homepage or elsewhere, and will think: “Is this really a Nintendo 3DS game?”
Definitely. The game originally features small pixelated characters, and we tried as much as possible to remain faithful to the look of the original...
The game’s appeal doesn’t lie in something you can see, which makes it rather difficult to get across. When you first see it, it doesn’t look like the visuals have changed or that there are lots of additional features in there, but at a deeper level, a whole host of elements have changed, haven’t they?
That’s correct. What’s been added isn’t something you can see. For instance, in the last game, there were players who were motivated by trying to level up all their players to the maximum S-rank. As I was making it, I wondered if this approach was okay. I just wasn’t sure...
It didn’t quite match your vision for the game?
Right, that’s it. It clashed with the way I saw the game. In Best Play Pro Baseball, for instance, you were free to change individual player’s parameters, and if you wanted, you could boost every player’s ability to the maximum S-level. But we got feedback asking where the fun was in that, even if you did win.
Sure enough, if you level up every player to the maximum, it’s not going to be as much fun playing after that.
Right. It would be like having a baseball team composed entirely of sluggers. That’s why in this game we made it so, for example, a player’s form will gradually decline over the course of a number of matches.
So just because you’ve trained up a powerful player doesn’t mean you can simply keep using them.
Yes. For instance, if you have a number of important fixtures lined up...
Your ace striker’s form might deteriorate over the course of those games.
That’s right, and that means that you have to stay alert, see the way things are going and adjust your strategy accordingly, making changes, utilising this or that player. In addition, when you watch your team during a match, the way you’ve trained them up will be reflected in their performance.
So it’s not just the performance of individual players, but the character of the entire team that you can see, and this makes watching matches even more fun than it was in the previous title.
That’s right. But that’s not something you’re going to be able to tell by just taking a quick glance at the screen. It’s not something that’s going to be immediately obvious to players.
Out of interest, how long did it take to develop Nintendo Pocket Football Club?
Well, the initial planning phase for the Game Boy Advance version took place during the Nintendo 64 era, and the development process started in earnest in 2000, I believe.
Then it was released in 2006.
So during the period from conception through to completion, three World Cups took place.
Is that a fact? (laughs) And how long did the Nintendo 3DS version take to make?
Well, we started work on it right after the last version was released, so...
So that means it took about six years.
Oh, it took that long, did it? Time really does fly, doesn’t it? (laughs) Well, when I make a game, I can never see the end of the process, and I just keep fiddling with it until the gameplay has the balance I’m looking for.
But then once you start the process, you don’t stop until you have that perfect balance. Can I ask you if you have always enjoyed watching football?
No, I actually became interested in it as a result of the football boom in Japan. It was similar to the way I became interested in horse racing and then made Derby Stallion.
Ah, I see. So you started watching football matches and thought it was really enjoyable, so you began to analyse why it was so fun.
It really is typical of you that you managed to reflect this in the form of a game. You go out in pursuit of knowledge, wanting to pin down what precisely it is that makes something fun. At the same time, you’re a craftsman who wants to make something that’s perfectly balanced...
No, I’d say I take far too long to complete things to be called a craftsman! (laughs) But then the six years we spent making the game were not wasted, and I really do feel that we’ve created something that football fans are going to enjoy. I really want those players to give the game a go and experience the excitement for themselves.
Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today.
It was my pleasure. Thank you very much.
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