Did you discuss your plans for Pandora’s Tower with anyone else?
I discussed it with the staff working on the preliminary character design . They were actually working on the design for a separate plan that Hoga had made, so I had a quiet word with them and said: ‘Would you be able to do this in secret?’ (laughs)
So there were two plans in motion at the same time?
Ganbarion arrived to present us with what we thought would be one plan for the game. Then Yamakura-san said: ‘I’ve actually got another proposal’. She got a whiteboard out and told us that the theme was going to be true love.
No doubt Yamagami-san pricked up his ears when he heard you say that.
It’s true! After we’d heard all the details of the design, I was so taken aback that I found myself asking: ‘Did you come up with that yourself, Yamakura-san?’
Was Nakano-san there too?
Yes, I was. I looked over the plan Yamakura-san had given us, and both Yamagami-san and I were incredibly excited, just going: ‘Wow!’
Then when I gave a presentation to Iwata-san about it, you said: ‘But what actually happens in the game?’ (laughs) I said that this was still up in the air, and you said: ‘If you’re getting started like that, it’s going to be hard work.’
I remember that very clearly.
I’m certain that you now know exactly what I meant by those words, Nakano-san.
Yes, I most certainly do! (laughs) The vision of the game world was very strong, but we then had to actually go about creating it. The structure we had in place was the same as it had been for the Jump games, so I recalled that when we got started. My hope was that if Ganbarion and I could pull together, we could somehow make it work.
A project wouldn’t normally get started in this manner. With the vast majority of the games our internal dev teams make here at Nintendo, they come up with the game, and then come up with the story. You’ll generally run into trouble if you start without a solid idea of what the core of the game is, so we wouldn’t normally do things this way round.
But Ganbarion had been more than a match for the unreasonable demands we’d made of them with the two Jump games, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to embark on a fresh challenge. Nakano-san worked well with Ganbarion, so I thought at the time: ‘Let’s take a leap into uncharted waters with this one’.
As we just discussed, at that time, the only points we were settled on were that you would give the heroine meat to transform her, and that there should be a time limit, within which you could come and go between stages. When I look back now, I do think that we were a little too optimistic in thinking: ‘If we just work with that for now, things will be sure to come together.’ (laughs)
It did take a lot longer than scheduled, didn’t it? What was the next step in the process?
Well, after what you said to us, we made sure we had the gameplay up and running. We’d decided that the hero would use a chain, and we began work on a prototype for the action element of the game.
Another task that you had set us was to make it accessible to as many people as possible. We started by doing all we could to make it so you could play using a single Wii Remote.
How did you get on with that?
Hoga was working on another project at the time, so it was my job to come up with the prototype where the action would be controlled with a single Wii Remote. I then passed the baton on to Hoga for the development of the full game, but because both Hoga and Nakano-san are such fans of action games, they generated all sorts of ideas. As we worked to implement these ideas, the idea of controlling the game using a single Wii Remote became more and more untenable.
So the attempt to use a single Wii Remote for the game controls actually ended up being more of a hindrance than anything else.
That’s right. We then modified our approach, got some hints from Mario Galaxy11, and redesigned it so the game would be controlled using the Wii Remote in conjunction with the Nunchuk. 11 Super Mario Galaxy is a 3D platform game released for Wii in November 2007.
A lot of players enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy with its combination of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. We found that this control style suited the game better, so this became a real turning point.
Making a game where you wield a chain using the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk, what kind of action did you envisage being possible?
Well, we thought that to utilise the capabilities of the Wii Remote in an action game, we should use the pointer. This would give it a quality unique to Wii, making it stand out more.
Did the combination of the chain and the pointer work well?
Yes, it did. Though when we first hit upon the idea of using a chain, we didn’t even consider using the pointer. (laughs)
That reminds me, the idea for the chain came about because of the way in which it would contrast with the heroine’s skin. I think you could go as far as to say that, as a game, there was no real centre to it at the start.
Our job then was to come up with a way to make it work.
But considered from another angle, the way you went about developing this game, without that core gameplay element in place from the start, is exactly the same as the way you’d work with a title like One Piece, where just a general setting is given to you first. So in that sense, the way the game is structured is identical to games that are based on things like manga.
Right. That’s why it all felt relatively smooth and natural to me. When the development process got under way, I felt we were making a game based on the Pandora’s Tower franchise.
I see. So you made it so you were able to use your tried and tested methods.
Right. At first, we were really happy to be working on our first original title, as we’d have the freedom to change aspects of the story and world as the game required. But personally speaking, the scenario and the game world are not things I’m particularly strong on, and having the ability to modify these didn’t end up working well... There were times during development when we went off course as a result of making precisely this sort of change, so I resolved to go about making games in a way that gets the most possible out of the source material.
It could be the case that when the developer has the ability to change things as and when it suits them, it can actually steer things in the wrong direction. In contrast, perhaps if you have settled on a scenario, it gives a coherent structure to the game. You then won’t end up with any elements that are out of step with the overall tone of the game.
I think so. Once I started to think in that way, it became much easier to steer things in the right direction.
© 2020 Nintendo.