To conclude the interview, can I ask you what you most want to say to people about this title? Let’s begin with you, Yamagami-san.
I’d really like players to experience those emotional highs and lows you get in a film or TV drama. I’d particularly like those people who would normally dismiss video games to give this one a try. I think they’ll discover that games really can touch you emotionally.
Is it hard going for players who aren’t accustomed to playing action games?
I think they’ll be fine. I mean, I’m sure they might get the occasional ‘Game Over’ along the way, but I’m confident they’ll want to try again: ‘If I give up, what will become of Elena...?’ I don’t think getting a ‘Game Over’ or two along the way will put people off.
How do you think female players will approach the game?
I think there’ll be no difference. The character of Elena is a person with a strong will, and I think everyone, whether the player is a woman or not, will feel the same desire to help this person. To put it in my own simple terms, gender doesn’t matter when we feel a puppy is cute. As long as that kind of emotional aspect is concerned, I think that players will all be able to enjoy this game in a similar way whatever their gender.
Nakano-san, over to you.
I’d like to talk about the gameplay. We got rid of any complex camera controls to let you concentrate on the action, and even if an enemy defeats you, we’ve ensured that you’ll restart from the previous checkpoint, so you’ll be able to try again right away. The game is very easy to get into, even for players who are new to this type of game. You have the freedom to play in the way you want, and you’ll find you naturally become emotionally invested in Elena and her plight. This is something I look forward to players enjoying.
Right, your turn, Irie-san.
Looking at the game as a whole, if you were to extract individual elements, you could probably say: ‘Ah, there have been games like this.’ But when those elements are combined in Pandora’s Tower, you have a game that’s unlike any you’ve played before. The combination of the action in the towers and the relationship with Elena gives it a different dimension to regular games featuring action and beautiful heroines. There are also more than ten bosses, called ‘masters’, and their design really adds a lot to the game. The player will enjoy the anticipation of seeing what kind of boss is going to appear next.
It isn’t only Elena who has had a lot of thought put into her, but also the towers themselves. Now over to you, Hoga-san.
I’d like to talk about some of the finer details of the game. In order to make the game feel more real to the player, we’ve put a lot of effort into these details. One that’s easy to spot is the rendering of fluids like slime which we’ve achieved on Wii. You’ll see this on Elena’s lips, her damp clothes, and see pools of it still in evidence on the floor after she returns to her human state. There’s also been a lot of effort put into the way Elena moves, and the way that you view the map changes over time too. There are all sorts of details like this which you wouldn’t usually find in a game, and I look forward to players discovering them.
What was it like to work on an original IP for the first time?
Well, for me personally, since I’m really not strong at coming up with characters or devising game worlds, I focussed on ways to successfully implement the ideas in Yamakura’s draft design and the guidance we received from Yamagami-san and Nakano-san. So it didn’t really feel all that much like I was working on an original game... (laughs)
So in terms of how you structured your approach to development, it was no different from working on a game that came from manga, let’s say.
That’s right. I took heed of everyone’s views as much as I could, so it did feel like I was making a game based on an existing source. Rather than thinking of it as original, I tried to come up with the best way to put the ideas I was given into the game, which felt a little curious. (laughs)
I think that all comes down to the division of labour. When did this project get under way, incidentally?
Well, I’m embarrassed to say it, but it’s over four years ago now. The initial plans date from December 2006.
The development cycle for this game differed enormously from that of a regular game. It was like a really long tunnel. How did you manage to run all the way through it without giving into frustration or despair? Do you owe it all to those phone calls from your sweetheart, Nakano-san?
Ah, well, it’s true that it helps to share the burden. (laughs) We’d discuss the tasks we’d been set, and both worry about them together. If I’d been dealing with all of that on my own, it may well have proved too much for me.
This game does feel like an enormous amount of care has been put into it. Finally, over to you, Yamakura-san.
Well, it certainly did take a long time, but we were always spurred on by the thought of players finally getting to enjoy the game, and we really put a lot of care and attention into it. We have strived to meet the expectations of the players. We’re also very grateful to Nintendo for giving us this opportunity, and for all the fantastic advice you have given us. The games we have developed up to now have been centred on existing IPs, but we also put our hearts and souls into Pandora’s Tower, our first original title. I look forward to everyone having the opportunity to play it. On a more personal note, I’ve always worked as a producer on projects up to now, but this is the one I have become most deeply involved in. That’s why I feel that when I work on other projects as producer, I will be able to utilise the experience I have gained on this project to the full.
What do you feel you have gained from this project?
...Well, I think I’ve learned that there are things you aren’t able to see until you put a little distance between yourself and them.
That’s something that’s really true when it comes to making products.
Yes, up until now, I’ve always wondered why there were things I couldn’t grasp. But it turns out that when you’re alongside everyone, dancing together with them, you’ll also share the things you don’t understand. You really have to take a step back sometimes.
It is very important to change your perspective sometimes. Even if you’re deeply involved in something, it’s good to take a look around you from time to time. I hope that this game finds the audience it deserves. Thank you all very much for joining me today.
Thank you very much.
Editor’s note: This interview was originally published on 23rd May, 2011 on the Japanese Nintendo website. It features videos captured from the Japanese version of the game. In the UK & Ireland this game will be available in English.
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