How did Wii Music begin, back before it was an official project within the company?
For some time I’d been hounding Kondo-san, saying that since we had a sound team, they should make a music game, not just music for games. Actually, this is something we had tried several times before.
When was that?
About the time the Nintendo 64 came out, several music games for computers were on the market, and we wondered if we could make something similar. We gave it a try, but since we didn’t have a specific mission—it hadn’t been assigned and there were no deadlines—it didn’t move forward. We knew we could just throw something together and toss it aside anytime. After we’d made something, we’d say, ‘Well, that isn’t bad’, and that would be the end of it.
It’s hard to finish something unless you really have to.
That’s right. Since these half-hearted efforts by the sound team to create a music game had been going on for some time, when this project arose, I hounded them to really do it this time.
With expressions like ‘cheer’ and ‘hound’, I suppose that shows how much you wanted this project to succeed and how much you needed input from professional musicians. If I remember correctly, in the very beginning, when Wii was still under development, a demo program for testing the Wii Remote existed, which later was the ‘conductor’s game’ that you revealed at E3 in 2006.
That’s right. At first it was just about conducting. Then we added drumming, and showed that at E3 as well. We were also working on adding the violin, but that fell through. Actually, each instrument presented its own set of problems. I thought it was getting too complicated and suggested giving up some of them, but everyone else stubbornly persisted, and before I knew it all the various elements came together.
So I left it in the hands of the sound team. But then it dragged on, and hardly made any progress. (laughs)
Oh. (laughs) I suppose the development team will tell me all about their trials and tribulations when I talk to them later.
I’m sure they will. (laughs) Roughly speaking, the project started moving once I appointed Totaka-san to be director. He’d worked on the music for a lot of games, like Animal Crossing, but for some time I’d been talking with Takashi Tezuka about having him take on more of a role as project coordinator in addition to being in charge of sound.
Totaka-san is fairly assertive.
Yeah, he’ll even tell those close to him flat out what he doesn’t like about them. And, of course, he has a deep understanding of music.One time I talked to him about jazz improvisation. I’d heard that you play towards a note you eventually want to arrive at, and without blinking he said ‘of course!’ Pretty cool, huh? I should’ve known because he performs jazz sometimes. I have a rational understanding of it. There are chords and scales, and if you know where you want to go, you can play your way there. But I can’t do it myself. One reason for that is I just don’t have the confidence. I thought, if everyone could enjoy playing freely towards a target like that, you would be able to perform a variety of expressions. Since Totaka-san and I had shared this conversation, and he seemed to be thinking about something along those lines, I thought it would be great if he could make the game that way.
Hmm, now I’m certain your musical experiences have paid off in this game. If you’d learned how to play a musical instrument, you might never have come up with the Wii Music concept of anyone being able to play music simply by moving the Wii Remote.
I suppose so. If I could actually play an instrument, I might view this game as sacrilege against true music.
So anyway, I determined the basic concept and appointed a director. Then I left it in the hands of the development staff. Sometimes I would hear presentations and adopt the role of badgering them with questions like ‘Why not do it like this?’ and ‘Why did you take that out?’ You could say I was a kind of cheering squad.
I think I know what you mean. (laughs)
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