Totaka-san, when you became director, you must have tried out some of your ideas. Did the game immediately come together after that?
No, not at all.
Do you remember when the turning point was?
When we gave up musical notation. Playing without a score on the screen felt really good.
By a score you mean indications, like other music games usually have, as to what the correct timing is. Getting rid of them is quite a drastic move. Why did you decide on that?
Well, when I played multiplayer mode in various music games with other staff members, I noticed that we weren’t listening to each other’s performance at all.
Because you were focused on the score. (laughs)
Right. We were absorbed in pushing buttons.
As a musician, you could not feel like you were enjoying the music, could you ?
No, not at all. When I play music in my free time, the enjoyment lies in letting myself go. But I didn’t feel like that was happening when I was so intent on following a score.The same thing happens even when I play a real musical instrument. If I cling to the score, I don’t feel that sense of liberation. Getting the general gist of the score and then letting yourself go while playing is significantly more enjoyable.
I see. So you dropped music scores. Did everyone agree right away?
I fought him tooth and nail. (laughs)
Really?! Oh, I get it! You couldn’t conceive of a music game without musical notation of some sort.
Right. Guys like Totaka-san, who know music, has rhythm and can keep time for themselves, so it doesn’t matter if they have a score or not. But guys like me, who couldn’t even play the recorder in grammar school, don’t have a clue what to do or when to do it without some kind of direction.
Ah, so as for experience in music…
I don’t have any.
None at all.
Even less than me!
That’s funny. (laughs) This team had a professional musician and someone who knows next to nothing about music!
That’s why I opposed getting rid of music scores for a long time.
Yeah. A long time. (laughs)
Whilst they were going back and forth about that, what were you doing, Wada-san?
Nothing much at all.
Hey, that’s no good! (laughs)
When it came to music scores, I didn’t have any particular education in music, but I could get by without them. I wasn’t great, but…
You’re good with your hands? Is that why?
Maybe. Of course, the game wasn’t polished for easy gameplay like it is now, but I’m the type who can enjoy doing his best within certain constraints so I had a pretty good time. Morii-kun, on the other hand, reeked at it.
It was sad. (laughs)
Ha ha ha!
But he was the perfect person for figuring out where others like him would run into trouble. So a lot of the game’s features were put in on his account.
Can you give me some examples?
The lessons, for one thing.
I had the team make the minimum necessary amount of lessons that, when repeated, would allow players to achieve something that sounded decent so even guys like me would be able to experience music the way guys like Totaka-san do.
You recorded one song at first, right?
Uh, yeah. That’s right. (laughs)
Someone said, ‘Here, why don’t you try this?’, and by following lessons, he was able to get by in his own unique way. He was ebullient, shouting, ‘I did it!’
I showed it off to everyone.
Right! You did!
After watching a clip that Totaka-san had made, I wanted to do the same thing. I asked Hikino-san, the subdirector, how I could make something like that, something jazzy. He said I had to start with each individual part, and then it would come together.
So, the performance you put together sounded jazzy.
Yeah! (laughs) I frolicked around and bragged to everyone, saying, ‘Check this out!’ (laughs)
He really did. (laughs) He played it for me, and it sounded all right.
See? Everyone loved it.
Someone who can’t play music was able to record something jazzy. He felt like he’d achieved something, and everyone else thought it was great, too.
I was surprised.
Me, too. Technically, it wasn’t perfect. It sounded sort of different, mysterious.
There was a human element to it.
Then ideas started popping up left and right. We thought, ‘Let’s do different genres! If you only learn this, you can play jazz! Or if you do this, a tango! And wouldn’t that feature be fun?’
We really got rolling.
All of a sudden?
Yeah. Then, all at once, we made it.
In one creative burst, Totaka-san finished up a slew of genres.
And we owe it all to Morii’s first performance!
So it was good that you didn’t start with only people who were good at music.
Definitely. But sometimes he lacked a little too much knowledge. Sometimes I couldn’t believe the stuff he didn’t know! (laughs)
I had to keep asking what a measure is. (laughs)(Iwata laughs)
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