Cubed3's Adam Riley: With Marvelous, Town Factory and CiNG all working together, was there ever a problem bringing the ideas of three developers together? What was each developer's main function during the game's development?
Yoshiro Kimura, Director and Producer of Little King's Story: I can talk about this now but during development, especially midway through the project, was like a violent storm. There was heavy rain pouring, snow was falling, and at some point it was so crazy it felt like frogs should be dropping from the sky.
I create games for love and peace, but I'm actually sadistic in nature as well as authoritarian, so we didn't have many difficulties in unifying the ideas together. Unlike putting different ideas into one, it was more like using my idea as a core and having everybody add their thoughts around it. So from my point of view it was important "not to feel lost", "not to be shaky", and to "value the core."
I was grateful to the team for supporting my authoritarian ways. Because of them I didn't end up being like "The Emperor’s New Clothes" that just believes in my own imagination and/or delusions.
Regarding the main functions of each developer, we had to switch some roles around since what we initially had planned wasn't going well. In the end I took the role of the director, got the programmers and graphics team from Town Factory, and the script writers and main planner from CiNG. We rented out the large room on the 6th floor of CiNG's office and closed the door for a year. It sort of felt like we were all entering the mountains to undergo training!
The only role that didn't change from the start to end was the team at SHIROGUMI, which were in charge of the cut-scenes, the sound team, and the art designers. I was really pleased with that. If people were to ask now if I fulfilled my role well, that will be a tough question to answer. If I were to rate myself it would be like this...
As a director, I'm satisfied with the game we created so it'll be 80%! However, as a producer I'm not satisfied. I failed. I'll say 40%.
AR: What made you decide to release LKS in Europe first and do you think it was the right choice? Sales appear to be slow in Japan, according to Media Create – why do you think this is?
There are two reasons for the release timing of Little King's Story. It's a tough question to answer but I'll answer it. No joking around!
One is due to business reasons and the other is because of how I felt towards the title. When creating a game of this magnitude, it's logical to think to create a game that can be sold worldwide from a business standpoint. So from the very start we knew it'd be okay to have a later Japanese release and create content to appeal to European and US users.
The decision to have the European release come first was not our original intent, but midway through production it was set that Japan's release would come after Europe and the US. So there was a possibility to have Europe and US to release simultaneously. So, why exactly did the European release come first? Well, this had to do with the publishers for each region, which I don't mean in a negative way. It was a result of the publishers thinking when the best release timing for that region would be and we didn't have any objections to it. I understand that both Rising Star Games and XSEED Games worked hard on this project and I'm grateful for their efforts.
Also from a director or writer's point of view, I was happy to have the overseas version release first. There are so many things that inspired me the last decade travelling in Europe and North America, and also reading western fairy tales and picture books. As thanks I was really happy that the European/North American audience and all my friends there were able to see the game first.
As for the sales in Japan being slow, all I can say is that I'm bummed. There are a lot of reasons that contributed to this. From the overall weakness in the gaming market, problems with the Wii market, the PR process in Japan, the adjustments made to the Japanese game code, and other aspects that I have regrets about.
My acquaintance said to me, "There's nothing much you can do because the universe (the market) is shrinking." But even if the universe goes to ruin, until the final moment I would like to keep creating original quality titles for the world. Either way I will never give up, Little King's Story is a really fun game!
There are still copies of Little King's Story out there! You can purchase at Amazon, and I'm sure there are other places that are selling it at a great value too. It's a bargain, so I really want people to buy and play the game. If possible I want to go around Japan, US, and Europe to sell the game in person to all the Wii owners.
To all the game players in the world, I want to tell them to please enjoy playing Little King's Story!
AR: The idea behind LKS seems to be similar to My Life as a King on WiiWare. Was Square Enix's game a source of inspiration for the development team, or is this merely coincidence?
Kimura-san: That was a total coincidence!!! Plus I don't think they look similar! The gameplay is totally different, too! We were actually surprised to hear about it when they announced the title. However, I believe we announced our title before they did...I think.
For Little King's Story my source of inspiration was from existing entertainment such as fairy tales, comic books, and movies, especially Saint-Exupery's "The Little Prince," and also the cow from Harvest Moon. Aleksandr Petrov's art animations inspired me as well.
AR: Wada-san, back in June 2006 you told Cubed3 that after creating the concept and assigning the staff you were going to distance yourself from the project and simply supervise its progress. Did this supervisor's role continue until the end of development, or was there a need for you to become deeply involved again?
Yasuhiro Wada, CEO of Marvelous Entertainment: Just as we discussed back then, I took the role of supervisor for this project. I was deeply involved at the start of the project for ideas and brainstorming sessions, but I relied on the producer/director Kimura-san for the actual development. Afterwards I managed the project as a whole, as well as reviewing the game for each milestone, making decisions for any major gameplay changes and such.
AR: The media reaction to LKS has been extremely positive and even Cubed3 gave the game 9/10. How does it make you feel to receive so many positive comments? And does it make you want to create a sequel?
Kimura-san: Thank you very much! I am very pleased with the positive scores everyone has been giving us and very glad that the hard work we put in paid off. I would love for more users to play and experience the game. I would love to do a sequel! I already have ideas for it too!
We already have a game concept ready but...unfortunately, haven't gotten the "go" sign yet. With everyone's support we may be able to create a sequel.
AR: Were there any ideas that you wanted to include, but decided to either drop completely or could not include due to time constraints or another reason?
Kimura-san: There were interesting multiplayer modes where the player could shoot cannons and control Pancho, but unfortunately due to time constraints we weren't able to implement them into the game. I'm really sad we couldn't have that in the game.
AR: Was any consideration given to including multiplayer modes (co-operative play), WiiConnect24 functionality (to let new people visit your kingdom) or even online Wi-Fi features (for extra missions to be downloaded)?
Kimura-san: Multiplayer...I think it would have been fun to have co-op. As I mentioned before we were in the middle of creating it, too...As for Wiiconnet24 and Wi-Fi, we weren't thinking of implementing those functionalities.
AR: Who are your favourite characters in LKS? Is 'Princess Apricot' an homage to Nintendo’s Princess Peach? Who decided upon the particular style of the characters included?
Kimura-san: Regarding the direction of the art style, that will be me. However, even though the basic direction was determined by me, we had many people contribute to the final style we see in the game. The character designer (Minaba-san), monster designer (Kurashima-san), art direction (Matsumoto-san), and the cut-scenes were done by Shirogumi. These people moulded and created the whacky and funny style in the game by referencing my scrap book and communicating with me.
And yes, Princess Apricot is an homage to the princess. So you did realise the connection, huh? *laughs*
AR: Getting three development teams working together on the same project must have been difficult in terms of planning. However, considering LKS has become such a success, will Marvelous be working with Town Factory and Cing again on any new projects? Perhaps working with Cing on its text adventure games like 'Again', 'Hotel Dusk' and 'Another Code'?
Wada-san: Though we don't have any projects together right now, if we have a chance to work together, of course I would like to work with them again. Also, if we were to do a new project it probably would not be something like an adventure game that CiNG is known for. If they were thinking of an adventure game then they would probably make it on their own, so if it was a joint development project then it would probably be something like LKS or something completely new.
AR: Do you feel the idea of LKS could be replicated on Nintendo DS and would you consider making a portable version to offer the game to an even wider audience?
Kimura-san: LKS on DS, huh? That sounds like fun. So yes, I'd like to think it's possible. But in that sense I'd like to consider the possibility on all the platforms.
To tell you the truth, until recently I thought it would be difficult to do on a handheld device. However, I came up with an idea that might work well as a handheld RTS action game...
AR: Finally, two off-topic questions for Wada-san: Goichi Suda recently told Cubed3 that you asked him to make Flower, Sun and Rain for DS. What made you choose that particular game for DS, rather than a game like Moonlight Syndrome or even killer7? (and would you be willing to negotiate terms with those games’ publisher to resurrect them in the future as well?)
Wada-san: That was simply due to legal rights issues. Since we published the PS2 version of Flower, Sun, and Rain, it was fairly easy to create a DS remake. For the other titles we would have needed to negotiate with other publishers, but as for now both Suda-san and I are in agreement of rather than making remakes we want to create new titles.
AR: Following on from that, Suda-san also confirmed that The Silver Case for DS was complete, but may not be released because the gameplay is 'too old'. Obviously fans of FSR were disappointed by this news. Do you think the game will eventually be released, though?
Wada-san: I think it will be very difficult to release as a new package title. However, in the future there is a good chance that it will be released as a downloadable title. With that said, The Silver Case is a Grasshopper Manufacture IP and we don't have the rights for it, so we won't be able to make a decision on our own and will need to talk to Suda-san.
AR: Yoshiro Kimura, you previously worked on cult hits like Moon and Chulip. Do you have any wishes to bring these Lovedelic's and Punchline's games back for the new generation, perhaps teaming up with the guys at Vanpool, or Kenichi Nishi at Route24/Skip Ltd. again?
Kimura-san: Hello, I'm the perennial drunk, Kimura! *laughs* I still go drinking with Kudo-san at Vanpool and Nishi-san at Route24 so if some fun ideas come up we might end up creating a game together. So with some luck we might be able to do something *laughs*
I still love the Lovedelic era and Punchline era. Once in a while I do think about how much fun it will be to play those games on the current consoles. If we make it, will everyone play it? If there's a whole lot of users that love or want to play them on the new systems then we might bring it over...maybe I should use Twitter and start asking "Does anyone want to play MOON?" "Would anyone like to play CHULIP?"
But right now the feeling of making something new is stronger than porting any of my past titles.
Readers, what would you like to see in a Little King's Story sequel, and could the game work well as a Real-Time Strategy title on DS? Also, fans of Flower, Sun and Rain that had given up hope of ever seeing The Silver Case appear on DS - would you be satisfied with it potentially being released on a download service such as WiiWare? Finally, are old school followers of cult hits Moon Remix RPG and Chulip interested in seeing them make a come-back, perhaps on Wii, especially the former, which never saw a release in Western countries?