Cubed3’s Adam Riley: When was the idea conceived, and how long did it take to complete development?
Takahiro Nishi, Producer of The Magic Obelisk: It was around the middle of 2008 that we started the development stages for a game concept where the character must travel through connected shadows only, and it took about a year to complete the project.
AR: How big was the development team?
TN: We started off with a small group of people, and the size got increasingly bigger with programmers, planners, graphic designers, sound creators, a debugging manager, and localisation staff. We had more than ten staff members in total.
AR: Was WiiWare always the first choice system?
TN: Yes. The reason is that this game matches the concept of WiiWare itself; “a new stage for unique ideas.”
AR: Can you briefly explain the story and main objective of the game?
TN: The main character of this game, Lukus, is a tree spirit who can only move around while in the cover of shadows. He lives in a world where many spirits and animals are all living together in harmony, and he is gifted with the ability to transform into trees and can't wait to use his power to help somebody in the world. He wants to travel to find the perfect spot to take root and become a tree, but the problem is that he can only move around while in the shadow. Therefore, Lukus travels with a light sprit named Popo, who can move around stages freely, without worrying about light and shadow. Popo can shine his light near the mysterious obelisks to create shadows so that Lukus can walk to continue the journey.
There are more than thirty stages in the game, and it will be your mission to take control of Popo throughout the game and guide Lukus to each stage’s goal while moving only within the shadows. You can help him do this by shining your light near the mysterious Magic Obelisks, allowing you to create and connect shadows.
AR: How many different types of obelisk are there, and approximately how long is the game?
TN: There are three different types of magic obelisks you can find in the game: Red Magic Obelisks, Blue Magic Obelisks, and Yellow Magic Obelisks. The shadows that you make using red magic obelisks have the power of heat. The blue magic obelisks create strips of ice. Finally, the shadows that you make using yellow magic obelisks have the power of wind, and Lukus will float while on top of shadows made with these obelisks. Some elements in certain stages can respond to these obelisks, making it easier for you to connect shadows or solve puzzles.
If you are a hardcore gamer, it might take only a few hours to complete the game and watch the ending scene, but I think it will take about a good ten hours if players with some game experience play this game in-depth. In addition to the normal mode, there is a time-attack mode, and you can also unlock hidden stages under certain conditions after the ending of the game as well.
AR: Were there any problems during development, and were any ideas discarded due to the small 43MB file size limit?
TN: We started our development anticipating the file size restrictions of WiiWare so that we could allocate resources appropriately. We rather enjoyed the limitation as it honed the development process in order to minimise the file size and overcome the limitation.
AR: Are you pleased with how well the game is selling in Japan and the US so far?
TN: The Magic Obelisk has been downloaded and enjoyed by many players, and we hope more and more players both in Japan and North America will enjoy this game. We have not advertised this game so extensively to save expenses to keep the game more affordable.
AR: What has the feedback from players been like so far?
TN: We have received pretty good reviews about the unique concept and detailed graphics of the game. At the same time, we have received many requests regarding online gameplay, which we will take account of in the future.
AR: Why did you change the name from Shadow Walker to Magic Obelisk?
TN: In the Japanese language, the word “kage” is used and means both “shade” and “shadow”. For the Japanese version, we decided to stick with the original title “Shadow Walker” since we like the sound of it and this was the first impression of the game we got when we started the game’s development. For the English version, we decided to change the name since we thought the word “shadow” in English gives impression of something negative or dark, which we didn’t think would match the storyline or visual appearance of the game.
AR: Have there been any other changes made for the US release?
TN: We changed the dialogue into English, but there are no major changes in the North American version. The reason for that is because we wanted to convey to overseas players what we wanted to convey in the Japanese version as accurately as possible and release the title as soon as we could.
The Magic Obelisk has a message that we want to get across to the players, and we sincerely hope that people in North America will find it during or after playing the game. In order to make it happen, the localisation staff played the game thoroughly and had a lot of discussions about the game with our development staff in order to understand even the minute details. Then, we asked a localisation vendor to translate all the necessary text, and we made adjustments in-house.
AR: Why did you not include the option to tilt the Wii Remote to move around the obelisks or use the infrared pointer control?
TN: We decided to go with the simple d-pad operation to take control of Popo and guide Lukus throughout the field. Using the infrared pointer of Wii Remote will make the game very different, but I think it sounds very interesting.
AR: Did you ever consider including the option for two players to co-operate during a level? This would allow parents to help their children play the game. (If not, please explain why)
TN: We decided to stick with single player mode because the kind of gameplay we wanted players to have was guiding your children or friends’ playtime just like Popo guides Lukus to the goal throughout their journey.
In the final stage of the game development, we asked many people in our company and parent company to play the game, and we often saw them helping each other by giving some advice like “No, no, don’t go there. Guide him down there.”
AR: Did you also consider including any online play? (Again, if not, please explain why)
TN: In fact, at the initial stage of the development we considered the feature, such as sharing gameplay status and clear time records with other players. However, we decided to concentrate on the original game concept with single player mode only this time. Maybe in the future we will consider online game factors in a game.
AR: Do you know approximately when the game will be released in Europe? Will you self-publish it here or work with an external publisher?
TN: At the moment, we are not planning to release it for Europe, but if there are lots of requests, we will think about and plan to release it in Europe.
AR: After working on a fighting game like TMNT Smash Up, what made you decide to try a puzzle game for your next project?
TN: We started this development with the concept of developing something new, and something players haven’t seen or played before. It didn’t have to be a puzzle game, though. We collected lots of unique ideas from our staff in order to create something new.
AR: Will there be another Magic Obelisk in the future?
TN: I am very eager to develop the sequel or another “The Magic Obelisk”, but we don’t have any fixed plan and have not started anything for that yet.
AR: It was recently mentioned that Game Arts will be making another download game. Can you please tell us something about that project?
TN: I am sorry but I cannot disclose it at this moment. We will continue with our studies and explore the possibility of downloadable games in future.
AR: Will you keep supporting WiiWare, and are you thinking about DSiWare support as well?
TN: Yes, both WiiWare and DSiWare are very important platforms, and we would like to consider developing games for those platforms in the future. We have never developed or released anything for DSiWare, but I am interested in it, personally speaking. I have already bought some WiiWare and DSiWare games and played them since I think there are lots of interesting games available for those platforms.
AR: When can fans expect to see new versions of Lunar and GunGriffon?
TN: The remake of Lanar Silver Star Story was released for PSP in North America on 2nd March. It’s called “Lunar: Silver Star Harmony”. And, Grandia is now available for download on the North American PlayStation Network for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable, but it’s a PSOne classic title and not a remake. We hope the fans of those titles are enjoying the games.
I can’t guarantee anything now, but we may consider making sequels to our series titles if/when there are eager and hot requests from those fans.
AR: Were you involved in the recent Lunar remake on PSP? Would you like to see that game also released on Wii?
TN: No, I wasn’t involved in it. Personally speaking, I feel that RPGs like Lunar are suitable for DS or PSP because players can devote their time to the deep story of the game without interruption like reading a novel. Wii is the type of game hardware I think people can enjoy with their families and friends in the living room.
AR: What is Game Arts' relationship with Square Enix? Does Square Enix own part of Game Arts?
TN: We have done lots of projects together, such as Grandia in the past, and we had a Thexder Neo project with them recently. However, Game Arts and Square Enix are independent of each other.
AR: What is next for Game Arts? Considering your RPG background and the lack of games in that genre on Wii, are you tempted to make an RPG on that system?
TN: I personally feel that RPGs are the kind of genre that Game Arts can show off its ability in game development based on the experience we had with the Lunar and Grandia series. Although we recognise there are not many titles available in the RPG genre on Wii, our next step is to integrate all the experiences we have gained from past games in the RPG, shooting and action genres to create something new, something which we are planning right now. We would like you to look forward to any news from Game Arts!