Cubed3: Please could you tell our readers a little bit about your background and how you became involved in the gaming Industry?
Toshio Iwai, Creator of Electroplankton: The first game I created was OTOCKY, for NES, released in 1987. I myself have acted as a media artist for a long time, and always wanted to create creative software played on the game platforms other than game software. This concept has not changed since OTOCKY right through to Electroplankton.
C3: Where did the idea for Electroplankton come from? Was it Nintendo that approached you or did the idea stem solely from you?
TI: I was originally creating art works that can create music and video pictures interactively, which became the basic idea of Electroplankton. It started when Mr. Iwata, the president of Nintendo, and Mr. Miyamoto, invited me to create some software for NINTENDO DS. However, the idea was what I came up with myself.
C3: What makes the Nintendo DS so ideal for such a project and were there any restrictions caused by the hardware or time constraints (such as other modes or different plankton)?
TI: NINTENDO DS's unprecedented interface as a game machine, such as touch screen, microphone, stereo speakers was essential to Electroplankton. In this matter, I cannot imagine other platforms for Electroplankton except for NINTENDO DS.
Electroplankton is software especially designed for the NINTENDO DS's functions. Therefore, there is not anything I could not put into it.
C3: Electroplankton unfortunately did not receive the high sales it deserved in Japan, but was met with much more popularity via its online-only sales outlets in the USA. Considering the amount of positive feedback received across Europe, especially from top DJs, do you believe your game to be more suited to this Western audience?
TI: There have been cases where my personal art works were appreciated more in Europe than Japan, so I hope Electroplankton will be received well.
C3: Having played the game extensively and listened to the feedback of other gamers, it seems to be the general consensus that the lack of a save function is very restrictive. Was there any particular reason why this was left out?
TI: We have discussed a save function many times, and finally concluded not to included it. There are following 2 reasons: The first reason is that I wanted players to enjoy Electroplankton extemporarily and viscerally, and I thought if the save function was added, the software would become more like a tool. I did not want a play style where players have to open additional menus or windows, or have to input file names to save.
The second reason is that it would require large volume of flush ROM and it would take a lot of time to save and read the data in order to save many voice files for Volvoice and Rec-Rec. I thought players could play the software without stress if I got rid of the save function, rather than incorporating the save function and letting players wait for a long time before it's saved or being told that only little amount can be saved.
C3: Each of the plankton is so much fun to play with, but everyone has their particular favourite(s). Which is your favourite plankton from the game and why?
TI: I feel attached to all my work, so it is difficult to tell, but if I choose one from them, it would be Volvoice. It is because you can play this in various ways depending on the means used for sound recording. And also because my 6-year-old daughter was in charge of the voice for the audience mode, as far as Japanese version is concerned. Unfortunately, for the US and European versions, we needed to choose other child's voice, though.
C3: Would you consider doing another Electroplankton title in the future? Possibly expanding on the idea for a system such as the Nintendo Wii, with its unique features being used (such as the WiConnect24 for downloading new pieces of music or instruments and the control system being utilised for music creation)?
TI: If I have a chance sometime I want to create the sequel or something totally different with the same concept. Yet, I have not come up with a concrete idea.
C3: What are your thoughts on the free online Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service? Do you have any plans to use it for any future titles? The idea of being able to share musical creations with friends around the world certainly is a very appealing one!
TI: I think it would be attractive if people around the world could collaborate through network, although I have not thought about the future expansion.
C3: Considering the power of the Nintendo Wii, could you see something like your Tenori-on adapted to the platform to provide users with a fantastic audio and visual experience?
TI: I do not think about it at this point in time. For TENORI-ON the unique interface is the most important point. So, it would be totally different thing, if it is realised on Wii.
C3: You have previously worked on Nintendo systems dating as far back as the NES with Otocky, however the very intriguing Sound Fantasy for the SNES was never released. Is there any main reason for this and is it true the game was re-worked and released as SimTunes via Maxis?
TI: I do not know the reason why "Sound Fantasy" was not released, since it was decided by Nintendo at the time. It might be because music or creative software was, unfortunately, not appreciated at that time compared to the situation now.
Sound Fantasy contained 4 types of the software, and SimTunes by Maxis was created by recreating one of the pieces of Sound Fantasy software with added various functions. I only created the one for PC.
C3: After seeing people using Electroplankton for more than just casual use (for example at E3 2005 when DJ Dave Hollands played a song he created using the game), how does this make you feel? And will you be doing similar things, perhaps at the Futuresonic event that takes place on 21st July in Manchester?
TI: I am very pleased that Electroplankton is used by professional musicians or DJs.
I myself performed using 2 pieces of Electroplankton software at the SONAR Live Event in Barcelona. It is planned that I am going to do the similar thing at Futuresonic event.
C3: Could you please tell us what people can expect from your performance at Futuresonic Live? Will this be your first visit to England or Manchester? And do you have any thoughts on the other acts playing there (Christian Fennesz and Battles)?
TI: At the Futuresonic, I will conduct a live show where light and sound are fused together using TENORI-ON and my another creation, SOUNDLENS. I have been to England many times, but it will be my first trip to Manchester. I am delighted to perform live on the same stage with other professional musicians.
C3: Currently you are working on a new venture with the Yamaha Corporation, Tenori-on. Could you please provide us with some information on what exactly this is, and its potential for the future? And can any parallels be drawn between Tenori-on and Electroplankton?
TI: As for me, TENORI-ON and Electroplankton are created based on the same concept. Both of them are just like instruments that you can manipulate - video pictures and music, as well as light and sound - by yourself. However, Electroplankton is software operated on NINTENDO DS, while TENORI-ON is the system, whose hardware itself is created from scratch. I can say that TENORI-ON is something more like an original instrument.
C3: What do you think about the amazing success the Nintendo DS has seen in Japan so far? Considering Electroplankton has already become one of the most imported games ever, would you like to see the game re-released in Japan now to have it take advantage of the current sales boom?
TI: I myself have always believed that interface is very important, and I think NINTENDO DS has precisely proved it. Electroplankton was released at the early stage of NINTENDO DS and many non-gamers have since purchased NINTENDO DS. I assume many of them may like Electroplankton. I hope the software can reach out to them.
C3: If you were given the chance to work with one of Nintendo's extensive line of characters, which one would it be, why would you choose it and what unique aspect do you think you would bring to such a project? And would you consider working with an internal Nintendo team on a more 'traditional' style game, for instance a music-based platform title?
TI: I do not particularly think I would like to use Nintendo characters because I think it is more unique and interesting if I create totally new thing by myself.
The team at Cubed3, and I personally, would like to wholeheartedly thank Toshio Iwai for this interview and wish him a very bright future!
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