Marvelous Interactive's Yoshiro Kimura is perhaps best known as the name behind cult Japanese title Chulip, an unusual adventure game in which players play a small boy who must kiss all of the inhabitants of a small town in order to kiss the girl of his dreams.
However, he's working on a new game, and Kimura sat down with Gamasutra recently to talk about his work on the title, and upcoming Wii title Ousama Monogatari (King's Story), an almost Pikmin-styled RTS for which a teaser trailer was revealed at Tokyo Game Show last year.
The idea for Ousama Monogatari came from Yasuhiro Wada. How did you add your own ideas into that?
Yoshiro Kimura: Actually, the idea came from me.
That's not what he said yesterday!
YK: Ah! Well, First of all, he found a developer in Fukuoka, and then he felt he needed a producer, so selected me. After I went to Fukuoka, I noticed there was no character designer, there was no planner, no director. So I gathered people and developed a new idea from an old style.
I began at the game concept stage. When we had decided on the very first idea, it was somewhat like Sim City, where you're just managing a city from a really high point of view. I didn't like this idea. I wanted something more fun, like when you're playing with a radio-controlled car and using its remote control. So I changed it up.
We took something like one year just to tune the concept itself, before making any prototype or anything. We made the prototype after one year, and there was only something like five to six people on the project.
So with this game, what was the feeling you were trying to get across?
YK: The first year, I was only cared about the concept itself. I wanted first to make a game that was really fun to play with the Wii Remote; really easy and fun to control.
I wanted to make a game where you could control troops, so you could see everyone destroying things or just moving together like an RTS, but with really easy control. I like seeing everyone just moving at once, and trying to fight against something. That was the thing I wanted to recreate with Ousama Monogatari. But above all I wanted it to be easy to control.
Do the characters have their own personality, or do they all follow you?
YK: All of the characters in front of you have their own personalities too. Actually, I would say that they have their own life. It's not like in and RPG where they're soldiers or whatever. They have a class. Here, they have life.
You worked on Chulip as well, and in Chulip it was very important that every character had their own life and experience.
If you look at Pikmin, for example, it's different to Pikmin, because all the NPCs have their own life. Sometimes when you get outside of the city, you have to fight a monster or something, and you have to tell them to follow you, because you need to lead your troops.
But they have their own life, and they might die, actually, during the fight against the monster. So what's going to happen to the family -- the people that are waiting for those NPCs?
So does that actually happen in the game? You go back to the house where you found this NPC, and the family asks, "Where's dad?"
YK: This kind of stuff will really happen, where he's dead and you have to explain to the kids.
But it's in development. Ideally, I'd like to have this, but maybe it's too much, especially considering this game is kid-oriented.
For Ousama Monogatari, you're just a boy who has this crown, and has become a king suddenly. From there, you have to build your kingdom and unite the kingdom, so you have to build your troops, and take them out in the forest so you can find resources and fight monsters and explore the world around the kingdom. But the people in the cities are your responsibility. As a king, you have to get your kingdom under your rule.
It seems like there's the potential for an interesting message.
YK: It's still just a game. I don't want it to be too heavy and too serious. But I want people to understand that there have been recent video games where that is true. When I was a kid, I loved the book The Little Prince. When I read it as a kid you could read between the lines and see some irony. I want to recreate the same thing in Ousama Monogatari.
What other games did you work on previously?
Before Chulip, Romancing Saga. My very first game was actually Romancing Saga 2.
What is the name of the development studio?
YK: Itís Town Factory and Cing.
It seems that a lot of Japanese development house are outsourcing now.
YK: I think we should work closer than that. The development should all be in the same place, but actually I was really surprised: things went really well, in terms of the development team in Fukuoka, and the development team in Tokyo.
I'd love to have collaboration between a Japanese development team and a U.S. development team with talented people, and we've often said that there's this language barrier between different niches of developer. For me, that's irrelevant.
In the worst case, you can try to say what you want to say by just drawing something, or just by programming lines. I would love to make this collaboration real between talented development teams.
What other games has designer Norikazu Yasunaga worked on at Cing?
YK: He worked on World Neverland, and Yasunaga, with respect for this project, for him, he's the equivalent of Peter Molyneux in Japan.
When he worked on Chulip, for efficient procedure, he set it up so that the personality and the characteristics for each NPC had to be one-by-one. But Yasunaga is actually thinking in terms of population in the bigger scale. That's why he's really good at it, and that's why heís on Ousama Monogatari.
Speaking of Chulip, how did you get the idea to make a game like that?
YK: (laughs) I love kissing! You know, we Japanese people don't kiss on the street, in front of anybody. But when I saw people kissing on the road, in London or Switzerland, it was shock, really! If Japanese people all started suddenly kissing in front of me...
The result this idea.
For both Chulip and Ousama Monogatari, the ideas also came from that that there's a lot of very interesting and pretty stuff that you can see every day. I was living in Tokyo, which is actually an old place -- an old city, and there are a lot of old people there.
We wanted to recreate the game so that there was the kind of surprises you find in life, and frame all the kind of interesting stuff that you can see every day in the game engine. Ousama Monogatari looks like it has kind of a European, Middle Age background, when actually it's a Japanese game. All the characters you can see in the game are all people Iíve already met in real life, and I'm reflecting on those characters in the game.
The character designer is Hideo Minaba, and the monster designer is Kazuyuki Kurashima. They're really talented designers. Minaba can draw really cute female characters, so you can see that in the princess in the game. And Kurashima can make really funny and strange monsters.
A long time ago, Kurashima, Minaba and I were working for Squaresoft, and we didnít work together again until Ousama Mongatari. One night we were just drinking together and I asked them, "Please design for our title."
My impression of Japanese companies was that true work gets done when everyone's sitting around drinking sake.