As everyone knows by now, Masaya Matsuura pioneered music games with PaRappa the Rapper. What many may not realize is that his development company, NanaOn-Sha, is still going strong. Responsible for Namco Bandai's successful Tamagotchi Corner Shop series on the DS and the iPod title Musika, the company also recently announced a partnership with PaRappa artist Rodney Alan Greenblat to create a new music game for the Wii for Majesco.
Gamasutra sat down with Matsuura to discuss his company's unique "jam session" development style, the state of Japanese studios, and his plans for the Wii. Joining the discussion was NanaOn-Sha's overseas business manager, Dewi Tanner.
So, how did you wind up making the iPod game, Musika?
Masaya Matsuura: Ah, yeah, that was kind of -- how can I say? [Our] in-house development team, at that time it was around two years ago -- we made [Bandai Namco's] Tamagotchi game for DS, and we had a little time to spend, and so I had tiny ideas. So I told the ideas to the team, and we spent time making a very early prototype, according to my ideas. It was a start. So, after then, I don't remember exactly, but maybe around TGS or some time, several publishers sent us an email to have a meeting.
Tokyo Game Show 2006?
MM: Yes. So, I showed that demo for them. So, the one publisher, Sony BMG, loved our prototype. So we started to discuss the possibilities to publish the game to some environment.
How long was development on the title?
MM: It's a little hard to say, because the start was a kind of easy "jam session" type of development. We didn't have a certain goal in the schedule. Just making scratches, and building the ideas; something like that. So it was two years ago, but after then, [team members] went to another project, and we didn't do the development for that, for awhile. After then, Sony BMG decided to publish [the game] onto the iPod, so we had to find an iPod programmer. Fortunately they found a development solution in Texas. So, we sent the source code, and the document, and talking on the phone, and they converted that to iPod.
Is everyone pleased with the result so far? Are you pleased with how it came out? And Sony BMG and Apple, too? Or, you don't have to say if you don't want to.
MM: Yeah, actually, we had many hard points, difficult points to achieve that. So, our entry, not so many people are buying the game -- especially in Japan, because we couldn't support the Kanji characters. So it was a very big [problem] for the Japanese market.
That's a shame. What happens when those titles come up, if you have them in your iPod?
Dewi Tanner: Just question marks.
Just question marks. Yeah. Then it becomes a bit too easy... Because I actually have multiple languages in my iPod as well, and so it becomes somewhat difficult. I was even trying to get Thai support, and I'm sure that that doesn't work.
DT: I think we're pretty happy, considering the power of the iPod.
MM: Yeah! I was surprised to know the iPod is kind of powerful hardware, for the game.
Everything on the iPod seems to have a certain style of graphics; it feels like its own specific platform, which is interesting. Do you have more small ideas like that, that you plan to release -- not necessarily on iPod, but perhaps on Live Arcade, or Wii Ware, or something?
MM: Currently we are focusing on making the prototypes rather than an actual production line. Of course, we have the production seasons for the product, but focusing on making the unique prototypes helps our business be much more reliable.