Do you know why Naka left Sega?
NO: No, actually.
The way he put it, he was too far up -- he was doing nothing but management and couldn't do any design or programming work on games. He couldn't even influence Sonic anymore. I thought that was admirable that he went on to try to do creative work again.
NO: Indeed. In fact, it was really the same deal with me and Artoon. Now, though, the group as a whole has gotten really big -- it's sort of a mini-Sega.
So will you be making your type of game in the future, then, or are you going to be making more darker-styled games, as Artoon and Cavia have been moving toward?
NO: Well, the important thing is to make gamers happy -- the users playing your game. When you make something that's truly new -- well, it's not that you have to with every project, but when you do, you're expanding the world of games. That's what I want to do; I want to keep on doing new things, and I think that's possible with Artoon, Cavia, and Feelplus.
The way I see it, if the director makes the sort of games he wants to make, then the end results are going to be more interesting. The gamers are important, of course, but if you make a game for yourself, that adds character to the result.
NO: Well, for example none of my favorite movies were really hits. (laughs) Myself and the gaming audience, we're different. I like new things, but if something is too new, then gamers won't be able to comprehend it. So you have to think about your audience at least a little bit, or else you'll make something that runs the risk of being incomprehensible. That's why I want to keep them in mind.
Certainly that's true, but sometimes you see indie films become hits, too. Taking that risk is important, I think.
NO: Yeah, but the sort of indies that become hits are those that are easy to follow for anyone who watches them. So, in the end, you want to make it just a little new -- not completely so.
With games, though, you have download platforms that can support titles like Echocrome (the PSP version of which Artoon worked on). Games like that, they don't have to be massive hits.
NO: Sure. Echochrome doesn't have very fancy graphics at all, but play it, and it's really fun. It really depends on the game.
What made you decide to move into that darker territory with Vampire Rain and Artoon?
NO: Games are a part of the overall realm of entertainment, including movies and music and so on. I think that movies play a sort of big-brother role for the game industry. The Japanese film industry has been around for ages, but once films from other countries began to see wide distribution here, Hollywood films very quickly became the most popular.
Within that environment, Japanese animation has managed to attract worldwide praise, which is great. But we're seeing a sort of Hollywood-ization of the game industry right now, and Japan's traditional strengths in cartoon-style games are going by the wayside. So in thinking about the future, I realized I wanted to do both "real" and "cartoon" games. Now, Vampire Rain got a negative reception from a lot of its players, and we regret a lot of things with that game, so in the future we definitely want to make games that excite people a great deal more.
You could say that Silent Hill has succeeded at that in the past, showing an auteurism without being Hollywoodized -- opening up to the world on its own terms.
Those cartoony games do not sell well in Japan any longer, either -- it seems like platformers like Sonic and Mario are the only ones that do. Why do you think that is?
NO: Because they're all the same. The art and the storylines may be different, but the gameplay is the same.
Lately I've been thinking about how to modernize games like those. I think the first hour or so of Uncharted is close. You don't have a gun or anything -- you're just jumping around and searching for treasure in this gorgeous environment. I thought that was really fun, until it got to the shooting bits, but I'm not sure if such a game would sell well.
NO: I do have an interest in that sort of thing as well, but I think games that have more of an original idea to them come first in my mind.