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
Music game pioneer Masaya
How long was development on the
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.