When the secret
history of video games is finally written, a special chapter will have to be
devoted to Naoto
Ohshima. He played a crucial role in exploring the creative possibilities of
new console technology by working on some of the most innovative titles of the
After contributing to early installments of Wizardry and Phantasy Star,
Ohshima created the iconic character designs for Sonic the Hedgehog. The blue mascot's success paved
the way for Ohshima's directing turn on Sonic
CD, a game brimming over with fresh ideas that few had an opportunity to
experience due to the Sega CD's unpopularity.
next major project, Nights Into Dreams for
the Sega Saturn, was an audacious and beautiful attempt to claim the high
ground during the early days of 3D console gaming. He followed Nights with Burning Rangers, another game for the ill-fated Saturn that was
radically different from its violence-oriented 3D contemporaries.
the 90s came to an end he weathered the shifting fortunes of Sega by forming
Artoon, developers of Blinx: The Time
Sweeper, Blue Dragon, and Yoshi's Island DS, and now heads the
sometimes brilliant, occasionally aggravating, always interesting Cavia --
recently responsible for Capcom's Resident
Evil: Darkside Chronicles, and currently working on Square Enix's upcoming Nier.
recently became the CEO of Cavia, moving over from Artoon -- or is it more
complex than that?
Naoto Ohshima: Well, the head of the company here quit
because of... family issues. (laughs) Since they then lacked a president, I
sort of wound up taking over that role, since we're all technically part of the
same outfit. (Ed. note: Artoon, Cavia,
and Feelplus are all under AQ Interactive.)
I do like a lot of Cavia's games. Though they often seem unpolished -- the
games seem to get "almost there," do you know what I mean? Bullet
Witch and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex both have
something to them, but these certainly don't feel like Ohshima-style games.
certainly, I do a lot of management-type work these days. I definitely want to
make something again! I really do.
first major console game with Artoon was Blinx. You might say it was
ahead of its time... games like Prince of Persia used a time mechanic
long afterward and saw great success with it. Where did that idea come from?
NO: It was
purely a product of the hard drive included with every Xbox -- the original
one, not the 360. We wanted to build a console game from the ground up that
used the drive effectively.
That's where the play
mechanic came from?
That's right. There wouldn't be any other way to do it. The PS2 wouldn't have
been able to do it.
think it would be possible to make another mascot-style platforming game in the
NO: Ah, well, I'm
making a game like that right now. (laughs) I can't quite talk about that yet,
though. In more general terms, the game needs to be something that anyone is
able to play, and it needs to have one thing or element that is brand new, that
hasn't been done before.
Nights Into Dreams
Into Dreams on the Saturn was the first really 3D game I played, long ago. As the
Nights character you had a certain path you followed in 2D, but if you went
back to human form, you could walk around anywhere you liked. I found a lot of
things that way that I couldn't see as Nights, and it was a sort of turning
point for me; it felt like a real-life world to me, making these discoveries.
You don't get that pure feeling of discovery much in games anymore. Was that
something you were purposefully aiming for with Nights?
NO: Well, with people my age, we didn't really have video
games as children. When we came up with concepts for games, we couldn't say "It's
some of this game and some of that other game." As a result, especially
around that era, you had a lot of games that did not become truly evaluated by
the public until long after their release. There just weren't a lot of 3D games
Of course, with Nights,
if you keep going and going along the ground you eventually run into an
invisible wall, so... we had to think about ways to keep players from going
that far off; that's where the Alarm Egg came from (Ed. note: a wandering alarm clock that follows the human player and
wakes them from the dreamland, thereby ending the level).
BS: What made you want to put features like that into
the non-Nights section of the game?
NO: Well, the
original inspiration for the game was to create a Peter Pan-like character.
Nights and Peter Pan share that character trait; they're both capable of things
that regular people can only do in their dreams. So I wanted two games here, in
a way; one where you were human, and one where you combined with Nights to
accomplish extraordinary things.
had really played a full-on, free-running 3D game at that time, so we were
concerned that people would have trouble comprehending the game if it gave you
complete control freedom. As a result, as a human, you have freedom, but only
in a small, confined space. Combine with Nights, and the game switches to a
side-scrolling type, as gamers would've been readily familiar with at that
way, having a vulnerable human character able to do things Nights couldn't is
somewhat empowering to the player.
NO: I agree.