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At this point, Rare had been purchased
by Microsoft. How it was allowed to come out on a Nintendo console?
You'd begun work on it prior to the purchase, right?
And it was a Donkey Kong game, you say?
JC: Yeah, originally. They looked different ways of presenting it, basically, so there was an idea that we showed at E3 of an isometric, Donkey Kong theme to it, but it didn't really play as well as it did from a straight top-down view, so it got changed.
We have an in-house Game Boy team at Rare, and Microsoft never wanted us to change that. Not long after they bought us, they signed to release Monster Truck Madness and stuff on the Game Boy Advance. They're not in the handheld market, so they never saw them as a rival, I think.
JT: I think since Microsoft owns us
as well, the Game Boy team carried on doing the Donkey Kong Country
ports. I think Nintendo are quite happy with the arrangement as well.
JC: There's no conflicts with the rest of Microsoft's output. I think, as far as they're concerned, if it makes money, they're ahead.
How is the design different for the DS version of Viva Piñata? Obviously it's got to be quite different.
JC: It's all stylus-controlled. It fits really, really well. We've modified the menu systems so that it uses the stylus really neatly, and it actually fits really well, digging the garden and planting seeds with the stylus. It works, I think. We really like it!
JT: Yeah, and you get a lot more accuracy. Recently, I've been playing Theme Park and SimCity, and I think Viva Piñata fits in the same mold, for Rare. It's a god-type game, so it fits in well with the flexibility and the accessibility of the stylus that the touch screen offers.
JC: We've done a really great job.
We've gotten most of the essential parts are in there -- obviously it's
a big, unwieldy game -- on the DS, and I think it stands up really well.
I think it's going to be interesting
to see when the DS version outsells the 360 version by like 12 million
times, just to see how everyone's going to feel about that.
JT: We'll be there sobbing ourselves to sleep, going, "At least we'll know that we've set up a solid franchise!"
JC: We always wanted that. We always wanted them to do the best game that they could, and they've done a really amazing job. I secretly wished to be on that team for a while, but they obviously didn't need us at all. They've just gone ahead and done a great version.
JT: They've only had about five or six months with it as well, but they've actually used a lot of our assets, and obviously the main game design is in there. Thumbs up to them. They've turned it around really quickly.
It seems like it would be difficult to reuse some of the assets, considering...
JT: They've shrunk them down and scaled them back, but they had us as a starting point.
If Rare is still working on some
Nintendo ports that are actually Nintendo properties, does that mean
you can still revisit those series, like
Donkey Kong Country, or Killer Instinct?
JT: Nintendo like us to do the ports of the games that we did for them for their format.
We've done the
Donkey Kong Country remakes because [Rare] was the home of it. Nintendo
have asked us to do those. I think there's still a really good relationship
between Rare and Nintendo. Yeah, we get on really well.
That kind of thing doesn't happen very often.
JC: No, I think it's unique to the
fact that Microsoft aren't planning on releasing a handheld, so there's
no conflict of interest there. I think the management is still friends
with people at Nintendo -- like Ken Lobb went over [to Microsoft] as
well, so there's still connections between the two businesses.
I mentioned Killer Instinct -- a lot of people are hoping that you guys are going to do that again. I thought it would be very difficult since you're Microsoft-owned, but if you do have that relationship, then on the handheld page...
JT: The thing is, when we were working with Nintendo, there were some properties that were ours -- and are ours, furthermore. Banjo is a great example. Banjo is all ours, although potentially Nintendo could release the old games for the Virtual Console on the Wii. Any future ventures would be from Rare on whatever format we're working on. It's a pretty even split. Obviously they didn't give us Donkey Kong. I don't know why. (laughs)