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Earlier this week saw the release of the Wii-exclusive rhythm game Major Minor's Majestic March, developed by NanaOn-Sha and published by Majesco Entertainment.
What makes this game so special is how it marks the reuniting of the duo -- designer/musician Masaya Matsuura and artist Rodney Greenblat -- that brought the world PaRappa the Rapper, as well as the return to video games for Greenblat.
Greenblat's last game, the direct sequel to PaRappa, was published in 2001. When Gamasutra first caught up with the celebrated character illustrator four years ago at his New York City studio, Greenblat explained why he had left the world of video game behind to return to the world of fine arts.
But eight years after his last foray into gaming, he has finally returned. But what lead to this change of heart?
Once again, we caught up with Greenblat in his studio in SoHo as he was putting the final touches on the game a few weeks go to discuss his return to the medium, issues almost every American must face when working in Japan, some additional behind the scenes look at his PaRappa work, his creative process, as well as possibilities for the future...
Okay, let's get right to it. What exactly have you been up in the last four years when we last spoke?
Rodney Greenblat: In the last four years? [laughs] Well you know, I took a break from the game business in about 2004 and just went back into the studio. And started working on paintings and sculptures. Made a lot of paintings, had a couple shows, it was really great. And I was expecting to keeping going in that direction.
But [Masaya] Matsuura... Actually, it was more meeting Majesco. They had this idea to kind of reunite the PaRappa team, to make a new game. So when I heard about that, I became all of sudden interested in going back to video games.
Majesco/NanaOn-Sha's Major Minor's Majestic March
When was this?
RG:I guess it must be a couple years now. Because I've been working solid on this since December of '07, so I'd say six or so months before that was when they first starting talking about doing this.
Obviously at this point, the Wii was around, so it was always for that platform to begin with?
RG: Yes. And they wanted a music game.
Given how the music genre was starting to really take off, did they want another title similar to PaRappa or something more like Guitar Hero?
RG: Well I think they had a couple things in mind, but they were really hoping that Matsuura would come up with something so totally different. Which he did! [laughs] Much to their surprise!
Was it one of those things where when they finally saw it, they went "Okay... Well, so how in the hell are we going to market this?"
RG: I really can't tell you what they thought, but they were surprised, that's for sure. Marching wasn't on their radar as what a music game would be, I have to guess. [laugh]
Last we spoke, I recall you be pretty burnt out with video games, and not really wanting anything to do with them anymore. What was the one thing that sold you on coming back? The chance to work with an old friend? A brand new platform?
RG: I think actually it was Majesco. I liked the guys who were running the project, I liked them immediately. They seemed really open. A lot of my troubles from the past just came from the same sort of culture clash that happens in Japan to everyone who goes to work there.
Mostly the strange ways decisions get made in Japan; its not like they're that much stranger than here, its just we know our own culture, we know why our people do things, or at least can try to understand. While in Japan, it was always a little disconcerting because, it's not like I want a lot of control, but I kind of want to know generally where I'm going and what I should be doing. And it was hard to find out sometimes in Japan, at least at Sony.
And it was also this huge collaboration, and I was really hoping to get back into the studio and just get back to being by myself. So I was a little tired of the whole set-up... I had been doing it for a while.