Masaya Matsuura may be best known for PaRappa the Rapper, a game which was released over 10 years ago. But his development company, NaNaOn-Sha, has been going steadily since that time.
Its upcoming Wii-exclusive game, in partnership with Majesco, Major Minor's Majestic March, reunites Matsuura with PaRappa collaborator Rodney Greenblat and marks the company's most notable original release since the PaRappa era.
Though Matsuura hasn't made a major commercial impact in the West in some time -- his company's Tamagotchi licensed games have done quite well in Japan, on the other hand -- doesn't mean he hasn't been giving serious thought to the problems facing game creators globally today.
To that end, Matsuura spoke at the 2008 DICE Summit; Gamasutra was happy to republish the speech as an article last year. In it, Matsuura outlines the sorts of concepts that he thinks will lead to wider acceptance of games.
Continuing that discussion from where it left off, Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine's Brandon Sheffield took the time to visit Matsuura's Tokyo studio late last year and conduct this interview, which also touches on music games and the relationship between musicians and game audiences, the advancement of technology, and more.
Some in the Western games press feels that Japanese games overall are becoming less global than they were before. And that they're much smaller games, no real, impressive, big new titles. Is that a good thing, that there are more small titles?
Masaya Matsuura: I really agree with your impressions, but maybe these kinds of small steps are necessary for the current market. Maybe -- for example, Europe and America is different from each other, but it's not such a big difference as between us.
So maybe we need some improvement, to adapt the methods from the Western game industry. Of course, we can't mimic, and do some kind of production that mimics Western developers. We have to find another way to re-appeal to the wider market.
Majesco/NanaOn-Sha's Major Minor's Majestic March
You're creating your latest game with the mindset of making a game that people will remember in a positive way, as opposed to what you were talking about in the DICE speech. What do you do to make that happen?
MM: That's a very difficult question. Of course we are making it very -- how can I say... a game for very positive interactions. But it's not simple, in my head. Maybe the player will feel, sometimes, that it's pretty simple. That is a good thing.
Dewi Tanner [NanaOn-Sha overseas business manager]: I would also say there's no loser in the game. Because in some games there's a winner and a loser.
MM: Is that how it is? There's a "loser", but it's not such a serious situation as to be called a "loser". In this game, it's more like, managing the team is a very big mission. For example, there are two characters in the game, so you do have a winner and a loser... [it's about] how the player character can...
DT: Can keep everybody happy?
MM: Yeah, and correspond with each other.
MM: That's right.
How do you think about the game in a more complex way, while still making it simple for the user?
MM: Maybe I am not ready to say that kind of thing yet. Still, we are struggling to make a certain type of gameplay, so I think I need a little more time to set my brain for that kind of thing.
I was so surprised to come to know, during this development -- our game is using marching songs. A marching song is kind of a simple beat type of music, but I have big trouble in my mind with the many marching songs sticking in my head frequently. I can't erase those tracks from my brain. They have a very strong... something.
MM: Not simply catchy. Maybe if it's a similar type of activity with the marching songs -- so if I walk around for a few minutes, suddenly the marching song comes up.
Because of walking? Like if you wind up walking to a specific rhythm or something?
MM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just for example. It's very interesting.
Why, in that case, didn't you do the game on a handheld? With DS, or PSP, or iPhone, there is this kind of connection -- when I'm outside and walking, I think about a marching band.
MM: I'm always thinking about the possibilities to make that game for a mobile environment too. But for what I wanted to do, that game's audio system is a very unique system. It requires CPU power and memory. For this reason, I chose the Wii.