Site reader Haiiro tried his at translating an official Nintendo Star Fox Assault developer interview from its original Japanese. He says that his translation isn't perfect, but this should represent the intent of the questions and answers.
Krystal is mentioned briefly, as is the developer's intention to make this Star Fox game about switching between vehicles quickly, which is a big aspect of the multiplayer game and some single player levels. Enjoy!
- (池端良仁) Ikeda Yoshihito, Game Supervisor (Nintendo)
- (今村 孝矢) Imamura Takaya, Co-Producer (Nintendo)
- (小林毅さん)Mr. Kobayashi, Producer (NAMCO)
- (中西之さん) Mr Nakanishi Toshiyuki, All-Range Director (NAMCO)
- (吉田豊さん) Mr Yoshida Yutaka Battle Mode Director (NAMCO)
"Truth Behind the Collaboration" Facts
(Some stuff about the juicy details that will be revealed, the collaboration of the two companies, their mutual goals, something, something)
"I want to see Star Fox as Cool"
-First off, what was the motivation behind this game, and when did development start?
Imamura: This is the fourth game in the Star Fox Series, and the last title was an action adventure game, we wanted to return to the series’ roots that involved shooting and such. There was an outcry from a lot of players complaining that a "Star Fox game should have shooting." This game also marks as part of a planned collaboration of Nintendo and Namco. So far, development has been going smoothly and the game is really taking shape.
Yoshida: Development started six months after the last game’s release in 2002. It first began with approximately 5 people, and from there it began to rapidly multiply.
Imamura: Adventures’ development time was already done, so we concentrated on bringing back a lot of missing features like shooting, team chatter, rivals, everything from prior games. We also added shooting with guns and from alternate methods/positions other than just Arwing. So while Adventures was what it was, now Miyamoto-san requested that he wanted to see "A Star Fox game that was cooler and slicker than ever before". So we decided to do that as our first real collaboration with Namco.
-Where did things go from there?
Imamura: I myself wanted to upgrade the competitive mode from the N64 Game, with something extra! Namco strongly felt that a good plan would be to have players switch freely between modes of combat. It was then decide to coincide both ideas to shape the battle modes in the game.
-Is that the main concept behind the game?
Nakanishi: Yes. The keyword for this game is "Switching/Transfer Action".
Kobayashi: Normally, in the series’ Battle Mode, it was impossible to control both fighter and pilot himself. It would be hard to have the Arwing and pilot confront/fight each other in any kind of fight. The speed of both his quite different, and so are the scale and attack methods suitable to either one. They’re too different. At any rate, there were a lot of elements to consider, so we put in a number of parameters to ensure a kind of balance between the two.
Yoshida: Speaking of the game’s Switching Action, the staff wanted a seamless flow between opening and exiting the hatch of the Arwing. So we implemented the feature of a one-button press to get in and out of the Arwing, which the staff felt good about.
Kobayashi: There are a lot of us on the staff who liked Star Fox 64, and a lot of our strongest ideas have come out of that. For example, every so often someone on the staff will say: "This character wouldn’t say this!" and so on. (Laughs). So because our staff made this game with their love of Star Fox 64 in mind, I think fans of 64 should be assured that they will like it.
Nakanishi: That’s definitely my aim.
Kobayashi: After that, it was a matter of nailing the on-foot combat that’s a new element of the game. The trouble was that first-person shooter games [as opposed to the 3rd-person shooting we went for in Assault] are not very popular in Japan. I myself, at least currently, don’t really enjoy them because of how frustrating they can be. So our intention was to make this new Star Fox in a style of game that’s acceptable in Japan as well. For example, I consciously decided to make aiming intuitive and simplistic, to make it easy [for Japanese players].
Also, instead of making just one set of controls, we have to prepare 3 as well. (Laughs). For this part, there were a lot of differing opinions on this during development, and it was a big part that took some time to decide. Ultimately, I decided to make one set of controls for players accustomed to first-person shooters, and one more in the vein of what players would expect from Star Fox 64. I urge you all to try them out.
Staff on the Enjoyment Factor of the Game
-There’s a high entry barrier for 3D Shooting Games. What about in this case?
Imamura: The normal approach for rail shooters is that they move in one direction automatically, which makes for a very simple game structure. Way back when the series began, Miyamoto-san expressed how he wanted to make a "3D Scrolling shooting game that I can play effectively and have fun." If made properly, it’s a genre that really anyone can enjoy.
Kobayashi: Since it’s simple and easy to shoot a shot with the A button and avoid the enemy shots with the left stick, I think that it is a genre that anyone can enjoy. Of course, if you master the rest of the Arwing maneuvers, there’s plenty more to enjoy. To me, it’s a genre that’s easy to jump into, but you can have more fun if you explore it in depth. There’s also things like score attacks and mission requirements, so you can enjoy each stage more than once.
-So each gameplay mode feels substantial?
Kobayashi: This time around, making this Star Fox game is like making three entirely different games: "Rail-shooting mode", "All-Range Mode", and "Battle Mode." (Laughs).
Imamura: I experimented a lot when I helped make Star Fox 64. There was the split-screen 4-player multiplayer, All-Range mode, pretty much anything ambitious I felt like throwing in. I had the impression it was piling into a bit of a mess, but I thought it’d be nice to do various things on the basis of shooting. You could make things explode and do a whole lot of other things you couldn’t do in the Super Nintendo version. It’s from this mentality that I’ve moved forward with my ideas in Assault.
Yoshida: Initially, the first thing I thought was that I wanted to make something fulfilling, like Super Smash Bros., like a battle mode of that kind that would work as a single-player game. And I think the game has become something of considerable volume.
Nakanishi: When making the single player mode, the first battle mode was interesting, so I made it [similar to 64] so as not to break or ruin it. The first stage shows off what the fans were looking forward to, and after that the new mechanics are introduced to surprise players and allow them to enter it naturally.
-Were there any special considerations during development?
Nakanishi: Capturing the satisfaction of blowing up enemies was important to me. The sound, the fidelity, the explosion, I didn’t want those to be compromised for every one-shot kill. Also, I wanted it so that as you get better at the game, you can explore the higher difficulty modes and tackle a more severe challenge. That’s how I wanted to make it.
Yoshida: Something that influenced me was my love of not just Star Fox 64, but also the James Bond game 007 Goldeneye. In both, I felt there was sort of a limit on what I could do in the game. There are things in the game that you want to be made deeper. During development when we were crafting and arranging all the stages, etc, we adjusted [multiplayer] while playing against each other every day to make it more interesting (Laugh). I think what makes it fun is the amount of weapons and rules you can implement to change things up.
Nakanishi: As we play side-by-side, the staff always gathers as the battle gets more and more exciting. I say "I’m at work", but really, it’s something I’m willing to do all day long… (Laughs).
Imamura: A game that developer can enjoy is a nice game.
Kobayashi: People who are really good at the game won’t always automatically win, with the handicaps we’ve put in place. I think anyone can play it together, even parents and children.
There is also team battle, so I can have fun playing with my family. Moreover, since the data of each individual player will remain intact, it is possible to check on details later, such as who has defeated who and how many times, how many people have killed by certain weapons like the sensor bomb, how much Falco is used, etc. There are a lot of characters to choose from.
-Sorry for posing a fundamental question, but why is the series called and about "Star Fox"?
Imamura: Originally, it was Miyamoto’s idea to make the game about animals, since he wanted the characters that pop up in the dialogue window during gameplay to be instantly recognizable by face, as individuals. Which now that I think about it, is also because of the Fushimi Inari Shrine that’s near the old Nintendo Headquarters, so that at least explains Fox. There’s a pheasant in the old Shinto stories, too.
Kobayashi: Something similar for me was how I thought since this was a collaboration with Namco, the makers of "Galaxian"/"Galaga", I decided to bring insects to the image of the enemy. (Laughs).
-You also have friends while you’re fighting, right?
Imamura: The moment your wingmate shouts: "Help, save me!" during combat, it goes from being a "Sci-Fi Shooter" and transforms into a "Star Fox Shooter." It’s what captivates and charms the player, and motivates him to play with all his strength.
Nakanishi: There are things in the dialogue make callbacks to the series, and will make the player smile.
Imamura: This time around, the female character, Krystal, is joining the fight for the first time, and I’m personally excited about this aspect of the game. After all, if it’s a girl’s voice that’s calling for help or assistance in battle, I’m definitely going to rush to save her! (Laughs).
-True enough. (Laughs).
Kobayashi: On another note, because of this rare opportunity for our companies to collaborate, there are games I wanted to throw in and associate with the Star Fox brand, so "Xevious" , "Battle City", and "Star Luster". These were already games on the Famicom.
Imamura: That’s something I want to play when development’s finished. And before anyone fusses, these games were already on the Famicom, so we’re one step ahead. (Laughs). Also, this time around, the Star Fox music is being produced with a full-scale orchestra. The series has always had a "Hollywood Sci-Fi Movie" feel to it since 64, so I concentrated on emphasizing that [through the music].
Kobayashi: Yes, there’s already a story in the mission mode of the game, but in addition I brought in an orchestra to the music for each mission could to up a sensation in the player. Even in multiplayer, there’s a distinct theme for each stage. You’ll be thinking: "How is it that even the music of all things is so beautiful?" And there are a tremendous number of songs. Hearing it really generates a response! (Laughs)
-By the way, at what stage of development did Ikeda-san join?
Ikeda: I joined considerably late towards the end of the collaboration. Sometime in the last ten months, I think? I was to oversee the project goal, and put in as much objective input as possible.
Imamura: When entering the second half of development, the more elements you want to add, you know? And Ikeda had a lot of input on what some of those elements should be.
Ikeda: I discussed a lot with the staff, and brought up a lot of what I felt was crucial. Although it was technically just a supporting role, I still had a lot of verbal input, so the team from Namco was probably like: "Great, now what’s this guy saying?" (Laughs).
Kobayashi: No, no, not at all! It was definitely time to start wrapping things up for release date, so it was more like: "Please, tell us more!" (Laughs).
-And last but not least, do you have a message for players?
Yoshida: For each match, you can change the various settings to suit your mode of play. I think that there’s a lot to do and switch around, and will be substantial enough. It really increases the fun factor, and is a wonderful asset to the game. There’s also quite a few hidden rules in there that can reverse the way the game usually goes, so be sure to play around with it!
Nakanishi: I think fans are going to have high expectations for a product of a collaboration such as this. We’ve really kept you waiting! Please get it on release, and get the most enjoyment out of it. I’ll be really happy for any newcomers who become fans of the series through playing this game!
Ikeda: I think the game will be very easy to dive into, with the sensation of movement and sound it provides. I hope you all have a good time with it!
Kobayashi: With this new Star Fox game, the content is really fulfilling, and honestly what will make the finished product "extreme." It was hard to develop, but I feel the resulting game was well worth it. Not only is it something you can enjoy on your own with each single-player mission, but Multiplayer Mode will make it so that family, friends, and even couples can enjoy it too, once they grow accustomed to it. Multiplayer is extreme! (Laughs).
Imamura: It’ll be a really filling experience playing this game. It has all kinds of modes to enjoy, and in terms of gameplay is not like any other of the so-called "series sequels", so you can be relieved! It has the kind of action that makes your hand sweat as you clutch the controller, is suitable for both single-players and multiplayer, and is a gorgeous and beautiful work I’m proud to be a part of. I might be tearing up a little! (Laughs).
-Thank you all very much!