Interview of Hiroshi Kawai, Magatama's producer
Here is another xboxyde's exclusivity ! My friend Jasconius will do a few translations every month of interesting japanese news or interviews. The first one is Hiroshi Kawai's interview from Xbox.com. Anyone remotely interested in Magatama shoud check it out !
Microsoft Game Studios Japan's flagship Japanese-style action game "MAGATAMA". Fans have quickly taken notice of its deep story, beautiful graphics, and the haunting atmosphere that is felt throughout the game. On October 17th, 2003, as the release date for the game drew nearer, we sat down with both Hiroshi Kawai, the 1st Production Group Senior Manager of the Xbox Corporate Headquarters' Production Division, and Tsutomu Uchida, also from the Xbox Corporate Headquarters' Production Division, to talk in depth about this games features.
-- Please tell us what you two worked on for the game "MAGATAMA".
Kawai: I was working on the programming for the game during the first half of the project, but for the second half I ended up being given control of the entire project as a whole. I was in charge of tweaking all of the details for the studio.
Uchida: I worked supporting Kawai, as the Assistant Producer. Especially starting in the second part of November, so that he could work on support for other titles as well, I took control of scheduling, talks with marketing, and other day-to-day business regarding the game "MAGATAMA".
-- What prompted the beginning of MAGATAMA's development?
Kawai: I started working at Microsoft in order to try and get the Xbox system going in Japan, so I naturally thought that we should make a Japanese-style game that no one but the Japnaese can make. Of course I thought that there were those kind of games coming out in America as well, but when Japanese people make the game, different nuances tend to insert themselves into the game's feel. Also, with all the buttons on the controllers for the latest systems, it seems the controls for games have gotten more and more complex. So I wanted to make a refreshing game that anyone could enjoy, and we planned the game with that thought in mind.
-- Since you began development of the game a year and a half ago, that would make it around the time when the Xbox first came out in Japan, wouldn't it? Last December, Falcom Software released their game "O.TO.GI", but did you think "Oh shoot!" or anything like that because of the similar styles between the two games?
Kawai: The overall view of the two is different, so we didn't change anything out of impatience or tactical thinking. O.TO.GI is focused around destroying things, right? MAGATAMA instead places battles at the heart of the game. However, from the view of the users, there's no helping the thought that they seem similar... I was a little worried about that.
-- Well then, could you tell us a little about the story so that we can see how they're different?
Kawai: It takes place in a time with the Muromachi Era (1333-1573) used as the model. We liked the idea of using not only Japan as a setting, but using a time that hasn't been portrayed much before. Especially since before World War II, stories about the Ashikaga times were taboo (because they went against the current ruling family). Lately, we've begun to hear more stories publicly from around that time, though.
-- Does Ashikaga Takauji's (the shogun at the beginning of the Muromachi Era) name actually appear in the story?
Kawai: No, since the descendants of that historic personage are still alive today, we didn't want to use his name so distinctly, so we only used his first name and put it all in katakana.
Uchida: The title "shogunate" is in katakana as well, as bakufu. By the way, the opposition to the bakufu is called "yamato" (in katakana), and it's based on the image of the Yamato Imperial Court. The Japanese "sacred mountain" appears in the game as well, but it has also been given a different name.
-- How is the main character, Shinato, involved in the fight between the bakufu and yamato factions?
Kawai: Shinato is a member of "izumo" (The Izumo Shrine is an important part of Japanese history), an orginazation which can control spirits and demons. This bakufu and yamato exist in a different dimension, as you can see.
Uchida: It's not a completely separate organization, as in addition to controlling the spirits and demons, it also sometimes opposes bakufu or joins forces with yamato. Behind the scenes of yamato, there's a person named Monkan who improperly controls spirits and demons. He causes problems here and there, and Shinato kind of seals him away, so to say.
-- Well then, what is Shinato's ultimate objective?
Uchida: In the end, his objective is to defeat Monkan. In ancient Japan, it was thought that all natural disasters were caused by the spirits' anger. So the "izumo" group that Shinato belongs to exists to calm those spirts, but Monkan instead angers the spirits on purpose.
Kawai: We can't talk in too much detail about the exact story, but that's how it flows in general.
-- There is some sort of animal-like thing called "Orochi" which sticks with Shinato... How does he (she?) work into the story?
Uchida: Orochi is a creature whose existance is necessary to this world. You could talk of it as a god. However, without this Orochi's power, Shinato cannot hope to defeat Monkan. So he ends up fighting with Orochi's power, but that power starts to gradually take over. However, he begins to feel more and more troubled about continuing to use the power of a being whose existance is necessary to the world he lives in.
-- I see. So we get to see what choice Shinato, distressed by that conflict, will make in the end. By the way, what is that puppet?
Uchida: That's right! Actually, we had this specially made (picture below). It's popular among the women for its cuteness, but not among the men (grin). They say "Why don't you make some more horror-like figure?" We'll have to do that some other time (grin).
Kawai: We actually went out to Izumo to do research at that time well. While we were there, we bought some manjuu (Japanese snack with bean paste). It was called "Yamata no Orochi Chocolate Egg" (picture below). We didn't think we'd see anything like it. We bought it as a joke, though (grin).
The specially made Orochi. The things coming out of its back are silhouettes that you can see when it flies.
The special material "Yamata no Orochi Chocolate Egg" that they bought when they were collecting data in Izumo. They say it tasted good.
-- Are you sure you weren't just playing it around and calling it research? (grin) Well then, in conclusion, please tell us the points you recommend about MAGATAMA.
Kawai: First are the graphics. They're displayed at 60 frames per second, so they look very smooth. We put special effort into making the main character's movements, so we'd like you to watch how naturally he moves. We also want you to notice the backgrounds and lighting. Next, we want you to experience the refreshing pleasure of trouncing your enemies in battle. Lastly, please fully enjoy the story that we created. Personally, I happen to be a fan of the sound for the game as well.
Uchida: I recommend Orochi from the bottom of my heart (grin). As the story progresses, Orochi also grows progressively stronger. The user can customize him however he wants, so feel free to create your very own Orochi however you wish.
-- Thank you very much.
Interview: Yoshito Koshiro
Source : http://www.xbox.com/ja-JP/interview/creator-interview-04.htm
Translation from japanese : Curtis "Jasconius" Harmon
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