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Talking Dillon With Kensuke Tanabe, Risa Tabata, and Jun Tsuda

by Neal Ronaghan - May 17, 2018, 6:00 am PDT
Total comments: 2

We had the chance to chat with Nintendo and Vanpool about Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers, the character’s origins, and Tingle.

The 3DS is still kicking more than seven years after its debut, and one of its old eShop franchises is roaring back to life with a third entry (and first in five years) in Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers. Coming to the system on May 24, it takes Dillon from a Western style to a post-apocalyptic one while also adding more depth to the gameplay and tweaking the overall experience of the game.

We had the chance to interview Kensuke Tanabe (Producer at Nintendo who directed Super Mario Bros. 2, produces the Metroid Prime series, and so much more), Risa Tabata (Producer at Nintendo who has worked with Tanabe on all of Retro Studios’ games, Paper Mario: Color Splash, and more), and Jun Tsuda (Director at Vanpool who worked on the Tingle DS games, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash). Check it out below for details on Dillon’s origins, the trio’s Smash Bros. hopes, and even some Tingle teases.

Nintendo World Report (NWR): Where did the concept of the franchise come from? Was it from the Western setting? Or did the idea of an action/tower defense blend come first?

Kensuke Tanabe (KT): Originally we had this prototype of this game from Vanpool first. From there we expanded on the game. The original prototype of the game we had was just to use the touch screen on the bottom and using the stylus to move around the character. The original idea of the game was to use the stylus in a sort of slingshot way to throw a character, attack, and slam the character and make it run. That was the original gameplay. The character was already rolling at the time.

Jun Tsuda (JT): Originally we came up with the idea of this game using the Legend of Zelda Goron tribe characters.

KT: I got the proposal of this game using the Goron tribe character and thought “why not just come up with a new character?” And at the time I used to go on business trips with Tabata-san to Austin, Texas (Editor’s Note: where Retro Studios is located). Did you know that the representative animal of the state of Texas is an armadillo? When I started thinking of the rolling character, it had to be an armadillo. And when you think Texas, it has to be a Western. The idea of the rolling action and the Western came first, and the action and tower defense came at the very end.

NWR: Where did you visit to make Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers more post-apocalyptic than Western?

All: *laughs*

KT: I don’t think I should say this but one of my favorite movies is Mad Max.

NWR: The Mad Max influence really came through in the beginning of Dead-Heat Breakers.

KT: Thank you. So that’s how I proposed it back to Tsuda-san.

JT: Even within those two previous titles in the Western game setting, there were these Mad Max-like elements such as Russ riding in the gyrocopter-looking thing. The proposal from Mr. Tanabe was very easy for us to take into the game.

NWR: It’s been a very long time since the last Dillon’s Rolling Western game (The Last Ranger launched in 2013). Why bring the series back, especially with the Switch being a bigger part of the Nintendo ecosystem?

KT: The basic controls of the game requires two screens and that’s how the game was designed. When we started developing [Dead-Heat Breakers], there was no Switch.

NWR: Where would you like to see the Dillon games grow? Would it keep sticking to action/tower defense or do you see them going past that?

KT: First of all, to go anywhere from here, Dead-Heat Breakers has to be played by a lot of people. And if we could move on to the next chapter, we have some ideas not necessarily restricted by the whole idea of the action/tower defense game. Something beyond that.

NWR: How do you go about balancing the tower defense segments with the town-based segments present in Dead-Heat Breakers?

KT: The tower defense element is really fun to play but it makes me very tired. So we created this rest stop in the town where it’s on the lighter side where people can just go and play when they get tired of the tower defense.

JT: The tower defense part is very exciting for sure but it is tiring. I thought it was good and balanced to have that and the city where players can refresh themselves. As well as they can find out more about the background of the story of the game and the characters. So when they can go back to the tower defense they can enjoy that better.

NWR: How do you determine which animals are matched to the Mii characters in Dead-Heat Breakers?

JT: We set up the program to analyze the Mii’s facial features and hairstyle and what not. Then the program will pick four animals, or Amiimals, out of 10 choices that are most fitting for the Mii.

NWR: With the influence of Gorons on the concept of Dillon’s Rolling Western, does that mean the Scrogs are influenced by the cute pigs in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker?

Risa Tabata (RT): We actually came up with the idea from a completely different place. We came up with the idea of the enemies coming into the base and eating the people there. But we thought it was too cruel to have actual people being eaten, so we came up with animal characters.

I remember this old Chinese tale where they use these dumplings instead of people to sacrifice to God. So that’s how we came up with the design of Scruffles, which were originally called manju (dumplings in Japanese). I like to say “manju” like kaiju in the movie Pacific Rim.

NWR: In the earlier games, the touch screen was more heavily used but it’s barely used in Dead-Heat Breakers. How has development changed since Dillon’s Rolling Western in 2012 to Dead-Heat Breakers in 2018?

KT: It was not so much about the 3DS features but we received some feedback from the last two titles that stylus controls can be a little bit difficult, especially for small children. So that’s why they adjusted the controls, so more people can enjoy the game.

And another thing is that the stylus control doesn’t quite fit in with the race battle element of the new game.

NWR: What other Nintendo series would you think Dillon would fit best into?

KT: Wishful speaking, but we would love it if we could see Dillon in Smash Bros.

NWR: I think a lot of us would agree with that. He did have an Assist Trophy in the last one.

JT: I also think that Smash Bros would be the best fit.

RT: I want to put together all the round characters in a game.

KT: We would welcome Sonic as well.

NWR: Any final thoughts about the Dillon series so far?

JT: One of the new features is that you get to play as your Mii turned into your Mii animal. In addition to playing as Dillon, you get to play as your Mii along with Dillon, and we hope that is something people will enjoy.

RT: We really want more people to enjoy this game so we made strategy elements of the tower defense section less difficult so younger players can enjoy it as well.

KT: We hope that fans of Mad Max enjoy this game.

NWR: One last thing, Tsuda-san, I really enjoyed trying to play the Tingle games that came out on DS? I’d love to be able to play them on my native system at sometime in the future.

Translator: We’re really happy to hear that. These three are the three that came up with those games.

KT: We do have an idea for a game where Tingle turns into a super-powered being. So we just need to talk to the management.

NWR: I’d very much like to play that. Tingle is a very fun character. Thank you.


CaterkillerMatthew Osborne, Contributing WriterMay 17, 2018

Cool interview guys! I'm glad they went with new characters instead of the Gorons. Maybe they could make a neat cameo but I like this Dillon guy. And I hope for everyone's sake Dillon does get added to Smash as a playable fighter.

MASBMay 19, 2018

Interesting interview and good video discussion. Too bad you couldn't use the audio. If the audio quality is good enough in  future interviews,  you could use the technique I sometimes see Nintendo use in videos/audio which is to have the Japanese response go for a few words and then lower the volume on that and overlay the English translation on top.

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