We chatted with director Koji Oda and producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya about Mega Man 11.
The transcription of this interview has been edited for clarity. Videography by Jared Rosenberg. Also, sorry for taking so long to post this interview from E3.
During E3 2018 Nintendo World Report was fortunate enough to speak with two members of the Mega Man 11 development staff director Koji Oda and producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya. Please enjoy the following interview, which you can enjoy in video or text form.
NWR: It's been about ten years, eight years now since Mega Man 10 came out. I'm extremely happy to play Mega Man 11, but what was the moment that made this the time to start the next Mega Man game?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: So there's two big reasons why it worked out and we were able to release a brand-new Mega Man. First off was the fact that it's the Mega Man 30th anniversary and we wanted to do as much as we could to honor that. The other reason is for me I wanted to create a new Mega Man, but I wanted a veteran creator to kind of step up to the plate and say, "Hey, I want to make a new Mega Man. I want to make this happen." And because it's such a long-running franchise I felt like I needed someone that I could trust. I didn't want just anybody just coming up and being like, "I can do it" and around that time director Oda came up and he said, "Now is the time to make a new Mega Man game." And it all lined up and that's why we're able to develop Mega Man 11.
NWR: Having been a while since not just Mega Man 10, but since any games in the franchise were developed, what was the process of getting the institutional knowledge where we felt like we could make Mega Man 11? Because I played the collection almost all the way through on the plane and this feels like a really tight evolution of that. Was there a research process or a learning process of getting up to speed on that or did it just feel natural returning to that franchise and building a new one even after so much time?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: When the two of us decided to set forth and create a brand new Mega Man game, as you said we did do a fair amount of research. We knew that the Mega Man franchise is most popular in the West so we did a lot of research to figure out what are people saying about the franchise right now like what kind of Mega Man game would they like to see and on top of that we wanted to also see what people who were familiar with the franchise, but never never touched a Mega Man game like what are those people saying about it what what kind of impression do they have of it so we wanted to kind of test the waters and see what people were actually saying so we did a fair amount of research from then on so after all of that we kind of sat down and from there having taken all of that the consumer commentary and feedback we set out and took a lot of time to figure out like okay like this is what people are saying this is what people want what do we want to make that would satisfy that consumer base.
NWR: During that process of figuring out what the consumers, especially the ones who weren't experienced with the franchise wanted or thought of the franchise, was there anything that stuck out to you that perhaps was surprising that was not expected coming out of it?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: There were definitely a lot of points that surprised us. One of the things that really surprised me was the fact that how well the fans understood the details of the game and like the intricate game mechanics and it was just nice to see just how well the fans like really really dug deep and understood everything about it and that was really cool to see and I think one of the big takeaways from that was the fact that like these these guys don't want to see a dramatic change, they want to see something that stays true to what the franchise represents so that was a big takeaway for me.
Koji Oda: For me it wasn't so much a a surprise more of a realization and the realization was that because a brand new Mega Man game hadn't come out for so long, just kind of looking at the the fans and what the commentary was and it was this strange feeling of them protecting Mega Man from us probably because we hadn't created a new Mega Man game in so long so that was really interesting to kind of see that feedback.
NWR: I'm struggling for a follow up to that one. I guess I'll get into the game a bit now. One of the things that I walked away from the demo so the first time I played it, I forgot the gears were there, the speed gear, and the power gear, and I just didn't use them and I found that a lot of the timing platforming especially in the [Block] Man stage was incredibly intricate in ways that maybe even would be a lot by some of the earlier Mega Man games that have for lack of a better word, more cheap deaths involved in them, but using those gears it started to feel very natural once I remembered they were there and forced myself to use them and it felt like the stages were very much designed to tutorialize how to use those things and to make good use of them. How was integrating a mechanic that slows the game down or makes Mega Man dramatically stronger, how has that been integrated into the level design and I guess probably the boss encounter design as well?
Koji Oda: From the get-go, we were definitely aware of the fact that by implementing this double gear system that it would definitely affect the way that the stages would be designed, but because it's a new system and we have absolutely no prior knowledge of how it would affect it, what we did was we built the stages from more of a classical standpoint where it's like okay this is what a classical Mega Man stage would look like and then as we played through it and we figured out like oh this would be a good place to utilize the double gear system this would be like a cool way of handling this moment in time and so we would kind of fine-tune it that way and then on top of that when you use the power gear. You're able to power up the boss weapons and so that adds an extra layer that affected the stage design as well and so it was a pretty arduous process of kind of taking what's there, adding an additional thing, seeing how it affected everything, and then fine-tuning that, and finding a good balance for everything so yeah it was a bit of a painstaking process to figure that all out.
NWR: I was curious I think you guys have spoken publicly a bit about the sound effects and the music, especially for the sound effects I think it's a lot of it's not completely digital, you were recording using real world sounds I guess like Foley art I guess if you could speak about the decision to use real world sounds to create the effects and also just about the music a little if you could talk a little bit of the music.
Koji Oda: So in terms of the sound effects we definitely wanted to make sure that it matched those modern visuals but at the same time we wanted to make sure that the sounds are appropriate to that setting so it was a mix of okay this is the type of sound effect that would feel right for this instance and we should keep these Mega Man sound effects for like these instances because otherwise it just wouldn't feel like Mega Man so that was kind of the approach that we took with the sound effects, for the music itself we were very much conscious of the fact that the music is just as important as the gameplay for the Mega Man franchise and so we experimented a little bit initially where because the visuals have been modernized we initially took an approach where okay let's modernize the music let's try to make a different style of music here where I asked a composer to create a much longer piece and when we drop that into the game however and we matched up with the gameplay, we realized this doesn't feel right, something's off, it doesn't feel like Mega Man so we scrapped that idea, and we went back to the drawing board and we realized what makes Mega Man music great is the fact that it's memorable, you can hum it so we wanted to go back to those roots make it more compact and try to make it as memorable and catchy as possible so that was something that that I worked with a composer on and there was definitely a lot of pressure there but I feel like we were able to create a soundtrack that's very catchy and obviously we can't show you right now but I hope you look forward to it.
NWR: Kind of building on the how the music and sound effects were evolved, this is the first time that there's been a any kind of major revision into the appearance of the Mega Man character itself since I would guess the PlayStation era probably 1995 or 1994, somewhere in there. It's not huge changes, but obviously they're noticeable. What was the process of refining and evolving how the character should look in 2018 considering it's been at least 20 years since that process has gone through?
Koji Oda: Mega Man I think traditionally has always considered very much a 2D character, but I felt that with the the absence of a brand-new Mega Man game I felt like the franchise kind of stopped evolving it kind of stayed retro, it stayed static, and I think that's something that would continue to appeal to die-hard fans, but then you're gonna run into fatigue where you're not bringing in new people. The brand itself is growing stale and that's just not healthy whatsoever. So in terms of the the art style and the visual look that's something that we wanted to kind of modernize and make sure that the overall feel and the visuals fit something that modern gamers would be able to easily accept and appreciate.
NWR: Thank you very much.