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Interview With Platinum Games' Hideki Kamiya and Atushi Inaba from PAX East 2020

by Joe DeVader, Neal Ronaghan, and Matthew Zawodniak - March 6, 2020, 8:11 am PST
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With the Kickstarter wrapping up, the minds behind The Wonderful 101 Remastered talk about the game's new version, their inspirations, and their hopes for the future.

Last weekend at PAX East, we had the opportunity to sit down with Hideki Kamiya and Atsushi Inaba, the director and producer of The Wonderful 101 Remastered. Now that their Kickstarter is nearing its end and the game is launching in a couple months time, how do the leaders of Platinum Games feel about the work they've done so far?

[Note: Mr. Kamiya and Mr. Inaba primarily answered in Japanese via a translator. All direct quotations were spoken in English.]

Matthew Zawodniak (MZ): With The Wonderful 101 being opened up to new platforms, a lot of people who may not have been paying attention to the game in 2013 now have the opportunity to get interested. To someone who knows nothing about The Wonderful 101, what would you say is the core appeal of the game?

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: Yeah, that’s a very good question. He says The Wonderful 101 is a game unlike any other Platinum game they have; you know a lot of their games tend to be easy to understand like character action games. But the really unique thing about The Wonderful 101 is that it’s a team-based unite action game where multiple characters come together, transform, create things like a big fist or a big sword, and unite up to use action and destroy enemies. So that point is one of the most unique things about it. But another big point about the game that he would like people know is that it’s actually one of Platinum Games’ largest games in terms of volume in story and characters, so what he’d like to say to players is if you have never played the game, please by all means check it out and you’ll see a different side of Platinum Games that you’ve never seen before.

Joe DeVader (JD): So obviously one of the most surprising things about Wonderful 101’s return is that it’s no longer a Nintendo-exclusive game. What led to the decision to go multiplatform on PS4 and PC as well?

[Inaba speaks]

Translator: So of course they realize, you know, it was originally a Nintendo game and they did want to revisit the game, so the initial idea was to bring it out on Switch first, and that’s why the initial goal for the crowdfunding was Nintendo Switch. But the fact of the matter is about this game, their thoughts are that it didn’t quite reach the audience that they had wanted. So for them, with this chance to revisit it, they would like as many people and as many players as possible to come back and actually experience this game. So in doing so, it made sense to release it on multiple platforms, not just the Switch.

JD: You’ve said in the past that Nintendo was generally very supportive of the idea of taking it multiplatform. What did that conversation generally look like?

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: It’s a very difficult question, you know. That’s an internal NDA thing and unfortunately the specifics are between Platinum Games and Nintendo, so unfortunately he cannot comment on that aspect. But once again, he’d just like to say that as a result of that conversation this is happening, so he really hopes that people look forward to being able to play the remastered version.

MZ: Kinda figured that was how that was gonna go.

Translator: Yeah… (laughs)

MZ: Over the past few years there have been some high-profile games that were funded over Kickstarter that have failed to deliver on their promises, so a lot of people have lost faith in the platform. Have you taken any precautions to make sure that the backer rewards and the promises of the Kickstarter campaign will be met?

[Inaba speaks]

Translator: So first of all he said that he would never make a promise that he couldn’t keep. It’s just the way he handles business. So the fact is with this particular crowdfunding campaign, the idea was not necessarily to get a lot of money but actually hear the voices of the fans, and actually gauge and see how interested people still are in this game - do people really want this game? So that was the main thing to gauge in doing this. As a result of the support of the fans, they were able to deliver exactly how they did it. He said he’s not interested in other projects kind of baiting people out like “oh hey” and “we’ll see what happens.” That was not their idea at all, so it was a very well thought out plan.

MZ: So it seems that the development is mostly finished for it to be ready to go so soon after the Kickstarter campaign, so I’m guessing the money would mostly be going towards the publishing, the distribution, that sort of thing?

[Inaba speaks]

Translator: So as for the money that they’re getting from the campaign itself, largely that is going towards the goods that are made, you know, there’s a lot of tiers and things like that, and it’s kind of like a present back to the fans saying “thank you for your support,” so that’s largely where the money is going and not into publishing and things like that. And as a result of hitting the stretch goal - I’m sure you guys are aware of the side adventure, right?

MZ: Yes.

Translator: So that costs money, so it goes into the development of that as well.

MZ: I’m sure one of the more difficult rewards to fulfill will be for Mr. Kamiya to unblock everyone from Twitter.

Translator: Unblock?

MZ: Unblock, yeah.

Translator: Oh, I think he’s blocking. [to Kamiya] Unblock?

[Kamiya and Inaba both clarify]

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: He says yeah, that’s gonna be a rough one.

[laughter]

MZ: So The Wonderful 101, the Switch port and the PS4 version, they’re going to be Platinum’s first self-published game. So you must have learned a lot of new things to make that happen. What kind of challenges were involved in self-publishing?

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: He says every day is a challenge for them, because up until now they’ve been a developer and the publisher just says “oh that’s fine, that’s fine” and they handle all the - you know, the selling, and things like that. So in moving forward in self-publishing there’s a lot of new things they have to think about and do, and every day it’s a challenge for all of the staff, and sometimes they’re really not sure what to do, but in moving forward with that they are growing as a company. They’re learning things every day, so they’re definitely taking these challenges in stride as they move forward.

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: Yeah, so he just wanted to stress the fact that even having the booth at PAX has been new for them, because otherwise there’d be a publisher. So everything from like, “oh where should we put this table” or “what size of poster should we do” or “what should we have on the monitor?” These are all completely new things for them that they’ve never had to think about. So even things that we normally take for granted are challenges that they are facing every day.

MZ: And overall would you say it’s been a positive experience? Would Platinum like to self-publish more in the future?

[Inaba speaks]

Translator: Absolutely, it’s been a very positive experience for them and like they said before they’re learning new things every day, so they’re very happy with where they are. In terms of moving forward, while they are planning to continue doing self-published IPs, they very much plan to maintain their collaboration with other companies. So you will see both of those aspects from Platinum Games moving forward.

JD: So taking it to the game itself, Wonderful 101 is obviously a game very heavily designed around the Wii U Gamepad originally with the drawing of shapes and all that. Was it difficult or surprisingly easy to find a way to make that work on systems more based around traditional controllers like the Playstation 4 or Nintendo Switch?

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: That’s a good question, as a matter of fact in designing the original game for the Wii U, he actually had it in mind to use the right stick for those actions, and then later it was implemented into the drawing pad. So for him it was not a problem at all to kind of go back to the original design like that for the Playstation 4, Switch, and PC. So that aspect was fine. However, as you know with the Wii U - it has dual screens. There was the sub-screen and the main screen, and so obviously we will not have that on the new platforms. So implementing the picture-in-picture as one thing did take a little bit of effort on his end, and he wanted to just make it more accessible and user-friendly for the players allowing them to change, for example, where the screen is, change the size of it, and things like that. So that part was a little bit of a challenge, but he’s very happy with how the result is.

JD: I imagine that has been a difficulty with a lot of ports over from Wii U that really focused on the Gamepad, so I’m glad to hear that it was not all that hard of a transition.

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: So just to kind of add to some of the differences in things required to make the remastered, of course he mentioned the screen and stuff like that. But in the original version there were things that kind of remained for him that he wished he could’ve improved, and that centered around the user-friendliness of the game. So he said it was like, really really detailed small things as to like, the UI and how directives are presented on the screen, but he was able to go through and implement those into the remastered version, so that’s taken a little bit of his effort.

JD: So I have a particular interest in video game music, and Wonderful 101 has a fantastic soundtrack with - by my count six composers did work on it, including Norihiko Hibino and Hiroshi Yamaguchi. Was the music touched up at all for the rerelease, are there any new tracks, or was that generally considered, “it was already great enough, and there’s no reason to mess with it.”

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: So as a matter of fact, currently the campaign is still going, and the next stretch goal, as a matter of fact, is a full orchestra for two tracks. So if that is reached, there’s a plan to take two songs from the original and record that in a full orchestra. And those are the main theme of the game, and there’s another theme that plays quite often, and it’s a really popular theme that plays near the boss fights. So if that is achieved, then you can look forward to that.

MZ (to JD): I guess you’ve got to get your pledge in.

Translator: Yeah, get your pledge in!

[laughter]

Neal Ronaghan (NR): So when we interviewed you back in 2013 when The Wonderful 101 was about to come out for the first time, you had mentioned a lot about wanting to do a Star Fox game, and then that came to happen. I believe you also mentioned around that time about wanting to revisit Mysterious Murasame Castle. Would that be something that you would still want to do if the opportunity allows, or is there a new Nintendo franchise or even a Sony franchise that you would hope to get the word out during these interviews to maybe will into existence again?

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: Yes, as a matter of fact!

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: Yeah, he would love to.

MZ: Are there any particular franchises that he would like to work on, or is that too close to the chest?

Kamiya: Okami 2, Devil May Cry Zero: The Sword of Sparda, Viewtiful Joe 3…

NR: Please!

Kamiya: Dante vs. Bayonetta, Scalebound, do you know Getsu Fūma Den? A Konami game.

Translator: I do.

MZ: I don’t think I know that one.

Translator: It’s a Famicom game, by Konami.

JD: That name sounds familiar.

Translator: It’s got good music.

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: So the titles he just mentioned are things he would like to do, obviously if he had the chance.

MZ: Obviously there’s nothing in development.

Translator: Right, right, just his feelings.

JD: But maybe one day.

Translator: Maybe!

NR: What do we need to do to get Capcom to bring Viewtiful Joe back?

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: He said maybe if enough people actually reach out to them and propose it, it might happen. He alone cannot do it. So, if you guys rally people up and get them together he would love to do it.

NR: Kicking it over to Project GG, which it’s sort of the third game in the ‘hero trilogy’ with Wonderful 101 and Viewtiful Joe, I saw that it’s been said that it’s not going to be a pure action game. What other genres and gameplay styles are influencing and inspiring the game?

[Inaba speaks]

Translator: There’s a lot of things that he can’t reveal at this time, but if he can say anything he wants to say that, you know of course there’s games like Viewtiful Joe that are 100% action based, and for GG, of course it’ll have action as a main element, but he wants to let people to know that there will be other elements, not just action, involved in the game so that people - even players who don’t necessarily like action games can also enjoy it, so to reach kind of a wider audience through that element of the game.

MZ: So something about Viewtiful Joe, Wonderful 101, and Project GG that I feel is sort of a theme - and maybe this is me being an ignorant American projecting what I know - but they seem to have influence from the tokusatsu genre of shows. I was wondering first of all if I’m correct in assuming that, and if there are any particular shows that would’ve been influences on the games.

[Kamiya speaks]

Kamiya: Mirrorman, Fireman, Spectreman…

Translator: Rockman? (laughs)

Kamiya: Jumborg Ace, Megaloman, Izenborg....a lot.

[laughter]

Translator: So first of all you’re very correct, so well done!

MZ: Great!

Translator: In terms of the trilogy, you can see it as Viewtiful Joe being the single transforming hero, Wonderful 101 is the team hero, and then Project GG being the giant hero. So in terms of giant hero, of course people know Ultraman, but as a matter of fact in Japan there’s a lot of giant hero series that probably nobody knows about, but he loves. And he listed a lot of these such as Mirrorman, and Fireman and…

Kamiya: Spectreman.

Translator: Spectreman, etc. etc. But you also wanted to know about, like, Kamen Rider? You wanted to know about single and team hero - his favorites for that?

MZ: So the only ones that I, in particular, am familiar with is stuff like Kamen Rider, and- I forget the title of the show that eventually became Power Rangers.

JD: Super Sentai.

MZ: Super Sentai.

[Kamiya speaks and hands his translator his phone to show to MZ]

Translator: Oh, so he has a lot of figures, and these are all giant heroes, it’s his collection.

Kamiya: Ultraman is just one of them.

MZ: Wow, awesome. The reason that I ask is that I try to keep up with Japanese media to an extent, but for tokusatsu, stuff like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai were the only ones I was aware of, so I felt it would be interesting to learn more about the influences on these games.

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: He says it’s hard to decide!

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: For the single transforming hero, of course it’s Kamen Rider.

Kamiya: Kamen Rider Ryuki.

Translator: That’s another one he really likes.

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: Goranger is another one he likes very much, it’s the first one in the Power Rangers style.

MZ: I had heard of Goranger, but I’d never been able to watch it.

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: It’s the very first one that had the different colors, like the red, blue, so he’s saying to check that one out, it’s where it all started.

MZ: Awesome. Thank you!

NR: Let’s move to the last question, ‘cause we’re pushing up on time.

JD: So there are - obviously, one of the points of the game - a ton of interesting characters in The Wonderful 101. So if you had to pick a favorite - outside of Wonder Red, Wonder Red can’t be the answer - who would it be?

[Kamiya speaks]

Translator: He feels like, for him it’s like all of them are his babies - his children. Could you pick your favorite child?

JD: No, I don’t think so!

Translator: So there you go! It’s hard to decide. He can’t choose one.

Curious about the television shows that Mr. Kamiya mentioned? Check out The Tokusatsu Shows That Inspired Hideki Kamiya!

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