Hideki Kamiya, director at Platinum Games and the main man behind upcoming Wii U action game The Wonderful 101, sounds a bit drained these days.
"We've never used this size of a team and this amount of time to build a game before," he told Famitsu magazine, "and even so, this is the first time it's been so tough for me, especially towards the end of development. I suppose I'm getting what I deserved there."
Platinum's latest — due out in two weeks in Japan and Europe (September 15 in the US) — impressed E3-goers with the sheer chaos behind its concept. "The project got its start," commented producer Atsushi Inaba, "with Kamiya's basic idea of 'Wouldn't it be cool if there was an action game with lots of characters that could come together to launch super powers?'. The hero motif was something we came up with based on the motif of that idea. Kamiya usually comes up with the visuals for a game first, so it's really rare for a project to kick off this way. In fact, that pattern hasn't happened before at all."
"I wanted to make a game where you were controlling tons of characters," Kamiya added. "It was like, let's make this motley crew of interesting characters, and let's just throw them all onscreen at once instead of holding them back. It'd be too much of a pain to choose just one of them; I wanted something where you had a hundred coming out and working together. And when we settled on that 100 number, that's when we figured a hero or sentai style would work best, especially since I personally like that kind of thing."
The game takes more than a couple cues from Viewtiful Joe, the GameCube classic that both Inaba and Kamiya were involved with. One of those cues: The big-head stubby look on the heroes, a bit of a departure from previous Platinum titles like Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
"If we're going to have 100 onscreen at once," Kamiya explained, "having them all rounded out like that creates more of a sense of this teeming crowd onscreen. That's why we went for that style. The visuals started with more of a darker style, kind of closer to Viewtiful Joe, but again, if you have 100 people onscreen, that style starts to look tedious. That's something Nintendo brought up with us, too, and that led to the current look."
When asked what sort of depth is behind The Wonderful 101, Kamiya got a little coy with the interviewer. "I'm not gonna say that you can button-mash the whole way," he replied, "but you can also take more of a sheer force-oriented approach. It's easy enough to just finish the game, but if you try to work out better strategies and play a better, more stylish game, then it just gets deeper and deeper. I'd like people to just play the way they want, and hopefully they'll get addicted once they see all the things they're able to do. In that way, the entire first playthrough is something like a tutorial. I think the real game begins the second time through."
It's a philosophy that's plain when you look at most of Platinum's previous releases, most of which feature multiple skill levels that reward deeper exploration of how the gameplay system works. "With action games I'm involved with," Kamiya said, "I don't want people to just play them one time through. Ideally I'd like them to play their whole lifetime. There are certain action games that I'm still playing to this day, after all. It's not because I want to see the ending, but because the gameplay itself is fun; it feels good to control. That's the kind of game I try to make, and while I don't like to say things like 'There's X amount of content until the ending,' I will say that there's more volume to this game than Bayonetta."
Inaba also noted that The Wonderful 101 has a large variety of hidden stuff and collection-oriented side quests that Platinum hasn't touched on yet. "Kamiya really has no idea when to rein in the volume," he laughed. "This is a weird way of putting it, but with a lot of regular action games, if you try hard enough, oftentimes you can beat them the same day you purchase them, right? That's not happening with this game. There are a lot of features that we haven't revealed yet, but even if you ignore those features and push through the game, we're still talking the same level of volume."
The second part of the interview will be published in the next issue of Famitsu, two weeks from today.