It may come as a surprise to some, but Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Leaf (due out for the Nintendo 3DS sometime next spring or so in North America) is launching tomorrow in Japan, just in time for the winter fishing tournaments and new year's festivities and the starry-eyed Jingle giving out toys to good little boy and girl avatars.
To celebrate, Japanese game mag Famitsu sat down with the core staff to ask them a few questions about what's arguably the greatest sheer timewaster Nintendo's ever created. Some of the highlights:
- The way sound director Kazumi Totaka sees it, New Leaf was more about having fun than developing a full-on video game. "In my opinion, we were just aiming to have a fun time with this project," he said. We ran into lots of difficulty along the way, of course, but we dealt with it because we really felt it was all worth it. The team really gets along well; every morning we'd have these project meetings, but sometimes they turned into barbecues or opportunities for people to bring in sweets and such modeled after the game. It felt like the whole game just naturally came about while we were all hanging out together."
- One "new leaf" the 3DS game's making is placing players in the role of village mayor instead of just another resident (though other players are free to move into your town). "We wanted to expand the customization the player can freely carry out, one of the unique features of the game, to encompass the entire village," director Aya Kyogoku said. "When you're talking about that sort of thing, then mayor seems like the obvious post. We thought that title made it naturally plain what you're able to do in the game."
- Design lead Koji Takahashi says there's about a hundred new potential villagers in New Leaf, along with twenty or so making return appearances from previous games. How do they keep coming up with new characters? "In terms of residents, we've added a hamster and deer, for example," he said. "The hamster is because they're generally seen as kind, approachable animals, and the deer's because they're easy to build new characterization around based on whether they have antlers or not."
Isn't the fact that you can decorate your place with a hamster cage in the game make interacting with a hamster in-game a little weird, though? "Well, we've also had doghouses and birdcages among the furniture available, so it's all right," Takahashi countered. "Sometimes you had Octavian the octopus asking you to go and fish an octopus for him, too, so I'd recommend not thinking about it too deeply."
- Totaka led up a sound team in New Leaf that came up with so much new original music for this game that he has trouble picking a favorite. Music wasn't his only focus, though. "We made an effort to program the sound engine such things like the sounds of rivers and insects were expanded upon," he said. "A game's sound is about a lot more than just music, after all; sound effects and the code driving it all play equally important roles. Everyone involved keeps piling up features based on what they're good at, and we create this world together."
- Isao Moro, the other director on the game, offered hints on that ever-present worry in an Animal Crossing title: making money. "In addition to the assorted fruit that goes for a lot of money," he said, "if you come visit the island offshore, you'll be able to catch rare summer-season bugs and fish any time of the year, so if you work that right you can get rich that way. Also, once you satisfy the conditions needed to make your village 'rich', you'll get more money for everything you sell. Unfortunately, prices in general will go up for everything, so you might want to go do your shopping at other people's villages."
- Any village-building tips? "I think we'll see more unique results if everyone just builds what they like," Moro replied, "but if I can give one tip, it's to try to keep an eye on the future when placing things like trees and public objects. If you put them too close to each other, you're going to have trouble walking around the place afterward."