WayForward is one of the best known developers on Nintendo's download stores, making its name most prominently on portable platforms. It's a studio with many strings to its bow, including numerous retail releases on various platforms for other publishers, but it's arguably the company's own self-published IPs that have contributed the most to a loyal fan base.
Next up on the 3DS eShop is sequel Mighty Switch Force! 2, which will already be on plenty of wishlists. We caught up with WayForward's Creative Director, Matt Bozon, who shared some exclusive screenshots and spoke about Patricia Wagon's new title.
Nintendo Life: You've worked on a large number of games over the years. Is there one in particular that's most memorable?
Matt Bozon: I have two! I really enjoyed being handed the keys to the Contra series when directing Contra 4. I would really love an opportunity to do that again. The most fun I’ve ever had was developing the original Shantae. That was a very special time in my life, and in the development of WayForward as a company. I have a ton of fond memories surrounding that game’s 2 year dev cycle.
NL: This is the first sequel in the 'Mighty' series. Was there a particular reason you decided to create one rather than work on another original series release?
MB: We were inspired by Capcom’s NES era sequels. There was something wonderful about DuckTales and Mega Man’s fearless sequel-izing. They kept cranking them out, and as a fan I kept gobbling them up. This is an area where I think games are different from movies, where it's OK to just “do it again”. I love Zelda: Link’s Awakening and am very happy to be playing the other Game Boy editions. They are different, but cast from the same mold. We wanted to try that, since we’ve never done a direct sequel before that used the same code base.
NL: Can you tell our readers a little bit about the gameplay in Mighty Switch Force! 2?
MB: Sure! And to utterly contradict myself from 10 seconds ago, the gameplay in MSF2 ended up being very different despite the ideas that inspired a sequel. Once we got rolling, I got the feeling that a level pack might not be a good idea and would be easily dismissed by players who didn’t play the first game. So, this became a thematic switcheroo that led to some really great new puzzle mechanisms. We have a hose now instead of a blaster weapon, which means you’ll be “destroying” things in a different way. You can wash objects away with water, or temporarily douse burning objects. The results are fun and are very different from MSF1.
NL: When you're working on a sequel, is there ever a fear of getting too far away from what fans of the original enjoyed and expect to see more of?
MB: Yes, there is a bit of risk there. The change of main weapon from a standard projectile to a organic pressure hose was pretty drastic. There are puzzles that simply do not work with a hose, which inspired a bunch of new enemies and obstacles. Other than that we didn’t deviate much, and kept what players responded well to the last time. The Hooligan Sisters are back, and are as playful as ever. The cutscene art is just as weird and the Jake Kaufman compositions are worth the price right there. The changes make it a whole new game that can stand next to the original rather than being just a level pack.
NL: Did you make a conscious decision to try to really mix things up for this sequel?
MB: Yes, but I was very unaware of the ripple effect it would cause. I wanted the hose idea since it was so much fun to use in our Game Boy Advance “Billy Blazes” game, and I’ve always enjoyed that one. But once you consider the puzzling and enemy patterns of this game, the level and object designers had to adjust accordingly. They had to become very inventive — and I think these discoveries of…. “oh, wait… how can I do this now?” will be parallel by players when they fire the hose for the first time.
NL: What's it like creating a title in 3D for the 3DS as opposed to creating regular titles on non-3D systems?
MB: Playing with 3D is fun! I know that not everyone loves stereoscopic 3D, but it gets big results. It can be easier to show which objects and surfaces can be interacted with by shoving non-interactive stuff into the distance. Even particles (like the rising embers you’ll see in this game) have been given dimension. I find it fun just to look at. For people who prefer the 3D slider at zero, great care has been given to make the visuals pop by way of color and contrast. Oh, you’ll also notice that the cutscene art this time was designed with 3D in mind, and is more interesting.
NL: The soundtrack in the first Mighty Switch Force was highly praised by critics and gamers alike. What can those fans expect from the musical score in the sequel?
MB: I think the soundtrack for this one is a bit more humorous and is every bit as good as the previous one, if not better. There are musical moments that might even make you stop in you tracks to have a better listen. It’s incredibly entertaining. Jake does it again!
NL: WayForward has released a lot of retail titles over the years, but lately it seems you guys are releasing a number of download titles. What are some of the pluses of creating and releasing download titles as opposed to retail games?
MB: I’m glad you noticed! We’ve decided that one WF original per year isn’t cutting it, and we have drastically increased the number of original games in production, which will be announced shortly. Of course we will continue to develop quality boxed products for our clients, who have always brought us our very best development opportunities… it is our primary business. But for our own titles, digital offers us the freedom we need. Even at 23 years old (and 100 staff) we consider ourselves fairly fresh-faced when it comes to publishing. We might make mistakes, and need to learn along with everyone else. Digital distribution lets us provide updates, adjust prices, and be more flexible than we could at retail. And hey, if an experienced publisher would like to box and sell our original products at retail, that would be great too!
NL: Any chance we might see more of this series down the road?
MB: We’re in the early stages of the next Mighty game now, which will not be a sequel. We’re also considering another Patricia Wagon game too. I could see her moving in the direction of a high-octane action game. I’m wondering what players think about that?
NL: Do you have a personal favourite game in the 'Mighty' series?
MB: Mighty Flip Champs is my favorite. It’s such a fun and simple one-button idea. And it was “Mighty” when that was just its name, not a series moniker. It’s also special to me since it was a family project, which has happened very rarely…Mighty Flip Champs, Wendy: Every Witch Way and the original Shantae were Multi-Bozon titles. So I get the warm fuzzies when I play them. For newcomers, I’d recommend Mighty Switch Force (either 1 or 2) as a great place to jump right in.
NL: We want to thank you Matt for taking the time to do this interview for Nintendo Life.
MB: Thank you too! This is a really exciting time for WayForward to be making original games… there’s so much more happening and I can’t want to tell you about it! We’ll be back soon with more info on Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse following E3 as well, since I know your readers have been asking. Thanks, and have a great E3 week everyone!
Mighty Switch Force! 2 is out on 13th June in North America, priced at $5.99. The European release is on 27th June, with a price to be confirmed. Let us know whether your looking forward to this sequel, and what you thought of Matt Bozon's comments, below.