When Jett Rocket was released on WiiWare it was impressive on a number of levels. Most importantly, it was fun, a 3D action platformer that was not only a new IP but also enjoyable to play, earning 8/10 in our review. On another level it was an accomplished technical effort, with attractive visuals impressively crammed into the Wii Shop's painfully restrictive file size limit. Yet fun and impressive, hardware pushing visuals are two of the qualities consistently demonstrated by Shin'en Multimedia, a company that's released games on the DS, Wii, 3DS and Wii U, showing off various genres and gradually establishing its own range of unique IPs.
It's taken a good while, considering it was actually teased at the end of the original, but Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai is getting closer to the release, due to arrive this year. We spoke to Shin'en Multimedia's Manfred Linzner about topics such as the origins of the WiiWare title, bringing the sequel to 3DS, new modes, and why the developer is still developing exclusive for Nintendo systems.
Nintendo Life: If we can start with Jett Rocket on WiiWare, what were the main sources of inspiration for the IP and gameplay?
Manfred Linzner: When we started with the original Wii game we knew we wanted to make a 3D platformer with lots of exploration. We loved games like Mario 64 and we had the idea of some kind of Shin'en mascot which eventually became Jett Rocket. The creation of a high quality third person jump'n'run is a tough task, especially when you only have a few people. In the end we were quite happy the game turned out.
NL: It was a title that earned some praise, but was it a commercial success on the Wii?
ML: The game was released at a very unlucky time, because it was rivaled by the masterpieces of Mario Galaxy and its successor. Fortunately many people liked the different approach of our game and its vibe and so it was finally also a financial success for us, like all of our 3DS and WiiWare games.
NL: The end of that game confirmed that a sequel was coming, so can you tell us whether it was originally planned sooner, perhaps as WiiWare?
ML: When closing the development of Jett Rocket on WiiWare it felt like having some unfinished business to do. It was strange to go to another project because we now had a much better understanding how such a game really works. We decided to come back for more but didn't think this would take such a long time. This was mainly because Nintendo developed a new handheld and so we were occupied with new tasks.
NL: When did development start on Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai on 3DS?
ML: About 1.5 years ago, though it had a different direction at this time.
NL: Can you explain what that "different direction" was, and what's changed since?
ML: At the start we planned a much smaller, more arcade-like title. After a short time we had a nice prototype but it felt somehow wrong. Jett Rocket really asks for a huge world, filled with secrets and exploration. So we decided to make a u-turn and go for a massive platforming game. After a short development time we knew that was the right decision.
NL: You've successfully moved through Nintendo's various systems, but can you explain the challenge of incorporating the engine for Jett Rocket onto 3DS, or was there a different starting point?
ML: Although the 3DS has a lots of benefits over the Wii it has a weaker CPU, and so we didn't have a chance to simply port anything existing while still achieving the same or even better quality. So we started first with some gameplay prototypes to see how far we can go.
NL: With the file size limit on WiiWare, how has the greater space flexibility on the 3DS eShop allowed you to stretch the system's capabilities?
ML: Even though you have much more space on 3DS you always pay a price when not keeping an eye on your assets size. If you waste space you get long loading times and worse general performance. Also we don't want to waste the free blocks on people's SD carts for developer's laziness.
In the end we put as much stuff as possible into the game without scarifying quality, while still having a small download.
It's simply great to make games for Nintendo because we played on Nintendo consoles when we were kids.
NL: Can you tell us about vehicles in this game, and whether motion or tilt controls will feature?
ML: We don't use motion controls in JR2 as the game needs very tight controls. We support digital and analogue controls, depending on the players preference. Like on the Wii Jett can ride his JETT BOARD and now even has a flying saucer. There is also a skydive sequence, a Shmup level and various gadgets he can use.
NL: Which features of the new title excite you the most, in terms of wanting players to experience them?
ML: We like a lot the many hidden secrets in the game. There is a lot of destructible stuff in the scenery which allows you to enter new passages. Also every level plays differently and we hope players will enjoy the many different styles we implemented.
And when you finish the game something special will happen to give you many more hours of fun with the game.
There is also a new Game Mode called "BONUS ATTACK" to unlock which features frenetic hi-score driven gameplay.
NL: You've stated that you've produced free-roaming 3D levels but are retaining 60 FPS (frames per second); why is 60 FPS so important to you, in terms of the gameplay experience?
ML: Its like night and day. Look at Mario 3D Land. It's a great game but compared with Mario Galaxy is feels very slow. We wanted a game that is really fast and with perfect controls. We feel 60 FPS is the only way to achieve this in such a game.
NL: How big a challenge has it been to achieve 60 FPS with autostereoscopic 3D turned on?
ML: It was immense. Its not like it was impossible but there were always a few percent too much on the GPU and CPU when stereo was enabled and the game was already very highly optimized. So we picked each critical asset and tried different techniques to make them draw and process faster. We also dig deep into engine code that was running fine since many years to see if there is still any chance to get some more beef out of it. So a lot of tiny changes finally gave us what we were looking for.
NL: How lengthy will this title be? Is it a similar length to the original?
ML: There are more levels and much more stuff to unlock in JR2. We did our best also to add enough of re-playability to the game even when you have seen the first ending.
NL: Do you have any update on whether this will appear on the Wii U in HD?
ML: If people like the game on 3DS we would be happy to do a Wii U port, but for now we concentrate on 3DS.
NL: Can you share whether Jett Rocket will remain as a regular franchise, whether it's dependent on certain sales figures and so on?
ML: We already talk about Jett Rocket 3 because we had such a great time doing the current game. Of course sales will finally decide everything, but we think JR2 is really special and hope people will feel the same.
NL: Do you have any indication on Jett Rocket 2 release dates in Europe and North America?
ML: The game should be released in late Q3 or early Q4 this year.
NL: We have to ask, can you tell us any more about your Wii U racing project?
ML: We work very had on our Wii U tech and two Wii U games currently. Our plan is to share first work this autumn. Compared with Nano Assault Neo we made big progress on any level.
NL: Can you tell us about any other 3DS or Wii U projects in the works?
ML: Our focus is currently on JR2 and our new Wii U projects. Beside that we will release more eShop games in Japan with our friends at Arc System Works.
NL: And finally, you've told us before how comfortable and happy you are working on Nintendo's systems. Do you intend to focus exclusively on Nintendo hardware for the foreseeable future, and what in particular drives that decision for the business?
ML: Working on other platforms too would probably mean more income, that's for sure. Of course we need to take care of our financial situation but we are doing games first for the sake of itself instead of following a business plan. Although this may seem naive we feel like this approach makes us happier, and this lets us create better games that don't feel like rushed money traps. People recognize the care we put into our games and this gave us a loyal fan base over the years. This way we also have motivation for new games instead of being burned out from our last project.
Finally it's simply great to make games for Nintendo because we played on Nintendo consoles when we were kids. There is a certain vibe you don't have on any other consoles. We don't plan much ahead but currently we are quite happy doing 3DS and Wii U games. People like our games, we can make a living from it and we can simply do what we like without much asking and approving first.
We'd like to thank Manfred Linzner for his time. Let us know what you think of his comments and whether you're looking forward to Jett Rocket 2, and if you want to know more about Shin'en Multimedia's perspective of working on Nintendo systems check out our previous interview.