When Game Freak teased a new game that featured a franchise popular worldwide, it's safe to say that no-one really thought "that looks like a horse silhouette, so it'll be a horse racing and Solitaire mashup". Yet that's what it is and, perhaps oddly, Soliti Horse looks like a lot of fun.
Already released in Japan, its odds for the West are still a bit of a mystery as the developer self-published it on the 3DS eShop, unlike previous Nintendo-published releases. What's interesting about its development is that it came through the same internal development process that brought us Harmoknight, the colourful and rather enjoyable rhythm-music title; if someone has an idea, they can begin the process by putting together a team of three. In an interview with Famitsu (translated by Siliconera), Game Freak programmer Masao Taya and composer Go Ichinose outlined the "Gear" process in detail.
Taya: Actually, the ‘Gear’ requires a period of examination by the company. Firstly, it’s the manufacturing trial that takes three months, and once that passes, it openly becomes accepted as an official project. Next, there another examination period that takes place six months later, which is a process that determines whether [the game] will officially be processed or not. So, the first three months were to shape up the project, where we had to do our best to make form of what we had in mind.
Ichinose: During the first two months, we gathered in the conference room, and thought of many plans. Then about a month later, we made a prototype. The first idea was about being able to move horses according to the number on the card… it was a Sugoroku method. But if we went with a Sugoroku style, it would’ve taken too long for the other horses to move, so it wasn’t very good. Since we’re able to use the stylus to draw lines, we figured that we could use a similar gimmick to Sugoroku, and we were able to make it in the style we have now.
Taking the concept of solitaire and horse racing to management (the idea was originally inspired by iOS game Solitaire Golf) and convincing them of its prospective success, as well as finishing with a game suitably fun, was a challenge for the small team.
Taya: But I can say that the fun part of [Solitaire Golf] was firm and met, which is where its strengths were. We also put effort into the feel of the interface, so I believed that when they actually felt it for themselves, they’d understand the experience. During the examination, our senior Watanabe (Tetsuya) said, ‘This is fun, but isn’t it simply Solitaire? Solitaire is offered for free, so can we offer this for free?’ but we managed to pass the exam.
Ichinose: If the examination that takes place three months in is to measure the project’s degree of ‘seriousness’ then the following three months are to see if it makes business sense, so we were being severely checked on at the time.
We argued so much (laughs). I wouldn’t be able to accept it even after work, so I’d call [Taya] in the middle of the night, well past midnight, and say ‘I want to do it like this!’ and stuff like that. Any opinions I had such as ‘I definitely think it should be done like this,’ were always brought up. I wanted nothing more than to make it as solid as possible. Of course, in the end it was up to the director Taya who made the decisions, but even if it meant the risk of being hated, I just had to speak out all of my thoughts on what I thought would make it fun.
We'd certainly like to see Soliti Horse come to the West, mainly because of the trailer below, so we'll hedge our bets.