The Wonderful 101 is being released tomorrow in Europe (23rd August) and part two of Iwata Asks has now emerged. This time round the game’s director Hideki Kamiya has united with some familiar allies to assist him in his interview with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata: Atsushi Inaba, producer at PlatimumGames, and Shingo Matsushita and Hitoshi Yamagami from the Software Planning and Development department at Nintendo.
Whereas part one of the interview explored Kamiya's development process, part two focused on the game itself and there was plenty of interesting information on the origins of the game, including how it was originally set to be much darker than it turned out, which sounds odd considering how vibrant and colourful the final product ended up.
However, Yamagami was against this idea as he believed youngsters wouldn’t play it. Kamiya was not best pleased and did argue about it "like a child" but eventually accepted the decision and devised something else unique.
Described as the "realistic figure, realistic toys" concept, Kamiya made the visuals look both pop and realistic at the same time, with the unnecessary darkness removed.
But before any of this was even conjured up an idea for the game had to form in Kamiya’s mind and in the end they all came from his imagination and childhood memories:
I bought Famicom Jump for JoJo, but the main characters come and go, so you couldn't always play as your favourite character. So I wondered if there wasn't some way to please everyone by letting them play the whole game as their favourite character
In that way, Smash Bros. is very well done. You can play as your favourite character, and as it is, I think that's a completed form of that type of game. So when I wondered what I should do with this one, I decided "Why don't we just bring out all the characters at once?"
As a kid, the idea that small, separate things could join together and become strong was really exciting for me. I feel like that's where the core of this whole project came from.
It was certainly a challenge. Packing 101 characters into a game was not going to be easy. After all, you can only get 100 Pikmin out of an onion at once and that is hectic enough!
Yamagami revealed that he had his reservations about the idea as he’d learned from experience that attempting to squeeze so many characters into a game where they all practically change shape is impossible. However, he came around to the idea eventually and felt the development with the dark characters could go ahead:
When the project first started, the characters were more like Viewtiful Joe, like the dark superheroes in US comic books. I liked that art a lot, and I did think we could go with it.
Of course, the dark elements quickly diminished but the core game remained and the team set about building a gameplay system that would prove innovative and fun.
This proved to be more difficult that they envisioned and there was plenty of ideas that fell by the wayside along the way. Kamiya, Inaba and Iwata discussed the process, with Iwata revealing how Nintendo kept its distance to allow the creative juices to flow.
Kamiya: It is a game where you bring a large group of characters around with you, so we tried a lot of different things to see what the possibilities were. We would make the game and dismantle it again and again, to try and figure out what pieces to put together to get the right gameplay.
Inaba: It didn't feel very good; it was as if we were running wild. We knew we had the foundation of the game, but we couldn't use that to lead us to anything worthwhile.
Iwata: But as far as Nintendo was concerned, since it was our first time collaborating with PlatinumGames, I think there was a time where we must have thought "PlatinumGames has shown that they can get results themselves, so we should respect them and discover their value," and so we took a step back and watched over them in a way.
But naturally as time goes on, developers are bound to start feeling the pressure as the bosses look on from up high. Kamiya admitted he was anxious about Yamagami and Matsushita closing in and revealed how he expected them to be a little more corporate than they actually were.
Kamiya: Originally, I had somehow imagined that those requests would come in more systematically. I thought the requests that would come in would be very business-like. I thought you guys were going to reach out to me saying something like, "We did some user research and these are the results we got, so we want you to change it so it fits this."
Iwata: Like, "Marketing data proves you should go this way."
Kamiya: Right. So I was surprised. This should have been obvious, but I was a little surprised at how human you guys were.
However, this was a two way street as Nintendo were worried about meeting Kamiya, considering how he appeared upon their first meeting and his tweets, as Yamagami explained:
We had a preconceived notion that Kamiya-san was scary. We still had a strong impression of him from how miffed he seemed the first time we met him, and of how he was on Twitter. But the more we met him, and saw how Kamiya-san reacted like "Oh, that makes sense." to things that we said on the spot, we realised that we just needed to be honest with him. And so we started to get closer after that.
Kamiya is in fact more open to actually talking to people to more forwards and isn’t a fan of data:
If you have misgivings about something a person is telling you, you can just ask "Why is that?" then and there, and deepen your understanding. But you can't have a conversation with data.
Kamiya did have his moments though and the team revealed how he implemented multi-unite mode at a late stage in development that made a few people a little mad due to the secondary problems it could cause. He had to put in a lot of effort, but in the end he felt it was worth it.
I know it caused a lot of trouble for everyone, but I think it really paid off and it gave the game a lot more depth. With the addition, players are now better able to create their own play style, and we were able to build the gameplay to a point where the players can pursue the most technical, beautiful moves they can imagine, so in that sense I think it was worth the effort.
Kamiya claimed Nintendo was an influencer in him working so hard as the company "really looked after us, ever since the period when the game wasn't fun at all. So I wanted to do my best for them, even at the last minute".
But that’s not all you’ll find in The Wonderful 101, as the team revealed there is a character actually in the game that is based on Kamiya himself.
His name is Wonder-Director and upon sending the game for testing at Mario Club, PlatinumGames were highly amused when they came back saying "Wonder-Director's attack made it crash".
This was surely a deliberate act from the director himself and Matsushita revealed the character is hidden and will appear should you play it enough:
He can do something a bit unique, so he was something to watch out for during debug. Physically, he's very unique looking as well, and his collision detection seems a bit different than other characters.
Kamiya said the developer was planning on putting several hidden characters into the game and there was numerous candidates. Wonder-Director was a low priority but as the candidates were whittled down the team threw him in as they had already put in the effort to make him.
On top of this, Wonder-Director isn’t the only character you’ll be able to play as and there will be a someone in there who has not yet been revealed.
Matsushita said that just as with Wonder-Director, if you play enough the secret character will appear and he has been re-designed to match the world of The Wonderful 101.
Kamiya explained more about the newbie:
Just like the original, the character will fight with guns, and that other trademark item has been changed into a mask as well. The character will also have its own Unite Morph.
The specs are slightly different too, so it's a bit of a tricky character.
Interestingly, Yamagami revealed there is an ultra-hard mode known as "A challenge from Kamiya." That is so difficult not even Kamiya himself can beat it. This one is sure to be a challenge, then!
Kamiya finished off the interview by addressing those considering picking up The Wonderful 101:
Don't be scared. There really aren't any games like this out there, so I think it's hard to envision what the game will be like.
So I think that a lot of people may end up just saying "I don't get what kind of game it is," even if they had some interest in it. But if you think there might be something fun in it for you, I'd like you to trust your own curiosity, and just jump right into the game. It's a once in a lifetime game, I think. There are a lot of games that I'm glad I played, and I know that this game will be one of them for you.
As ever, we highly recommend reading the full Iwata Asks interview for yourself as it gives a lot of great insight into how it all began and how it evolved into the game we’re all familiar with now.
What are your thoughts on The Wonderful 101 and the development behind it? Let us know in the comment section below.