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Interview: Hideki Kamiya on The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2 and Working With Nintendo

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Talks with us about inspiration, sequels, and Internet meltdowns

Hideki Kamiya's personality ripples across everything he touches, growing in strength as it travels and comes out like a roar. His signature, hardcore style is found in a long line of original gems like Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta; these are titles that, arguably, couldn't have come from anyone else.

We caught up with him at PAX Prime this weekend to chat about his latest project, The Wonderful 101, Platinum's close relationship with Nintendo in developing the game, watching others make sequels to his games, and the intense fan reaction to Bayonetta 2's reveal as a Wii U exclusive.


Nintendo Life: What was the inspiration behind Wonderful 101?

Hideki Kamiya: Originally, Platinum Games president Mr. (Tatsuya) Minami came to me with the idea of taking Nintendo characters or other popular characters and putting them into one game — an all-star collection type of game. With that sort of scenario, it can be difficult taking a lot of characters and giving equal exposure to each of those characters relative to the different fans that are playing those games, implementing them into the game in an equal way to please all of the different fans. I came up with the idea of taking all of these different characters and putting them onto the screen at once, which is similar to the final form factor that it’s in now. That was the original kick-off point as far as the idea for the game.

NL: Traditionally you’ve worked with a lot of original characters — Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta, etc. — and so the idea of working with already established characters, what was your approach to that? What seemed most important for you to capture?

Kamiya: Quite simply, the prospect of using popular characters, these well-established Nintendo characters, was sort of the first time in my career filled with original games that I had a strong feeling that it might produce really good sales results. (laughs)

NL: When it became clear that Wonderful 101 would be a Nintendo project, what were your expectations for working directly with Nintendo?

Kamiya: I’d say rather than having anticipation or expectation for Nintendo I was filled with a lot of worries about what it would be like to work with them. Nintendo has this track record and this huge library of very successful titles, so I sort of expected Nintendo to come with all of this user research or very strong analytics about how game design led to certain sales results. I was expecting to receive these data-based instructions for how to go forward with the game, but in actuality working with Mr. Yamagami and his staff at Nintendo, it really was a mutually beneficial relationship; it felt like craftsmen working together to mutually make the game better. In the end, everyone was really happy with the relationship. It exceeded my expectations.

NL: In what ways did they provide support? Did they mostly leave you to your own devices, offer guidance creatively or business-wise, or otherwise?

Kamiya: First of all, from a technical standpoint they provided a lot of support. This was our first time working on this particular hardware, so they were able to answer a lot of questions and it was really helpful to have their technical expertise. From a design and production standpoint, we got the impression early on that they really understood Platinum Games and they were very respectful of our design process — actually, their feedback worked very well with the structure we have. They didn’t just say, “go ahead and make the game,” they provided a lot of feedback about what might make the game more interesting or perhaps tuning this or that in a certain way could be beneficial. We at Platinum would go back and say, “we did this, what do you think of it?” It was really a game of catch, a very good relationship.

NL: Speaking with Iwata, you mentioned that the game was at one time “darker” than it is now. Could you explain what you meant by that? Right now it’s a very happy-looking game.

Kamiya: For example, with Viewtiful Joe, the aesthetic was sort of this comic style — he was really muscular and riffing off the style that you see in things like Hellboy from Mike Mignola. There was an emphasis in the aesthetic on thick black strokes, and definitely this American comic, a little bit more adult-focused, darker aesthetic in it. With Wonderful 101 at first, while not exactly like the style in Viewtiful Joe, the trend was going in that darker direction.

Initially what I was going for with that was this counterpoint between a comical lightheartedness and sense of humor but with an edgy look. But there was this realization that that’s aiming for a very small, particular audience, so there had to be some more thought put in on how to reach a larger audience with that. By saying that, I don’t mean that I was diluting or creating something that was very ordinary, instead that I wanted to come up with something that was unique and had its own character.

Actually, we got feedback from Nintendo regarding the visual style and it was that (the original look) might not be the best direction for reaching a wider audience. What we ended up with is this idea of a world of figurines, which is represented by what you see in the final version.

NL: When it was made clear that Wonderful 101 was being made for Wii U, you now have the GamePad, something no other home console has really done before. When you first saw that, as a designer, what was going through your head for this game?

Kamiya: Up until now, in all the games that I’ve worked on, I haven’t exposure to making games on a two-screen device or using a touch screen. Being introduced to the GamePad, I was really able to follow my sense of curiosity about the device and let that inspire different ideas. Initially the game idea wasn’t developed when the Wii U was the decided platform, so there wasn’t this idea of having two screens involved. Once that was decided it was a really good opportunity to take a look at options for having two screens. For the development team, it was really inspiring to get this device, like a child with a new toy: (it allowed us to) really let that sense of curiosity take over and drive the ideas that were implemented in the game.

NL: A signature of your work has been a high degree of skill required of players, which many might find intimidating. How do you approach balancing the challenge that you want to see with what a mainstream audience might find palatable?

Kamiya: I think we were really able to achieve a nice balance in separating difficulty levels in Wonderful 101. We have a Normal mode, an Easy mode and a Very Easy mode. Normal mode is the degree of difficulty that we as gamemakers think is the ideal challenge — that’s the level of play that we want to experience. By also providing Easy and Very Easy modes, that opens up the door for a wider variety of players.

NL: Let’s switch gears for a bit and talk about Bayonetta 2. You’re in a supervisor role for the sequel instead of a directorial role like for the original game. How does that feel to see, for lack of a better term, one of your “babies” in the hands of someone else?

Kamiya: There’s been cases in the past — for instance, Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, Okami — where other people take over for making sequels. There’s a certain sense of sadness having that in somebody else’s hands. With Bayonetta 2 I felt that way a little bit, but this time it’s, for one, being developed inside the same studio, and it’s in the hands of someone who I work very closely with. I’m right there and I can see the game in development, I can see the quality that the director, Mr. Hashimoto, is getting out of the game and that team’s progress. It’s actually fun with that context for me to sit back with a user’s perspective and see what kind of new stuff they’re putting in to the game and feel comfortable about it.

NL: When Bayonetta 2 was announced as a Wii U exclusive, the Internet sort of melted down. What was the mood inside Platinum at that time?

Kamiya: Frankly, I was pretty shocked by a lot of the voices heard on the Internet after the announcement. We were making progress with the game with Sega, but certain circumstances (led to it) getting shelved. There was a lot of disappointment regarding the fact that Bayonetta 2 wouldn’t see the light of day. We really wanted to be able to make that game, and so the opportunity came up from Nintendo to work together and make Bayonetta 2.

There was a combination of being really thankful for Nintendo’s support in the efforts, and there was also this large feeling of relief going from the disappointment of not being able to make the game to suddenly being in an opportunity to make the fanbase happy that a sequel to one of their favorite games is going to be coming out.

After the announcement, the disappointment from the fans, that was a little bit hard to take. It was also hard and unfair that a lot of that negative energy was directed at Nintendo too. I was left in a little bit of shock based on the Internet’s reaction to it.

NL: Are you any closer to getting that Star Fox game made?

Kamiya: (laughs) Not at all.

We thank Mr. Kamiya for his time.

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User Comments (43)

Macarony64

#3

Macarony64 said:

So sad that actual good games don't get the sales they deserve but we also have to take into account that the Japanese sale of 101 where of just 1 day.

galetyler

#5

galetyler said:

@Sonic128 @DarkCoolEdge Star Fox yes, Metroid no... Look at what Platinum games excel at making and then look at what Metroid traditionally is, slow paced, atmospheric exploration based gameplay... While I believe Platinum games could nail the atmosphere and the exploration I don't think they would be able to pace the game properly. That's not a knock against the developer at ALL I just think that the style of game they make score attack, fast paced, high difficulty is suited for a Star Fox game but shouldn't be anywhere even close to Metroid IMO.

Sonic128

#6

Sonic128 said:

@galetyler

You have a good point. Leave Metroid with Retro Studios (or some other developer who can handle the series properly).

goldenlander

#7

goldenlander said:

good interview. we can conclude that it's actually a good thing that bayonetta 2 is coming to wii u.

dumedum

#8

dumedum said:

Re: Bayonetta, horrible little ps/360 baby fanboys screaming at them that the game is Nintendo exclusive... can imagine it.

galetyler

#10

galetyler said:

@goldenlander It's been a good thing since the day it was announced the only people complaining about it were either too ignorant to realize the facts of the situations (Sega not wanting to bankroll the game and nobody else was willing to foot the bill) or they simply wanted a reason to complain without ever being fans of the series and if TODAY people are still complaining about it then they are irrational fanboys who need to shut up, It's clear from the footage shown of the title that Nintendo hasn't "neutered" the game as so many had feared they would. It's still the same over the top, sexy action game that Bayonetta was now running at 60 FPS with a new story and bigger fights :)

Senario

#11

Senario said:

I hope the Wonderful 101 sells well although I cant say that the price drop for the console 5 days later will help it to be a system seller. I will be getting both games when they are out. I need a good replacement for devil may cry now that it is pretty much gone.

ICHIkatakuri

#13

ICHIkatakuri said:

@galetyler I get your point but they have some guys who are responsible for Okami (the closest you can get to Zelda without Zelda) so they don't have to do this kind of action and perhaps could bring something new to metroid. Though I would kill for them to make star fox.

LUIGITORNADO

#14

LUIGITORNADO said:

Great interview. I'm looking forward to W101, and B2. People still bitter about Nintendo supporting PG and getting B2 made need to get a reality check.

Peek-a-boo

#16

Peek-a-boo said:

'Actually, we got feedback from Nintendo regarding the visual style and it was that (the original look) might not be the best direction for reaching a wider audience.'

... and why doesn't this surprise me?

I'd argue that those original Hellboy-esque style visuals may well have reached a wider audience!

MEGAMAN_D

#20

MEGAMAN_D said:

@Sonic128

Only 30k copies were shipped for japan, and guess what ? it sold 30k copies in japan.

And in the UK, when you have GAME only getting in 3 copies of the game per store what do you expect ? But on a good note, every store I went into were sold out and I had to order my copy online.

It's up to america now to speak with their wallets.

fortius54

#21

fortius54 said:

I hope this game is supported. It looks amazing. It has so much to compete with this fall though. I am glad Nintendo gave it its own Direct, but there is just so much out there this fall. I think if they could have released it in the launch window it would have performed so much better, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

JudgeMethos

#24

JudgeMethos said:

Guess the internet was upset cuz they didn't want to buy a Wii U to play the game. Most own PS3 or Xbox 360, like me! However, I have no problem owning Bayonetta 2 on my Wii U. Fanboys of systems are just ridiculous.

sinalefa

#25

sinalefa said:

My plan of getting this day 1 has not changed in the slightest. Hopefully some of the people who pick a Wii U after the price drop will take a copy of this one home as well.

WiiLovePeace

#26

WiiLovePeace said:

Awesome, awesome interview :D I greatly await the beginning of the download of The Wonderful 101 next pay day. Will probably download it overnight, so thankful for the discount Pikmin 3 provides, lest I may never have gotten it & had to pay full price but now I get two amazing games :D

ICHIkatakuri

#27

ICHIkatakuri said:

@WiiLovePeace I had to wait this week until I was paid, and it was worth it :-) Wonderful 101 has made me smile every step of the way so far and its pretty bloody hard to boot!

JaxonH

#28

JaxonH said:

@Sonic128
No, unfortunately those people are a part of the "new-age gamer cult", who would rather quit gaming altogether than be caught dead with a Nintendo console. Doesn't matter how many must-have exclusives are on Wii U, these fanboys WILL NOT buy Nintendo hardware at any cost. It's because they are impressionable kids who base their maturity and reputation on what games they play. And right now, they have been deceived by Father Tretton that Nintendo is for kids.

JaxonH

#29

JaxonH said:

@I-AM-REGGIE
I'll do my part. Reppin' USA and our love for great Wii U games with pre orders up the yin-yang. 18 Wii U pre orders on deck at the moment, and another 6 for 3DS. 2 for Vita and 4 for PS4. It's clear which systems have the games.

nathanjones007

#31

nathanjones007 said:

@Sonic128 Wonderful 101 is a new franchise it will gain steam as time moves on. Give it a good 6 months to catch on.

p.s. I will pick up my copy on launch day !

DarrelltheJ

#32

DarrelltheJ said:

Well here's hoping my idol's newest baby sells well. I've already paid off my copy so that's in the bag, and as soon as I hear a release date I'll be saying the same for it. I hate seeing good, innovative games sell badly and crappy expansions passed off as sequels sell like hot cakes.

Kaabiitorori

#33

Kaabiitorori said:

@JaxonH Wow, 18 Wii U games on pre-order, you said? o_o And yet people dare to say Wii U has no games for it... oh the irony~

Regarding to this topic, it's also just what you said: fanboys seem to be very closed-minded when it comes to console choices nowadays. They rage whenever a particular game is not on their beloved platform, they even have to reach to violent terms if they have to: Bayonetta 2 has been a good example of this. It's like their pride and ego are too much that they would rather, as you said, quit gaming altogether rather than be caught with a Nintendo console. =/

smashbrolink

#34

smashbrolink said:

I hope that the end bit of this interview has made at least a few of the more vocal people who whined about this being exclusive to Wii U feel properly bad about how they acted.

As Kamiya said, Nintendo swooped in and saved the day for our favorite Umbran Witch.
Kamiya took the deal for the sake of the fans, believing that they'd be happy that the sequel was going to live on.
Instead, he got a huge amount of flak for it.
How is that fair to him, his team, OR Nintendo?
Hint: it wasn't.
Those screaming anti-Nintendo fan jerks should be ashamed of themselves.

JaxonH

#35

JaxonH said:

@Kaabiitorori
Yeah, and I already own 18 as of right now. Wii U has TONS of great content. The best thing about it is the ports brought over to Wii U have predominantly been the best picks of the litter so to speak. Obviously no one's going to waste time or money porting a BAD game to Wii U- they want the good one's they think will sell. So most of the 3rd party multiplats on the system are money. Darksiders 2, Batman Arkham Origins, Injustice Gods Among Us, Splinter Cell Blacklist, etc etc etc. We're getting all the quality without the needless quantity of mediocre games. It's quite nice actually.

I can personally attest to the fact that the Wii U is a damn fine console. Actually, I think it's my favorite I've ever owned, and I've owned em all. I even have Vita and 3DS, and a PS4 on the way. I don't discriminate. But Wii U by far gets the most play (although the 3DS gets a fair portion of game-time as well).

And considering the UBER-amazing lineup, the amazing new ways to play (Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101), the gamepad integration, the multiple controller options (dual-screen, traditional, or motion), the backwards compatibility, the free online, the built in gaming social community Miiverse, even down to the small things like an amazing Netflix app where you browse on gamepad and watch on TV, and can swipe movie down to gamepad, or the fact the console is $100-200 cheaper and comes WITH a game... I don't think anyone would be unsatisfied with a purchase of a Wii U. And yet, there are some who have wholly convinced themselves that for whatever reason, the Wii U isn't an option for them.

Kaabiitorori

#38

Kaabiitorori said:

@JaxonH Totally agree. I'll always say this: Wii U has a lot of potential. The asymmetric gameplay, the Off-TV mode, the gamepad's integration and its controls, all of what you mentioned are pretty good aspects to reason its value. Heck, if not, then why Microsoft had to come up with the SmartGlass or Sony with PS Vita's Remote Play to counter the Wii U Gamepad for instance?

Just like you, I cannot ditch the other platforms: I love playing games no matter the platform it's located on. But as a Nintendo fan, I cannot let how people ditch the console out quickly (could I say there's some sort of prejudice?). At least there will be people that, just like us, will appreciate what the Wii U truly is: I just hope it can be reached out more and more people, and hopefully the upcoming line-up and the recently announced reduction on its retail price will change that. Oh, and let's see what Nintendo awaits for us in 2014!

Gregor

#39

Gregor said:

@JaxonH Wish I could share in your joy, but I still only have Nintendo Land. I WANT to like the Wii U, I really do. But the wait for VC and stuff is killin meh. I liked the Wii better as a home console at the moment, but as soon as the Wii U gets GameCube games my tune will change. Also the screen resolution difference when playing Wii games on Wii U is really annoying. Any way to fix it?

JaxonH

#40

JaxonH said:

@Fusion14
Um, from what I've heard, and don't quote me on this, the Wii U plays Wii games in 1080p as opposed to the original Wii which could only output games in 480p with a component cable. My guess would be that the sharper resolution brings out the flaws of the games, and makes them more apparent maybe? But the other side of that coin is of course the improved resolution. I've actually heard a lot of praise that Wii games played on Wii U look just a tad better because of improved resolution. I couldn't tell a difference myself, but you're the first to say it looks worse... so idk. Perhaps you can go into settings and change output to 480p before playing Wii games? Not sure if you can do that, but it's worth a look.

I hear ya with the Gamecube games on VC- I always complain about that in the Club Nintendo surveys about the Virtual Console. But, I will say this, the Wii U has come a LONG way from its humble beginnings at launch. Not sure if you already played launch games like Darksiders 2 or Arkham City on other consoles, but if not, I'd DEFINITELY recommend picking them up for Wii U, especially now that they're at or below $20 each.

Other games I'd recommend to check out would be NSMBU and NSLU, both of which are fine platformers, and let's be honest- you can never go wrong with Mario in HD ;) ...Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed- which rivals even the best of Mario Kart...Injustice Gods Among Us- which is the best fighter I've played in a LONG time...Pikmin 3, which is my personal fave since the days of Metroid Prime on the Cube and a true must-have masterpiece for any gamer... Splinter Cell Blacklist, which is quite possibly the best 3rd party game to hit the Wii U to date...

Other honorable mentions worth considering that can be obtained for $20 or less include ZombiU, a fine game of the zombie-apocalypse genre with unique gamepad integration...Call of Duty Black Ops 2, a fun 1st person shooter which unlike versions on PS and Xbox, can be played with Wiimote/Nunchuk, and Assassin's Creed 3, which is just an all around fun game, especially for the price.

Hopefully those recommendations will at least help you a little bit with finding some fun games to play at the moment?

Gregor

#41

Gregor said:

@JaxonH here's the thing, I'm using the same old three pronged TV connector cord from my Wii, as I don't own a TV with an HDMI port. Because of this Wii games look a little smushed when played in compatibility mode. This is defiantly noticeable when I play pheonix Wright on the Wii u, as on my Wii it displayed in a wide rectangle, which on the Wii u has been reduced to a square. When playing Wii games on the Wii u I find it more difficult to notice tiny details that I saw when playing on the Wii, such as how DK's hairs moved in DK Country Returns again due to the horizontal smushing of the resolution. I have poked around the options and there was nothing. Even if you go to the options in the Wii emulation on the Wii U you will noticed that they took out all the options except for memory management. I'm hoping once we get an HD flat screen in our house it will fix this but until then that is how it looks to me. Another problem I have with the Wii U is the price of games. As someone who has decided to go all digital, I can't buy used games. And Nintendo doesn't help matters by not adding any sort of download discount (as they don't have to pay to make disks for those) so there is little incentive to download instead for the average consumer. Most Wii U games are 60 bucks which is why I'm still in doubt, my 3DS see more usage right now.

JaxonH

#42

JaxonH said:

@Fusion14
Ahh ok, gotchya. Yeah, the HDTV should do the trick. Hopefully you don't have to wait too long.

And I agree, digital should be cheaper than physical, but it is what it is I suppose. At least we're seeing a lot of full releases with an MSRP of $49.99... cause I NEVER thought I'd see that again lol! Sonic Lost World, Windwaker HD, DKC Tropical Freeze... hopefully that trend will continue further. I always buy physical because of pre order discounts on Amazon/Newegg (usually only pay $50 for any Wii U games anyways), and I am a collector so yeah...

I know it's not much of a discount, but with Deluxe Digital Promotion at least we get back $5 per $50... At least it's something. I know I racked up a lot of free cash from Nintendo lately- between the FE Awakening/SMT 4 promo, Deluxe Digital Promotion, and the "Add $50 get $5" promo a month ago, I think I've racked up $60 in free eShop credit. Not bad. But I understand that's not enough for someone like you. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if Nintendo will ever drop digital prices much lower than retail. Idk, I could be wrong.

I am curious though, since you're going all digital what are you going to do about the games that don't sell on the eShop? Are you going to buy physical copies for those releases or just not play them? (btw, those $20 games in above post are new on Amazon, not used, just so you know)

Gregor

#43

Gregor said:

@JaxonH Well games like Batman and Darksiders I'm not interested in buying. If I had unlimited credit I would get them for sure, but I don't... I don't want to get interested in series I don't know what to expect. I'm a collector myself, just... in a different way. I mainly focus on collecting Nintendo's first party games, which all WILL be available for download (except for Kid Icarus Uprising, have the cart anyway). I also collect interesting indie games for whatever reason mostly because they are one offs, interesting, unique, cheap, and they wont have 13+ sequels that I have to buy.

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