Yoshio Sakamoto is perhaps best known as the Director of the iconic early entries in the Metroid series, including the NES original, Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. Sakamoto-san is not averse to experimentation and different genres, however, with producer credits in the WarioWare series, in particular, while his last director role was on Metroid: Other M, a title that approached the Metroid series in a few new ways — admittedly those ideas weren't all met with approval by the series fanbase.
He can't be accused of standing still, however, and his latest producing role once again brings him into rather experimental territory — at least to Western eyes — with Tomodachi Life. In our own first impressions we said that there "are various moments where the game charges headlong into totally bizarre territory", yet we've thoroughly enjoyed it so far and believe it "has the potential to eclipse even New Leaf when it comes to ensnaring a mainstream audience". That mix of peculiarity and gameplay hooks to keep gamers coming back could be a magical formula in a franchise new outside of Japan.
When asked by CVG whether his recent roles in projects such as Tomodachi Life and his stated desire to create forward-thinking games would limit his involvement in established franchises such as Metroid, Sakamoto-san sought to highlight how the two areas are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
There might [currently] be various tasks I might be involved in with past series. However, even if so I would always like to introduce new entertainment and new fun to those series.
I would like to satisfy fans of those series, but also working with other talented individuals I would like to create entertainment that's completely different and that brings new emotions. I would like to challenge myself in those unique directions.
This might be indirect, but if we can make new types of gamers enjoy video games for the first time through Tomodachi Life, then they might eventually become interested in the more conventional games. I think we need to ensure that video games remain attractive to consumers, and in order to do so new concepts and ideas are important. I would like to challenge myself to do that.
Similar to comments from various other project leaders throughout Nintendo, Sakamoto-san places the emphasis on finding experiences to intrigue and entertain players of various kinds.
I am told by many people that I have developed many different types of games over my career, but I think this is solely because I was able to partner with many different people with many different talents.
Although the types of games are different, what I think is the same for each development is the process of deciding which kinds of emotions we should bring to players.
When we think in that manner, many approaches of game development are actually the same over different types of games.
I think in the end what is most important is hospitality towards consumers. When we develop games we always think, 'what do we have to do to make players happy or satisfied?'
Tomodachi Life has certainly evolved rapidly, in the past week, from a title that was perhaps perceived as a quirky Japan-focused game going through localisation to a Mii-sim that's intriguing plenty of gamers. Rather like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it may be a 3DS title that increases the portable's market impact further while satisfying gamers both experienced and relatively new to the hobby.
Time will tell, but it certainly has us interested in seeing what projects Yoshio Sakamoto will be involved in next.