When considering the best DSiWare games, we think Go! Go! Kokopolo is most definitely in the discussion. A 'chase 'em up', it combined tough difficulty and twitch gameplay with an excellent sense of style and humour. Its high speed, quick-thinking strategy and elements of platforming made it an easy game to love.
Its sequel, Go! Go! Kokopolo 3D - Space Recipe For Disaster, has been a long time coming, with the original plan being a release in 2012 / 2013. Updates from that point were relatively sporadic, until recently it emerged back onto the scene, with some lovely screens and a trailer to gawk at. With 80 all-new levels, a quirky story and even multiple playable characters, we think it has the potential to be a gem on the 3DS eShop.
Due on 23rd February in North American and hopefully soon elsewhere, we caught up with the main man behind the game, Keith Webb. We discuss its long route to release, the new features it'll bring, and also Webb's thoughts on Switch as the console is now so close to release.
First up, can you introduce yourself and Tanukii Studios to our readers?
Hello everyone, I am Keith Webb, director at Tanukii Studios Limited, creator of the original "Go! Go! Kokopolo" for the DSiWare service, and developer of this brand-new entry in the series "Go! Go! Kokopolo 3D – Space Recipe For Disaster" exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS!
Go! Go! Kokopolo certainly earned some fans on DSiWare, but what was your core motivation to return to the IP on 3DS?
After getting a great fan response for the first game, and it developing a small cult following on that original handheld, the 3DS felt like the perfect system on which to continue Kokopolo's madcap antics. As the original was released right at the end of the DSiWare lifecycle, many players missed out on it, and so we wanted to develop directly for the 3DS to allow the opportunity for many more players to experience the title.
Rather than create a simple port of the original, we wanted to offer a game with entirely new stages, and other new content, addressing some of the balancing issues of the original, to allow both fans of the first Kokopolo, and newcomers alike, a convenient entry point into this crazy world of mischievious mayhem!
This sequel has been in development for quite some time: can you talk a little about that process and provide insight into the nature of its extended development cycle?
After getting a great fan response for the first game, and it developing a small cult following on that original handheld, the 3DS felt like the perfect system on which to continue Kokopolo's madcap antics.
Yep, we did begin the development process a good few years back, but, as always, life gets in the way, and both myself, and the programming team, had to take other jobs to keep us ticking over whilst we worked on this in the background – evenings, holidays and weekends, that sort of thing. To cut down the dev time, we pondered just creating a simple, no frills port of the original, but I really wanted to include brand new content and create something special for the fans!
Was there any point at which you were concerned the game wouldn't be completed?
In the back of my mind I always knew it would eventually be completed, as the chance to bring it to the 3DS was too great an opportunity to miss. My main concern was that the 3DS would have been completely phased out by the time it was finished, but thankfully that hasn't been the case! It looks like the 3DS still has a bit of life left in it these days, with several exciting titles coming down the line, so it's still a relevant and exciting piece of hardware. The Switch doesn't appear to be a direct competitor to it either, just yet, so there's plenty of opportunity for both to co-exist in the immediate future, which is great news for everyone!
For those unsure of what you mean when you call it a 'chase 'em up', can you explain the core mechanics at play in this title?
Basically, at its core, it takes the common gameplay elements from old "clear the stage of enemies" coin-op arcade titles that everyone loves, and adds a creative spin on it. Inspired by games such as Bubble Bobble and Bomberman, but also incorporating aspects of Snake, Flicky and Pac Man (most notably the Pac Man Championship Edition versions with the endless trails of ghosts!).
Also, even though it is viewed from a top-down, birds eye view-type perspective, there are also some platform-game type sensibilities to the game, in the forms of hazards and obstacles to avoid, and tricky jumps to make. A combination of all these elements make for a unique play style that is easy to pick up for the casual players, and fun to master for the more experienced, hardcore players.
In this instance there are different playable characters; do they handle any differently from each other, and are there special requirements to unlock them?
Actually, all characters play the same, and are available from the start, but each has a different "route" through the game, meaning each will travel through different stages as they progress. This allows the option that if a player gets stuck in a specific stage, they can switch to one of the other characters to advance through a different route, and return to the stage they had difficulty with at a later date. Each of the characters have slightly different, unique endings also.
You seem to have produced another light-hearted story to accompany the action, too, how important is this in terms of the game's overall tone and appeal?
We wanted to introduce a new plot to this game, to differentiate it from the original, but the basic premise is the same, cause as much mayhem as possible!
This story follows Kokopolo and his pals, as they attempt to get their claws on a secret recipe of immortality, which is guarded by a peaceful rabbit that lives on the moon. As with the original, there are a few subtle hints to various mythology throughout the game (such as the moon rabbit folklore in this one), but nothing too substantial. We just wanted a simple story spine to keep the game feeling fresh and exciting, with added dashes of humour.
The great advantage about the 3DS screen resolution means that we were able to expand the player's viewing distance of the various stages.
In terms of the 80 new levels, are there any particular twists or new design ideas that you think players should look out for?
We've added in an additional feature, called "Space Treasures", which can be unlocked in each level. These require the player to complete a certain requirement in each stage, unlocking the treasures to collect for a special ending, adding an extra layer of depth to the gameplay for advanced players to find.
We thought the DSi iteration was pretty tough, albeit in a good way. Do players still need to master the 'normal' difficulty to see the full game (like in the original), or can those struggling with the speed play through the whole campaign on an easy setting?
The great advantage about the 3DS screen resolution means that we were able to expand the player's viewing distance of the various stages. With the original, one of the aspects that some players found quite challenging was the fact that you were unable to judge upcoming obstacles, without some sort of trial and error and stage memorisation, this meant extremely fast reflexes were needed to advance in some of the later stages, with hazards popping into frame with very limited time to react.
With this new version, players are able to see further in all directions, allowing more time for decisions to be made, to choose paths, or avoid hazards in plenty of time. This alone, makes the game a lot more forgiving.
Also, we've taken into account feedback in terms of enemy and obstacle placement, allowing better level arrangements, which are more open, giving player's choices of routes to take.
The difficulty ramp, as the game progresses, has also been made a lot more subtle, whereas the original probably spiked too soon! (My fault!)
For experienced players, however, the time attacks and the inclusion of unlocking the new "Space Treasures" will bring that added depth in terms of perfecting each stage in the fastest, and most efficient way, to add extra layers of challenge to the player's that want it.
Are there any particular features in the 3DS hardware being put to use here?
The 3D is mostly just used for graphical effects, backgrounds that drop away into the distance creating a sense of depth, that sort of thing. We had to tone it down a bit as the initial tests had a slight sense of vertigo-inducing that distracted from the gameplay! Eventually we hit the right balance. Of course, the game functions completely fine with 3D off, so if you only have access to a 2DS you don't need to miss out!
Over the lengthy development process, was there ever any thought of releasing outside of the 3DS, or has the portable always been the target?
Due to the dual screen aspect, this one needed to be locked to the 3DS, and the fact that each stage can be played in small bursts suits the handheld market well. There was a thought of creating a smartphone version, but it would need to be reworked from the ground up, as only using touch screen controls would limit the gameplay somewhat. Aesthetically, the game also appears to appeal strongly to Nintendo fans (such as myself) so 3DS was always the system with the most potential.
We have a North American release date, but do you have an update for those in Europe and Australia?
We've just submitted those versions to Nintendo, with the appropriate age rating approvals, so hopefully we'll have something to announce in the next week or so. I reckon it'll be an early March release for those territories, but I don't want to confirm just in case Nintendo have other ideas… We've got a little bit of text localisation to complete for the Japanese version, but it should also be ready to release over there pretty soon, once we've got the translations in.
You utilise the bottom screen to show a real-time map - in terms of the Switch, what are your thoughts on Nintendo's home console / portable hybrid, and do you hope to see the dual-screen format continue in future?
I love the fact that the Switch has got a healthy retro line-up also, with sequels to old-school classics coming down the line.
In terms of the Switch, I'm really looking forward to it. I Can't wait to get my hands on Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and start exploring that world; I've been studying the maps, and planning on where I'll go first once I'm off the Plateau! Plus, I love the fact that the Switch has got a healthy retro line-up also, with sequels to old-school classics coming down the line, such as Sonic Mania, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, Wonder Boy and the Dragon's Trap, Puyo Puyo x Tetris, Bloodstained etc, and many more I'm probably forgetting.
In terms of the dual-screen aspect, I think the 3DS utilised it well, as you only need to glance down slightly to shift your focus to the lower screen. But with the Wii U, I always found it breaks the illusion somewhat when shifting focus from the TV to the GamePad screen. With the Switch, however, I think it is a good balance, as it allows the player's focus to be all on one screen, with the option of touch screen controls and motion controls if needed, and portable play when required. As an extra bonus it opens the system up for direct ports of other games from different platforms, without needing to shoehorn in gimmicks, which sometimes ruin the purity of some gameplay.
Thanks for your time, it's been much appreciated. Is there a final message you'd like to share with our readers?
Please consider checking out "Go! Go! Kokopolo 3D – Space Recipe For Disaster" when it releases on 3DS this 23rd February (in North America) and hopefully a few weeks later in Europe and Australia. Whether you are a fan of the original, or just missed the chance in getting your hands on the DSiWare classic, this new version should hopefully bring you a sense of brand new enjoyment and wonderment that the old-school arcade games delivered, with an added sprinkling of mischievous fun!