We really shouldn’t have to introduce Masaya Matsuura as his work on 1997’s Playstation hit PaRappa the Rapper is the reason why a good chunk of us are here today, writing on a Web site dedicated solely to music video gaming. Over the course of a decade, the team of NanaOn-Sha has brought us two PaRappa games, Um Jammer Lammy, Vib-Ribbon, Mojib-Ribbon, Tuninglue and Rhyme Rider Keroican and outside of music-based video games, the company has released numerous Tamogatchi games for the Nintendo DS, handled the audio features for the robotic AIBO pet, participated in a 2004 educational project and more. Matsuura is essentially the pioneer of music gaming as we know it today and his newest game finally hit in April as he once again teamed up with renowned artist Rodney Greenblat.
Just before the release of Major Minor’s Majestic March for the Nintendo Wii, Masaya Matsuura graciously agreed to answer a short list of questions for us. While the translation process and holidays celebrated over in Japan brings us the interview a month after the game’s release, we were also able to pick Matsuura’s mind a little on the general status of music video gaming as well.
Bemanistyle: First off, what was it that inspired you to create NanaOn-Sha’s newest title, Major Minor’s Majestic March?
Masaya Matsuura: A strong request from the publisher was the main drive behind the choice. But in any case, whenever a new technology comes out, I’m curious to give it a try.
BMS: What are your thoughts on the experience you had in developing a music game using the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls? How different was this experience for you as opposed to the button-based music titles you’ve created in the past?
MM: The difficult thing when we plan a game for Wii is any action with a Wii Remote users play has to be the same as action they actually do in their daily life otherwise it wouldn’t be realistic for the users. On the other hand, if you only focus on that issue, your creativity would be limited! I had a hard time planning this title to solving this issue.
BMS: How was your experience in working along with Rodney Greenblat on yet another title? What was it like creating an entire cast of characters from scratch in your newest title? Is there a certain inspiration behind any of the characters or themes from the game?
MM: I’ve occasionally worked with Rodney for 15 years since PaRappa the Rapper came out.
We had already decided that the band members would be various animals right from the start. From there we bounced various ideas around until we came up with the final cast. In particular, we tried many different animal designs for the main character, Major Minor. Whilst this is a fairly routine process in game development, it would be fair to say that it was filled with elements that were at times hard, mysterious and yet always fun.
BMS: Did you have a certain goal you were working for in the development of the title? Since many of the Wii’s games aim to have players interact with the controls and make them active, was this a main motivation for you in creating a game on the system?
MM: I think that it is very important for a player to communicate with other band members through the marching and to lead the band as a leader.
BMS: Was there ever a consideration in taking the game to another interactive interface such as the Nintendo DS (with its touch screen) or the PS3 (with its SixAxis controls)? Would you have any interest in releasing music games using such formats?
MM: I’m not sure if it could be fixed easily but I think it’s possible.
BMS: Many of your titles come with the ease of use in not having to purchase peripherals. What are your thoughts on the recent batch of music games that include such controllers? Have you ever considered trying to produce a music game title which requires a special controller?
MM: Perhaps it’s due to my background as a musician, but whilst the game peripheral at first feels like it’s very similar to an actual guitar, for example, it’s a little different for me. I really want to feel as if I’m playing the actual guitar … of course, the game controller and the real guitar, there are very big differences between them, but if I can overcome these kinds of differences by making good software … maybe that is what’s interesting to me. I really want to make the appeal of the experience derive from playing the software. It’s a very potent thing.
BMS: What does it feel like to be the person who pioneered the music gaming genre as we know it now? What are your thoughts on the fact that other companies, such as Activision and Harmonix, have taken the music game concept and are now quite successful?
MM: A long time ago, I really implored the Harmonix guys that they really should be making games. I’m pretty sure that they got similar advice from elsewhere, but looking back it was definitely the right advice. The success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band therefore fills me with pride as if they were my own creations.
BMS: Can you offer any insight on the design philosophies Eastern developers have for their music game titles versus Western developers, which seem to develop music games on the basis of appeal and social game play? Are there any bands or artists from North America that you really enjoy?
MM: I don’t think that there is much system design difference between Western music games and Japanese ones so far. However, I would be happy if M4 could inspire other designers as a brand new example of music game design. On the other hand, there are different views of music to those of Western culture. We all know that rock music is familiar and close to a large group of people, and this resonates with the success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Rock music is popular in Japan too but it’s not as widely common as it is in western culture.
As it happens, I got inspired by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for M4.
BMS: Are you interested in working on new titles for the Parappa or Um Jammer Lammy franchises or do you feel you’ve done all there is to do in those titles?
MM: We currently do not have any specific plans to make a new one, but I cannot rule out any future possibilities.
BMS: We thank you very much for your time. Is there anything you would like to say to the many music game fans of Bemanistyle.com?
MM: Enjoy M4!