A lot of different animals feature in this title. Was there ever a risk that you’d run out of ideas?
Well, we’ve pretty much used up all the animal types there are! (laughs)
It must have been hard on the development team.
Yes, it was! (laughs)
Well, with dogs, for example, we’d end up using a whole variety of different breeds. (laughs)
Well, I suppose players feel more comfortable with animals they are familiar with.
I think that’s right. But having said that, Cyrus and Reese in Re-Tail, the recycling shop are alpacas.
Well, alpacas have been popular recently.
Yes, we were grateful for that!
And Leif the sloth finally makes an appearance! (laughs) I think sloths are from the margins of the animal world, so there is some sense with this character of an animal being plucked from obscurity.
Does it feel like that as you struggled not to run out of ideas, you found yourself looking further and further afield? (laughs)
Well, we weren’t indiscriminate in our search. We tried to find animals that fitted their in-game function and suited the shop where they would appear. That’s why we thought that an animal that lives in the forest would work well in the garden centre, so we settled on the sloth. The problem is that sloths are always falling asleep... (laughs)
Thinking about the series so far, I get the sense that the specific characteristics of each animal fit their roles really well. How do you go about ensuring that?
Hmm. That’s a good question. One reason may be that we have always tried to draw upon our shared cultural heritage, for example, using proverbs.
Some of it may make more sense to Japanese people. Take the creature called a tapir (a pig-like mammal) which is said to eat dreams. One appears this time as Luna at the Dream Suite, but I believe that it’s only in Japan where we talk about tapirs eating dreams.
Oh, is that so?
Also, we made Porter a monkey because of the Japanese song ‘The Monkey Palanquin Carrier’ . And the shape-shifting magic of Japanese raccoon dogs involves money in Japanese mythology, so we decided that they would manage shops. We have projected old traditions about animals into the world of Animal Crossing.
I wonder what players outside of Japan think about this? Have you ever had feedback saying that it seems odd for this or that animal to show up in a particular place?
Well, we’ve got kappas6 too!6. Kappa: A creature from Japanese mythology, traditionally taking the form of a human-like turtle that walks on two legs and has a dish on its head.
They’re supernatural creatures! (laughs)
They aren’t animals at all! But no one’s ever complained about them, so I think we’re okay.
Kapp’n the kappa was originally a boatman, but he became a taxi driver in Animal Crossing: Wild World7 for Nintendo DS and a bus driver in the Wii game. The latest game sees Kapp’n return as a boatman once again.7. Animal Crossing: Wild World: A social simulation game released for Nintendo DS in Europe in March 2006. It was the fourth game in the series and the first one for a handheld system.
While there are a lot of new animals making their first appearance in this title, some animals that have appeared in previous titles are returning to their established roles. Gulliver , for example, has gone back to being a sailor.
There are a lot of players who were introduced to the series on Nintendo DS, so I think it may well feel fresh and new for them.
So it will be new to some players, while bringing back memories for others.
Yes, that’s right.
In terms of content, this game is really huge. You’ve increased the number of animals, while at the same time, you were coming up with new items of furniture on a daily basis.
That’s right. We really made a lot of new furniture this time.
We felt like we had actually become craftsmen making furniture! (laughs)
And this time you had to do it all in 3D!
That’s right. We had to pay attention to lighting, emphasise the shading and make sure that things would work in three-dimensions rather than on a flat display.
If you weren’t very careful, you’d be able to see the flaws.
Did it ever feel as if you were engaged in a task that had no end?
Yes, we did. When we were in the middle of it, that’s precisely how it felt.
I thought as much! (laughs)
It was really hard work, but when we finally came to plug them into the game, I really felt glad that we had come up with so many items. There’s so much variety that you can get your room looking exactly as you want it.
How many types of furniture did you decide to make in this game?
Our initial target was to have 50 per cent more than the amount in the last game.
Well, it’s sounds easy when you put it like that, but the volume in the last game was already pretty staggering! (laughs)
Yes, it was! (laughs)
You can’t make that many new items of furniture unless you really knuckle down and stick at it.
Well, I think if we’d just added a hundred more items of furniture, it wouldn’t really have felt like that much...
No, it wouldn’t feel like more at all.
But simply focusing on pumping out more and more items would not have been enough. They all had to be items of furniture that people would want to decorate their rooms with.
Yes, and that’s why we created a ‘brainstorming board’ for the whole team, not just the designers, so that everyone could come up with ideas, regardless of their specific roles.
And as a result, you managed to make 50 per cent more items of furniture than in the last game, and with the custom designs8 function, players can customise furniture according to their own taste . If you multiply the number of different types of furniture by the number of individual designs available, there truly is a huge amount of possibilities.8. Custom Designs: A function in Animal Crossing that allows players to create their own designs. Players’ individual designs can be used on all kinds of items including clothes and furniture.
That’s right. In addition to items of clothing such as clothes and hats, which were in previous titles, you can give furniture original designs at the Re-Tail recycling shop.
This means that every time you see a new room, it will make a completely different impression and you’ll think: “Ah, so you can do things like this too?”
Right. And for players who aren’t comfortable using custom designs, there’s an easy way to change the colour to one you like. You can really make a room that suits you, and the combinations you can use are limitless.
During development, we often found ourselves discussing who was making what kind of house: “If that’s what she’s doing, then I’m going to give that a try...” (laughs)
Everyone competed with each other! (laughs)
We got that excited just within our team, so I can’t wait to see what happens after the game is released when every player will be making their own distinctive homes! (laughs) I’m excited already!
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