So Ganbarion had experience and a solid reputation. Yamagami-san, what were your first impressions when dealing with the company?
For me, it wasn’t just a matter of liking One Piece. It was the fact that everyone at Ganbarion was really into Weekly Shonen Jump. Now, we thought we knew a thing or two about it, so we tried to outdo them...
But you just couldn’t compete.
That’s right. They knew everything there was to know, be it about the current magazine, or its contents ten, twenty or thirty years ago. It was when I sensed this that I thought: ‘If these aren’t the people for the job, then I don’t know who is.’
Superficial knowledge just won’t cut it in terms of ‘Shonen Jump Love’.
In our team, I thought Nakano-san was the biggest Shonen Jump aficionado, but when they started talking about it, he would just say: ‘Wow! That’s amazing!’
We received the design documents for the game that Ganbarion had come up with, and I saw how well-chosen the scenes were. I could tell that they really knew their stuff about each and every one of the titles, so I was confident that the game was safe in their hands.
But the design for Jump Super Stars meant it was bound to be an incredibly demanding project. I have a clear memory of Yamagami-san saying: ‘Nakano-san can handle the pressure, so we’ll give this project to him.’
Well, I started off very eager to work on it. But the schedule turned out to be really tight. No sooner did we get started, than we had to come up with a playable demo.
We had to come up with a demo for Jump Festa9. 9 Jump Festa is an annual event held in December at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba prefecture, sponsored by Shueisha, who publish the Shonen Jump titles.
Development got under way in the summer, and we’d come up with the demo version within three or four months.
And then we had less than a year to get the entire game completed, so it felt like we were constantly working to a weekly deadline. I’d always have these long phone calls after ten o’ clock at night, so a junior colleague near my desk used to joke: 'Ah, I see your sweetheart’s called again’. I just remember being constantly on the phone. (laughs)
So that’s when the two of you started having those long telephone discussions.
That’s right. They really were long.
They’d speak for a couple of hours every day.
We had to settle on the game’s contents then and there, so there was no question of putting any issues on the back burner.
Hoga would start off being very polite on the phone, saying: ‘Yes, yes. I see.’ But gradually, he’d get more casual: ‘Yep. Gotcha. Right...’ (laughs)
It’s true. I did end up speaking in a rather impolite manner...
No, it really didn’t bother me. You were my sweetheart after all.
Hoga-san, how do you think you managed to get through it all in one piece?
Well, in our plan we were clear that we thought the player would enjoy having a lot of characters feature in the game. This plan meant we could see precisely where we’d need to apply our efforts. And then having deadlines that need to be met gives you the determination to make the decisions that need to be made.
Without deadlines, it would have turned into a never-ending project. There’d be no limit to the touches you could have put in there for Shonen Jump fans.
That’s right. It was the deadlines that forced us to get the job done.
Nakano-san and Hoga were cramming more and more in, right up until the last minute. Eventually, Yamagami-san had to put his foot down and say: ‘Look, we need to cut this.’
That’s right. The way the project was headed was putting a lot of strain on the team, so I knew that some of the more risky features would have to be cut. It was just a question of choosing the right moment to bring this up, which is something I ended up discussing with Yamakura-san.
What really impressed me about Ganbarion’s plan for the game was...well, you know, the manga came out weekly, and they’d naturally begun work on the game some time before, so the game, as of its launch, cannot feature material from the latest manga episodes. However, Ganbarion’s plan had a blank in the design documents where a special move should be, the idea being that they’d put in the special move from the latest edition of the manga. And this wasn’t just for a single character – it was for lots of them. I thought what Hoga-san was doing was really something.
I guess that was a method you’d developed working on all those One Piece games.
That’s right. If you read a series week in, week out, you’ll pick up on patterns in the story...
So you’d be able to gauge how things were developing and when a new move was going to appear.
Yes, that’s right. So we made the game, all the while looking at the schedule and judging how long we could afford to wait before we just had to go with the material we had.
It sounds like quite a high-wire act.
It was. But for me, it was the obvious way to go about things, though that may have been a result of working on all those One Piece titles.
I see. All of this must have made you very nervous, Yamagami-san. After all, Nakano-san had fully embraced Ganbarion. His sweetheart was there, you know. (laughs)
I did feel that we’d built a strong relationship based on trust.
Yes, that’s right. With this combination of people on the project, Nakano-san ended up being part of the team at Ganbarion. (laughs)
Right, that’s something I felt very strongly. It was the same with this latest project. I remember when Nakano-san came to give a presentation and very much gave the impression that he was representing Ganbarion.
That’s true. We turned you into one of us! (laughs)
Before I realised it, I’d turned into a member of Ganbarion! (laughs)
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