This Q&A session marks the third time that I've interviewed director and producer Yoshiro Kimura. The previous interviews, one conducted during TGS 2008 and the other during E3 2009, covered the then-upcoming release of Little King's Story. As the game has already come out, there was really no reason to meet again unless it was to talk about his upcoming projects. However, seeing as how I had completed LKS and came away with even more questions about it, I did not hesitate to take the opportunity to conduct this post-release interview during TGS 2009. According to Kimura, interviews after a game's release are somewhat rare, but considering what I came away with this time around, they probably should happen more often.
So, what are your plans now that Little King's Story has been released?
Right now, I'm really busy working with Goichi Suda on No More Heroes 2. But I'm also coming up with new concepts for the next Little King's Story.
Did the first game sell enough to warrant a sequel?
I wish that Little King's Story sold more in the states. Everybody writes these really good reviews, but the sales just aren't there... I really want there to be a second title, but it's gonna be a little difficult unless more gamers decide to buy [the first one].
I'd say that it was probably the title and cover that killed it in America.
If you are able to move forward with Little King's Story 2, do you think that you will make considerable changes to how it plays? For instance, would you go so far as to turn it into a complete RPG?
Here's a really big scoop - I hate JRPGs. I think they're boring, time consuming, and they make me sleepy. So I'm definitely not going to go in that direction. But I might work on some of the action - maybe pump up the action a little bit. I hope that doesn't disappoint people too much.
Were you able to take a break after Little King's Story got released?
Sort of. Making games is a very long process so I usually like to take a break after. But, after Little King's Story, I was mostly busy with the promotion for [the other] markets. I went to Europe and it wasn't really a vacation because I was called by Nintendo of Europe to Spain to attend a conference and to speak with developers and college students. Following that I went to Switzerland and presented at a character art exhibit with Kurashima-san who was the character designer. It was fun but I was extremely busy.
What is your role with No More Heroes 2?
I'm handling the production process - voice recording, getting things localized, getting things motion captured.
Is this a different role that what you normally take?
I wouldn't do this kind of thing for another producer other than Suda-san. I like making my own games. My profession is writing the story, directing the game, and gathering money for [the finished product] - that is my role.
What would you like to do after you're done helping out with No More Heroes 2?
Something small. Maybe something on the DS or PSP or maybe an XBLA game.
Let's switch back to Little King's Story. I've played through the game and I came away with a few questions that I've been wanting to ask -
[SPOILER ALERT] Before the final boss fight, the rat swallows the princess that you selected. Once you defeat him, he's thrown out the window with the girl still in his stomach. Is that just something that you missed?
I wanted to shock the audience, so it was done purposefully. The big Corobo is the actual boy and the whole world of Little King's Story is in his imagination. He's the Creator so he has no consideration for the player. It's supposed to be sort of like an act of god.
[SPOILER ALERT] Which princess would you have chosen?
Verde. I like the types of girls who are a bit cold and push you away but sometimes seem really cute. So, when I wrote the script for Verde, that's what I had in mind.
Tell us about Swimming Pool - the video that you can watch in the theater in Glamour Town.
The actual spelling is "swimmingpoo1." The "L" is a "1." It's a little weird, but that's correct.
There's a band in Japan that belongs to an indy music label. Several years ago they wanted to make a promotional video with Kurashima's drawings. This time Kurashima and I contacted them. I insisted on using that PV in Little King's Story for fun.
I've noticed what appear to be real words from different languages being spoken within the game. Is it just my imagination, or is there something to that?
Yeah, there are some, like Russian and French and Italian, but there are also words that were just completely made up that were recorded. "Puchi tama puyo puyo pumoga" is my favorite sentence that no one can understand.
Were there any in particular that you threw in there?
I didn't really choose any specific words, but there was actually a problem where you would occasionally hear a word that we would normally want to avoid. For example, because of the way it was mixed together, we kind of had a problem where you would hear "rape" in a sentence. It was just because of the way the sounds were combined that it sort of happened. So, it was actually very difficult. We had to go through pretty much all of the voices throughout the whole game, listening for any recognizable words in all languages. For example, sound strings that were originally in French - we'd have somebody from France listen to it and see if they could recognize any words.
One of the early trailers had Howser talking using real words in lieu of gibberish. Why was that changed?
Essentially, when we began development for Little King's Story, we intended for it to be a worldwide release, and so we thought that if they spoke in English more people would [respond favorably to it]. But within the game we decided that all the voices would just be this kind of mix of different languages - garbling and mumbling.
So when am I going to be able to buy the soundtrack?
Do people want the soundtrack? Really?
I want it. It's awesome!
If it was on iTunes, would you buy it?
I'll try. But for now, you can visit XSEED's teaser site [to get a few of the songs].
Are you familiar with The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
I know about a lot of different gods...
Many are saying that Campbell's religion is a reference to it. What's the story behind that character?
Development was all done in a city called Fukuoka down south, and their ramen dishes are really famous, so I wanted to add a local flavor to the game. Tonkotu soup - it's like ramen with a pork broth - it's very famous down there. So in Japanese [Campbell's] name is actually kind of a reversal of tonkotu, but when it was translated into English it obviously didn't mean anything to Americans so they changed it to Campbell.
Does "alpoco" have any hidden meaning? How about "bol?"
When development started, even before it was called Project O, there was a title floating around that they used - Decopoco - which is an onomatopoeia for how the buildings build up in town. Bol actually comes from the Japanese term bottacri, which means getting ripped off or robbed in a bar.
What's up with the floral hats?
There's a flower shop that you send your guys into and when they come back out they have some flower hats on so you don't know what their jobs are any more. It's my way of teasing and playing tricks on people.
If you press and hold the retreat button your scepter glows. Is there something to that?
We found that for some players it was actually easier for them to time their retreat by holding the button down and letting go. So it was basically a consideration for that type of player.
A lot of gamers see Little King's Story going the Earthbound route in that it probably won't be appreciated until a few years after its release. How do you feel about that?
I'd really really like - just one time - to know the feeling that you get when you release a game and it sells like mad right away. But, the games that I make don't do that. They just kind of simmer over time - just sell a little bit at a time. But there's really nothing that I can do about that. However, I’m quite pleased that my games often get a cult following. I've played the role of both producer and director, and as a director I'm kind of happy about that, but as a producer I really can't accept it. The producer side just wants to sell a lot and the director side just wants people to appreciate it. I'm really a director at heart, so if I can release a game and people play it and are happy, I'm quite satisfied. I'm all for making people entertained... and world peace.
All these people are making games and they say that it's some kind of a job, but [in my mind] it's not. The way I see it is that when I'm making games I'm just playing around - it doesn't really feel like a job. All of my friends are people who make games so I just gather a bunch of them and say "let's make some games together."
As a director, the point of games is that you make something fun so that people play it and enjoy it and give you money. It's not "come up with a concept that makes money first and then figure out how to make people pay for it." So, I usually come up with a good concept - something that's fun - and do it well and hope that people enjoy it enough to buy it.
We are just about out of time. Is there anything that you wanted to add before we finish?
I want to continue to make games that people all over the world can enjoy. If there's anything that fans can do [to help], it's to go to Amazon and buy [Little King's Story] so that I can continue to make them. [jokingly?] I need for people to stop buying Halo and start buying Little King's Story... I just made a lot of enemies, didn't I?