Ten Years of Monster Hunter with producer Ryozo Tsujimoto

Sure, it seems peaceful *now*...

Sure, it seems peaceful *now*...

GameInformer interviewed series producer Ryozo Tsujimoto about Monster Hunter and his reflections on its tenth year.

Q: Did you ever imagine it would become such a popular franchise? 

A: Those of us on the team often said things like, “We’d like to aim for a million sales,” amongst ourselves, but I honestly didn’t expect it to become such a hit. There were a lot of factors involved, but I think the co-op functionality played a major role for the series to have achieved such success.

Monster Hunter doesn’t portray a savage world, as we wanted anyone to feel welcome to jump in and play. If the game were too over the top and savage in atmosphere, we thought that even the co-op experience could come across as rather bleak. For instance, monsters are not defined as an “absolute enemy” in the game. Both monsters and hunters are together in this world just trying to survive; in this world, you either hunt or become prey. But Monster Hunter is also a world that’s designed in a fair way. It doesn’t matter who shows off the most during a quest. The rewards are distributed equally regardless who played the flashiest. We wanted to make sure that all players cooperate and help each other, and making sure everyone feels rewarded was a big part of that.

You can read the entire interview here.

Posted on February 26, 2015 and filed under News.

Play Impressions: The Legend of Zelda (3DS Virtual Console)

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I just finished my play through of "The Legend of Zelda" on the 3DS Virtual Console this month. Before I get to that however, I want to talk about 1987.

I was 14, and going into Grade 11. Yeah, I skipped a couple grades. But keep in mind that back then we had Grade 13 in Ontario, so it's not as braniac as it seems. When The Legend of Zelda released for the NES in August of 1987, I'm not sure I noticed. I was probably too busy in the arcade playing Double Dragon, or listening to U2's Joshua Tree. You might have found me pulling an all-nighter at a friend's house playing Arkanoid on his 386* with an actual paddle controller. Playing D&D, or attempting to learn how to play Squad Leader. To put it bluntly, I was too cool for a Nintendo.

I'll never know how my life would have been changed had I played The Legend of Zelda back then. But I missed it, and ever since, Zelda has been one of those gaming touchstones that I never got around to playing.

When we got our Wii and Skyward Sword came out, I dutifully purchased and played through about a third of it. Anxious to see what all the fuss was about. It was fun, sure, and as engaging in its puzzling as it was frustrating in its motion controlled combat.

But a part of me didn't really 'get' Zelda. What is it about this story that is so compelling to so many people?

I am unable to project my 14 year old self into my current psyche. I can't do it. I had to look up what major world events happened in 1987. I remember isolated slices of experience, a life lived with my friends, my group of music/video game/D&D geeks.

So when I finally played The Legend of Zelda on my 3DS this past week, it was experienced through the eyes of a 41 year old husband and father of two. Here are my thoughts.

First, without any sort of guide or map, the game is seemingly aimless. Screen after screen of woods, beaches, rocky deserts. Creatures that come at you, and attack you. Oh, you can throw your sword at them, that's cool, until you can't. What? How come I can't throw my sword any more? Oh look, a heart! Hey, I can throw my sword again!

I became quickly frustrated. Not knowing where to go, or what to do. "Come on now, you played Dark Souls, you liked it, you should be able to figure this out," I said to myself. So I set about the task of playing through the entirety of the game.

Right off the bat I want to say that I consulted a walkthrough. Having heard that there are many hidden rooms and areas in the game, I didn't feel like walking around randomly bombing every section of wall or setting fire to every bush. So I used a guide.

I progressed through the game, learning that my health, my weapons, and my defences could be upgraded by acquiring new items. Using a guide really helped me go through the game in a logical manner, taking away what some might say is the game's unique open world design. Rather than stumbling across a dungeon that's much too hard and getting my ass kicked, I took the dungeons in a progressive order, starting with the easiest.

Second, the game reminded me of Dark Souls. When you die, you start back at the starting screen, with your items intact but your health reduced. I got so used to running through certain areas that I knew how the enemies were going to come at me before I got there. When I cleared an area of enemies, running back through them again was like running through an empty Undead Burg.

Also, when you die (which I did, quite often, at the beginning before getting more hearts) you start back at the first area again, but with reduced health. I was glad to find out that I didn't lose any of my weapons or equipment that I'd picked up along the way. And I did die, often as not because I was facing the wrong way when trying to attack, or because I'd been surrounded by a room full of enemies.

One interesting mechanic is that if you are at full health, you can throw your sword as a projectile, but if you take any damage at all, you lose that ability and the sword can only stab adjacent spots. Also interesting is that each arrow fired costs one rupee. I didn't realize this until suddenly I couldn't fire my arrows anymore, and I discovered that all my money had disappeared somehow. So I learned to conserve arrows, and I tried my best not to get hit, and stay at full health.

Third, this map is freaking huge. In my play through, which took under 7 hours, I'm not sure that I actually went to every area in the map. The graphics do a reasonable job of depicting different areas, with clever use of colour and patterns. I was genuinely shocked when I saw boulders crashing down from the mountainside. Dungeons had rooms that were pitch black, requiring you to light them up with your candle.

Secret areas abound, and without my walkthrough, or unlimited patience, I would never have found them all. Most are simply found through trial and error, but there are a few secrets which could be deduced by looking at the level design for things that just seemed subtly out of place. A bush that is on its own, or a pool of water that's not like the others. I felt that those were cleverly done, but the random caves in walls? Hard to find unless you know where to look.

Finally, playing the game on 3DS Virtual Console meant that I had the ability to save anywhere, which really helped against the tougher boss battles. Virtual Console only allows one save, but one is better than none. I got into the RPG habit of saving before going through the next door, or into the next dungeon, or after a particularly difficult room. Without that I think the game would have been much more frustrating for me. Definitely a plus to play it with save states.

I admit that my way of playing through the game is kind of cheat-y, and maybe ruins some of the wonder of exploring and solving a game like Zelda on your own. But I knew that if I didn't finish it before Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate came I wouldn't get back to it for a long time. So I hurried things up a little, with a little assistance.

It's certainly not my proudest gaming achievement, but at least now I can say the following things, and they will be true: I played the first Zelda game, and I finished a Zelda game.

*A 386 refers to the Intel 80386 CPU used in PC's of the time.

For more interesting Zelda analysis, here is a fascinating look at the translation and localization of the Legend of Zelda Manuals.

Posted on February 25, 2015 and filed under Article.

Nintendo President in Q & A: talks amiibo, company structure, entertainment

After the recent Third Quarter Financial Results Briefing for Investors, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata took time to answer some questions. Among the many issues discussed, there were some interesting highlights. You can read the entire Q & A here.

On amiibo:

We will continually propose different play styles that take advantage of amiibo. But first and foremost, we understand that we have to change the current situation where many people are still wondering what they can do with amiibo. We will persist until consumers understand that they just need to tap the amiibo figure and something will happen, and will excitedly try it with a variety of software. If we can achieve this, amiibo will become a precious possession for our consumers, so we definitely want to bring it to fruition, but in doing so we also understand that it will take some time.
— Satoru Iwata

On hardware development:

Currently Nintendo has four development divisions and one of them is for hardware development. Years ago, there were two different hardware divisions - one for handheld devices and one for home consoles, with few personnel interactions. In fact, we had to use completely different technologies for handheld and home console development at that time. Technologies that were suitable for handheld devices or home consoles had nearly nothing in common, so it was reasonable to divide hardware development into two divisions. However, with recent technological advances, technologies for both systems are becoming more similar. Also, just because they are home consoles does not mean today that they can consume as much electricity as they possibly can. In fact, we have already been proactively working to reduce the consumption of electricity since the Wii era. Furthermore, the Wii U GamePad has a large screen, a battery pack, control inputs and wireless modules inside, so in technological terms, it required very similar know-how to that required for developing a handheld device. Based on such experiences, we had been working toward consolidating the two divisions for a while and started the process two years ago.
— Satoru Iwata

On the future of entertainment:

How can we leverage our ability to create something brand new by creating both hardware and software, which we are also good at? What will be the new course that we can take by using our strengths? By repeatedly asking these questions, we started to review the possibilities and concluded that we should first make a proposal related to “health” and the theme of “sleep” and “fatigue” because we would be able to capitalize on our strengths. Let me assure you that Nintendo is not trying to distance itself from video games. We have never ever lost our passion for video games and will continue to make them. On the other hand, if people inside the company think that Nintendo is a company which cannot make anything other than video games, and believe that video game controllers remain a certain way because that is the way they have been for 30 years, video games should be created in a certain way or video games must start with a tutorial, end in a particular way and have a lot of hard-at-work elements in between, a high mental wall would stand in front of us when we tried to create a brand new video game genre with which many people would be amazed or when we try to create an unprecedented user interface that pleasantly surprises people. I have been constantly asking myself whether being bound by such ideas really does us any good when we are actually required to think out of the box and have a broader perspective, so we have redefined our definition of entertainment as “things which improve people’s QOL in enjoyable ways” and encouraged our developers to take on this challenge.
— Satoru Iwata
Posted on February 25, 2015 and filed under News.

Estimates show Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate selling three times as fast as MH3U

In the Nintendo Financial Results Briefing yesterday, President Satoru Iawata mentioned that although hard sales numbers for North America had not come in yet, Capcom's quick estimation put the initial sales pace of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate at three times that of the previous iteration in the franchise.

A similar trend was seen in Europe as well. Figures include sales of both the standalone game as well as copies pre-installed on the Monster Hunter edition New 3DS XL bundle.

 

Posted on February 17, 2015 and filed under News.

Nintendo is aiming the Wii U GamePad directly at parents and children

If you've been wondering what exactly the point of the GamePad is, this little quote from the Financial Results Briefing gives some insight on how Nintendo views its Wii U GamePad:

Gameplay that utilizes the GamePad possesses a large amount of potential, and it can further expand the way parents and children have fun together.
— Satoru Iwata, Nintendo President

Mr. Iwata also commented that of the games that are scheduled for release in 2015, many "fully utilize" the Wii U GamePad.

This idea of parents and children playing together on the Game Pad is a new tack for Nintendo. Previously the Game Pad was not positioned as a family device, but by turns as a TV remote, a remote play device (at which it works extremely well, by the way), as a second screen for game UI, or as a motion controlled scanning device.

All of these use are completely valid, and I'm not taking away from the functionality of the Game Pad, I think it's great. It's just that using it in a way that involves "parents and children having fun together" needs to be more fully explored, and I don't think Nintendo has really done that yet.

Posted on February 17, 2015 and filed under Article.

Sales numbers and future amiibo plans emerge from Nintendo Investor's Meeting

Amiibo sales breakdown by territory in the first 6 weeks:

Other notes:

  • amiibo that have quickly become scarce and those that are required for play in games will be considered for more production if there is demand from consumers and retailers
  • Wii U app to be released in first half of 2015 that allows players to experience small sections of gameplay from NES and SNES games featuring amiibo as a 'key' to unlock those classic games in which they appear.
  • amiibo sales rankings in Japan: 1. Link 2. Kirby 3. Mario 4. Marth 5. Pikachu 6. Yoshi 7. Samus 8. Captain Falcon 9. Pit 10. Little Mac

  • In north america the rankings are: 1. Link 2. Mario 3. Pikachu 4. Kirby 5. Samus 6. Yoshi 7. Zelda 8. Donkey Kong 9. Peach 10. Luigi

via @Cheesemeister3k

Posted on February 16, 2015 and filed under News.