Mega Man 9 and 10 – Developer Interviews
These two interviews with Mega Man 9&10 producer Hironobu Takeshita originally appeared in the excellent Japanese magazine Gameside. In contrast to the more detailed Inti Creates interview I previously translated, here Takeshita provides an overall view of the development goals of both games, sharing some light anecdotes and the challenges of developing a new “Famicom” game for modern audiences.
Hironobu Takeshita – Producer
—Please tell us what circumstances led up to the development of Mega Man 9.
Takeshita: It was Keiji Inafune’s idea. He’s had this idea for a very long time now, of reviving the simple fun gameplay of the original Mega Man games. He learned about WiiWare, and the inexpensive titles with simple gameplay being sold there. It seemed like a good fit for a new Mega Man game. There was also the Virtual Console, which was allowing players to reappraise these classic Famicom games. Development started in November 2007, with a staff of just under 20—by Famicom development standards, this would have been a huge project!
—You chose the most basic, early Famicom control scheme for Mega Man 9. Why didn’t you include any of the mechanics from the Super Famicom and Playstation later iterations, things like the charge shot sliding, dashing, etc?
Takeshita: Our goal was to stay faithful to the Famicom, to return to those roots, and so our model was the original Mega Man and Mega Man 2. Sliding and the charge shot are indeed mainstay mechanics of the series, but right now what we most want to communicate is the fun and passion of that early, simple gameplay. And we wanted to challenge ourselves to make the most refined, lean, sleek action game we could with those minimal elements.
—Was it an easy process, hiring development staff who knew and could recreate that Famicom aesthetic?
Takeshita: This was a joint production with Inti Creates, who assisted us with the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX games. As game creators, they’ve got a proven track record with the Mega Man series. They have multiple designers who love working with pixel art, and one older sound designer who actually has firsthand experience with Famicom development. So yeah, there weren’t really any problems assembling a good team.
—What were some of the challenges in recreating that Famicom aesthetic: the artwork, music, stage design?
Takeshita: Actually, for the graphics… about halfway through, we scrapped everything and started over from scratch. Inafune was checking their work as they went, and he disapproved of the majority of what he saw. The problem was that, myself included, the whole staff didn’t really fully grasp what that “Famicom essence” was. It required simpler graphics and backgrounds than we had first thought. We had a lot of meetings on this point; it was something we really focused-in on.
—There are more and more games today that are easy and hold players’ hands. Did you have any apprehension about releasing an old-school “die and memorize” style game in today’s climate?
Takeshita: Not particularly. While it’s true that easy games are increasing in number, I think there’s still a fanbase who wants harder, challenging games. Also, it’s been a decade since the last game, and the growing chorus of voices asking for a new Mega Man game proved to be a real wind in our sails.
—Who was the target demographic for Mega Man 9?
Takeshita: Mega Man fans, and especially gamers who loved those early action games. Those were our main targets. Other than that, we’re hoping that retro game fans in general give it a shot.
—How do you feel Mega Man 9 captures the essence of Mega Man?
Takeshita: First, there’s the puzzle aspect, with each player finding his own way, via trial and error, of getting through the stages. Then there’s the action aspect—all the mechanics that allow for that strategizing. It’s about finding the balance between those two ideas.
—Can you share some of your memories and personal thoughts about the Mega Man series?
Takeshita: Sure. Let me tell you about the Mega Man 5 development. I was working in the sales department at Capcom then. We did a number of pre-release promotional events for MM5: bringing prototypes to stores for players to try out, and holding big gatherings in event halls. What sticks out in my memory then was how much all those kids who participated in those events loved Mega Man, and seeing them completely enraptured as they played the new game. Naturally seeing that made me very happy. The genuine happiness I experienced then, from the passion they shared, has been something I’ve carried with me throughout these years. Even today, with Mega Man 9, I’m really trying to recapture and rekindle that same passion in players.
—Any plans for another Famicom-esque Mega Man sequel after MM9?
Takeshita: If MM9 does well, then there’s a possibility for a sequel. I think the big-budget, AAA games made today are fun, but it will be great if smaller, simpler games like MM9 can be recognized as their own genre.
—What was the funnest thing about the development, and the most challenging thing?
Takeshita: Just developing a new “Famicom” game itself was fun. We put the staff through a lot, but I think they found it satisfying, too. Adding the various online-related functionality was the most difficult part. It really was no less difficult than programming for a modern game, but I think we were a little naive going into it.
—Do you have any kind of motto or slogan that you live by, when it comes to game development?
Takeshita: For me, I do my utmost to respect the creativity of the creators. All creators want players to fully enjoy what they’ve created, and hope that their game will become a memorable one. That’s what drives them and gets them through the daily grind of a development. My goal is to try and let that earnest zeal shine through, raw and unfiltered, in the final product.
—Do you have any final message for the readers of Gameside?
Takeshita: Hello, everyone! With Mega Man 9, we’re finally returning to the original series with an official sequel, and we’ve proudly dubbed it a “new Famicom” game. Like in your old school days, there may be times when you want to throw the controller against the wall out of frustration, but more than that, I think this game is a great opportunity to remember all the wonderful moments of your youth. As the days grow longer in the Fall, I dearly hope Mega Man 9 becomes an essential part of your gaming evening.
Mega Man 10
—To begin, tell us about some of the features you’re excited to share with players in Mega Man 10.
Takeshita: Continuing in the tradition of MM9, 10 is another 8-bit style Mega Man for players to enjoy. However, while we spent a lot of effort in MM9 trying to be very faithful to the 8-bit aesthetic, we haven’t been as strict this time. Rather, we focused more on something that feels 8-bit, even if there’s a number of little cheats and tricks here and there. Recreating that atmosphere, rather than technical fidelity, was more important to us. Another way to say it is that, while in MM9 we were going back to the roots of the Famicom, this time we tried to create an “ideal” 8-bit game. Some of the stuff might make particularly savvy players go, “hey! the Famicom couldn’t do that!”, but I think that spotting those differences is fun in its own right.
—What were some of the things you focused on in the development of another 8-bit Mega Man game? That is to say, what do you feel really makes a Mega Man game, a Mega Man game?
Takeshita: I’d have to say it’s the difficulty. Our concept with MM9 was to make another Mega Man game with the difficulty level of the 8-bit era games. We wanted the design to feel “8-bit” too—not just the surface aesthetics. By doing that, however, it turns out that many players who could beat these games when they were a kid, were unable to clear MM9. So for MM10 we added an easy mode, but the core of the game is still the Normal Mode. We wanted to show the world today the strength of the 8-bit style. We didn’t want to make a game with the easier kind of difficulty you see all too often today.
—Please tell us any interesting anecdotes or episodes from the development.
Takeshita: The boss design was an interesting process. Keiji Inafune was the producer for MM10 again, but compared with MM9, he participated less in the ground-level development, opting to leave more of it up to us. But the boss design is really Inafune’s forte, so he checked them for us. Nitro Man, in particular, went through a lot of revisions at Inafune’s request. But thanks to his efforts, we were able to capture that Mega Man essence in the bosses, I think.
—Who’s your favorite boss from MM10?
Takeshita: Sheep Man, probably… at first there was some disagreement about whether to include him or not, but he’s been very popular, especially with fans overseas. His design was a lot more “cutesy” in the beginning, but after Inafune’s revisions, he became more normal.
—Can you say a word about the new modes in 10, such as Forte Mode, the Special Stage, and the Endless Attack mode?
Takeshita: Forte is just overpowered. I recommend him for players who don’t feel very confident with these kind of platformers. As for the Endless Attack mode, we did that for MM9 too, but the idea was to recreate some of the iconic and famous stage terrain from previous games.
—What led you to add characters like Bass and the Mega Man Killers (Enker, Punk and Ballade) from the Game Boy games—characters who are outside of the normal robot master numbering system…?
Takeshita: Being the 10th Mega Man game, we tried to come up some special ideas. Another reason is that the Mega Man Killers have enjoyed an enduring popularity, and we thought it would be interesting to update them (visually and the actual fights) from their Game Boy incarnations. In contrast, Bass first appeared on the Super Famicom, so we thought it would be fun and fresh to try and render him in an 8-bit style.
—What do you think of some of the amazing replays people have been uploading for the Time Attack mode?
Takeshita: I’m blown away! We originally added the replays for players who couldn’t clear the game, as a way for them to observe new strategies that they could use as a model… but it’s turned into a repository of superplays! We never predicted that.
—MM10 has an amazing soundtrack, featuring famous composers from the series’ history. Is there anything you’d like to share about that?
Takeshita: Again, as the 10th Mega Man game, we wanted to get everyone who had participated in the past, a kind of composer dream team, and have them participate in this soundtrack. Also, I’m not trying to advertise this here (laughs), but the composers wrote about their songs in the OST liner notes, so please check it out if you’re interested.
—Speaking frankly, what would you say the appeal of MM10 is?
Takeshita: It’s a return to that excitement we felt as kids when we played these games. We’ve tried to reproduce that experience: the memories, the nostalgia, and the passion they inspire. I hope that’s what players get out of it!
—Tell us more about the new Easy Mode.
Takeshita: It’s a first for the Mega Man series. The idea was it would be a stepping stone, or warm-up, for adults who either don’t have a lot of time to figure out strategies on their own, or whose skills have atrophied since childhood. More broadly, it’s also something of a compromise for players who just want to experience that 8-bit aesthetic, or for those who have never played a Mega Man game before. So I recommend this mode for any players having problems. It should feel much easier, and you can use it to practice and study the stages. Once you’re ready, you can take on Normal Mode.
—What were some of the challenges you faced in setting the difficulty for MM10?
Takeshita: Well, we first created Normal Mode, and basically, we designed it to be about as difficult as the rest of the series. I think it’s a bit easier than MM9, however. Other than that, naturally we spent a lot of time designing the Easy Mode. This mode is so easy that if veteran Mega Man fans play it, they’ll probably feel “this isn’t Mega Man!” The stage layouts are essentially the same, but the damage Mega Man takes, the enemies, the number of healing items… it’s all WAY easier than Normal Mode.
—Finally, please leave a message for Mega Man fans.
Takeshita: The fact that we’re able to make a 10th game in this series is all thanks to the support of the fans. Thank you so much! Our entire staff gave our very best to ensure MM10 was a game worthy of the legacy of 20 years of Mega Man… how did we do? I know lots of people have played it now, but I wonder how many have cleared it? We added a replay function this time, so you can see other people’s superplays. Our hope was that even after you beat the game, you can watch other people’s skills and improve yourself. Anyway, if you haven’t played MM10, I hope you get a chance to try it out soon.
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