Gal Metal doesn’t require instruments and it doesn’t even have timed notes. Extreeeme producer Tak Fujii talked to Siliconera at E3 2018 about how he wants players to think rhythm and express themselves through music.
Siliconera: Gal Metal is interesting since it’s a music game, but unlike most games in the genre there aren’t timed notes to hit. Could you tell us about how you created the game and did your previous work as a sound designer influence it?
Tak Fujii: As you know, having started my career as a sound composer and designer. At Konami, I saw how Bemani (Konami’s brand name for their music games) was made and marketed. It was great, a brand new concept to make a music game for the world. As a sound designer, I wanted to make a music game like that, but at that time they already carried the Bemani franchise. Of course, they were always trying something new in the arcades, but you have to be specifically in the Bemani department to make a music game. There were a lot of divisions, Kojima Productions made Metal Gear and the Winning Eleven(Pro Evolution Soccer) [division], which was my main division when I was in the sound department. There was no reason to make a music game with the guy from the Winning Eleven sound department.
What did you work on while you were part of the Winning Eleven team?
Tak Fujii: I was working really hard on the commentary system. Winning Eleven’s voiceovers was designed with the Japanese language system which is subject first and the verb is at the end. There are tricks you can avoid when saying something in the Japanese way that you can’t say in an English way.
I had a chance to join the main side after departing the Winning Eleven production. That was the moment when I was making Nighty-Nine Nights II, Frogger 3D, and I was also working on English titles for the Japanese market like Darksiders. After I departed Konami, now I was free to make a game. I was unleashed! It was my time to make a game! With my career and background in sound, why not make a new music game, which would be something brand-new, something that would be a gate to the next era.
How did you come up with the idea of freestyling with the Joy-Cons as if you were drumming?
When I got started with this project I wanted to get rid of the notes. For me, as a piano player, I was studying piano since I was four years old until junior high, so I have good and bad experiences with music education. Reading notes and playing the sound of the notes is the minimum when performing on stage. If you enter a competition and miss one note, you’re out. There are a thousand competitors and the finalists don’t make a single mistake. How do you judge then? It’s your expression or how you play.
In this game, I want players to think how to rhythm by themselves and how you express yourself through music. I talked to many teams to see who would be the best to make this kind of game and there are a lot of studios who already have done rhythm games. Now, I have a budget and I said let’s try something new. I want no notes at all! Players are free, drums are free, guitar is free – at that time we were thinking about a guitar game. We tried 20 or 30 prototypes to figure this out. Because I am a musician I have no trouble playing the drums in any song, but this is for a gamer who doesn’t know how to play the drums. We had to make a nice slope for new players to advanced players which was a struggle, but that was because we were making something new a free drumming game where you express yourself like a musician on stage. Don’t look up at the notes. Feel the rhythm, feel the audience, free yourself and unleash yourself. It’s you making music.
Do you feel you were able to get that feeling in your game?
We’re still thinking is there a better way for beginners because it still takes practice to get started. These elements [Fujii plays the game, hitting the notes on cue] are no problem, but I see people struggle. We had a lot of discussions on how to showing visual indicators so this isn’t the ideal system and again the Bemani system is the perfect system for non-music players. It’s great, but that was a format invented 20 years ago. My challenge should be something in the 21st century. I’m still struggling of thinking of a better way. If there is a possibility for updates or any sequels, I have a better idea in my head.
What other instruments would you want to do with this style?
Having a bass, guitar and vocals would be fun. However, we started with drums because without notes or chords the timing will be more complicated. I wanted to make a toy for everyone. Banging a drum, everyone should have played with a toy drum at a young age and had fun with it. We kept it simple – kick snare, cymbal. We could have had kick, snare, tom-toms, cymbal, but that is too much for a non-music background. That’s not something we wanted. We wanted kids playing with their grandparents, swinging [the Joy-cons] and making beats.
That goes with the story where your soul is merged with Rinko and why she’s not a pro drummer.
That was the gimmick – why you used to be a drummer girl in a metal band and why she has to start from the beginning. That didn’t make sense, but you’re the beginner and she will teach you how to drum.
And how did aliens get into the story?
The main director and script writer, Shuho Imai, worked on a lot games on the PlayStation 2 era so he knows how to write a game script and a good story while I don’t. I gave him a prompt, schoolgirls playing metal because it’s unbalanced and looks funny. I like the concept of that. You’ve seen cute girls playing pop songs, but it’s not my style. It’s not extreme enough. [Laughs] In one day, he returned with a pitch a metal band versus octopi to save the Earth. I asked, “Mr. Imai are you sure this is something you want to do.” And he was so serious, “Yeah, what’s wrong with it?” [he replied]. “OK, I’m going to trust you, you make good games!”
Gal Metal is currently available in Japan for Nintendo Switch. The game is headed Westward in Fall 2018.