As promised, here are the next two installments to the Sin and Punishment 2 interview with Satoru Iwata and the Treasure team. This time, the topics covered will include how Treasure works as a very small development company as well as how the title “Sin and Punishment” came to be. Look forward to the last two segments next time!
Iwata: Well then, I’d also like to hear the Nintendo staff talk. Yamagami-san was in charge of the previous game, right?
Yamagami: Yes. I’m the producer now, but on the ‘64, I was the director.
Iwata: How did you feel about working with Treasure at the time?
Yamagami: I’ll but it bluntly. They’re a strange company.
Yamagami: It’s true that what I am familiar with is very narrow, but compared to every other company I’ve associated with before…
Iwata: It was different.
Yamagami: Yes. It was different, and -– I can say this even now -– it was the company that gave me the most trouble out of the ones I’ve been involved with, like I had joined one of the three most elite companies.
Yamagami: And of those, the previous “Sin & Punishment” is on my “top three” list of the most hair-pulling development processes. If I had to say what was hair-pulling, it would be that, when you ask, “When will this be finished?” a director will usually say the predicted date…
Iwata: Normally, regardless of whether it can be adhered to or not, they would say the predicted date.
Yamagami: However, in the case of Treasure, he said, “We don’t know.” “We’ll show you when we’re done.” “No, wait, but that’s problematic…” “But we don’t know what we don’t know.” Such conversations always happened.
Iwata: They’re being very polite, but what they’re saying is just repeating, “Don’t know. Don’t know,” it seems (laughs).
Yamagami: Yes. And also, “We’ll just do our best.”
Iwata: They really were working their hardest, though.
Nakagawa: (quietly nods)
Yamagami: And then, after waiting a while, the prototype came out. And when I actually played it, I was extremely surprised.
Iwata: Kind of like, “How can they do something like this on the Nintendo 64?!”
Yamagami: Yes, I really was very surprised. However, Treasure was from the start the “Obsessive Group,” so they made it at an extreme level of difficulty.
Iwata: Yes, yes.
Yamagami: So when I told them, “It’s too hard. I can’t play it,” they replied with, “Our director doesn’t suit us.”
Yamagami: And even if I said, “But normal people can’t do this either!” they even said, “There’s no one on our team that can’t play it.” “Those who can’t play it aren’t a part of our team.”
Yamagami: On and on, for close to a year, conversations like that…
Iwata: Continued, didn’t they? (laughs)
Yamagami: Just putting, “It’s too hard, so make it easier” into words is very easy. However, if I did that, then the game would lose that “Treasure” feel to it.
Maegawa: I think it’s impossible for us to quietly do something just from being told to do so. If we had to do something because we were told to do something even though we don’t agree with it, the game would collapse. With that said, Yamagami-san would tenaciously insist to our team to the point of stubbornness.
Yamagami: I thought that if I forcibly asked them then we’d be able to release before 2000. However, I never just told them to do it. I continued to say, “Until you understand, I won’t just say ‘do it.’” “Until you understand, I will talk to you.” If I didn’t do that, then there’d be no point in associating with Treasure. In the end, I believe that even though the difficulty of the entire final product was lowered, that “Treasure” feeling remained strong.
Iwata: I see. By the way, it seems that you came up with the title “Sin & Punishment,” Yamagami-san?
Iwata: How did you come to decide on “Sin & Punishment”?
Yamagami: At first, it was developed with the title “Glass Soldier.”
Maegawa: The frail-looking protagonist was like a blade of grass, so we tried to go with “Grass Solider.”
Yamagami: However, at the time all the game titles were in katakana, so it turned into “Why don’t we think up a title with kanji?”
Iwata: At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for games and their katakana titles to be buried what with all the games being released. But what was the motive for deciding on “Sin & Punishment”?
Yamagami: Coincidentally, at the time, one of the development titles from the information development team (possibly referring to EAD) was “Red and Black”…
Iwata: You mean “Perfect Dark”11?
Yamagami: Yes. “Red and Black” was the name used during development even though it was eventually sold as “Perfect Dark,” but we thought that if there was a “Red and Black” then “Sin & Punishment” could work as well. We added a subtitle that allowed players to get a feel for the theme of the game. At this point, when we discussed with the young staff members, they proposed, “Why don’t we write ‘Earth’ but read it as ‘star?’” and we went, “That’s good!” We made it fit the theme of the story, so the title turned into “Successor (Keishousha) of the Earth.”
Iwata: What about this current game?
Yamagami: We wanted to feel like this game was connected to the last one, so we went for a title that had a common point to it. Also, the background theme was scaled up, so this time we flew from the Earth to “Space.”
Iwata: And the proposal was to read that as “Sky.”
Yamagami: On top of that, unlike with the previous game, we used “Successor (Koukeisha),” and the subtitle became “Successor (Koukeisha) of the Sky.”SE1
Iwata: By the way, Maegawa-san, how did you feel when the original title “Grass Soldier” was changed to “Sin & Punishment”?
Maegawa: Jeez, I was surprised (laughs).
Iwata: Did it take time for you to get used to it?
Nakagawa: Um … I was good with it…
Iwata: Nakagawa-san, you were all right with “Sin & Punishment”?
Nakagawa: No, actually, there was a really astonishing candidate left at the end. I think it was “The Apocalypse of Darkness” or something…
Suzuki: No, it was “The Barren Lands of Darkness.”
Nakagawa: Yes, yes.
Iwata: “Barren Lands”?
Nakagawa: At the time, I just felt that, no matter what, I did not want it to be “Barren Lands.”
Maegawa: Besides, after using “Sin & Punishment,” we became fond of the name.
Yamagami: Yes, we became fond of it.
Maegawa: Actually, even if we sold it as “Grass Soldier,” I don’t think it would have stuck in people’s minds as much.
Iwata: Actually, from a relatively early point in time, Yamagami-san and I were talking about how we could make “Sin and Punishment” for the Wii.
Maegawa: What, really?!
Yamagami: Yes, we were (laughs).
Maegawa: When I submitted the proposal for the current work, I was surprised when it only took three days for a response. Sometimes it takes several months for any results, so I even told these two to “Go take it easy.”
Nakagawa & Suzuki: (nods)
Yamagami: On my part, when I received the proposal from Maegawa-san, I was extremely happy. However, I could only arrange a meeting with Iwata-san three days after the proposal arrived…
Iwata: If I had met with Yamagami-san on the day it had arrived, I would have approved it on that very day.
Yamagami: That’s why, after three days, when I went over to Iwata-san’s place in high spirits, we decided with a “It came!!” and a “Let’s do it!”
Maegawa: Is that so?
Iwata: We decided it in this fashion among ourselves, but how did Treasure come to decide to do “Sin and Punishment” for the Wii?
Maegawa: I mentioned it earlier, but…
Iwata: That the Wii Remote was the impetus?
Maegawa: In the first place, the weapon in this game is what’s called a gunsword. As such, the basic controls are slicing and shooting. Our impetus was that we felt the Wii Remote fit these controls very well, and the Nunchuk could be used to control the player as well… And so I went, “Let’s use this and make a ‘Sin & Punishment’” and instigated these two.
Iwata: And, how did the instigated Nakagawa-san feel?
Nakagawa: That suffering from the time of Nintendo 64 that I talked about just earlier revived…
Iwata: It has become a trauma for you, hasn’t it?
Nakagawa: … (silently nods)
Iwata: (laughs) Going immediately into an engine at full throttle isn’t possible, is it?
Nakagawa: It’s impossible.
Iwata: Maegawa-san, how did you persuade Nakagawa-san when he was like that?
Maegawa: He had said he wanted to do it from the start.
Iwata: He wanted to do it, but…
Maegawa: He never said he didn’t want to do it.
Nakagawa: … (quietly nods)
Maegawa: So when I said, “Let’s do it,” he was something like, “I’d like to do it, but it’s a lot of trouble so please wait a bit…”
Iwata: It took him a while to make the decision. How did Suzuki-san feel when this topic came up?
Suzuki: Truthfully, at the time, it had been awhile since I’d left the game studio. There were changes to the development system, and creating new games and original works have become more difficult. I even thought, “Is it all right for me to work on games anymore?”
Suzuki: I was also doing work on illustrations and manga. However, I heard that Nakagawa-san was going to be the director, so I felt that it was all right for me to give it a shot.
Iwata: Why did you think that?
Suzuki: It’s true that Nakagawa-san has the skills, but he also commits himself. He’s the kind of person who would never abandon something even at the end no matter what happens.
Iwata: A man who accomplishes everything to the very end.
Nakagawa: … (shakes his head)
Yamagami: With Suzuki-san, I went and asked him with a “Please, Suzuki-san.” I’d heard that he had already resigned, but I felt that I really did want that same taste as in the first game.
Maegawa: Because the director changed, the taste would change as well, so it would become a different game. Regardless, we couldn’t escape that in the end.
Iwata: So Suzuki-san joined without any problems. How did you start off development?
Nakagawa: We told Suzuki-san, “Just draw something. Anything’s fine.”
Iwata: Eh? You requested him to “Just draw something. Anything’s fine”?
Maegawa: This is common in our company.
Suzuki: It’s common.
Nakagawa: (nods eagerly)
Maegawa: Very common.
Iwata: (laughs) I don’t think it’s usual for the director to request things in such a fashion. However, you must have an interesting relationship if you’re getting by without the company breaking down.
Maegawa: I think it’s also correct for companies to go on with development following the specification documents closely. That way, they will definitely be able to churn out products. However, that way, they can’t really do anything beyond the specification documents.
Iwata: I see.
Maegawa: In the case of action or shooting games, especially, I think that they’re games that gradually get better after you repeat the process of trying to work the game and then revising it, because there’s a part of the game that’s just “How much can you push it?”
Nakagawa: Um … Actually, we’ve known each other a long time now, but when we first started working together, I concretely requested art from him. But…
Nakagawa: No matter what I said, he’d turn in a completely different drawing.
Iwata: So it doesn’t matter even if you do state concretely what you want? (laughs)
Suzuki: On my part, I thought I was turning in a revision.
Nakagawa: But, I think … it’s the same with me. Even if someone tells me, “I made a model like this, so make it move awesomely,” the programmer would make it move however he wants.
Suzuki: And then, I’d be looking forward to seeing movements that I didn’t even ask for.
Iwata: In other words, both the designer and producer are kind of ad-libbing to each other, kind of like “Oh, so that’s what you’re doing. Well, I’ll do this!”
Nakagawa: That’s right.
Suzuki: That’s right.
Iwata: It’s kind of like a jazz session! Would this be how Treasure gets things done, Maegawa-san?
Maegawa: I think that is exactly how. As such, in our company, it is impossible for us to move forward if each person doesn’t autonomously make progress in his own position.
Yamagami: That’s why you told me, “Just wait as long as possible,” huh?
All pictures and games mentioned are works of Nintendo. Siliconera was only responsible for translating the feature.