Solatorobo: Red the Hunter has been incubating inside CyberConnect2 for well over ten years. Next week, North America will see the fruits of the development team’s hard work when Xseed releases Solatorobo for Nintendo DS.
Director Takayuki Isobe reveals the game has changed quite a bit. One concept gave protagonist Red Savarin electricity powers and Chocolat wasn’t always Red’s little sister. Throwing and grabbing, the primary combat mechanic, wasn’t always in the game either.
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter was in development for over 10 years. How has the game evolved from its original design?
Takayuki Isobe, Director: Solatorobo took 10 years in planning and 3 years in development. During the 10-year planning stage we really hammered out the details of the world view and a variety of viewpoints. From there we moved on to how the game would be played. After those details were worked out, there was a period of trying out various directions on implementing more humans or having a world where dog-people, cat-people and humans coexist and play as teammates, etc. Because we were able to have this time to try out all the aspects, I believe we were able to achieve the current concept with such a solid background.
At the start of the development the team consisted of a small number of staff. The gameplay was a generic action game where the robots hit the enemies to defeat them. However, it was too ordinary and nothing really popped out when playing the game, so we decided to implement a grab and throw element and rebuilt the gameplay accordingly.
When changing the gameplay, and before we found the right effects to implement, I’m sure a lot of the staff members were unsure how it would all turn out. By trial and error we were able to get it right, though, and I think it’s a style that makes for an interesting game.
Also, the demo and towns’ backgrounds were originally simple overlapping 2D illustrations, but during development we created the current 2.5D effect by using the motion illustration demo and camera mapping to have more depth in the background.
What about the main characters like Red and Chocolat? Did they change during the game’s extended development period?
Red, the protagonist, was originally supposed to be much shyer and his color was blue instead of red. In the early stages he also had an ability to generate electricity from a mechanical device within his body. Since Red is the main character, we had a lot of design ideas for him.
Some of Chocolat’s original concepts were more along the lines of a sexy character, or a human, or more of a main heroine. After we decided that her direction would be as Red’s sister, the design process was fast. However, after considering the overall character balance, we changed her race from a cat-person to a dog-person and changed her design accordingly in the middle of development.
I think I saw the teaser art for the game back in 2007 where some people thought it might be related to .hack. Why was the game greenlit for production now and what made the Nintendo DS the right platform?
This game is based around the character concept of dog-people and cat-people, but we did have some concerns about it being accepted by the current generation of gamers. However, by creating a deep and solid world to support the concept, we decided to try to convey that this was not just a furry character game for a young target audience. This concept was approved, and we were able to develop this game.
The reason we decided to go with a Nintendo DS platform is because despite the Nintendo DS’ popularity as a platform, there was a lack of serious drama-type original games, and we thought it was something that the users were longing for.
Typically people associate robot-fighting with heavy weaponry, it became too ordinary and when we actually made it, it wasn’t very fun.
We wanted a certain uniqueness in this title, so after considering the main characters’ setting and world view, we decided to go with a young rookie hunter making his way through life with his trusted mecha, and expanded on that idea by employing a throwing mechanic as a central gameplay element.