Masaya Matsuura, the forefather of rhythm games, talks about the current state of the genre, his new kid-friendly marching band title and why he made it for the Wii.
Known for popularizing the modern rhythm game genre with his “PaRappa The Rapper” series, Masaya Matsuura is teaming up again with artist Rodney Alan Greenblat for “Major Minor’s Majestic March,” a marching band-oriented Wii game. In an e-mail interview, Matsuura told us why he decided to make a marching band title, why it will attract hardcore gamers and how Wii MotionPlus just didn’t work for the game.
MTV Multiplayer: Out of all the possibilities for music games, why a marching band game?
Matsuura: I truly believe that music games have boundless potential. Rhythm games can only be seen as the first island discovered in this grand sea of possibility. But the current reality is that we have to take a number of practical factors into consideration when planning a new game such as current platform characteristics and user tastes. Bearing these in mind whilst trying to devise a compelling game design can really narrow our sphere of selection for the music.
MTV Multiplayer: How did you choose the songs for this game?
Matsuura: Being as impartial as possible, I chose extremely well-known marching songs from all over the world. Also, while respecting the original songs, we also created some original unique tunes by adding daring arrangements that typify “Major Minor.” There is also a Herbie Hancock song in there as well as some of my own work.
MTV Multiplayer: Are there any plans to offer additional downloadable songs (or other content)?
Matsuura-san: “Major Minor”’s audio system is way more complicated than your average rhythm game, where change and progression are predetermined. In addition, you might not be able to download a lot of songs on Wii because the amount of sound data is so big. But I’d still like to try.
MTV Multiplayer: Did you consult with any real-life marching bands while working on this game?
Matsuura: I didn’t do it for this game, but I did do it when I was in elementary and junior high school!
MTV Multiplayer: Have you heard about “The Black Football College Experience“? It’s an American football game for the PC that features a marching band component since it’s a major part of black college football. If so, did you look at that title at all?
Matsuura: I’ve never heard of the title before, but I did watch a lot of Florida A&M and Grambling marching band footage when making “Major Minor.” We really enjoyed these and they had quite an influence on the game.
MTV Multiplayer: What kind of audience are you going for with this game?
Matsuura: What would be ideal is for the people who played “PaRappa The Rapper” and are now parents to be able to play “Major Minor” with their kids.
MTV Multiplayer: Do you think the more “hardcore” gamers who liked “PaRappa The Rapper” will enjoy this game?
Matsuura: “PaRappa” was released about 12 or 13 years ago, and being a hardcore gamer the entire time since then must be kind of tiring, so it’s time to take a break and enjoy “Major Minor.” LOL!
MTV Multiplayer: Why did you decide to make this game for the Wii?
Matsuura: A strong request from the publisher was the main drive behind the choice, but in any case whenever a new technology comes out I’m curious to give it a try.
MTV Multiplayer: Did you receive Wii MotionPlus development kits? If so, why not adapt the game to the Wii MotionPlus add-on? Was there not enough time?
Matsuura: We tried to adapt “Major Minor” to MotionPlus, but doing so didn’t really make it any more fun than it already was. Maybe MotionPlus titles need to be planned as such from the beginning. The basic structure of “Major Minor” was pretty much determined before MotionPlus arrived, so there wasn’t a huge advantage to adapting it to MotionPlus. And what’s more, the controller would become bigger, so we gave up on the idea.
MTV Multiplayer: Do you see this game being adapted to the Wii-motion Plus controller in the future?
Matsuura: It could be.
MTV Multiplayer: “Wii Music” is a music title aimed at the casual audience, and it didn’t meet initial sales expectations. Does that concern you at all for “Major Minor’s Majestic March”?
Matsuura: This is just my personal opinion, but to a musician, an instrument is a serious interface tool for the creation of music. Whilst the history of the electric guitar is at best 40 years old, the violin has been around for more than 500. Over a human’s lifetime, it bears the burden of that artist’s musical expressions. Whether or not “Wii Music” successfully conveys these feelings is, I believe, a key issue.
MTV Multiplayer: “PaRappa The Rapper” has been credited with being ahead of its time and being the first modern rhythm game. As such, how do you feel about where music games have gone with the popularity of “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band”?
Matsuura: A long time ago, I really implored the Harmonix guys that they should be making games. I’m pretty sure that they got similar advice from elsewhere, but looking back it was definitely the right advice. The success of “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” therefore fills me with pride as if they were my own creations.
MTV Multiplayer: Are you surprised that music games are currently dominating the market?
Matsuura: Of course I was surprised by the amount of success, but at the same time, I’m also surprised that it took so long.
MTV Multiplayer: With the popularity of the iPhone, do you have any plans to work on an iPhone game specifically? Or any more iPod games?
Matsuura: I know a programmer who has made prototypes for the iPhone, and we sometimes collaborate a little.
MTV Multiplayer: Where do you see iPhone games going? Do you think iPhones are the future of gaming?
Matsuura: Just recently in Japan, the price of getting an iPhone when signing up as a new customer was reduced to zero yen, so if it could maintain some momentum I guess that it has a chance to establish itself as a new game platform here.
MTV Multiplayer: Will we see another “PaRappa” game anytime soon?
Matsuura: We currently do not have any specific plans to make a new one, but I cannot rule out any future possibilities.