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C3 Exclusive Interview | Skip, Ltd Talks Nintendo, Chibi-Robo DS, GiFTPiA & More!
An extensive interview...
By Adam Riley (jesusraz)
22.07.2006 12:43
Skip, Ltd.
Conducted by Adam Riley :: Saturday, 22nd July, 2006

Skip, Ltd. created a quirky new-style of RPG for the GameCube in conjunction with Nintendo called GiFTPiA. Unfortunately it never made the transition to the Western world. However, the company's cute little robot character, Chibi-Robo, fared much better and already has a DS follow-up to his GC début lined-up. Cubed³ was lucky enough to get some time with the team. Read on for this in-depth, highly informative and extremely amusing interview...

Do not forget to check out the Cubed³ review of Chibi Robo on the GameCube or the character profile of the little automaton!

Cubed³: Mr Nishi, could you please tell our readers a little bit about your background (such as your work as Squaresoft and after that)? Also, Miss Yokote, would you be so kind as to let us know what you have previously worked on?

Mr. Kenichi Nishi (KN), Director of the Chibi-Robo: I was involved in the development of Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG when I was working for Squaresoft. However, since I was rather a lazy employee who often did not show up to the office among the big team that consists of more than 100 people, I can't say that I have made a big contribution. I think it is more appropriate for me to say I was more like pretending to be involved in the development (laughs).

I am crazy about British Rock music and it is not too much to say that I was raised by listening to David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Police and The Beatles. These music artists have made me what I am today (maybe). I should try to refrain from listening to themÂ…No, I can't! I love British Rock!

Mr. Hiroshi Moriyama (HM), Director of Chibi-Robo: I have been involved in GiFTPiA and Chibi-Robo at Skip. Now I am in charge of the game design for Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol (DS) at an independent team called “harajuku-bu” or “819 Department”.

Miss Sayoko Yokote (SY), Game Designer of Chibi-Robo: I made my début as a game planner for GiFTPiA at SKIP after going through the on-the-job training of managing the debugging activities for “Lovedelic: Moon”, “UFO” and “L.O.L.”. For Chibi-Robo I have experienced developing the Japanese version as well as North American and European versions. Now I am the overall localising contact at SKIP. Since this was the first experience for us to localise our work it was a lot of fun!

Before I entered the game industry, I was in the fashion and music industry. I was also a high school student who checked the UKÂ’s independent charts every week and bought CDs.

C3: How did the idea for Chibi arise? Are there any particular influences behind his creation and the idea for the game in general?

KN: The idea of the main character was created by my friend at another department of SKIP, so I would not have anything further that I can tell you about it. We were not influenced, but were inspired by PixarÂ’s Toy Story, Astro Boy, Iron Giant and so on. I am attracted by the paradox where robots made to serve people get people into trouble and the dilemma that people have making the robot!!

Nishi-san worked on both Super Mario RPG & Chrono Trigger

C3: The game originally started as a point-and-click style game when Bandai was helping Skip. How come the game changed to a more free-roaming type instead? Was it NintendoÂ’s suggestion or just a natural progression within the team?

KN: Mr. Tanabe at Nintendo (the Producer of the game and my middle-aged buddy) said to me, “a point-and-click style is absolutely NG for this game." I don't feel like telling the reason today because it was meant to be the secret just between him and myself.

Mr. Kensuke Tanabe (KT), Producer of Chibi-Robo: With the point-and-click style, players can feel their controlling characters only objectively. And it does not fit very well with [ analogue ] stick control of GameCube (the result might have been different if it had been Wii Remote). Because of my belief that creating a sense of identity between Chibi-Robo and the player would lead to the title’s appeal more than anything else, I asked Mr. Nishi to change “point-and-click” style to “stick control.”

C3: It has been reported that Shigeru Miyamoto took a personal interest in Chibi-Robo and is even listed as Senior Producer. But did he actually have any major input or just pass on advice in any way?

KN: I wouldn’t say Mr. Miyamoto has been deeply involved in terms of the fact that he did not create actual game data (the same thing is applied to me, though). What Mr. Miyamoto advised us was, “Why don’t we make use of the Chibi-plug more?” I remember we added the feature of a Chibi-door based on his advice. When I met him at E3 he said to me, “It seems that Chibi-Robo is becoming an exciting game.” So I asked, “Does that mean you just heard from somebody else and you didn’t actually play it?” And he said, “Oh, [ I have not played ] because I have been busy…” while pulling his tongue out just like The Rolling Stones’s band logo. This is what I know. In practice the software was completed with Mr. Tanabe at Nintendo, the producer of the game who was deeply involved. Mr. Miyamoto might have been involved where I did not know, so please ask Mr. Tanabe for the details.

KT: It was MiyamotoÂ’s idea that we ask Mr. Nishi to fully take care of Chibi-Robo. As Mr. Nishi mentioned, Miyamoto emphasised [ we should ] make use of the Chibi-plug, but except for that, he left it to our own discretion.

C3: Were there any problems encountered during the gameÂ’s development because of the restrictions with the GameCube hardware or time constraints? And is there anything that had to be excluded because of this?

KN: I would not say there weren’t any problems at all, but I believe the frontline staff were working hard so that we could incorporate about 80% of the features that we thought of. I wish we could have let Chibi-Robo go next door to play with another Chibi-Robo in neighbourhood. It seems that these ideas will be made possible for Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol. In fact, as I said, “it seems”, it is just what I heard from somebody else, and I do not really know what’s going on. It is appreciated if you could ask Chibi-Robo DS staff for this.

And I guess another problem that occurred during development was that I was told by the frontline staff that, “We don’t need Nishi anymore”, and I was at home during the last 3 months of the development period. I could go fishing everyday thanks to this, though!

HM: When I was sleeping, I dreamed that Chibi-Robo could fly freely around the room with the Chibi-copter (laughter). We gave up the idea of Chibi-RoboÂ’s free flight, however, because we could not solve the various specification problems, and there were some opinions that it wouldnÂ’t be like Chibi-Robo if it flies freely and looks too highly efficient.

Another thing we didn’t actually incorporate into the game was the idea of “wind power generation Chibi-gear”, although there was no technical issue. It was the idea that the windmill-looking Chibi-gear generates power from the wind coming into the room when putting it near the window and Chibi-Robo can gain some power when connecting the Chibi-gear with his Chibi-plug.

Chibi-Robo is not only on GC, but coming to the DS soon!

C3: What were some of the main challenges related to the gameÂ’s design? The game is full of so many fun moments and is packed with sheer happiness. Would it be right to assume you enjoyed your work on it?

HM: It might be difficult to understand but the main challenge was to incorporate lots of adventure and action elements into the same map. It took all of the staff a lot of work to realise this, but we at last created an exciting gaming world, so I believe it was right to challenge this.

C3: How long did it take to create Chibi Robo and how large was the development team?

KT: It took some time before reaching a basic direction, but after SKIP started to create data on a large scale it took about only 8-months for development. The team consisted of little more than a dozen people, even when the team was at its largest scale. The team was unusually small for a GC title. They have amazing speed and the ability to cope with lots of work, which cannot be imagined considering the number of people and the development period. Moreover, the team can do a quality job, while each of the staff has a characteristic personality of their own. I believe it is a rare and splendid team in that sense.

C3: Chibi Robo is an extremely varied title that has a great amount of depth to it and lots of challenge. What age group would you say it is aimed at, or do you believe it is a game that can span all ages?

KN: Well, you know I like ladiesÂ…(laughs) Regardless of their age or looks, I want as many ladies and girls to play. I don't care about male players. No, no, it's a lie (laughs).

HM: We are not intending to limit our target to any specific age group. What I often talked with Nishi about was that we would like to aim at creating a game that makes children and adults who played the game want to check to see if there is a Chibi-Robo under the bed or furniture in their actual home.

KT: As a producer, I think that the appealing points of the games Mr. Nishi designs are the story, theme, exquisite dialogues and characteristic characters. However, I considered that his appealing points would not be fully brought into play if we just target young children mainly. So I asked him to design it so that he can preserve what he is strong at while the game can be fully enjoyed also by children in terms of the gameplay. In that sense, I believe it is the game for all ages.

C3: Were there any concerns regarding the marketing and selling of the game to Western audiences, specifically in tough markets such as the UK, given the titleÂ’s unique characteristics?

SY: We did not change it specifically, except for making some character names more familiar for each language. I am pleased to hear that you think Chibi-Robo is unique. I personally want to know what makes you think it is unique!

I think the basic story and character’s actions are not so unusual, but rather something that everybody can share, feeling and think, “Yes, I know that feeling”, regardless of language or culture, so please become Chibi-Robo and enjoy the drama. And, you don’t have to worry about how to play. What do you think about it? If you think that I need to study more, please teach me!

Skip worked on several of the cool bit Generations titles

C3: Who holds the rights to the Chibi franchise, Nintendo, Bandai, Skip or yourself now at Route 24? Where do you see the little robot going in the future?

KN: I do not know about the copyright overall, but I am sure Route24 has no rights regarding this.

KT: Regardless of who owns the copyrights, I would like Chibi-Robo to be a representative character of SKIP and Nintendo.

C3: Mr Nishi, it has been reported that in one of your blogs you mentioned that your new company Route 24 is working on LOL DS. Can you confirm that this project is definitely happening and provide us with any preliminary details (such as is it related to DreamCast game ‘Lack of Love’)?

KN: I remember this because my dementia was prevented thanks to the Brain Training software. I donÂ’t have to confirm because I wrote this. LOL DS is the title that I personally named and am personally developing. I cannot do [ something ] like this if it is a GC or Wii game, but when it comes to DS,even 2 or 3 people can easily create software with [ the usual ] final product standards, which is the systemÂ’s attractive point. If I continue to make only one title, spending 1 or 2 years [ on it ], I will be left behind the times. So I try to find some spare time to create something new.

L.O.L. for DC was the acronym for “lack of love”, but LOL DS is for “laughing out loud”. Please look forward to it, since it is an easy-to-make and easy-to-play party game. Nowadays, one person can privately create an album on CD because of improvement on DTM technology, and one can also create video picture work thanks to CG and non-linear editing. However, it had been difficult to personally create games because it required human resources and time (or money). However, after the DS appeared, the development environment was put into a place where a very small production company like SKIP, that is not even a publisher, can complete one game independently. I think it is a great thing.

C3: It was also reported that you have now left Skip to and founded Route 24. Do you still have ties with Skip, such as working on Chibi Robo: Park Patrol for the DS? And is it likely that Route 24 will be a Nintendo exclusive company?

KN: I still belong to SKIP. I thought I would quit, but the company president tried to keep me back amidst tears (in fact no, I am lying). Anyway, I think I will continue to work for SKIP, working with the group (developing games with about 10 staff) like a music group. And as for the Route24, I would like to work as a ‘solo artist’.

Since I knew a private limited company couldn’t be established after the Japanese company corporate law was amended, I established a private limited company before the act was revised. But I don’t have any employees, nor independent office (the registered office is my home). And the company hasn’t even received ¥1, £1 or €1 yet…

In fact, I love British culture. Besides the previously mentioned bands, I love Duran Duran, and more recently, Fatboy Slim, Underworld and The Chemical Brothers. When it comes to movies, I love Brassed Off and Trainspotting!! As I recall, afternoon tea (Darjeeling) is vital for me as well. Please encourage British ladies and gentleman to give me job since it should be against UKÂ’s interests if you leave a pro-British person like me behind.

And, I am not involved in the Park Patrol. I donÂ’t know why, but I havenÂ’t been called upon.

C3: What changes can we expect to see for Chibi Robo: Park Patrol? How will it use the Nintendo DS systemÂ’s special functions?

HM: “Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol” will contain a much different game system from the previous software for GC. The basic goal in the game is to recover the inhospitable park. Players will be able to manipulate a vehicle to race around the large park by using touch screen as a steering wheel, and players can also freely design the park itself by touching it.

KT: For the DS version of Chibi-Robo, Mr. Moriyama is leading the team to develop it, and Mr. Nishi is not involved this time. I am asking [ the team ] to make another approach to create an appealing game in a different way from the attractiveness that Mr. NishiÂ’s game had.

While the feature like the miniature garden that GC Chibi-Robo had are taken over, I am asking them to aim at establishing a game system where the gameÂ’s emphasis is on freedom and enjoyable gameplay, rather than the game events.

This is Moon, Lovedelic's original PSone game

C3: Was it disappointing that Nintendo never gave GiFTPiA a chance over in the West? Could the game be passed on to a Third Party publisher for release before the GameCube fades out?

SY: Of course we were sorry for that! Chibi-Robo is an adventure that takes place in a house, but for the GiFTPiA its stage is an island in the south, which is much larger than Chibi-RoboÂ’s world. But actually there is no difference between these two games, in terms of the fact that both of them are kind of miniature garden games, because the world of GiFTPiA is only the island (laughs).

I think you will enjoy another lineÂ…something different from Chibi-Robo, if it could be released. So, I have not given up on localising GiFTPiA yet as a person within the Localising Department (actually, the department has only me)! If there is somebody who wishes to release the title, please let us know (laughs).

C3: Would you ever consider resurrecting the game in the future for another system such as the DS or Wii?

KN: I think I would like to realise it, and I hope it happens, however in reality, I think it is difficult because of complicated copyrights. And I would rather step forward to the next game than remaking past works. It is not actually a remake, but I am always interested in sending out messages not limited to the game, such as Chibi-Robo animation [ that is ] posted on the following website: http://www.chibi-robo.com/

HM: It may be realised at some point, if users give us their support, Nintendo gives us a chance, and if SKIP staff say, “we want to create it!”

C3: What can gamers expect from Skip for the rest of 2006 and into 2007? Will the company continue to support Nintendo, or look towards Sony and/or Microsoft?

KN: We cannot predict what will happen in the future. However, before very long, or ASAP, I think I am going to get a tattoo saying “Nintendo” on my arm. It is still a thing in the future, so I cannot predict what is actually going to happen. I think there are some possibilities where some of you may be working with me to create something in the future, since nothing can be predicted.

Skip is recruiting now. So, if you are interested in [ working there ], please check at http://www.skiptokyo.com/contents/project/24/24info.html.

HM: We are now developing “Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol” so that you can enjoy it in the near future. Please look forward to it!

SY: SKIP has the following development teams, “24 Department” that Nishi is leading, “819 Department” where Moriyama belongs, and “1 Department”. We will release 6 titles called “bit Generations” for the Game Boy Advance in July this year in Japan. The first series includes Dotstream, Boundish and Dialhex. The second series includes Coloris, Orbital and Soundvoyager. In this series we are proposing a new digital style where you can enjoy simple games with colours and sounds!

At this point in time, it has only been decided that these titles will be sold in Japan, but I hope that someday you are also going to enjoy these! And it seems that this is not the end of the series.

KT: Nintendo will continue to work with SKIP creating games, so that “1 Department” brings out art sense, “24 Department” demonstrates unique characteristics, and “819 Department” makes use of their power and passion. Also, during rest of 2006 [through ] to 2007, following the bit Generations that “1 Department” is working on and Chibi-Robo for DS at “819 Department”, “24 Department” is dedicated to developing new title in order to announce it in 2007.

Sayoko Yokote still holds hope for GiFTPiA being translated

C3: What are your thoughts on the Nintendo Wii and its announced features, such as the WiConnect24 idea where the system can remain on standby whilst things are downloaded to it whilst you sleep?

KN: In Japan, “nuclear fuel reprocessing plants” have become an issue and I heard it is the case in the UK [ as well ]. I have created a piece of work to put the issue of nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the public view worldwide, after being advised by Mr. Ryuichi Sakamoto, who is the musician and was my partner when creating L.O.L. together.

We are consuming a great amount of electric energy to create games and consuming electricity when players are playing games. I feel a double bind in that. However, at the E3, Mr. Iwata (the president of Nintendo) said, “WiiConnect24 will consume less power and be friendly with regard to household finances”, which I think is a wonderful idea also in that sense. So, I would like to fully support the idea.

C3: If you had the chance to work with Nintendo on one of its franchises, which would it be and how do you think you could improve on previous versions?

ALL: Please look forward our next title!

C3: Are there any particular games you have enjoyed playing recently?

KN: Chibi-Robo!

HM: I enjoyed “snowballing” mini-game in “New Super Mario Bros.” The rules are simple and interesting. It is exciting to play with four people.

SY: I enjoyed Mother 3 and Guitar Hero! For Mother 3 I was so into that and I honestly even felt jealous when I saw the story and dialogue. I felt like laughing and was impressed, and even had a painful feeling, because of the dot matrix graphics on the small screen. I donÂ’t think I need to explain about Guitar Hero! I was pleased because Franz Ferdinand was included. I wish I could form a band!

C3: How do you think Nintendo will cope against the strong competition from Sony and Microsoft during this generation?

KT: Nintendo is always focusing on creating unique and innovative entertainment so that we can break into new markets. We are not interested in a turf battle in the same market. Wii and DS are machines created and based on this concept. Nintendo will continue to make the effort so that users can have an enjoyable time.

The team at Cubed³, and I personally, would like to wholeheartedly thank everyone that took part in this interview and wish them all a very bright future!

Do not forget to check out the following links for previous exclusive interviews:

  • Nikoli, Creators of Sudoku
  • Matt Bozon of WayForward Technologies (Sigma Star Saga, Shantae)
  • TOSE Co., Ltd (co-creators of Nintendo's Starfy games)
  • Mitchell Corp. (Magentica, Polarium and more)
  • Tuna Technologies, Developer of Alien Hominid GBA
  • Wii Interview with Robert Saunders, Nintendo UK
  • Brooke Burgess, Ex-EA & Creator of Broken Saints
  • Namco Tales Studio
  • Interactive Brains, Deep Labyrinth RPG on DS
  • Martin Kitts, Editor of NGC Magazine
  • Wil Overton, Former Super Play / N64 Mag, now at Rare UK
  • Steve Jarratt, Group Senior Editor at Future Publishing
  • Charlotte Martyn, Production Editor at Official Nintendo Magazine

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    Great interview
    22.07.2006 13:10 | Back to Top
    Supoib interview, particularly like:

    C3: Are there any particular games you have enjoyed playing recently?

    KN: Chibi-Robo!

    This is a smilie
    22.07.2006 13:17 | Back to Top
    So LOL does stand for laugh out loud afterall...
    22.07.2006 13:21 | Back to Top
    So LOL does stand for laugh out loud afterall...

    If only I'd have known this when we had the acronym discussion, this would've been a great piece of info to have This is a smilie
    22.07.2006 13:31 | Back to Top
    Awesome interview, really gave a load of information out.

    LOL DS just seems so weird, and probably would look even stranger in print, that's for sure. There's certainly no lack of love on the DS!

    The Nintendo tattoo would be amusing This is a smilie
    22.07.2006 14:01 | Back to Top
    "I love British Rock!" mayeb explains why Ozzie Osbourne got a cameo in Chrono Trigger!
    22.07.2006 15:32 | Back to Top
    British rock is very popular in Japan, loads of bands do some of their biggest gigs in there.

    ( Edited on 22.07.2006 17:24 by Der SegaHund )

    22.07.2006 16:23 | Back to Top
    That really is a great interview, the guy comes across as really friendly and he's also dead interesting. Cheers for that Mr. Riley This is a smilie
    22.07.2006 16:58 | Back to Top
    Mr.Ashcroft said:
    Great interview

    " " This is a smilie
    22.07.2006 18:40 | Back to Top
    great interview!!!
    so it seems like nobody owns the right to Chibi-Robo :s
    22.07.2006 22:11 | Back to Top

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