The Making of the Game - Band Brothers

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Making of The Game
Band Brothers

This series of articles will take a look at the development of Nintendo-published software. These Q&A sessions conducted by Nintendo Online Magazine, and transcribed to English exclusively by N-Sider staff member Anthony JC, come directly from the developers so as to give you a first-hand look at the amount of sweat and blood that goes into Nintendo's most celebrated releases.

September 2001

Masaru Nishida
Nintendo Co., Ltd. Research & Development 2

Noriko Kitamura
Art Director
Nintendo Co., Ltd. Research & Development 2

Masami Yone
Sound Composition
Nintendo Co., Ltd. Research & Development 2

Q: What hardware was this game originally scheduled for?

Noriko Kitamura: It started as a project for the Game Boy Color. This game was in development for about five years.

Q: Why was the development process so long?

Masaru Nishida: For many reasons. The character we created for this game, Barbara, required a great deal of work to approve. Our first proposals for us to use this character were rejected by Nintendo. The approval managers kept saying " no hard feelings or anything".

Kitamura: An unknown or new character is not easily used. At any rate, with each delay of the game we kept pushing it by making it better. We had a lot of love for this character and style we created, and we fought very hard for it.

Nishida: Ms. Kitamura and myself had originally been been doing the artwork, with the hope of turning it into a game. We weren't 100 percent sure of what type of game it would be yet. During the same time, our hardware group within our team was working on a sound-chip based game, we sort of rolled with that idea.

Kitamura: There were already a lot of dance games at the time. We wanted to make something different. We also wanted to do something that was different from the stereotypical image of Nintendo and aim this game to a more adult-audience at the same time.

Masami Yone: We did a lot of great sounds with that sound chip. The guitar sounds for example were all recorded live.

Nishida: As the game went from the Game Boy Color, to the Game Boy Advance, and finally the Nintendo DS...we kept upgrading the sound technology.

Q: That's when the project started full scale?

Nishida: With the GBA, we used the scheme of incorporating the music scale "Do Re Mi Fa So La" to the cross key. Then the A & B, followed by the L & R buttons, were used to incorporate octave semitones. That's as far as we got on the Game Boy Advance, we got into a lot of problems with running out of control options and sound quality.

Q: The fatal end of the game almost?

Yone: It was a big issue at the time, there were not enough number of buttons and the sound quality wasn't good enough for a music game. The project was put on hold indefinitely.

Kitamura: At that time, the function of wireless communication had not been established. Two or more cartridges were needed to do concert sessions. With that problem, you are really facing a risk of cost. It would have been a useless feature.

Yone: It also troubled me that the Game Boy Advance had a problem emitting enough sound. I wanted an amplifier on that !! (laughs)

Nishida: We started working on another game for the meanwhile. We didn't have much direction with the other project, so when the Nintendo DS came into fruition, I made a proposal to President Iwata. Iwata asked me " Are you guys motivated to do this?" I replied we were very much so. That's when the game began production for the Nintendo DS.

Q: Could you have developed this without the Nintendo DS?

Nishida: We used the Nintendo DS to the fullest. We used all possible button combinations with the touch screen, we used the wireless functions, the dual-screens, and of course the Nintendo DS technical capabilities. We finally found an avenue for this game to travel through.

Q: How easy will this game be for first time Nintendo DS owners?

Nishida: Mr. Iwata had a difficult time playing it at first. That is why we put a beginners mode and a practice mode to ease the player to the more advanced levels.

Yone: I think that people will grow with this game, from beginner mode, to expert mode, to actually synthesizing and recording their own music. I mean it really is great for anyone who loves music.

Kitamura: There are a lot of ways to play this game. It is great.

Nishida: The game can be thoroughly enjoyed from the amateurs to the professionals.

Yone: We made it easy for people to learn how to compose music.

Nishida: Our testers were going crazy constantly playing concerts together in groups of eight or more.

Yone: We wanted to celebrate new years by gathering 100 people and performing "The 9th".

Q: What was the reaction to the game during the NINTENDO WORLD Touch DS last November?

Kitamura: Everyone seemed real excited. It was great seeing people trying to gather other people to play it together.

Q: How popular do you think this idea can be?

Yone: We would like this to be used in school musical performances someday. It is great for a child to learn music at first with this.

Nishida: It is also a great way to enjoy music when you are not at home. I mean you can not only make music, but also listen to it.

Q: How did you turn around and release this game in December?

Kitamura: The concept was ready, the designs were all there, we really didn't have any set-backs when we began development for the DS.

Yone: All of our hurdles were eliminated, the development process went smooth.

Nishida: We were still worried the game would not be released.

Q: Why was that?

Kitamura: We were still traumatized from the Game Boy Advance project. The debugging near the end was a nightmare.

Nishida: It was very difficult and special for me. This was the first time I was directing a game, and I was basically in charge of all the pending situations. I really felt the pressure sometimes. However, I was reassured by our great team work.

Q: Any final words for the new Nintendo DS gamers out there?

Kitamura: This is really a game that should spread from you to your friends. It really is a great experience to have a circle performing a song together. It is really something new and beautiful.

Yone: There is nothing better than the feeling you get when your group performs a great score together.

Nishida: Use this for Karaoke if you want! You can add your own words through the mic to the music you compose. Use this as your own personal studio. It is a lot cheaper alternative to do some of these cool things. Please enjoy!