Kentaro Hisai is the Tokyo-based producer for Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals, the Action Role-Playing Game for the Nintendo DS from Disney Interactive Studios. In his role, he manages all elements of production, including collaborating with Jupiter Corp., the Kyoto-based developer. Prior to Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals, Mr. Hisai was the producer for Spectrobes, which shipped more than 1 million units worldwide and was one of the top-selling Nintendo DS games of 2007.
Mr. Hisai joined Disney Interactive Studios in 2005 in his current role as a video game producer. Prior to joining Disney, Mr. Hisai served in the roles of production and art direction for the Konami Corporation, where he worked on more than 20 games. Among the projects he worked on while at Konami were leading the art direction for the Disney Sports video game series, which were a collaboration between Konami and Disney. He also was an art director for Rakugakids, a 1997 Action Game for the Nintendo 64; served as the director for Mystic Ninja Goemon for the PlayStation 2; and was a producer on Remote Control Dandy SF, a robotic control Action and Simulation Game for the PlayStation 2.
In this interview, we at RPGFan have a chat with Mr. Hisai about both games released thus far for the Spectrobes franchise, as well as plans for the future of the franchise, and what other projects Mr. Hisai may find himself involved in with Disney Interactive Studios in the near future.
Kentaro Hisai: the man with the plan.
Q: As a franchise, Spectrobes started in an unconventional way, launching as a videogame first. This is especially unfamiliar territory for Disney. However, based on the franchise's universe and characters, it's clear that polymorphic content (anime, film, books) is a strong possibility. Yet, so far all that we've seen is the first game and the upcoming sequel. Do you think Spectrobes should remain in the realm of gaming, or would you like to see it expand?
On the left is a screen from Spectrobes. On the right, Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals. Note the differences.
A: I would definitely like to see it expand to other media. In addition to the game, we also have been releasing 3D CG animation ‘webisodes' on the Internet since the first title. It's really cool to see Rallen, Jeena, and the Spectrobes in the webisodes. Also, a Spectrobes Manga series will be released in Japan late this year and we plan on having it go global eventually. I hope that we can eventually expand the franchise in more ways beyond games, but we have no further plans right now.
Q: Spectrobes made full use of Nintendo DS's capabilities, particularly the microphone and the "excavation" mini-game on the touch screen. If Spectrobes were to transition from handhelds to the console market, would you push to make sure other consoles (specifically the Wii) had its potential used to the fullest for a Spectrobes title? If so, how?
A: As a game creator, it's our job to create games that make full use of the hardware we are creating the game for. For us, it's important that the ideas we come up with are cool, unique, and fun. I always look at two things with a critical eye: "how do the controls feel?" and "is the game interesting?". The Spectrobes franchise will continue in the future. However, we can't discuss details yet.
Q: It is difficult to produce impressive 3D graphics for the Nintendo DS, which lacks the processing power and storage capacity of, say, Sony's PSP. However, Spectrobes had decent graphics, and screenshots for Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals suggests even better graphics! How has Jupiter managed to improve on the graphics in such a short development cycle? Are you satisfied with the graphics for Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals?
The same man who worked on this soundtrack joined Mr. Hisai to compose all the music for Spectrobes.
A: I think the graphics for Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals are fantastic. In fact, even though I'm biased, I think it's the best-looking DS game out there on the market. Jupiter is always working relentlessly on improving on their already amazing skills and that really shows when you compare the 3D graphics with this game and the first title. We didn't let the processing power of the DS hinder us in expressing the world of Spectrobes and I believe we succeeded.
Q: The first Spectrobes game had a target audience of 8 to 14 year-old males, and with that audience, it sold rather well. But this strategy can alienate older gamers. Nonetheless, some franchises have managed to keep hold of older audiences while appealing to the young (such as Pokémon). What features, or elements of gameplay, do you think will appeal to a more mature audience in Beyond The Portals?
A: Both the first Spectrobes title and Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals are interesting games. With the perfect balance of excavation, awakening, training, real-time battles, creature collection, and more, it's in a genre of its own and that makes it appeal to older audiences. Some key elements of Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals that will appeal to older audiences are: a new story with a struggle between good and evil; anime-inspired art; real-time action battle; numerous Wi-Fi and multiplayer modes; the third-person perspective for exploration and battle; and the game expands significantly on the first game with nearly double the creatures and story length.
Q: Spectrobes' soundtrack was composed by Masahiko Kimura, who is normally recognized for work on Konami's games (Castlevania, Suikoden). How did you manage to get Kimura on-board? Will Kimura be doing music for Beyond The Portals? If not, who is the composer this time around?
Rallen and Jeena are ready for new adventures.
A: Actually, I used to work with Masahiko Kimura back when I was at Konami. In fact, he has composed the music for most of the games I have made. I believe having him compose the music for the game was important in helping Spectrobes to succeed. I approached him when the game was still in the prototype stage. He was interested in it from the beginning and jumped on board after only one meeting. He's back and composing the music for Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals and the songs are as good as ever.
Q: Jupiter's ties with Disney are strong, having done not only Spectrobes, but Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories as well. Since Spectrobes is a new Disney franchise, has there been any talk of incorporating Spectrobes characters in any of the Kingdom Hearts titles?
A: We don't have any plans right now for that but it's an intriguing possibility. Kingdom Hearts, like Spectrobes, was also an idea that started with a game, so it would be cool to do a collaboration of some sorts, but we haven't yet.
Q: After "Beyond The Portals," what's in store for the Spectrobes series? Tell us as much as you can, please!
A: I have huge plans for Spectrobes and tons of ideas for the story and gameplay. The entire Spectrobes team (all the people who have been involved with the franchise) also have big dreams for Spectrobes. I'd love to tell you what we are up to... but I can't just yet.
I hope everyone plays Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals and I'm eager to hear and read feedback. I would like to expand on the Spectrobes franchise with the help and advice of gamers, so post away!
I just got back from a launch event at the Nintendo World Store in New York City. I was surprised and overjoyed to see a lot of familiar faces from the launch event for the first title.
I consider players who played the first title and those who will play this title part of the Spectrobes team. As long as there are fans, the universe of Spectrobes will continue to expand and the games will evolve. Thanks, all of you!
Q: Thank you, Mr. Hisai!
A: No, thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer some of your questions! I hope you enjoy Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals.
RPGFan would like to thank not only Kentaro Hisai, but also the good people at Disney Interactive Studios and ONE PR Studio, for their cooperation and support in enabling us to present this exclusive interview to our readers.