Interview: Shinichi Kameoka (Mana Franchise, Egglia: Rebirth)
Shinichi Kameoka has long been a prominent figure in the Japanese game-development scene, having contributed large sums to iconic titles such as Secret of Mana (and the broader Mana franchise), Blue Dragon, Professor Layton, Mother 3, and more. Today, Mr. Kameoka has stretched his wings a bit, having development Egglia: Legend of the Redccap for mobile platforms, before bringing it to the Nintendo Switch. On the eve of the Switch versions launch, Mr. Kameoka joined me to discuss his journey through game-development, Mana, Egglia, and a whole lot more.
PJ: Hello Mr Kameoka, and thank you for giving me this time to chat to you. I wanted to begin by congratulating you on the launch of Egglia: Rebirth. Though the game began as a mobile title, much of your history in the industry is based around consoles, so was it an exciting prospect to bring the game from mobile stores to the Nintendo Switch?
SK: Hi Paul! I started as a console game developer, so I did find it difficult to make the mobile version of Egglia when we were still in the stages of development.
I’ve been wanting to make a Switch version since the development of the mobile version, so I’m very happy that we were able to make it happen, even though it took a while.
So the transition process was a lot of fun for all of us.
PJ: The mobile market as well as being a vastly different market to the console space, is also received quite differently across different regions. What have you learned about developing for the mobile market since forming Brownies, and developing both Shooting Hero, and Egglia?
Developing a one-time purchase mobile game felt largely the same as developing a console game– it was just that the platform was different. But I did find out that mobile games with in-game purchases are a whole different thing altogether.
I don’t think I learned anything particularly revolutionary, but there are some aspects in development that are completely different between console and mobile games, and figuring out those differences was very interesting.
PJ: I’m incredibly fascinated to learn a bit more about Shooting Hero. It never released. What happened to the game in the end?
SK: Shooting Hero wasn’t released due to reasons on the publisher’s part, but the game is largely complete, and passed final adjustments.
I’d like to see it released by someone if the opportunity ever presents itself.
PJ: While you have been busy at work on Egglia, Square-Enix has been remastering, remaking, and re-releasing some of the old Mana titles that you worked on. As someone who was brought up playing the likes of Secret of Mana, I was incredibly excited as a fan, but what has it been like for you, as an original creator?
SK: It’s great to see that the games I’ve worked on in the past are being re-released in the form of remakes and remasters.
Of course I’m happy that people who played the game when it was first released will pick it up again, but I’m also very interested in how the young people of today will feel about it.
PJ: The trend has continued since the Secret of Mana remake, with Trials, and Legend of Mana following. As a fan it seems like an attempt to build the excitement for an eventual new console entry. Assuming I’m not getting too carried away with myself, and this does eventually happen – would a return to the Mana franchise be something you would be interested in?
SK: I’m just fortunate enough to have been involved in the Mana series for a long time. A lot of the internal development staff has changed a lot with each new title in the series.
There are also installments in the Mana series that I have not been involved in, so I am very much looking forward to seeing who will be involved in a new potential Mana game, and what kind of game it will turn out to be.
PJ: Before Brownies was established you were a part of the team Brownie Browns (now known as 1 Up Studios). You left the studio to form Brownies, which eventually lead to Egglia. What prompted the life change, and what was it like for you starting another new studio, having already departed Square-Enix and started a studio once before?
SK: The company I started, Brownie Brown (currently 1-Up Studio), is now a full-fledged support company for Nintendo titles. Since I originally started my own company to make original games, I left Brownie Brown as it was and started Brownies Inc. as a new company where I could freely make games.
The reason why I left Square Enix was because I wanted to develop games for the Game Boy Advance, the portable game console that was scheduled to be released at that time.
PJ: Let’s turn our attention to Egglia. When I first saw the game, I was instantly taken by the visual style, and it warmed the same spot in my heart that older SNES/PS1-era Mana titles did. Was remaining visually familiar a conscious decision for you?
SK: Egglia’s art style is owed to the originality and uniqueness of our art director’s personal style, so we wanted to utilize that uniqueness to its fullest. We were aiming for a picture-book feel for Egglia, and I suppose that that style is similar to that of “Legend of Mana”.
PJ: What was the development process of transitioning the game from mobile platforms to a console like? Were some substantial changes needed, or was it smoother than you’d expected?
SK: The first major difference between mobile and console versions is how the player controls the character. With the change from touch controls to key controls, we had to change the entire UI to make the gameplay easier and more intuitive for players.
We also made some major changes to the overall presentation and scene designs to make it easier for players to get emotionally involved in the game’s story.
PJ: It has been quite a long time since the initial launch of Egglia on mobile platforms. What led to such a gap between that launch and this Switch launch?
SK: After we released the mobile version of Egglia, we were asked to work on another project by another company, so we prioritized the development of that project. When that project started to settle down, I started working on Egglia with a few staff members who were available, so the initial startup took a while.
PJ: What do you most hope that Western console audiences can enjoy about Egglia: Rebirth?
SK: In Japan, more and more people are suffering from mental illness because their emotions and minds cannot keep up with the frenetic speed of their busy lives. I wanted to create a place where such people could relax and get away from reality, and that was the beginning of Egglia.
I don’t know how people are feeling overseas at the moment, but I believe that games can give peace of mind to those who feel tired and stressed. I would like to encourage children to pick up this game, especially those who feel like they have nowhere to turn or nowhere to go.
PJ: Now that the game has made the jump to the Switch, what do you think about PlayStation and Xbox platforms? Are they viable options for the title? What determines whether something like those platforms are viable?
SK: We have no plans to port the game to PlayStation or Xbox at this time. If there is a strong demand, we may consider releasing the game on those platforms.
PJ: One final question, which is a personal favour. Back in the day you were fortunate enough to work on the fabled Mother 3, a game that still hasn’t seen a Western launch. There is incredible demand for it over here, so I was wondering, if you have a few friends in the right places at Nintendo, if you could just prompt them to put it out there for us? Please?
SK: I, personally, would also love to see “MOTHER 3” released in the US and Europe. However, this is a decision that will be made by Nintendo’s upper management, so unfortunately, it’s not something that my personal opinion can influence. As a lover of games, however, I will continue to wait for “MOTHER 3”’s worldwide release.
PJ: Thank you so much Mr. Kameoka for your time, and I wish you well with the next chapter of your game development journey. All the best from your friends at Player2.net in Australia.
SK: Thank you very much for your time.
Egglia: Rebirth is available on Nintendo Switch today