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Sony's Patapon is one of the landmark critically acclaimed titles on the company's PlayStation Portable handheld thus far. A blend of rhythm and strategy genres, the game features iconic two-dimensional artwork, creating an unusual, humorous, and engaging experience on a platform too frequently known for hand-me-down ports of PlayStation 2 games.
To get to the core of that creative process, and to learn more about what one of the developers who had created one of the system's most recognizable games thinks, Gamasutra traveled to Sony's development offices in Tokyo to talk to Hiroyuki Kotani, creator of the series, and 10-year Sony Computer Entertainment veteran.
Here, Kotani, joined by associate producer Junichi Yoshizawa, discusses the inspirational process for Patapon, which has just received a sequel in Japan.
He also touches on his philosophy on developing games that are simple and deep rather than complicated, and even what he learned in his previous career as an elementary school teacher that can apply to developing games for all audiences.
So, something I wanted to talk about, particularly with Patapon is that -- this is my personal observation, and you may not agree, but -- many games made by developers for the PSP don't seem to take into account the PSP hardware very well.
But Patapon, I think, is a game that you can easily play portably, that is easy to see what's going on, and it's a game that's well-suited to the PSP; so I was wondering, you know, how you approached that issue, and how it informed your development of the game.
Hiroyuki Kotani: Actually, I am very happy to hear that -- but at the same time, I got a little bit nervous! The most important thing that I wanted to realize in the game was that I wanted people to enjoy the game casually; so in that sense I think it really very much matched the identity of the PSP hardware.
Is that something that you thought about? I mean, was that just your opinion, or was that based on research that Sony had done about the audience? Who do you see as the audience for this game?
HK: Well, the idea came from myself, and I don't rely on market research. I don't want to take a very passive attitude of relying on market research. Rather, my attitude is more active; I'm going to offer something that is interesting to the market. And you asked what would be audience of this game title? Anybody who wants to have fun!
Sony's Patapon (left) and Loco Roco
Something that I found interesting -- and I want to know if it's a coincidence -- this and Loco Roco, the games aren't very similar, but they both have some similarities. They're both 2D, and they both have bright colors, sharp lines, and very iconic art direction. Do you think it's something you both arrived at because it works well on the PSP?
HK: Well it wasn't about how to take advantage of the PSP hardware, however, I wanted to make the users feel closer to the characters -- therefore, I used bright colors; I used a funny character which people might find themselves pretty close to, so that people would feel that they're in the same world.
Junichi Yoshizawa: That was Mr Kotani's personal opinion; and actually we've heard that opinion, that Loco Roco and Patapon look similar, but from our opinion, it's just a coincidence.