2010/12/25 - Interview with a Wonder Boy - Michihito Ishizuka

Merry Christmas from the Layer! The interview I have prepared for your reading pleasure on this day of merrymaking comes from the Vol. 9, December, 2007 issue of Japanese "Ultimate Game Life Magazine" GameSide (which is sadly on a current publishing hiatus). Who's the man of the hour, you ask? Why, Michihito Ishizuka, the programmer of the arcade classic "Wonder Boy" and co-founder of Westone, of course! Here he discusses his humble beginnings at Tehkan (the company currently known as TECMO, for those of you who don't know), the founding of Westone and development of Wonder Boy, and his current job at Matrix software. Notes are in parentheticals when necessary and I've provided a few Wikipedia links to some of the lesser-known games mentioned here. Enjoy, and have a wonderful day whatever you celebrate!

Ask a Game Developer!

Michihito Ishizuka

After handling the development of “Swimmer” and “Tehkan World Cup” at Tehkan Ltd. (currently known as TECMO), he helped found Westone, and there developed several popular series such as “Wonder Boy” and “Wonder Boy in Monster Land”. Currently he works as head of technological development in the consumer operations department at Matrix Software.


2010/12/5 - Gunpei Yokoi talks Donkey Kong in "Gunpei Yokoi's House of Games"

Despite the authorship of the book leading you to believe that it was penned by the master himself, 軍平横井ゲーム館 (Gunpei Yokoi Geemu Yakata - or "Gunpei Yokoi's House of Games") essentially consists of a transcript of an extended interview taking place between Mr. Yokoi and his longtime friend Takefumi Makino (who also released a biography about Gunpei Yokoi this year). Spanning Mr. Yokoi's entire career at Nintendo from his first creation, the "Ultra Hand," up until the creation of the Game Boy Pocket and then later delving into his personal philosophy, the book paints a vivid picture of Mr. Yokoi's personality and philosophy regarding creation. The book was originally published in 1997 shortly before the untimely death of the father of the Game Boy, and then went out of print shortly after, with copies going upwards of 30,000 yen on auction sites in the following years. However, due to popular demand, the book was finally reprinted and appended this year as "Gunpei Yokoi's House of Games RETURNS".

Though there's so much excellent content in here that it's hard to pick just one thing to translate (and mark my words, you can definitely expect more from the book on this site at a later date), with the recent release of Donkey Kong Country Returns, I've elected to revisit the tale of the original game's creation, designed by Mr. Yokoi and a then-fresh and relatively inexperienced game designer named Shigeru Miyamoto. Though there isn't a lot of new information regarding the development of the game itself, Mr. Yokoi's philosophy as a producer really shines in this piece, and his ideals regarding teaching the player how to play the game contextually instead of verbally is something that developers today would do well to take note of. It's strange to think that any games that manage to explain mechanics and objectives to the player without long-winded instructions or tutorials in this day and age are considered "revolutionary" when Gunpei Yokoi understood how to do this back in 1981!

The translation of this segment can be found below. The interview itself is spliced with interviewer commentary, and so Takefumi Makino's comments are left in plain text, with Gunpei Yokoi's text written in italics. As for a few general translation notes, the damsel in distress in Donkey Kong is referred to as "Princess Peach" by Mr. Yokoi in the book, even though I don't believe she was called as such until much after the game's release. I should also mention that the "appended" part of the reprint really amounts to a new introduction and a few footnotes regarding people and terminology to make the book more accessible for non-gamers, and since these are usually pretty basic I didn't bother to translate any of the footnotes found in this portion of the text. Just so you don't think you're missing anything, I'll mention that if you're here I assume you already know who Shigeru Miyamoto is and that you've played "Super Mario Bros." at some point in your life.