Interview: Toshiro Nagoshi Feature - The Next Level

Interview: Toshiro Nagoshi

Famed Sega developer discusses his work on Super Monkey Ball, F-Zero, and several other classics.

Article by Hasan Ali Almaci & Heidi Kemps (Email)
December 21st 2004, 06:05AM

Most people in the west know you as “the Monkey Ball guy,” or from games like F-Zero for the arcade and GameCube. Your career at Sega goes much further back, though, and a lot of people have played games you were involved with even if they didn’t know it. Could you tell our readers a little bit of yourself, your history with Sega, and the games you have worked on?

Nagoshi: I started out primarily doing work on arcade games. The first really big title I was involved in was Virtua Racing. Shortly after that came Daytona USA, and Scud Race. So yes, initially, it was generally driving games. I also did a few other things for AM2, like some of the background art design for Virtua Fighter 2.

Coming to be the head of Amusement Vision felt like a bit of a job change to me. When Sega stopped consoles after the Dreamcast, I decided to work more on consumer stuff. I had done driving and action games up to that point, so I wanted to do something a bit different. Thus, Monkey Ball came to the GameCube. Kids and adults, gamers of all ages could easily pick up and enjoy Monkey Ball. We thought Nintendo’s audience would go for it, and they did! After that, we went on to do the collaboration with Nintendo on F-Zero. Their fans knew I had a lot of work experience with driving games.

Currently, I’m primarily concerned with working on Spikeout.

What about future games?

Nagoshi: I can’t go into too many details right now. At the moment I’m trying to challenge myself to create a dramatic action-adventure. I have a lot of ideas right now...

Super Monkey Ball

Super Monkey Ball started out as a small arcade game using a weird banana shaped joystick before it was chosen as a GameCube launch release. Why the odd choice in controller for the arcade game and how difficult was it to convert the gameplay using an analog stick instead of a weird banana shaped joystick?

Nagoshi: It was pretty easy to do – it took a group of four about two months. As for the arcade controller...we wanted something that would catch people’s eyes in the arcades, and make the game feel fun when you played it. (Like a Nintendo game).

Despite being initially overlooked by many magazines it went on to become one of the best selling games on the GC platform, were you surprised by that success?

Nagoshi: Yeah, I was. It sold well in all the major territories (US, Asia, Europe). I didn’t expect that. It was hard to believe at first!

The core gameplay of Super Monkey Ball is simple, yet despite its underlying simplicity it can be incredibly deep and rewarding. On the internet, one can find lots of websites dedicated to the game and showing off perfect speedruns through the levels or incredibly difficult shortcuts. Is this something you had expected and wanted people to do when you set out to make the game?

Nagoshi: I thought maybe in arcades, since arcade gamers tend to be the more “hardcore” variety. But when I saw some of the stuff online... yeah, I was surprised. I believe the physics engines we [created] was very accurate and it enabled many hardcore people to try their own way to clear the stages. I enjoy watching the footage on [Monkey Ball related fansites].

It took a while for the Monkey Ball collection to reach the Xbox. Apart from the first two games what other extras are in store for the player?

Nagoshi: Well, the main games are at the core of the title. There are also some extra stages that were cut from the originals that we have restored and improved. There are 300 stages in all. Also, you can expect to see new mini-game variants. Not entirely new games, mind you, but games with new rules. Super Monkey Ball DX will also include a Ultimate Mode for all the power players out there.

The monkeys in Super Monkey Ball are very cute, and we feel would be suitable for other types of games, have you ever considered putting them in a platform game or a pure puzzle game or something like that?

Nagoshi: I’ve certainly thought so, but haven’t really thought of which genre would work best.

Who designed the characters in the game?

Nagoshi: One of the female designers on staff came up with the original concepts. When we decided to put them in the balls, we gave them their distinctive-looking ears. It’s still not common to have a female designer, is it?

Can we expect a Super Monkey Ball 3?

Nagoshi: Of course. I couldn’t comment on that subject before, but it’s much more likely to happen now.

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