Sonic Team: Kikizo Interview Spring 2005
We catch up with SEGA veteran, Yojiro Ogawa, to look back at Project Rub and discuss topical Sega matters, like PSP, Sammy's buyout and key Sega franchises.
It wouldn't be unfair to say that Yojiro Ogawa is a lesser-known Sega veteran than some of his well-promoted colleagues. While the likes of Yu Suzuki, Toshihiro Nagoshi and his closest colleague Yuji Naka are well-known industry figures, Ogawa-san is nonetheless an extremely respected game director within Sega, who has started to get a little more limelight in the recent times.
And rightly so; Ogawa has worked on some of the very finest Sega properties of the last decade. After joining the company in 1995, he worked on the legendary RPG for Sega Saturn, Panzer Dragoon Saga, which to this day still fetches prices of up to $200 on eBay. He was central to Dreamcast projects such as Sonic Adventure, Chu Chu Rocket and Phantasy Star Online, while he has more recently produced PSO III, Sonic Mega Collection, and of course, Project Rub / Feel the Magic for Nintendo DS.
And with the popular DS title rolled out worldwide, it's the perfect chance to catch up with Ogawa-san for a pre-E3 flavoured chat. There's a good selection of tasty items on the agenda here, although for the full lowdown on Sonic Team's next big things - like Shadow the Hedgehog, and Phantasy Star Universe, Sonic 360, you're best off checking back during E3 when we'll be delivering our usual, killer Sega coverage...
Kikizo: Many gamers have been enjoying Project Rub these last few months, so let's talk about that for a while. Why are all the humans in the game presented as a silhouette - is there any particular reason?
Yojiro Ogawa: This is not only a slightly eccentric, stylish game, but we also regard its story as important. We think it would be easier for players to empathize universally by using the silhouettes as character representations.
One of Sonic Team's philosophies is that we create what will achieve the most recognition around the world. When we create a title, we would like as many gamers as possible to enjoy it. That's why we conveyed the story of Project Rub without using many words, for example. And the use of silhouettes is also for that goal.
Kikizo: What is the meaning of the title "Project Rub"? Did it just refer to the DS's touch feature, or it there other significance? Why was the name different in each territory?
Ogawa: In Japanese, the words "rub" and "love" have the identical pronunciation; so it has a double meaning. However, we took the title "Project Rub" because we use the touch-sensitivity panel, and the Rub Rabbits in the game acquire love by rubbing objects. The reason the name varies in different regions is down to what we thought would suit each region's characteristics, even though previous Sonic Team games had universal names.
Kikizo: How did the unique art style come about - whose idea was that look?
Ogawa: It was determined that we would take the silhouette art style from the point when the first original plan document was drawn by Director, Takumi Yoshinaga. The person in charge of artwork worked hard, trying to make it more acceptable for the public, though.
Kikizo: You get stuck in some pretty crazy scenarios in the title - how did you come up with some of the ideas for the various challenges?
Ogawa: Basically, the scenes are divided into regular story scenes that come from gameplay, and special scenes. We put all our energy into coming up with scenes that would surprise players and exceed expectations. After thinking up a heap of ideas, we just sorted through them - we imagined the startled facial expressions of players!