Revenge of the Yellow Garbage Bag
Fact: More suicides occur over the holiday season than any other time of the year. (Personally, I blame it on that Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. Whenever I hear it, I grab a pen and involuntarily start writing my last will and testament.) But nothing brightens our darkest moments quite like a quickie game of LocoRoco. With all the bright colors and peppy music, scientists have proven that it's physically impossible to frown while playing the game. And with LocoRoco 2 already out in Europe and Japan (U.S. release date is still listed as TBA, according to Sony's Web site), we thought this would be a fine time to put LocoRoco's visionary -- Tsutomu Kouno -- in ye olde Crispy hot seat.
Crispy Gamer: When I look at the LocoRoco on the box cover from the first game, what I see is a big yellow garbage bag.
Tsutomu Kouno: A garbage bag? Who said that? You?
Crispy Gamer: Yes. Is that what he is?
Kouno: No. He's not a garbage bag. He's nothing.
Crispy Gamer: So the interpretation is left to the gamer?
Crispy Gamer: So if I see him as a garbage bag, that's okay with you?
Kouno: [Laughs] Sure. It's fine. I'm okay with it.
Crispy Gamer: OK, here's a hard question. There were many people who looked at LocoRoco and thought it was colorful and bright and lighthearted. But some critics viewed some of the characters as racist, or claimed that they looked like penises. How does that make you feel?
Kouno: Honestly? I haven't thought about that at all. In fact, the characters that some people have said are racist are among my favorites. If the characters make people uncomfortable, I feel sorry for them. Me, I just think they're really cool.
Crispy Gamer: There was a two-year gap between the first and second LocoRocos. What did you do during those two years? Vacation in Fiji?
Kouno: I created a small screen saver-type mini-game called LocoRoco Cocoreccho, which took slightly less than a year. And then I spent another year working on LocoRoco 2.
Crispy Gamer: When the first LocoRoco debuted, there weren't a lot of simple, cute games on the market. Now there are quite a few of them out there. Do you worry that there's not as much of a market for LocoRoco 2, now that there are so many games like it?
Kouno: No, I don't think so. I think that there should be more simple games like this out there. We should have a lot more of them.
Crispy Gamer: The first game was on the PlayStation Portable, and the sequel is also on the PSP. Has there been any talk of putting it on PlayStation Network or on the PlayStation 2?
Kouno: Actually, LocoRoco Cocoreccho's platform is the PlayStation 3. It's totally downloadable. I think we can definitely put [LocoRoco and LocoRoco 2] on the PS3. But that hasn't been decided yet...
Crispy Gamer: It's obviously very time-consuming to make games, but have you had a chance to play any games lately? If so, did any of them really jazz you?
Kouno: I have loved games ever since I was a child; mostly PC games, especially real-time strategy games like Age of Empires. I also like all the Final Fantasies.
Crispy Gamer:The next logical question: Would you like to make a real-time strategy game?
Kouno: If you create an ordinary RTS game, then it's kind of boring. So if I could come up with something new by combining elements of what's out there, then sure, yes. I'd like to do that.
Crispy Gamer:After interviewing many people in the industry, I know that sometimes when a producer or designer is working on a game, an event will happen in their life that will have a tangible impact on the game. Has anything happened in your life that impacted the making of LocoRoco 2?
Kouno: [Quiet for a moment] You know, honestly, I don't think so. I've just loved games since I was very small. I started writing little programs when I was very young. I think maybe the only constant outside influence for me has been music. And my love of music came from my mother, so maybe that would qualify. Ever since I was a child, I've loved to create things. So every time I create a game, I get that same sense of satisfaction. My two goals are to feel that sense of satisfaction, and to surprise people. Whenever I make something, my goal is always to surprise people with something new.