Q: Co-operation seems to be the central theme for the game. How did the notion of hand holding mini robots first come about?
Masahiro Shidara: At first, we came up with the key word 'Grouping' while we examining the new development options that the advancement in hardware made possible. Then, we thought it would be fun if the individuals of this group were to join to complete one task through co-operation rather than individuals working on multiple tasks.
Q: With the environments there's an interesting balance between the futuristic and the ancient. What were the design influences behind this contrast?
MS: We love the type of world concept that can be conjured up through concepts like, 'Futuristic, but with a nostalgic atmosphere', that Studio Ghibli regularly captures with their films. And this influence isn't just confined to us. A lot of Japanese game developers are influenced by their movies.
Q: There are some fiendishly clever puzzles in the game. How did you manage to balance their challenge against potential player frustration?
MS: We emphasized action as a game feature, and tried to make the puzzles reasonably easy to complete. We had a design rule that the player should always find hints to solve problems nearby. We didn't want them to go far to discover solutions.
Q: Do you think that the PSP is a natural home for the platformer and, if it is, why do you think Tokobot is the first original title in this genre?
MS: First, we were looking at the PSP and thinking that this is a console that will not always be played outside, but it is the home entertainment console that the player can take outside and still enjoy all genres of videogame.
When we started this project, we realised that this game would be released about half a year after the PSP had been released. As such, we tried to imagine what sort of games the users would be looking for at this point. We anticipated that the users would want a game that they could enjoy for a long period of time, or something that offered unique game action. We decided to go with the later candidate. As a result, we aimed to return to the origins of the action game and we're honoured that you think that Tokobot is the first original platform game on the console. I think we were lucky with our timing as far as this is concerned.
Q: So far we've seen the Samuari, Train and Crane Karakuri Combinations. Could you briefly explain how these, and the other forms, fit into the gameplay?
MS: The Samurai has a great striking ability and you should use it to defeat powerful opponents. Train is necessary for you to get from one particular area to another, while Crane allows you to solve certain puzzles within the ancient remains.
Q: Does the team have a favourite Karakuri Combination at all?
MS: It is refreshing to use the Samurai's consecutive attacks and the Mega Hammer's massive blow is very satisfying too.
Q: The game's boss battles are cleverly multi-layered. How many times do you think it fair for a player to die while they're learning the enemies attack patterns?
MS: The player may will be defeated and lose one life, but will also find out the attack patterns needed to defeat the boss by the second or third attempt. We tried really hard to ensure that this part of the gameplay was well balanced.
Q: Can you explain what's going on with Mr Canewood within the game? He looks like he's half robot and half human. Is he some kind of cyborg? And is that parrot actually a part of him?
MS: He is definitely a human. He just wears lenses in much the same way a jeweller does. However, he has modified these lenses somewhat and attached them to a mask so that he always can use them easily. The Parrot is Robot he created.
Q: Flames, Bart and Fuel. Can you explain what the motivations are behind this trio of mechanised antagonists?
MS: They desire to own the mysterious energy called 'The Force to Control The Earth'. This is the strange power that Canewood and Bolt are both investigating during the course of the game.
Q: Are there any plans for Tokobot to break away from its handheld home and appear on home based consoles?
MS: We wish for as many people as possible to have a chance to enjoy Tokobot. That said, we have no direct plans to remake the game for other consoles, but we would like to try if we get a chance. If that were to happen, it would be a great opportunity for us to come up with some new features.
Q: Also, and we're totally aware it's still early days with this, but have you any plans for creating a sequel?
MS: We do not have any plans for this either. We cut out several elements from Tokobot due to unavoidable circumstances. If we do get the chance to create a sequel, we may well put some of these more surprising elements back into the mix.
Q: Traditionally Japan is renowned for its love of robots. Do you think that this love is increasingly becoming an international phenomenon?
MS: Robots are truly attractive. I believe that helper robots resembling humans will appear soon and, when this happens, more people will realize that the future will involve having a robot in your home.
Q: Was anyone on the team aware of the Japanese film Hinokio, and did this have any influence on the design of the Tokobots?
MS: Yes we are aware of Hinokio. I had a chance to see the actual Hinokio robot used in the movie. It is very precisely made and is a great piece of craftsmanship. When we became aware of Hinokio, we had already completed the design of Tokobot. So, the design resemblance is just a coincidence.
Q: So, if you woke up tomorrow and discovered that a robot helper had been delivered to your door - possibly by a rich, eccentric relative - what would be the first thing you'd ask it to do?
MS: I would ask him to inform my boss of my absence from Tecmo and let him go to work instead of me.