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Going Loco

Tsutomu Kouno talks life since LocoRoco - and what's next.

Released last year as a PSP exclusive, LocoRoco was a hit with the critics - who praised the game for its unique visual style, catchy soundtrack and innovative gameplay mechanics.

The game was also held up as one of the few original titles available for Sony's new handheld, which is fighting hard to compete with Nintendo DS and blockbuster hits such as Brain Training.

In this interview conducted at last week's Nordic Game conference, LocoRoco creator Tsutomu Kouno discusses his ideas for boosting the PSP's software catalogue, plus the potential of the EyeToy and plans for PS3. How do you feel about how the reaction has been to LocoRoco, particularly outside of Japan?

Tsutomu Kouno:I designed the game for the global market, but I didn't know till it was actually released if it would appeal to the global market. I'm very happy to see the reaction, to see that people around the world like our game.

Q: Although there was a huge amount of praise for LocoRoco, there was also some negative criticism - with one US journalist suggesting that the black Moja characters in the game were racist. How did you feel about that?

I have been asked this question many times by American [journalists]. I never cared about that. I was surprised - I was just very ignorant of the fact that it was becoming a big thing. Because people talk about this, it means they care about the issue - and I'm sorry for that to happen. I like the black LocoRoco the most; they're the coolest.

The black ones have an old man's voice, kind of like they're drunk. There are not many games that have an old guy as a main character, so I'm thinking about a new game - nothing to do with LocoRoco - where the new character would be an old man who's drunk all the time and has a very hoarse voice. It would have a traditional setting; it would be set in Europe, in an old style pub, with this drunk character who is also a knight.

Q: Some critics have argued LocoRoco is one of the few original titles for PSP, that the handheld's software catalogue is still very limited compared to the Nintendo DS. How would you respond?

We need to make more new games for PSP, not just sequels. We have to increase the number of casual games, games that LocoRoco players will want to play.

I have to actually do something, to make a change. There are too many sequels for PSP, only sequels, so I want to make a new game for PSP.

Q: You mean a new game that isn't in the LocoRoco series?

Yes. I have many ideas, but I can't make them all because I am only one person. I have five or six new game ideas either for PSP or PS3, but I actually want to make them for PSP - for the people who bought LocoRoco, or bought a PSP because of LocoRoco, and like casual games.

Q: But you are developing LocoRoco 2... So what can you tell us about the sequel?

It's basically the same, but I've also added something new. There aren't too many system changes, but we created new AI and new gimmicks with the physics calculations.

Q: Will it be for PlayStation 3 or just PSP?

I can't really say anything official right now, but... As you'd expect [laughs].

Q: Let's talk theoretically then... Would you be interested in making use of the motion sensing features of the Sixaxis controller, in making a LocoRoco game that works with that?

I actually tried that, and learned that it's quite tiring physically to do this [mimes twisting a Sixaxis left and right] all the time. So I'm brainstorming how to use that feature in a different way, I'm still thinking about it.

I think I'll be able to release that [information] soon; I really want to talk about it, but I can't say yet.

Q: What about the Wii controller? Obviously you're working for Sony, but as a designer are you interested in the possibilities offered by the Wii remote?

I don't have much interest in making a game for Wii. I've already played Wii and checked out how the controller works. The only difference between Wii and PlayStation 3 [control systems] is that the Wii uses a pointing device, whereas the Sixaxis has motion sensing.

I'm actually sensing much more potential in the EyeToy camera, which could be used without holding any controller - [imagine if] you could just hold your hand up and pressing buttons by moving your finger.

If with EyeToy they can recognise the left click of the mouse with just the move of a finger, that means any kind of PC games with left click [functionality] can be realised [on PS3]. There's a lot of potential there.

Q: You mean... Something like Minority Report?

Yes! I think it would be best if we could play using our hands, without even touching the controller. Actually I have a lot of ideas for games that would make use of EyeToy. I can't really say much more, but something the player can actually play - like music, for example.

Like theremin, the instrument where you move your hands to control the volume. Then you can compose music just by using your body. It wouldn't be just a game about that, there would have to be more elements of course, but features like that.

The old EyeToy camera recognised colour instead of movement. It wasn't recognising how humans move, just seeing how colours change when someone moved their hand - the difference between shadow and light.

Soon, our body movement will be recognisable. So Wii currently has a boxing game where you use the controllers to punch, but if the camera can recognise our moves we won't even have to hold controllers.

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