– Moving on, then. If you were to create a Panel de Pon sequel, what would you do?
Hitoshi: Put it on the Nintendo 64, of course.
– You must get a lot of requests from fans.
Hitoshi: We get a lot of fan letters. A lot of our biggest fans seem to have gotten into the game because of the art. Lots of people saying things like “I tried it because the graphics were cute, but the game is actually really fun, too!” So, if we were to make a sequel, we would definitely want to keep the same visual style. You’d better get working on a story about what happens after Lip becomes queen, Toshitaka. (laughs)
– You’ve already established the world, so it would be nice if you could expand upon it next time.
Toshitaka: Yeah, you’re right.
Hitoshi: We’re going to need Toshihiro to make an AI that comes at you with x20 chains next time. (laughs)
– You’re credited under the name “Team Battle Clash” in the ending credits. Where does the name come from?
Toshitaka: We made a game for the American release of the Super Scope called Battle Clash, and a lot of the people from that team carried over to Panel de Pon. There was a boss in Battle Clash named Thanatos, who we casually went ahead and included in this game too.
– It seems like you had a really playful approach to development.
Hitoshi: Over at Nintendo, I was basically left completely to my own devices at the beginning of development. (laughs) Everybody was hard at work on the Virtual Boy, and I alone was plugging away at Panel de Pon for the SNES. We didn’t have any kind of specific deadline in place, so we just steadily continued development until, after we had been working on it for about a year, I was suddenly told I needed to finish it up. The game was already complete, more or less, and after inserting Stage Clear Mode at the request of people within the company, we put a bow on it and called it a day. Then we took it over to the guys on the business side and were told we wouldn’t be able to put it out for another 6 months because the schedule for commercials was too packed. But since the game was getting really good internal reviews and because a spot for a commercial suddenly opened up, we went ahead and released the game right away.
– Looking back on the entire experience, what did your time working on Panel de Pon mean to each of you?
Taku: It was my first game since joining the company, so I did the best I could despite not yet having my bearings. There were some parts I put together that, looking back on it, I would definitely make differently now. It was a learning experience, for sure.
Yumiko: It was for me too. I wasn’t all that familiar with games yet, and I was following the lead of more senior staff for the design work. It was a really fun and rewarding job.
Toshihiro: The game itself ended up being very well made, and I had a lot of fun making it. I do wish I had made the computer’s AI stronger, though. (laugh)
Shinya: This was my first proper project since joining the company, and while I may not be a big fan of puzzle games I do feel like I was able to make Panel de Pon into everything I wanted it to be. I hope to have more experiences like the one I had making Panel de Pon in the future.
Toshitaka: This is a game we all made together. There are plenty of games out there are directed by a single person’s vision, but Panel de Pon feels like something that we were able to make entertaining precisely because we all did our best together. I want to keep making games the same way moving forward, too.
Hitoshi: I’m glad to have been able to work with the staff that I did. I don’t think I’d be able to make anything all that amazing by myself, so making it as a team is helpful to me as well, and everybody on the team contributed, and gets to feel like they helped shape it. While I do like that it all gets rolled up into one complete work at the end, but it’s not like that work was made perfect thanks to any one person. Everybody loves the game that they created, and I think that’s because we all created it together.
– Maybe some of the good vibes from your positive workplace atmosphere seeped into the game, as well.
Toshitaka: I’m not sure about that. If anybody had been able to see us work from the very beginning they might have been horrified by what they saw. We kept saying stuff like “This game actually isn’t very good, is it?” the entire time we were making it. (laughs)
Hitoshi: Anyway, I think it was good that we were able to make it at our own pace. We don’t know if we would have the same leeway if we were to make it now, after all. It’s sometimes necessary that spectacular games be released while still in a poor state of development, and I think we were very lucky in that regard.
– Let’s close this out, shall we? Now that Panel de Pon is two years old, do you have any words to share with the fans who are still enjoying the game?
Taku: I think the game still has a lot of life left in it. I want everybody to keep pushing it as far as it can go.
Yumiko: I love receiving mail from fans. I’m delighted whenever I hear that people are still playing it.
Toshihiro: The best way to improve is to play against strong opponents. Good luck! Also, don’t ruin your eyes by playing too much. (laughs)
Shinya: There are still plenty of people out there who don’t know about Panel de Pon, so please spread the word!
Toshitaka: Spread the word, and if everybody speaks up saying the game is fun I think that will lead to big things in the future. I hope to have as many people enjoy Panel de Pon as possible!
Hitoshi: Please send fan letters asking for a sequel. (laughs) That’s the quickest way to get one made. Toshihiro is promising an even stronger AI, too. (laughs)
Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to the sequel!