Marvelous – Another Treasure Island: Developer Interview

Posted By at 8:35 PM on Wednesday June 27, 2012

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The following interview was taken from the official Marvelous: Another Treasure Island guidebook (ISBN 4-09-102565-X), published on Dec. 20th, 1996. The translation was commissioned by the members of the Marvelous: Another Treasure Island translation project, who plan to release a translation patch for this little-known SNES gem.

Behind the Scenes of Treasure Island

The Staff of BS Marvelous

For the majority of the staff affiliated with Marvelous, the game marked their industry debut. Its creation was all thanks to the trial and error on the part of the game’s young staff. In order to get some direct coverage and a behind-the-scenes look at this fresh, unique production, I paid a visit to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Originally Planned For CD-ROM

Animation Cel

Cel 1: A nice guy that brings Indiana Jones to mind...
that's Captain Maverick in a nutshell.
His chapeau is the spitting image of Dion's leader hat.

Why don’t you start by telling me about the early stages of the project?

Onozuka: 4 or 5 years ago, we started planning the game as a Super Nintendo CD-ROM title. At the time, our intention was to create something that featured animated shorts. We joined forces with Kyoto Animation and whipped one up. Captain Maverick, who doesn’t appear until the very end of the released game, was the main character in the CD-ROM version. This fact was reflected in the animated short we created. (Cel 1)

Animation Cel

Cel 2: This character was intended to be Captain Maverick's rival. A pirate, if you will. It's plain to see from his appearance that he had the role of the villain.

That handsome fellow?! I was picturing someone like Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island

Onozuka: Actually, in the short, Maverick finds himself in conflict with the pirate you see in Cel 2. Captain Maverick was supposed to be the hero, battling with modern pirates. The story of the original game featured the same 3 protagonists, and followed their adventures as they pursued the heroic Captain Maverick. In the end, the plans for an SNES CD-ROM format didn’t pan out, meaning we weren’t able to use the animated short, and the game became what it is today.

Could you tell me more about the CD-ROM version?

Onozuka: Some aspects of the game’s planning are still kicking around. For example, in the future, we might do a spinoff story that features the animation and release it as Marvelous 2, so I have to be careful about what I say… [Laughs] One difference, though, is that the search system used in the final game didn’t exist in the CD-ROM version. Because we ended up being unable to put in animated shorts, the team had to brainstorm another way to switch between screens. The search system was the result.

From the Satellaview to the Super Nintendo

BS Marvelous: Time Athletic, a spinoff game that predated the release of Marvelous: Another Treasure Island by 10 months.

So, why did you choose to start by broadcasting the game over the Satellaview?

Onozuka: It was a plan we hatched to investigate whether we could expand the Marvelous experience using mixed media, in a way that would allow players to enjoy the title before it was released.

Tsuchiyama: The sequel that’s currently being broadcast (Nov. ’96) is a story that’s intended to bridge the gap between the original BS version and the released game. The story occurs on the journey to Camp Island.

Do you plan to keep on making BS versions?

Tsuchiyama: Nah, if we don’t give the series a bit of a rest, we won’t be able to come up with any new material… [Laughs] If we do end up releasing more, I think we’ll change up the rules of play.

In Another Treasure Island, the 3 young protagonists sure are animated in their movements.

Onozuka: That’s thanks to the power of the specialized SA-1 chip, which the BS version didn’t have. It boasts the same stuff as the one found in the Super Nintendo’s CPU. In technical terms, it’s known as parallel processing. It boosts processing speed to 3x faster than usual. In The Legend of Zelda games, for example, Link is the only character that needs to be animated. But Marvellous has 3 protagonist characters. The chip was conceived as a way to make “3-person Zelda” a reality.

But players can only control the lead character, no?

Onozuka: The CPU is always checking the whereabouts of each of the 3 characters, so even if they’re separated, you can still change leaders instantaneously. For that reason, non-leader characters will fly back when hit by an enemy. The CPU is always checking the location of off-screen characters too, of course.

Puzzles Are the Soul of the Game

The game has some difficult puzzles.

Takano: Piroc will give you hints, but it wouldn’t be any good if he was too nice about it… Puzzles are the soul of the game, you see. Originally, Piroc wasn’t planned to be a very nice bird, so his hints came to reflect that.

Onozuka: Piroc’s hint system was born from the idea that people who wanted hints could take them, that people who didn’t want to waste their Luck Rocks could leave them, and that players could change their minds whenever they liked.

I feel like 1 Luck Rock per hint is kind of cheap, though.

Onozuka: We felt it was adequate. We wanted to give players a chance to beat the puzzles themselves, so the price wasn’t really an issue. Even though it’s easy to obtain hints, our goal was to have players anguishing over whether or not they should actually take one. They were there as a buffer.

Yeah, but say you find yourself conflicted over whether you should ask for a hint. Even if you only choose to do so in cases where you’re really stumped, Piroc sometimes gives you a hint for a puzzle you’ve already solved. [Laughs]

Onozuka: [Laughs] You’ve got to understand that if it seems like he keeps on giving you the same hint, it means you haven’t collected what you need to solve the next puzzle yet, which is a hint in itself.

I was totally baffled by the monkey zipper in Chapter 1. Who came up with the idea for that fiendish puzzle?

Onozuka: That would be Takano. [Laughs]

Takano: It’s not really a question of who. When an interesting idea came up, everyone would expand on it.

All of the ideas used in the forest of Chapter 4 were pretty cool, I thought…

Onozuka: We made chapters 1, 2, and 3 in chronological order. That’s why the transition is so smooth… Truth be told, the reason that Chapter 1 flows so smoothly is because once we’d done up to Chapter 4, we decided that Chapter 1 wasn’t all that interesting and went back and redid it.

Does that mean that Chapter 2 is the roughest, then? That wasn’t the impression I got.

Onozuka: Nah, we also went back and redid Chapter 2. In the end, Chapters 1 and 2 were the ones that got remade the most, through trial and error.

The Action That Made the Director Cry

Max, Jack, & Dion

Weren’t there sections of the game where the action was a little too tough? Making players use their heads to figure out the puzzles, then demanding action on top of that… The Chapter 4 event where you collect Luck Rocks with the Jump Boots, for example.

Onozuka: [Laughs] If the game were limited to puzzle-solving, you’d be stuck doing the same thing over and over again. That’s why we put some action elements into the game, to keep switching up what the player had to do. We’d think up fun ideas for what we could have players doing ahead of time, then worry about adjusting the difficulty settings later. There may have been some areas where these settings weren’t as finely-tuned as they could have been… For the most part, the programmers programmed the game to be really difficult. There were countless times where I’d test something out and ask them to tone it down due to the difficulty. Tsuchiyama here is really good at gaming, though. He’d clear a section with ease, but when it came time for me to try, I’d fail completely. I’d tell them to make it easier and both the programmers and Tsuchiyama would put up a fuss… [Laughs]

The boss for Chapter 3 is really tough.

Takano: Believe it or not, it seems as though no one tried using the search system. If you look around carefully and put your mind to it, you shouldn’t have a problem passing the stage.

I kept switching between party leaders too quickly during the battle. When I was trying to switch from a bait character to an attack character, I mean.

Tsuchiyama: The order the hat circulates in isn’t fixed. At times like those, it goes according to a specific order. When you use the whistle to gather the characters, however, the hat appears on the character closest to the party leader. That’s why, when Dion is the leader, it goes from Jack to Max, then Max to Jack. The trick is memorizing the order.

Changing Party Leaders & Using Teamwork

Sorry, this might be a rude question, but there were times when the puzzle-solving and items in the game reminded me of The Legend of Zelda. Were you aware of the series when you were creating your own puzzle-solving adventure game?

Onozuka: It’s less that we were aware of the series and more that our main programmer was a member of the Zelda design team. We actually started out using their library, then changed the characters and system as we went along. That’s probably the reason that the style of the action and the atmosphere of the world got carried over from Zelda. The last thing our team wanted to hear was that the game we were making was just like Zelda, so we did our best to differentiate it. In the end, however, we figured it would be enough if people could say that the games were the same in some aspects, but different at the same time.

The fact that Marvellous has 3 main characters is a key difference. You can switch between them in order to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. In retrospect, do you wish you’d put in more gimmicks like that?

Onozuka: In the beginning, certainly, our planning was focused around puzzles like the one found in Chapter 4’s forest, which you solve by tossing the hat. We couldn’t do too many variations on the same theme, though, or things would have ended up being too similar. The Teamwork function, on the other hand, didn’t originally have the player pushing the A button or using the D-pad. Once you chose to use Teamwork, the characters would just move around like they were doing a demonstration, and that would be that. Once we experimented with putting in some button actions, we realized that it was intuitive and fun. It started to feel like you were actually working as a team.

Speaking of changing party leaders, I liked the part at the end of Chapter 5 where you have to decide who doesn’t get to go on the elevator. It was kind of thrilling to decide which character to leave behind.

Onozuka: I wanted to players to recognize which character they’d been using as their main protagonist. Do you choose to have your main character stay behind? Or do you keep them on the elevator? What would you do, if you were in that position? Those were the questions I was hoping players would ask themselves when I created that event.

Marvelous: The More You Know

So, why did you decide to organize the game into chapters? Did you ever think about widening the campground and have the game take place only in that area?

Onozuka: One reason was that it was easier to work on multiple sections of the game at the same time. While I was creating the story and material for Chapter 1, Takano, the sub-director, was busy with Chapter 3. The game wouldn’t mesh well if we’d attempted to combine the work of two people into one map. Also, I wanted to use the movements of the boat to display the succession between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. My desire was for there to be a clear break between the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another.

Telephone Puzzle

At the end of the game, you use the telephone from Chapter 3 to dial the digits used in the puzzle. Do the numbers signify anything?

Takano: That’s actually my employee number. Nothing good will come of calling it. [Laughs]

Tsuchiyama: It would’ve been cool if we’d made it say “Hello, you’ve reached Takano,” when you dialed it, though. [Laughs]

In Chapter 2, if you run out of Luck Rocks in the Kick & Smash game, will you get stuck?

Takano: If you’re totally out, one Luck Rock will always appear in a certain area in the Time Room, meaning you’ll never get stuck.

Will something good happen if you collect 9999 of them?

Takano: Ms. Gina will praise your efforts at the end of the game. [Laughs]

Why can you never meet with Polly again after the end of Chapter 4?

Onozuka: She doesn’t want to see you again. It’s sad for her.

Following those events, you hear a sad song when you search the place where you find her SOS message in Chapter 5. I liked that part, too. I ended up hanging around that area for quite some time. [Laughs] I’d like to hear more about the game’s sound. What I found better than any song in the game was the scene on Camp Island with no music but the birds chirping. Why did you decide not to have anything there?

Ozaki: My initial intention was to use music in that area, but when I actually played it for myself, I found that the location had a lot of puzzles that really required the player to focus. I figured it would be better to give the area a relaxed atmosphere than put in music that gave it a hurried feel. In my opinion, the most relaxing noise are the sounds of nature… the babbling of a brook or the chirping of birds, for example.

I found that it reminded me of the opening of Super Mario 64.

Ozaki: Development started 3 years ago, so it predates Mario.

Onozuka: When Ozaki first created those nature effects, the director of the Mario team came to visit us and really took a shine to them. Tezuka, as he’s known, was talking about how cool it would be if he could do the same thing in his game, so perhaps Super Mario 64’s opening took some influence from us.

Speaking of music, the Andean flute in Chapter 2 was great.

Ozaki: Back in elementary school, I was known as a recorder prodigy. [Laughs] One day, I was walking down Shijō Street and saw a street performer playing an Andean quena. It occured to me that I could use the instrument in the game.

Maverick’s Treasure

What was Maverick’s treasure, in the end?

Onozuka: Did you read the message from Maverick that you find by the bellows? Maverick’s treasure is the hot air balloon you board at the end of the game.

Oh, you’re kidding! I didn’t realize that. I was too busy worrying about the time limit in that area. [Laughs]

Onozuka: I considered making it compulsory for players to read the message, but I eventually decided it wasn’t a big deal if they didn’t realize it was there.

I thought the treasure was the idea that you could accomplish anything if you cooperated with your friends.

Onozuka: That wasn’t Maverick’s message, but that’s absolutely what we, the developers, were trying to convey. If that’s the idea that players take away from the game, then I’ll be incredibly happy.

Will you be making a sequel?

Onozuka: I think that the game’s system could survive the transfer to the N64. There’s also the matter of that animated short we never got to release. Now that we’re finished development, everyone is thinking about how fun it would be to do it all over again.

Eiji Onozuka

Eiji Onozuka

1. Born: March 16th, 1963
2. Role: Director (In charge of everything other than sound)
3. Main Examples of Previous Work: Mario Open Golf (NES), BS Marvelous (BSX)
4. What He Liked About Marvelous: Everything from the moment you rescue Ms. Gina to the ending.
5. His Treasure: The desire to do your best.
6. A Word to the Players: I love you all. Thank you.

Mitsuhiro Takano

Mitsuhiro Takano

1. Born: Feb. 15th, 1967
2. Role: Sub-Director
3. Main Examples of Previous Work: Super GB OS, Waverace 64 (N64)
4. What He Liked About Marvelous: The picture of Ms. Gina that Blue draws in Chapter. 1. A true piece of art.
5. His Treasure: The people who play Marvelous. [Gosh!]
6. A Word to the Players: Don’t you just love the teacher’s scarf?

Yoshinori Tsuchiyama

Yoshinori Tsuchiyama

1. Born: Sept. 22nd, 1967
2. Role: Character & Object Design
3. Main Examples of Previous Work: BS Marvelous: Camp Arnold (BSX)
4. What He Liked About Marvelous: The parts that were heartwarming and lighthearted.
5. His Treasure: Nothing, really.
6. A Word to the Players: Don’t give up, even on really cruel puzzles.

Yuuichi Ozaki

Yuuichi Ozaki

1. Born: May 25th, 1968
2. Role: Sound
3. Main Examples of Previous Work: BS The Legend of Zelda (BSX), BS Marvelous (BSX), BS Marvelous: Camp Arnold (BSX)
4. What He Liked About Marvelous: Dion’s dash is great!
5. His Treasure: The PC-88VA
6. A Word to the Players: Please be sure to enjoy the tremulous pink noise produced by the river.

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