Toshihiro Nagoshi, one of the most important names of the last couple of decades for SEGA, is part of a series of interviews for this month’s issue of EDGE. In it, Nagoshi talks about his work as part of a partnership between former rivals SEGA and Nintendo. Nagoshi has become famous for his work on the Yakuza series but was also an important part of games such as Super Monkey Ball and F-Zero GX. He even brings up how he pitched Yakuza to Nintendo years ago before Sony gave it the green light.
On Super Monkey Ball’s creation…
Around that time our CEO kept changing, and the newest one asked me why making games cost so much money. I told him we couldn’t do it any cheaper, but at the same time I was quite upset about it. I decided to make a game with minimum resource, minimum time and minimum budget.
(…) Looking back, that’s no way to work (laughs). But there are some huge fans of this game. When we gave up on making hardware, we knew the Gamecube was coming, and when it would be launched. We didn’t think we had enough time to get a game ready for release day, but (…) Super Monkey Ball came to mind. I think we had ten people on the game, maybe less. We made it just in time somehow
On F-Zero GX…
Compared to us, in the big picture, we are similar. But in the finer details – their decision-making and timing – things are different, and I learned a lot from them. In short, it’s about objectivity. (…) It’s hard to describe, but when I’d say about some part of the game, “It’s okay like this, isn’t it?” they’d say, “Our company does not allow this kind of thing. Ever.” I didn’t manage to change their minds about anything. Not even once. But that’s why Nintendo has such a solid brand, even after all these years. That is why we lost the hardware war.
I really liked the Super Famicom game, and while we made a few proposals – Metroid for instance, and others – I was most confident in making a driving game because of my experience in the genre, though I’d never make a sci-fi one.
Even though we’d lost the war in the hardware market, I wanted Nintendo to see how great Sega was as a company. We made lots of characters and courses, and we did the best we could for the graphics using the best technology of the time.
Even though we’d tried really hard making games for Sega hardware, they never sold too well, but F-Zero sold over 1.5 M copies worldwide. We realised the only thing we needed to admit was that Sega did not have the ability to sell hardware (laughs). That as a developer (…) we did not need to be pessimistic at all.
After it released, I got a call from Nintendo. They said they wanted to see all the source code for the game, and wanted me to explain how we’d made that game, in that timeframe and with that budget, in detail. They were wondering how we’d done it – they couldn’t figure it out. We were able to achieve something a lot higher than what Nintendo had expected.
On pitching Yakuza to Nintendo…
I’ve never said this before, but while we released this game with Sony, I’d done presentations about it to Microsoft and Nintendo. Back then they said “No we don’t want it.” Now they say, “We want it!” (laughs) They didn’t understand the reason why I created it.