Tetsuya Mizuguchi is a man who loves his music. Whether it's Space Channel 5 or Rez while working at Sega, or Lumines and Meteos at his own company, Q Entertainment, his work has consistently featured banging beats and trippy visuals. Mizuguchi's latest game is called Every Extend Extra, and while it falls into this category, it's still a difficult game to describe. Close to Rez in terms of look and feel, Every Extend Extra focuses on creating chain reactions through explosions, with the number of enemies and the pace of the beat increasing as you progress. Every Extend Extra is already available in the US and Japan (check out our full review here), and with the game being released in Europe this February, we caught up with Mizuguchi-san in London to find out more.
GameSpot UK: Why did you decide to take Every Extend Extra from a free PC game to a full PlayStation Portable release?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi: One day, one of the younger members of Q Entertainment found Every Extend on the PC, and everyone started to play it. It was so addictive! So one of the staff came to me and said he wanted to convert it to the PSP and remake it with a Q flavour. I thought it was a good idea.
GSUK: Was that because it fit in well with games you've made in the past?
TM: Well, we call music interactive; it's a big theme for us to combine the music and the game experience. We wanted to make a music-based game on PSP because it's a really nice platform, an interactive Walkman. So yes, it's along the same lines.
GSUK: How would you explain Every Extend Extra's gameplay?
TM: It's a very simple game. You can move around the screen and explode yourself while enemies come at you. If there are many enemies, the explosion will cause a chain reaction--boom, boom, boom! These sounds and visual effects work with the music, and items called "quicken" allow you to speed up. Run out of time or your stock [of detonators], and it's game over. I think it's simple but really addictive. We wanted to focus on painting the musical elements onto the original game design.
GSUK: If it was another designer that came to you with the original game, what was your involvement in the project?
TM: I [would] just take the back seat! I think that this is a new challenge for us at Q Entertainment, encouraging new talent, and I feel like it's my job to cheer them on. I have to cultivate the future possibilities, and we need new heroes in this industry.
GSUK: Your games have a very distinctive visual style--is this something you enforce, or do the other designers share your tastes?
TM: I think Every Extend Extra is getting close to Rez, and it's something that I'm quite anxious about. Rez is Rez, and Every Extend Extra is Every Extend Extra, and I think they should each have their own individual style. So, I don't say to my designers, "You should do this, you should do that." I just watched them and kept silent, even though I usually have something [to say]. I will usually tell them important things--that is my role. But the graphical and musical tastes should be down to Every Extend Extra's designers.
GSUK: You've been heavily involved in music, most recently directing a music video for Lumines II. Is this something you want to pursue?
TM: Yeah, that was really fun! I've taken a lot of influence from music videos in the past. When I was in high school I first saw MTV, and I was so surprised--this new expression and art form. There were many great videos that came out like Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and a-ha's "Take On Me," and that was a new style. So when I had a chance to do Lumines II, I needed many [different] types of music videos and I was looking for a music video with people cheering. I couldn't find one, so I thought we should make one ourselves. It looks like it's been hand-drawn, like the a-ha video, and I wanted to pick on that, like a synaesthesia concept. I like the mix of colours and sounds--the synaesthesia keeps coming back in my creations--and it was a great experience.
GSUK: You've talked about synaesthesia and the work of artists such as Kandinsky as influences for Rez, but what other sources do you draw from?
TM: I had many inspirations for Rez, particularly from rave culture. When I first saw a rave party in about 1993 there were many people dancing, and it was like they were jumping in time to the music. I had a big, big flash, and suddenly I just remembered about the concept of synaesthesia. I studied Kandinsky at university, so this concept came into my brain and it took three or four years to think about making a game around this concept, and it was a long journey. One day, I saw a video from one of my friends in Africa. They'd shot a video of a restaurant with people eating, and suddenly one guy just picked up a bottle and began hitting it [percussively]. Suddenly, this other guy just began clapping his hands and many people began moving and swaying. Then one guy began singing and soon everyone had joined in, and the entire group had found a groove! This video lasted for 15 minutes--a 100 percent invisible groove--and it made me think--how can we create a groove interactively? This is the basic core of the game design, the basic response. It's very abstract but I needed almost five years to complete this kind of concept. At the first stage nobody understood what I was talking about, but it was so fun!
GSUK: This abstract style has meant that your games sometimes appeal to a very limited audience. How do you feel about being seen as an auteur or an indie darling?
TM: I don't care about that! To tell you the truth, after Rez I felt disappointment. I'd put so much energy into it and it was not such a big success commercially. But after five or six years, people are still talking about it and it's a really happy thing. That kind of reaction always gives me passion and energy. The game is not art, it's entertainment, but we need a very artistic approach, and I think we're getting better each time.
GSUK: What are you working on at the moment--a successor to Rez by any chance?
TM: I can't talk about details, but I'm ready to go with my next game, which will be bigger than Lumines or Every Extend Extra. I want to use my passion and energy again using the next-gen technology. I have many reasons to make a new experience, and it must be a new sensory experience using high-def technology. I can make some announcements soon.
GSUK: How interested are you in working on the Wii?
TM: The Wii is really unique, really fun to play, but the graphics and sound technology is not gorgeous like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. I think it's very fun, and they have style, but I think it depends on the idea for the game. If I have an idea that I need to use the [Wii Remote] for, then I will do that. But no particular ideas or projects yet!
GSUK: Mizuguchi-san, thanks for your time.