Long awaited by N64 fans, WINBACK has been one of the season's surprise sleeper hits. Since little is known about the action shooter, we couldn't be more thrilled to present this exclusive interview with WINBACK's Producer, Tomoike Takazumi, who previously served as the Director of Dynasty Warriors and the Producer of Destrega. It took plenty of patience on our part, but it was well worth the wait because Tomoike-san was enthusiastic and candid with his following comments:
What served as the main inspiration for WINBACK?
One of our staff used to make "shooting games" for arcade video games. He came to us with the idea of making an action game from the third person viewpoint that utilized the N64's rather special controller (3D stick, Z-trigger, etc.). That was what started our project. I guess you could say that it wasn't any game that inspired us, it was the controller.
WINBACK is quite possibly the most innovative use of the N64 controller since Super Mario 64. Please tell us more about the control interface and how it was designed?
We have not received a lot of praise for our use of the controller, so I am particularly happy with the fact that you noticed. Though the controls may give the impression of being complicated, I believe that our system provides a way to do a variety of actions through a few simple controls. It is common to use the Z-trigger as the trigger of the gun in most shooting games. However, WINBACK is a game from the third person point of view. We wanted to emphasize the actions of the player character; for example, "standing and squatting", "pressing up against the wall and then jumping out." This led to our uncommon use of the controller. If the 3D stick is used for movement, then it seems natural to assign the squatting function to the Z-trigger. Movement is controlled by the thumb (3D stick) and the first finger (Z-trigger) of the left hand, while action is controlled by the first finger (R-trigger) and thumb (A-button) of the right hand. The point being that with just these four fingers, the player can elicit a variety of actions.
In my review for WINBACK, I quickly noted that WINBACK was fairly authentic towards real-world tactics and operations from elite combat units like SWAT. Was any extensive research done in those regards or was any tactical 'expert' consulted during development?
We are truly thankful for the praise. However, we must admit that a lot of what we did was to make a better game, not specifically to conform to reality. Although we referred to a number of different books and movies, we did not consult an "expert." Still, one of our staff is fond of guns, so we did put a lot of effort into making the motions as realistic as possible.
Many people have called WINBACK a N64 clone of Metal Gear Solid (MGS). How do you feel about those comparisons and do you think they are fair?
Totally unfair and unwarranted. The basic idea is totally different. WINBACK was designed to bring out the fun of shooting a gun. The "setting" sort of came after that. On the other hand, it seems to me that the goal of MGS seems to be to immerse you in the setting, the world, with the action itself being secondary. I would hope that more people would try to look past the surface similarities and see the differences.
At the time WINBACK was being developed, were you aware of Metal Gear Solid and did that affect any design decisions?
When the WINBACK project started three years ago, there was no information concerning a PlayStation version of MGS. Even after it came out, we never referred to it for our game. Excellent games are frequently used as references. However, with regards to WINBACK, I can say with total certainty that MGS did not influence our game in the slightest.
There are some wonderfully distinct character designs in the game that added personality to the game. Who was responsible for the character designs?
Character designs were done by a member of our Koei staff, Mr. Yuichiro Endo.
While both Dale (the other critic on the site) and I were extremely positive with the final results, we also both felt that there was still plenty of untapped potential in the game. We also noted obvious areas that could be improved like the enemy AI and other features that could be added like multiple character selections or more diverse weaponry and equipment. Is a sequel in the works and what new features can we expect?
It all depends on how well WINBACK does in the States. If it does well then there is a better chance that we will do a sequel. As you pointed out, there are a number of features that need to be improved. Even while we were putting the finishing touches on this version of WINBACK, our staff was coming up with a number of ideas on how it could be improved. Though we could not put them into this version, we will definitely put them into the next.
Lastly, is there something personal that you would like our readers to know about WINBACK?
Omega-Force's (one of Koei's development teams) top priority is to present games that satisfy the customer. We believe that WINBACK has succeeded in maintaining our high standards. We hope you enjoy the fun of control.
Special thanks to Tomoike Takazumi, Omega-Force and Amos Ip over at Koei U.S. for assisting us with the screens and art.