Japanese developer Camelot embodies a basic logical disconnect that we've been nursing: we were aware that a studio called Camelot was responsible for RPGs like Shining Force and Golden Sun, and we were aware that a studio called Camelot developed the original Everybody's Golf and subsequently Mario Golf, but what we hadn't ever quite put together was the fact that it was the same Camelot responsible for both - a one-team studio whose CV bounces between the poles of epic RPGs and light-hearted but deceptively deep golf games.
Right now, the studio is finishing off the Western version of its new, Wii-exclusive golf game, We Love Golf - an outing which will look familiar to anyone who's played Everybody's Golf, but whose Wii control system sets it apart from anything else. Acknowledging (at last!) that swinging a Wiimote doesn't actually feel like swinging a golf club, the game drops the idea of emulating a "natural" swing, opting for a more precise system that allows you to set swing parameters with the remote and then simply match the timing and angle of an on-screen swing to hit the shot.
The system belies the complexity of the game, which brims with courses, tournaments and options, including a fully realised online mode that allows you to collect the scalps (well, badges) of your rivals in a gallery of victories. Plus, being a Capcom-published game, you also get to play as characters hailing from everything from Street Fighter through Dark Stalkers to Zack & Wiki - once you've unlocked the appropriate costumes, of course. We hooked up with Hiroyuki and Shugo Takahashi - brothers - over a video link from Japan to play a few rounds (we lost - miserably) and find out more about We Love Golf, and how the team behind Shining Force has become one of the world's best golf game developers. And since they pretty much spoke to us as one, so they do here.
Eurogamer: There are other golf games on the Wii, and they're all quite similar - so what makes We Love Golf into a different experience?
Takahashi brothers: The Wii userbase is a "lighter" userbase than some of the other systems, and there are a whole lot of golf games out there that are designed to be easily picked up and played - that you can just grab really quickly and have a little bit of fun with. We didn't want to make that kind of game - we really didn't feel that that was our role. We didn't really want to make one of those games that are pretty much only for people who have never touched games before, or a game that's just aimed at your grandmother, where you can give the controller to her and let her play it. We do think we're good at making games that are easy to get into, but which also show you from the start how deep and how far you can go into the game. It's really a deep game, we feel, while still being quite accessible right from the beginning. That's probably the biggest difference.
We also didn't think we needed to make a game that just lets the player swing the remote control to play golf. There are already other games that do that. All of our games are designed for people who don't just want to pick it up and play for half an hour. We make our games for people who want to get a bit more playtime and a bit more depth out of their games.
Eurogamer: Given that you say you didn't want to make a casual game - and you didn't want to use the Wiimote like a golf club - what was the appeal of the Wii, as distinct from other platforms?
Takahashi brothers: It's not that we don't want to make a game for light users - we think that a light user can get a lot out of We Love Golf, and we definitely think that a beginner can pick it up and have a lot of fun. It's just that we're better at putting depth into games. We're really happy that we've been able to hit both of those areas with this game.
Takahashi brothers: Also, Camelot is known for the Mario Golf series. We really like those games, but there's a certain expectation when you're going into the Mario world - even if it's in a golf game. We Love Golf allowed us to create the game on the Wii which we wanted to create, avoiding the limits and expectations that are automatically placed on Mario games.
There are a lot of new people who have just got into gaming because of the Wii, and this was a great chance to reach these people, who perhaps already play Wii Sports and some other games for half an hour or an hour. They can do that again with We Love Golf, but maybe there are a lot of people who would like a bit more - who want the next step. We feel that We Love Golf is something that can make them feel really glad they have a Wii, even a year after buying it. They can play for as much time as they have, and not get sick of the game - that's the kind of game that we wanted to create.
Eurogamer: When you talk about depth, where did you strike the balance? Is it mostly in the single-player, or have you put most of the depth into the multiplayer modes?
Takahashi brothers: Actually, the game has already been released in Japan, and there's no online at all in that version. We've taken quite a bit of time and put in the online specifically for the North American and European versions, because that was what our users seemed to want most. Even at that, the Japanese version had a lot of content in it - enough to satisfy our players for quite a long time!
The large volume in the single-player mode - things like the ring-shot mode, the target golf mode - they let you practice and polish your game, and get really good. Then you can take all those characters that you've unlocked and all those skills, go online, and build a big collection of badges. We think it's a good complement to all the offline volume, and another way to satisfy people who want to play this game for a long time.
Eurogamer: Among the unlockables in the game are a dozen of Capcom's signature characters. How long is it going to take people to unlock those, and were there any you wanted to use but didn't get around to, or weren't allowed to?
Takahashi brothers: We said from the outset was that since this is a Capcom-published game, we wanted to include a little bit of Capcom flavour. However, Capcom thought that if we filled it with Capcom characters and things like that, it would overshadow Camelot's skill and history in making golf games. Capcom really wanted a Camelot golf game - and that's why we have just these few characters. We think it's still quite a good amount, though.
As to whether there were more things we wanted to put in... Well, maybe Camelot wanted to put things in, but Capcom said, you know, we don't need a lot of stuff like that. We were actually the ones who suggested going ahead and putting in these costumes, and Capcom ended up really liking that idea. Our players also seem to really like it!
Eurogamer: So how long will it take for players to unlock Chun Li or Morrigan?
Takahashi brothers: There are a ton of unlockables in this game. Play modes are unlockable - when you beat Tournament mode, you unlock Pro Tournament mode. Beat that and you unlock Mirrored Tournament mode. Courses are unlockable too, as you play the tournaments. For the Capcom characters, it's going to depend on the player. For the QA team, it still takes 20 or 30 hours just to unlock all the Capcom costumes, because those are sprinkled throughout the game. You're going to be unlocking a lot of good stuff for quite a long time.
Of course there are things that you can unlock pretty easily - like the play modes and the courses, the big content of the game. We feel like we've hit a pretty good curve, giving you a lot of things to look forward to and keeping you coming back for more. We hope everyone ends up doing that, because there's a lot of good stuff in this game!
Eurogamer: Although you haven't used the Wiimote as though it's a golf club, the control system is still based on remote movements. Did you ever think about using a different system, like having the option of button-based controls?
Takahashi brothers: In the beginning, we really weren't sure if we were going to be able to make a golf game that came up to our standards using the remote control. However, we felt that we'd done most of what we wanted to do with a traditional button control scheme. If you look at the Mario Golf games, we're really happy with how that works as a traditionally controlled golf game - so we wanted to do something new. We were looking for the next challenge. We wanted to see if we could make a golf game using just the remote, and still make it very precise and very intuitive - something that felt good and had really good control. Obviously that's something that's very difficult to do on the Wii, and not just for golf games, but we wanted to do it.
We think that we've ended up with a control scheme that's very new, very fun and very high quality. Honestly, we feel that We Love Golf is the best golf game that we've made so far. That owes a lot to this control scheme.
Eurogamer: Camelot is known for two very different types of game - RPGs and golf, which are unusual bedfellows. Do you have different teams at work, or is there just one team that sometimes gets tired of making epic RPGs and decides to make a nice golf game instead?
Takahashi brothers: We've got just one team making our games. We are definitely a company formed of game creators who love RPGs - that's undeniable. So the first golf game that we actually did - Everybody's Golf - that was an idea that we came up with as huge golf fans, and to be honest, there were not that many people in the company who really got behind the idea! We didn't get a lot of help right out of the gates. At that time, we did split up our team and come up with two different design documents. But in the end, we really felt like splitting the team up meant that both projects didn't feel like enough. They both felt a bit lacking.
Basically, we got rid of one of the ideas, and moved everyone onto one RPG. But since we'd designed that game for a smaller team, we had some people left over. In trying to find something for those extra guys to do - something that was a very Camelot kind of game - that ended up being Everybody's Golf. Of course, it sold well over two million copies in Japan - so it naturally became the main project! The other project sort of fell by the wayside. That was a time when the volume of content in games changed - the bar was being raised higher and higher, year after year. Even though we had these extra staff that we thought could make a little golf game, it ended up becoming a full-on project for us.
Eurogamer: It's been a while since you made an RPG - do you still like the genre, and will you be returning to it in the future?
Takahashi brothers: Camelot is an RPG maker. We don't think that we'll ever quit making RPGs.
Eurogamer: So that's Golden Sun DS, yeah?
Takahashi brothers: It would be great, wouldn't it! [Laughing] We want to play that game too, just as much as you. We love Golden Sun! We are working on a lot of different things - a lot of different design documents and so on, including some different RPG ideas. Don't worry, we're thinking about RPG stuff! We've got all these ideas, many many different things we're thinking about - but of course, we still have just one team, so we'll see what happens.
We Love Golf is due out on Wii in Europe this year.