Today, if you start playing a game on your smartphone that places a heavy emphasis on music and sound, chances are you'll receive an advisory warning. It'll ask you to please insert your headphones for the "best experience". It doesn't matter if you're home alone on the sofa or your head is scrunched between numerous standing thighs on public transport, headphones are important. And we can all blame this warning on Lumines and the way it helped change our relationship with games.
In the sweat mist of a late 90s techno hall, Tetsuya Mizuguchi got his first glimpse of what would become his life's work. The young Japanese designer, still fresh from the success of creating one of Sega's biggest arcade hits, found himself on a balcony at Zurich's Street Parade - an offshoot of Berlin's celebrated Love Parade - watching out over a crowd lost to the rhythm. "This DJ is playing, and 100,000 people are moving with the music. The sound changed, and the movement changed. I watched from the top, and was like 'wow, what is this?'" What if you could play this, Mizuguchi thought to himself. What if he could turn this into a game?
Tucked away in one of central Tokyo's sprawling, bustling regions, Q Entertainment's office building is small and incongruous - but impossible to miss, thanks to the striking logo on the side. "Q?" it asks. "Hopefully," responds the somewhat lost foreign journalist.
If you count Ninety-Nine Nights, which has yet to be released in the West, Tetsuya Mizuguchi had six games at E3 this year. Four of them were Lumines titles, including a brand new Xbox Live Arcade version announced during Microsoft's pre-E3 conference - featuring Madonna, of all people. But it was actually Gameloft who helped us track him down - the French company had Lumines Mobile on display on its stand, and we arrived just in time to see them attaching a few "Best of Show" nomination plaques to the display.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi has become one of THE names to look for in Japanese game development; so much so that Microsoft has even made a big song and dance about the fact that he's developing a game for Xbox 360. In this brief interview supplied by Ubisoft, Mizuguchi discusses his PlayStation Portable puzzle title Lumines, which will be released on September 1st in Europe alongside the PSP itself.