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Q's for Tetsuya Mizuguchi

We talk every-flavour Lumines, music and more.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

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.

A vibrant mixture of simple puzzle gameplay and reactive music, Lumines is probably the most enduring PlayStation Portable launch title of all. It swallowed hours while most games gagged on minutes. On 360 Live Arcade, it'll include various achievements (high scores, single-lap half-millions, screen-clears, time attacks) and customisation options. Lumines II PSP introduces multiplayer options. Lumines Mobile, meanwhile, adjusts the gameplay for a mobile handset - just as intuitive and playable as before, it now splits the action into various stages and challenges that involve trying to clear large groups of blocks. Our interview slot was put back half an hour and the game had little trouble filling it.

Mizuguchi himself had little trouble filling our time. Laidback and comfortable in his surroundings, he posed for photographs and was only too happy to answer all our questions about Lumines, music, the current state of consoles, and the fate of a few of his old games.

Mizuguchi at E3.
Eurogamer It seems that a few weeks ago nobody was quite sure what you were up to, and here we are today and you've got four different Lumines games at E3, and a number of other things as well. Tell us a little bit about Lumines Mobile.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Lumines PSP was kind of attractive for the original workline. Lumines Live we and others made on 360 Live Arcade. You can download the music and the visuals, the skins, and you can customise. But you can't take it out, you know? The Mobile, you can take it out, any time, anywhere, and in many countries. A few months ago we just started from PSP. Now we're excited about seven different countries, so how many people? A billion? ["One billion subscribers worldwide," a PR aid offers.] So this is a big platform. This is not so powerful yet maybe, but I think we can start with this version, even though technological innovation is coming, like Windows Vista - Microsoft had that big announcement this week.

Eurogamer You must be very excited about Live Anywhere given you're developing for 360 and mobile at the same time.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

It's a great concept. It's not only Microsoft who programmed it though, it's this industry's big innovation - it's a great concept. In a few years, the mobile phone environment will change dramatically.

Eurogamer Obviously in Japan mobile phones are a bit further ahead than ours. Well, than mine anyway. Until about a fortnight ago I was using a lumpy Nokia with a monochrome screen. It didn't even have WAP. What kind of phone will Lumines Mobile need? Will a billion people really have a phone that can play it?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Not everyone has a high end phone. There are 700 versions of Lumines that will be made - to be compatible with the handsets at the low and high end and those in between. We want you to get the best gaming quality on each handset.

Lumines II. Play it again.
Eurogamer Presumably you're not personally making 700 versions - what's your role? Did Gameloft approach you?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

I got a great presentation from the Gameloft people. They knew plenty - the good points, the bad points, weak points, strong points - and were very professional. They had some great ideas. One of the key things about Lumines is the way the music's playing as part of the experience, and it's really difficult to make this on a mobile phone. They did a really good job to make a kind of atmosphere; a kind of chemistry they made between the music and the visual which is new to the mobile version.

Eurogamer The challenges are about carefully inserting blocks to create patterns ready for a jewel to sweep away most of the blocks in one go. Is that the general theme?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

That's one thing, yes. There are some new modes added to the mobile version too. Compared to the PSP where there were so many skins and the music was non-stop, rather than doing it in that format there's more of a mission mode too. There are also new shapes and new colours. A third colour makes it a little bit more difficult. There are also seven different items that you're going to see added to the mobile version.

Eurogamer How did you end up with Madonna in Lumines Live? Does she play Lumines?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

We had a discussion with Microsoft about how we could do the presentation. It was just kind of a chemistry for the Peter Moore keynote, having Madonna. It'd be good if she played. I think she could, it's very easy gameplay [laughs]. But Madonna's such a great artist you know. For such a long, long, long time she's sung and danced and made a culture and a style, so I wanted to make a Madonna special edition, to ally her, the music and the video. A lot of the aspect of Lumines now is you can customise, or collect, your own Lumines, so if you love Madonna you can customise.

Out now in Japan, Ninety-Nine Nights was developed in collaboration with Phantagram.
Eurogamer Branching out a bit [glances nervously at Gameloft chaperones], how do you feel about the way SEGA's handled the games you worked on in the past?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Mmm. That's a very deep question [grins]. I'm very healthy! When I was in SEGA, I was at United Game Artists, so the client was only SEGA and if they said no it was over. This era, there's not only one console, one technology - not only one "phrase" - and many dimensions. So we have everything from mobile phone to high-res technology like on PlayStation 3 and 360, and many countries. When I was at SEGA I couldn't keep up with the frustration, so I decided to leave, and I think it was good timing, and I'm really healthy and happy and enjoying myself. I can't really keep up with so much going on. I'm like a backpacker [laughs].

Eurogamer What sort of music do you really love? Any favourite groups at the moment?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

I love all music. All genres. No special genre. Not only music, but the music videos. You can learn a lot about their concept from the music videos. I love the style of Chemical Brothers, Black Eyed Peas, Fatboy Slim. They have some humour, or message. I love that.

Eurogamer You're currently working on Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, DS, mobile - the only things you're not working on seem to be the only things with innovative controls. Do you have any ideas and future plans for Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Oh yeah.

Eurogamer What do you think of the Nintendo Wii?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Nintendo Wii is very interesting, a very special controller, a very original style. Too special, maybe, if you want to make the game not only Wii, but for other platforms, because you want to give the game the best chance. I'm really interested in the style, though.

Eurogamer Maybe developers will be happier to take the risk because they're happier working on something so unusual.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Yeah. Yeah. At my stage, I'm watching what's happening in the future, planning how to combine the music, the visualisation, the futuristic - a Rez kind of experience. I don't mean I'm making a Rez sequel, but I'm thinking about the future, and what kind of games I can make in terms of high-def sounds and visuals.

Eurogamer If SEGA came to you and asked you to do another Rez though, would you be interested in doing one?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

I'm currently seriously considering it. It's always there. I'm always thinking about it. [Grinning] Also Space Channel 5.

Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment studio is currently working on Lumines Plus for PS2, Lumines II for PSP, Lumines Live for Xbox 360 Live Arcade (due to launch very soon), Meteos Disney Edition for DS, and recently shipped Ninety-Nine Nights for Xbox 360 in Japan. Most of those are due out this autumn in the West. Lumines Mobile is due out in the US in Q1 2006, and should be with us one day too.

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