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Q Entertainment's Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Remakes, revolutions and the future of media.

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

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.

In his basement workspace, Tetsuya Mizuguchi is sprawled on a sofa and complaining of jetlag - having, ironically, just returned from a trip to London. Having started his career with SEGA in 1990, Mizuguchi is now ranked among Japanese game development's new generation of enfants terribles - designers like Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Suda51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) whose cult games break the rules, but not as much as their outspoken creators break the Japanese industry's unspoken rules.

Starting with Space Channel 5 and moving on with titles like Rez and Lumines, Mizuguchi has become the leading explorer in a genre he calls "music interactives". Recent months have been quiet for him, with Xbox Live reissues of Rez and Lumines being the headline titles, but Mizuguchi and his team have new concepts on the way - and the designer himself has found a new creative outlet, as the producer, lyricist and music video director for high concept Japanese music act Genki Rockets.

Jetlag or no, Mizuguchi was on form in Tokyo. Although he couldn't reveal details of the firm's upcoming games, he was happy to hold forth about his views on his earlier games - not to mention media, interactivity, technology, and what the future holds in store for the human race. Read on for a glimpse at the teeming imagination of one of the medium's most unusual creators.

Here's where it all started for Mizuguchi - early success with SEGA Rally, proving that he can turn his hand to commercial hits as well as cult classics.
EurogamerWe know it probably won't be much, but what can you actually tell us about what you're working on at the moment?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

I can't talk about the next project in any detail - yet. We're preparing a few different projects at the moment, focusing on the music interactives category. We're also keeping an eye on several platforms - not just game consoles. We're also watching mobile phones, for example.

Also, there's another team - this isn't my project, it's not my area - but my partner in Q Entertainment, and the CEO of the company, is Shuji Utsumi, and he's really eager to cultivate the PC online area. His team is making an online PC game.

EurogamerIs that a massively-multiplayer type game?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Yes, an MMORPG type. Personally, though, that's not my area. I'm more focused on the music interactive field. [Editor's note: This interview was conducted in Japan in April; Mizuguchi may be referring to Q's work on Angels Online.]

EurogamerA lot of what you've done recently have been remakes of previous games - Rez HD, Lumines Live and so on. Do you think it's more important to satisfy your existing fans by returning to those classics than it is to create new experiences?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

I need both. I need new ideas and new style, new inspiration. People always want new stimulation, and that's very important. The other side is things like Rez HD. That was a six, seven-year-old game, and very few people got to play it, seven years ago. I had a big passion to return to Rez - almost the same game, but using HD and 5.1 surround sound technology. That was the reason to remake Rez on today's technology.

His first experiment with fusing music and visuals was Space Channel 5, a game which enjoys a cult following and the dubious honour of a dodgy cosplay porn movie.
EurogamerIs Rez HD pretty much what you'd wanted to make from the start, but couldn't make on the existing hardware?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Right, right. Yeah, that's true. The wider screen format... I think that Rez HD is a very pure expression of the inspiration that I had six or seven years ago - actually, almost eight or nine years ago! I couldn't do that at the time.

EurogamerIs Space Channel 5 something you'd like to return to sometime? There's a lot of affection for it among gamers.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

I don't feel like there's a really special reason to remake Space Channel 5 now. It's not like Rez. Rez is an experience game - the physical experience is very important, the visuals, the sounds and the vibration. I wanted to prove that if you had much more resolution, including the vibration, that it could be much more fun. Space Channel 5 is essentially a rhythm timing game. It's funny, like a comical TV show. I don't feel the need for much more resolution in that! That's the major difference.

EurogamerYou describe interactive music as being your field - are you happy with what you've accomplished so far, in terms of bringing music and games together? What's the next step from here?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

I'm not really saying interactive music - I always say "music interactives". Music interactives are, I think, a new category, a whole new experience. It's the idea of including an interface, a human interface - any kind of display, whether that's a mobile phone, or a PC, or anything. It's about the next style of entertainment. I think that this kind of music interactive product will point us towards the next big leap forward - the next style.

Mizuguchi's latest creative brainchild is Genki Rockets - a "virtual" music act, featuring a fictitious female idol singer. A Japanese Gorillaz, if you will.
EurogamerDo you mean the next style of games, or music, or...
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

All media. So for example, if you look at television - as the technology goes digital, and goes interactive, the content of TV has to change soon. Right now, people just watch TV programmes, but in two or three years you'll be able to do something - using your TV controller to interact. Everything is moving towards the interactive area. Movies, right now, are a really passive kind of entertainment - but movies will change. A new style of movies is coming - but if won't exist alone, if you see what I'm saying.

EurogamerI think so - you're saying that movies as we know them will continue to exist, but there'll also be a new style of movie that allows the audience to interact.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi

Yes, exactly. We're on the starting line right now for interactive media. It's like everything is melting, everything is going to fuse together. What we need is to build the logic of that interaction. The first step was something like MTV, combining music and visuals, but the next step is to explore how we turn that into an interactive experience. How do we make the good feeling you get from media into a better feeling? What's the new sensory involvement, the new "wow!" feeling?