Kenichi Nishi, of Love-De-Lic and Skip fame, is currently working on a new project which promises to surprise even his most devoted followers. NEWTONICA is a game uniquely designed for the iPhone and the iPod touch, in an attempt to strengthen the videogame market on Apple portable devices. While details on the gameplay mechanics are still scarce, this title seems to be intimately related to the concepts of gravity and the attraction of objects, making use of Apple's capacitive touchscreen technology.
Beyond its unique visual style, NEWTONICA will also feature a very challenging gameplay, where the player is invited to keep beating his own high scores.
NEWTONICA will surely become an instant cult classic, mainly for those who admired the BIT GENERATIONS series for the GameBoy Advance: Kenichi Nishi has, for long, been underlining the importance of elegance in such videogame designs. That pattern remains unaltered in his latest work, judging by the screens released earlier today that reveal a both modern and retro visual style: slick, discreet and functional, much like Apple’s own line of products.
While the game is yet to be seen in motion, these screenshots reveal a great amount of work in the creation of colorful and smooth 3D graphics.
In order to better understand the origins, as well as the author’s vision, I interviewed Kenichi Nishi who was able to provide some valuable information concerning his latest venture, the second one to originate in his new studio, Route24.
COREGAMERS : So far you’ve always focused on creating games for branded videogame consoles. Why did you choose the iPhone/iPod Touch as the platform for the game?
Kenichi Nishi : (Kenji) Eno and I like "Apple" and we both bought the iPod-Touch.
Later, Eno gave me a wallpaper which he made for iPod Touch.
It inspired me and I came up with the idea of NEWTONICA. So it is very natural for me to choose the iPhone as a the platform.
As you know iPhone is not a good videogame machine right now, because it is not specialized for games. But we can develop iPhone games with a few people in a short time and sell worldwide easily.
CG : You seem to have a great deal of admiration for Apple: did you get any support or software tools from them to begin this project?
KN : NEWTONICA’s publisher (Field System) is dealing with Apple. And I have not contacted them directly so far.
Anyone can download SDK (Software Development Kit) from the internet and after you conclude the development agreement with Apple, you can release the product you developed.
Personally I love Apple. So it would be great if they liked NEWTONICA and contacted me!
CG : Will the gameplay be focused on the motion sensing capabilities?
KN : Yes. But that is not so important for NEWTONICA as you can play either vertically or horizontally any way you like.
CG : Without revealing too much, what is the game's objective? Does music play an important part?
KN : Eno made a great background music! Players can enjoy it very much! But NEWTONICA is not a musical game. The key concept for the game is "minimal".
CG : I’ve been looking at the game screens: it seems as if you have to choose what the ball in the center attracts in order to gain points?
KN : Right!
You (have to) flick the star panel sphere in the center and catch the red meteors in red zone of sphere, and the blue meteors in blue zone.
It is so simple and you can enjoy the entranced feeling of flicking the sphere.
I really want everyone to play it soon and sense this feeling.
CG : One of the pictures shows a High Score board. Will there be an online version of these records?
KN : No it is not online. Online would be a good idea! We are trying to figure out if it is possible, so we can make online games next time.
CG : How long, do you think, does the average NEWTONICA game last? (I assume the game’s difficulty increases with playing time or score?)
KN : Yes, it has an increasing difficulty level. For beginners, it lasts for 5 minutes. Until score counter stops, it takes 25 minutes.
I can only keep playing for 15 minutes. But my girlfriend can play for over 20 minutes because she plays NEWTONICA all the time.
Now she does not have time to cook for me and Tao (my doggy).
CG : The iPhone and iPod Touch have similar touch screen technology. What do you think of their potential also as videogame systems?
KN : I think it has great potential: the multi touch screen system gives us opportunities to make innovative video games.
CG : Any major inspirations for this game you can tell me of? It appears as if the game retains some of that "elegance" which you always praised in the BIT GENERATIONS games.
KN : BIT GENERATIONS are games developed by my previous company's creators, and indeed they are simple and elegant. But NEWTONICA is even more simple and elegant.
I do not think that I was inspired by these games.
It was the wall paper for iPod Touch, given to me by Eno, which actually inspired me.
CG : Do you have a release date? It would be good to see this game published outside Japan...
KN : I do not know the release date, but it will come out soon. NEWTONICA is going to be released worldwide (almost 100 countries!)
CG : Will the game be available for download? Are you planning to make any deals with Softbank - I hear it's the major cell phone service in Japan right now.
KN : Yes, NEWTONICA will be available for download soon worldwide, though I am not informed about exact release date either.
Softbank is one of the major 3 mobile phone company in Japan, but I am not dealing with them directly.
CG : What is your goal: to make this a short game that people play in spare times or to make users believe there’s also a great potential for videogame capabilities in their iPhone?
KN : NEWTONICA is a short game which you can play anytime anywhere you like. The concept is minimal and I believe that life is also minimal after all.
CG : How so ?
KN : The sphere represents “me”.
And red or blue meteors are all events which happen to your life, good or bad, fortunate and misfortunate.
I cannot stop them (the meteors) from falling on me, but I can change my own attitude toward them.
So what I want to say is that everything depends on the way we look at things. We can see misfortunes as chances if only we see the things from a different angle.
CG : Why did you choose a different style? From what I’ve seen, this game is very different from everything you’ve done, individually, so far. It has somewhat of a Mizuguchi style to it?
KN : God only knows.
Actually I don't think my style has changed. I always try to make games about life.
I cannot say what is Mizuguchi's style. He is my very close friend anyway.
CG : Who else, besides Mr. Kenji Eno, is presently working with you on this project?
KN : There are three people in the main staff including me and Eno, another three in support staff.
Two of the people in the support staff are from a unit called Studio-Kura that makes Mac applications.
The other one is Hashimoto from Sarugakucyo who did the final tuning to the difficulty of the game.
CG : One final thought: has NEWTONICA anything to do with Sir Isaac Newton?
KN : Yes. Also, Apple's first mobile device was also called "Newton" - I happen to respect it very much. NEWTONICA uses gravity as an essential motif.
NEWTONICA means Newton and Electronica.