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Theme Park DS

Interview: EA Japan on its promising DS remake

From the moment we saw the first Nintendo DS hardware information we were sure it'd make the perfect RTS platform, but we're still waiting for the definitive handheld strategy game to arrive.

Theme Park DS, the latest from EA's Japan studio, looks like it has a good chance of doing the genre justice on the dual-screen portable, with re-worked stylus controls and most of the nostalgic sick-cleaning gameplay we had chugging along on our Pentiums back in the early 90s.

Game Designer Toshiyuki Nagahara recently fielded our questions on the remake, and here's what her had to say...

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What is the biggest new feature in the DS that wasn't in the original?

Toshiyuki Nagahara: The biggest difference is the user interface, which we designed from ground-up to fit the unique stylus functionality of the DS platform. I believe this could be the most sophisticated game design in the series, as stylus and touch screen provides gamers a new game experience that conventional management strategy games couldn't deliver.

We also have in place four new advisor characters in the DS version, who gives players useful tips throughout the game to facilitate game play. The characters were developed especially for this version by a designer who handled character development for Nintendo's Advance Wars series.

Will the DS game feature any new rides?

Nagahara: We studied the DOS version, and carefully selected 16 countries as stages. Each of these countries has area-specific shops and attractions, which is an added bonus new to the DS version. For example, we have traditional castle-looking attraction for Japan, a café that looks like a double-decker bus for England, etc. I am especially fond of the Coffee-Cup attraction that you will encounter in Brazil, which has a very Brazilian, carnival look to it. Please play the game and see these special attractions for yourself.

Will the game incorporate any Wi-Fi features or multipler modes?

Nagahara: There is no Wi-Fi internet compatibility but the game supports a feature called "chance encounter communication" using wireless. At the beginning of the game, players create their personal profile, including names, birthdays, skin (avatars), etc. These profile elements can be traded with other players via local wireless connection, and the more you trade profiles with other players, the more hidden visitors and entertainers you will unlock to populate your theme park... including astronauts, monsters, robots, etc. The players who have traded profiles with you can also visit your park themselves, so you will soon have your friends visiting the theme parks you created. You will definitely get a kick out of watching your friend play in your park.

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One screenshot of the DS game revealed what looks like a new negotiations feature - how does that work?

Nagahara: Although the graphics look different, the negotiation system itself is actually quite similar to the DOS version. However, there is a reason why we changed the graphics; we believed that the new 1st-person layout of having you in front and having the negotiation partner in the back (as opposed to the conventional negotiation layout of having 2 characters on either side of the screen) would provide a more realistic feeling of negotiation and stimulate emotional involvement.

We remember the original game being extremely difficult - will the DS version be any easier?

Nagahara: We did tweak the game balance, but we were careful not to radically change the difficulty level as we wanted the fans of the old versions to enjoy playing the DS version as well. However, we believe that the game has become much more user friendly, as we paid special attention to adding new features to make the game as easy to pick up as possible, including a solid tutorial mode, advisor characters, and help text provided throughout the game.

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