As I mentioned we've adjusted the original Special Block and converted it to the Chain Block. The Chain Block is primarily a beneficial block. But since the original Lumines is so finely balanced, and throughout all of its iterations --with the exception of one mobile version released only in Japan-- the mechanics have stayed the same. I didn't feel that we could call this a true next-gen Lumines without adding --as opposed to altering-- something fresh. So, another block we've added is something called the Shuffle Block.
The Shuffle Block basically randomizes any cluster of blocks it comes in contact with. It's neither a good block nor a bad block, but it could be either depending on the situation. For example, if you're in danger of reaching a 'game over' point, and your screen is full of blocks, a Shuffle Block may actually clear out a large amount of space for you, or it may not. But if it appears earlier in your game, and you're carefully constructing a big chain combo, it could mess you up.
The good thing is that you can use it or dispose of it strategically. If you have a clear area with no blocks, and you don't want the Shuffle Block disturbing your chain that you're creating, you can drop it where it won't touch anything, or touch a smaller, less important cluster. We think these two new block mechanics offers some interesting strategic possibilities, without disturbing the balance inherent to Lumines.
The game's said to feature social features on Vita. Can you talk us through how they work?
I can't say too much about that yet --in fact I didn't even know that was announced [laughs]-- but I will say that it won't suddenly turn Lumines into some other game that has nothing to do with fast block-dropping action. The social elements we're putting into Lumines: Electronic Symphony are simply designed to encourage and stimulate the Lumines community into playing "one more game." I'll be able to go into deeper detail closer to launch, but that's all I can say for now.
In terms of raw hardware power, what does the PS Vita allow you to do with Lumines that the PSP couldn't?
The biggest thing it allows us to do is put a lot more visual impact in the game. While the primary game logic remains the same as the original --to ensure that the game feels 'right'-- the entire visual engine has been created from the ground up. If you liked what you saw in Child of Eden, I think you'll really enjoy the visuals in this Lumines. When we first started discussing bringing Lumines back, [Tetsuya] Mizuguchi (Q Entertainment's chief creative officer) said to me that he thought that this Lumines should have even greater visual impact than Child of Eden. As you can imagine, that's a pretty tall order, but it's also what we set out to do.
So for Lumines: Electronic Symphony my first wish was to ensure that all of the elements were created in 3D. In the original Lumines, all of the visuals are a blend of 2D animation and effects, from the blocks to the backgrounds. In Electronic Symphony, everything is in 3D. When you are manipulating the blocks and you move them from left to right, you'll see that they shift perspective slightly.
Having 3D blocks lets us do lots of cool things, from having block animations, giving them physics, creating contextual particle effects, and to even use cool visual tricks, like adding video textures to the blocks. Imagine a skin where ice blocks are dropping on the hot surface of Mars. This is just an example in my head, but when the block touches down, it releases a blast of steam. Or blocks designed as corn kernels that turn into popcorn when a block is cleared. These are just random examples, but I think what we are working on is going to be really cool.
How will Lumines: Electronic Symphony compete with the smartphone market?
To be blunt, the amount of work we're putting into Lumines: Electronic Symphony is going to exceed anything you will ever find in a 99 cent game, and I say that knowing full well that there are some kick-ass 99 cent games out there. There's a good amount of quantity in this game, and the quality - I feel - will really be worth it.