What was the inspiration behind the concept for Save me Mr Tako! and what influences did you have when you began developing it?
Bonjour! The idea began back in 2014, when I was a student at a game school in Paris (Isart Digital) and had an internship where I was programming ad-games. I was a bit disappointed by the projects I had to work on, so I decided to make my own as a side project. I’m a huge Nintendo fan, as well as a JRPG player. I started making games at age 12 with RPG Maker and retained much of what I learned from these years. The first time I ate takoyaki [a Japanese snack made with diced or minced octopus], I got a vision. I thought that most of the times octopuses are portrayed as evil characters with a lot of fear associated with them. So, I began thinking about the idea of centering a game around a nice octopus who will help people and try his best to share a message of tolerance in a divided world.
In the era of lifelike graphics and 4K resolution, why create a retro-style Game Boy tribute game now? What about Save me Mr Tako! do you think will appeal to modern players?
When I started Tako-San, it was the year of Game Boy’s 25th anniversary and it resonated as a call…it was the perfect time for me to create a tribute to this era. It has taken me four years to create, so now it’s almost the Game Boy’s 30th anniversary, ha ha! Most games today are on a quest for technical innovation, which is great…but I believe that ideas that worked in the past can work today, and there are still areas to innovate within that “old school” look and feel. My goal was to use a formula that players have fond memories of and create something that seems familiar as a way to surprise them with a great adventure that includes modern themes. I picked elements of every game that I loved in this era and made it personal and unique to this game. I also tried to remove the aspects that didn’t age well, as it was difficult to maintain the balance between traditional and modern. But, I hope those efforts will make the game appealing to older players or even introduce new players to this aesthetic.
How were you able to capture the look/sound/feel of the Game Boy era and what tools did you use during development?
I grew up with the original Game Boy and studied many of those classic games and identified what made them special, despite all of the limitations. Game Boy spirits are not just a look and sound, they’re also a “feel” that takes a lot of experimentation to achieve. Anything could happen in those games, like meeting Kirby in a Zelda game. Games from that era were not taking themselves too seriously, and that gave us some really fun, unique and legendary games. I had just finished playing Metroid II when I started to create Tako. I made the game using Unity because it’s the software I was learning at the time. That said, I tried to respect most of the Game Boy constraints, like not including any rotation or scaling effects. I used MSPaint to make all the graphics, using the original color palettes. For the music and sounds, Marc-Antoine Archier (the game’s composer) used Deflemask (a Game Boy tracker) to make it sound as if it was created during the Game Boy era.
Tell us a little bit about the main character, the backstory in the game and the journey that players will embark on.
The story takes place in an unbalanced world, where species rise and decay. Octopuses used to rule the world, but now it’s the era of humans, who materialize as a curse that forces the octopuses to live in the water and die when they have children. After centuries, an octopus named Bako received the gift to breathe out of the sea and is planning to start a war against the human kingdom. But, the humans are divided and not all of them think the octopuses are evil. You’ll play as Tako, a peaceful and curious octopus who doesn’t want to fight, but instead wants to know more about the humans. The player’s quest will start when Tako is forced to join his first battle. During his journey to stop the war, Tako will meet many characters and discover more about the world. You can learn more about the characters in the game here.
How would you describe the style of gameplay?
I visualize Tako as a JRPG trapped in a retro platformer, like if a Kirby game had merged with Final Fantasy VI. The game is very story driven and players will go through world hubs to select levels like Kirby, explore various dungeons like Zelda, and also visit towns. One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t kill enemies (until a certain point), but you can spit ink to stun them and turn them into platforms that will help you reach certain areas. You can also find up to 50 different powers, which include abilities like double jump, or attacks like a sword, bombs, fire, etc., similar to “Metroidvania” style games. There are also a lot of secrets to discover, including hidden levels and flashbacks. It may look like a small cute platformer on the surface, but you’ll have to do a lot of exploring to clear the whole game.
What additional options and features can players look for?
There are a few mini games, where you’ll be able to play as other characters during specific parts of the story. You can change the color palette and background like the Super Game Boy and choose the look that you prefer most. You can also unlock the boss mode after the end of the game. For those who don’t like the 4:3 ratio, you can also play the game widescreen.
What are you most excited for players to experience in the game?
I can’t wait for players to experience the story I wrote, meet the characters, explore this world and find all its secrets. My goal is to provide a fun experience and try to inspire and help people too…I hope to achieve that when the game releases!
When can players get their hands on Save me Mr Tako!?
Soon! It took a while, but we’re in the final stages now and I’m excited for it to release on Nintendo Switch. I’m proud of the game I made and I can’t wait for all of you to experience it, hear what you’ll love about it and learn from your feedback.