Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge is an action-adventure sequel to what is arguably one of the best, if not certainly one of the most popular, animated films of our generation. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to talk shop with game Director, Masato Yoshino, as he and his team toiled to translate the charm and atmosphere of Burton's film into a challenging and unique video-game sequel.
To begin, could you describe the overall story you've developed for Oogie's Revenge?
The story is set as a sequel to the original movie story, one year after the nightmare…
Oogie Boogie has been resurrected by Lock, Shock and Barrel, and took over Halloween Town while Jack Skellington was away in search of a "new horror."
When Jack returns and sees what happened, he vows to recover Halloween Town. Equipped with his weapon, the Soul Robber, Jack sets out to find Oogie Boogie while defeating his monsters and help town residents.
Will Jack be able to restore the order of the town? What is after this time? It's up to the player to save Halloween Town!
That said – how does our hero, Jack Skellington, battle his way throughout the game? Could you discuss the overall play mechanics?
The story consists of 25 chapters. In each chapter, Jack solves a mystery, and challenges a new story with a start of a new chapter. Each new chapter will bring new mystery, new enemies and possibly a new costume.
Three sets of costumes are prepared for Jack in the game. Jack will learn a new special attack with each costume.
Jack needs to take advantage of this "costume change" system in order to proceed with the game. In addition to his standard costume with the "Soul Robber' attack, the system allows Jack to change into the "Santa Jack" or "Pumpkin King" costumes.
Once a costume has been obtained, the player can freely transform Jack during the game. One of the key concepts of the gameplay is for the player to utilize different costumes with different abilities in order to overcome obstacles and proceed with the story.
In crafting a video game follow-up to a much-beloved film property, how do you approach the title from the perspective of story?
Capcom and Buena Vista Games worked together and spent a long period of time to develop a storyline that accurately reflects the property in order to preserve the world created by the movie.
We set the time as one year after the original film story to allow the fans to engage in the world of the game smoothly, while at the same time we tried to create a standalone story which is comprehensive enough for people who have not seen the film.
We hope the players enjoy Jack's new adventure on the Christmas night a year after the movie.
Do you feel any particular attachment or obligation to the original film, and if so, how does that affect your creative process?
The biggest challenge was to express the musical aspects of the movie through the gameplay. We thought we would not be able to call it the "Nightmare Before Christmas" game without somehow recreating the experience.
It turned out to be the opportunity to create a new system of "musical battle" where Oogie and other characters engage in a battle while singing. It is a real time battle system which incorporates singing, dancing and Jack's exchange with bosses through dialogue, and we are happy with the way it turned out.
What do you see as the advantages of being able to tell this story and feature these memorable characters in the gaming medium?
The first thing that comes to my mind as a great advantage of this movie is that it keeps generating a new group of fans every year through theater screenings and TV broadcasts. It has a guaranteed spot on TV programming around Halloween in many countries, as if it were a part of the seasonal event, which I find very unique.
Every year, children view the film for the first time and then they grow up and see it again with their children, again. . . A pool of fans is built gradually and that is why it still continues to be a popular film today.
The original film is obviously adored by both children and adults. When sitting down to create Oogie's Revenge, whom do you see as your audience?
The audience can be divided into two major groups: adults who have seen the film when it first came out and the children who have seen the re-screen in a theater or a rerun on TV. We believed these are the core audience, and set our goal to create a game that is compelling for the two groups.
Films like "Nightmare Before Christmas", Toy Story and The Incredibles have all proven that animated films accessible to children are equally accessible to adults, but the games developed from those properties are often largely aimed at children. Do you think that it is more difficult to create an analog game – a title that is as enjoyable for both audiences – and if so, why? What are the challenges is this regard – in crafting a title whose gameplay is complex enough for more mature gamers, but simple enough for kids; whose story is developed enough for adults, but comprehensible for their children?
I think the key is the difficulty level – difficulty level of all the aspects of the game such as playability, AI, story, puzzles, and so on. The most critical challenge is whether various elements of the game are well adjusted for the intended audience or not.
How involved – if at all – was Nightmare creator Tim Burton in the development process?
We flew for 12 hours carrying a PS2 to England to show the game to Mr. Burton and received detailed advice on various elements, including his signature expression of contrast between light and shadow, character movement and facial expression as well as the world of Nightmare Before Christmas itself. He provided advice on such a wide range of details that we could really feel his love and passion for the film.
As it has been 10 years since the film was released, we didn't expect him to remember every minute detail. However, I knew I was wrong when I saw displays of numerous characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas in his room.
I went into the meeting with the attitude that I was the biggest fan of the film and possibly I love The Nightmare Before Christmas more than even Tim does, only to realize my understanding of the film was shallow and superficial when Tim enthusiastically gave us more conceptual advice rather than bickering over differences in small details.
The original film is known for its imaginative visual style and whimsical tone. What kind of freedoms and challenges exist in creating a title that adheres to that style but goes beyond what the film has already referenced?
To be honest, I was overwhelmed by the challenge at first. However, my fear had been gradually eased over the course of production through the tight support we received from Buena Vista Games, a partnership with Deane Taylor, who was Art Director of the original film, participation of the voiceover talents who were in the original film as well as Mr. Tim Burton himself.
The game could not have been completed without the help and advice of various people who have been involved in the original film production.
What is your favorite feature of Oogie's Revenge? What element of the game do you feel players are likely to find most enjoyable?
My favorite features are the "costume change" and the "musical battle." I hope these two features will be something the player will enjoy most.
Also another most enjoyable feature has to be that the player has access to all the parts of the Halloween Town that they have only seen in the movie – What is there if I turn that corner? What is going on on top of the roof? What will happen if I move this pumpkin? The Halloween Town is yours to explore freely.
It might be fun to compare the geography of the film against the game, as we even made the same exact map.
I hope you will enjoy your own Halloween adventure!
(Whether the end product will act as a fitting companion to the film that served as its inspiration will be seen later this month. Keep an eye on MovieWeb for more on Oogie's Revenge as we edge closer to its release. For now, however, many thanks to Mr. Yoshino and the staff at Capcom for making this interview possible.)