Hello, friends. We’ve got a special one for you today. Mr. Yoshiro Kimura of Onion Games decided to share some of his time and thoughts with us again, this time loosely on the topic of the latest release from the developer, Mon Amour. I say ‘loosely’ because we ended up going all over the map on the various games and projects from Onion Games. It’s a bit of a long one, but I’ve decided to preserve the flow of the conversation by giving it to you in one shot this time. And if you haven’t picked up Million Onion Hotel ($0.99) on mobile yet, get on that! With that said, let’s get to the interview.
TouchArcade (TA): It has been a couple of years since we last talked. How have things been for Onion Games?
Yoshiro Kimura (YK): Hm… the last couple of years. Since then, we’ve made moon for Switch, and we also started to make a new RPG. We’re still working on that. And now, we’re working on moon for PlayStation 4 and Steam.
TA: You’ve been keeping very busy!
YK: I think keeping busy is very good. Oh, and we’ve been making Mon Amour! I didn’t expect to be able to release Mon Amour. It was started in 2017.
TA: Oh, really? Wow.
YK: Between our main projects, we were working on Mon Amour little by little. At times I felt like giving up on it, and didn’t think I wanted to release it.
TA: I’m jumping ahead in our questions here, but I’m very curious. Where did the idea for Mon Amour come from? Because it’s a pretty unique game.
YK: Fundamentally, it’s a game with classic rules. Some people might think it’s like an ICBM, or like a drunk person’s movement. Really, it’s a legacy game. Back when I was making games on 8-bit computers, this concept already existed. A lot of people were making games like this.
TA: Right, the kind of game where you move in an arc, or in a wave pattern.
YK: Yeah. But the strongest reason why I made it is… well, you know moon? There is a minigame in moon called XINGKISKHAN, and it is f***ing difficult. (laughs) So everybody says they love moon, but they don’t like XINGKISKHAN. And I was unhappy because XINGKISKHAN is also my baby. I believed I could make it better. So I have been thinking about this game since moon first came out, meaning 23 years ago. I was thinking, I can make XINGKISKHAN again, but better. So to sum up my motivations, Mon Amour comes from moon‘s XINGKISKHAN.
TA: See, that’s really interesting though. Because I think most people immediately think of Flappy Bird, but of course this predates Flappy Bird by quite a lot. That’s cool.
YK: Yeah, I didn’t want to say this is like a Flappy thing, because it’s from XINGKISKHAN, and from 8-bit retro games. But you know, English people want to explain it by saying it’s like Flappy Bird. Well, many people can understand that example, so it’s okay to use it.
TA: Well, that’s neat. It’s kind of like a redemption arc for something you weren’t satisfied with in moon. So, speaking of moon… how did it feel to finally see moon release globally?
YK: How did it feel? Hmm… more than good. I would use the word… relaxed? I was frustrated that people didn’t know moon. Moon is our… and I mean Love-de-Lic, not just me, but maybe our best work. My profession is making stories in games, and writing strange text in games. With moon, the team had a good atmosphere, and I didn’t have to worry about money or taking care of the business end of things. I could relax and concentrate while working on moon. I wanted to show moon to the world, so this has been very good for me.
TA: So how did you feel about the global response to it? Like, maybe the messages you got from people overseas, reviews, and so on.
YK: People have been very honest. Some of them say “Bravo!”, and some people say the game plays very badly, and I agree by the way (laughs). Some people know about the relationship between Undertale and moon, so maybe some of them have read Toby Fox’s Twitter. There have been a lot of messages to Onion Games, and I was very glad to see all of them.
TA: It’s a very unique game, and I’m glad to see it out there and becoming accessible. And now it’s becoming even more accessible, because it’s coming out on PlayStation and Steam. It’s great. So, I want to talk about a game that seems to slip between the cracks or under the radar as far as Onion Games stuff goes. You have a free game called Romeo & Juliet available. Can you tell us a little about that?
YK: Yeah. I think that was before the pandemic arrived, maybe in February of 2020? I was making the game in January of 2020, and then the pandemic came. The reason I was working on it was out of frustration. I’ve been working as a director, a producer, and of course that is part of making a game. But I wasn’t programming anymore, and I wanted to know if I could still make a game or not on my own.
YK: I was planning to take a vacation, and I had several choices open to me. I could go to Hawaii, or I could go to Okinawa, or I could spend it making a game by myself. (laughs) We’ve been using Unity while making Black Bird and other games. But I’m not good at using Unity as a programmer. So I decided to try to make a game with C#, which I do know. I spent maybe one week, two weeks… no, three weeks and made a small game.
TA: That’s neat. So, just to let people know, you can get that Romeo and Juliet game for free by signing up for the Onion Games newsletter. It’s available that way.
YK: Thinking back, I remember the staff at Onion Games watching me, wondering what I was doing. I had said I was on holiday, but I was at the office and sitting in front of the computer, and telling people not to disturb me. (laughs) “Why is he talking to himself? Why is he suddenly getting angry?” Finally, I asked them if they could please debug something for me. I showed my small game Romeo and Juliet to Kurashima-san (Kurashima Kazuyuki, Art Director at Onion Games and longtime associate of Mr. Kimura -Shaun) and others, and made them play it.
TA: Well, that’s okay. Because, hey, you did it. Right? Congratulations!
YK: Yes, I did it! (laughs)
TA: So coming back around to Mon Amour, as that is technically our reason for this interview, without spoiling any surprises from the game, there is some evidence of connections between it and another Onion Games release. Are the Onion Games works supposed to be taking place in the same universe?
YK: Hmmm. I would say yes and no. Because I don’t want to say this is definitively the same universe, but it all comes from my mind. So maybe all of my games belong to my mental universe? I want to put some characters in many of my games, like Aspara-san or the Magical Onion. The same characters appear in Black Bird, and other places. You know, like in older retro games? Capcom had the Yashishi, and Namco had the Special Flag.
TA: Okay, yes, I can understand that.
YK: Like that. I love each game like my baby, and I want to build relations between them. Each game has a separate world, and a separate story, but maybe fundamentally, basically, there are connections between all of them. It’s tough to explain, so please write whatever you want instead. (laughs)
TA: Oh, don’t tell me that! That’s dangerous! (laughs) So back to Mon Amour, it has a very interesting cast of characters. Do you have any favorites? And why do you like them?
YK: I think… you know, my love for the characters is very strong. Fundamentally, I can’t choose one. I guess if I speak specially to you… well, you know Mon Amour doesn’t have much text, right? Because it’s a Flappy action game, so all I could do was show the character’s message in the character list. My favorite characters, I guess, are the Wind Family. The mother, the father, and the boys. That was kind of how the story was expressed, this small story. At the last moment, the Wind Father appears and he does his best to kill you. I was looking at some of the player information, and everyone was killed by the Wind Father. I was… very happy. Most people die when they meet him, so I love him. (laughs) He’s a good killer.
TA: Are there any plans to bring Mon Amour to mobile? It seems like a natural fit.
YK: I can explain a little bit about it. I started making this in 2017, after Million Onion Hotel. At that time, I was planning it as a multiplatform game. Mobile, Nintendo Switch, and so on. I wanted to sell the game on all platforms, that was my plan. But I gave up. Generally, there are two kinds of ways to sell a game on mobile. One is super-casual with advertisements. The other is a freemium game with IAPs and random things. I didn’t want to use either of these methods. Million Onion Hotel didn’t have IAPs, and there aren’t any advertisements. It was a very arcade-style game. I wanted to continue making that kind of thing, but it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to in the smartphone market. So I changed my mind and focused on Nintendo Switch and Steam. It’s very difficult for me to say that I could sell this as a mobile game. You know?
TA: That’s fine, I don’t think you’ve said anything there that anyone would disagree with. It’s a very challenging market right now.
YK: I respect Apple and Google very much, and I still love to play mobile games. But I can’t figure out how Onion Games can win in that market. So I had to stop.
TA: I think everyone is aware of the challenges of the mobile market, and I think to put it in a very positive way, every market has its own needs and the things that it likes, and sometimes multiplatform can’t serve everybody at the same time. Sometimes, some games need to be on this type of platform, and sometimes some games need to be on this type, and that’s just the case for your games right now. Thank you for answering that.
TA: We kind of touched on this a little bit before, but what’s next for Onion Games? Will it be the RPG, or can we expect more smaller releases like Mon Amour before that? Will we be seeing more games from the past, such as Chulip or Rule of Rose?
YK: Um, fundamentally my main work right now is the RPG. But we do need to bring in money every year, so I have to think about the business at the same time. We already have five games in the market, so we’re seeing good sales from those. And we can use discounts on Nintendo Switch and Steam, and it works really well. The thing about making the RPG is, we don’t know how long it will take.
TA: Right, it’s a very big effort.
YK: With Black Bird, and Dandy Dungeon, I could guess how many months I would need before I started to make them. But when I start to make an RPG… of course, there is a maximum size, and I won’t say it’s like Final Fantasy. It’s tiny, what I can do. But a tiny RPG is still a lot of pressure. Can I complete an RPG now? There are only a few people on my team, and not many of them have experience making an RPG. Only me, and Kurashima-san. So the main job is the RPG, but at the same time we also have to think about making money.
TA: You can’t work on the RPG if the lights aren’t on, after all.
YK: Yeah. As a business matter, making retro re-releases is one answer. We did a survey (of which of our games they’d like to see re-released), and number one was Chulip, and number two was Rule of Rose. They were almost at the same level, a lot of comments came in. Both have different issues, and you can probably anticipate some of them. We’re now investigating about how to get those games out again. I won’t say we’re working on them, but we’re trying to get some answers about how to do it.
TA: Kind of investigating potential solutions to issues, I guess is the way to say it.
YK: There are many issues. I said before that it was a 1% chance, but now I can say that it’s more than 1%.
TA: Excellent! More than 1% is… pretty good!
YK: Maybe 2%, or 3%.
TA: 2%! Wow!
YK: This kind of small effort is very important. When we wanted to make the Switch version of moon… well, it was very difficult. We spent more than three years preparing for it. (laughs) So please wait patiently.
TA: I would ask for Little King’s Story, but I know that’s a whole other set of problems.
YK: Little King’s Story! You know, there’s a small possibility. But Little King’s Story was released on Steam by XSEED, so there isn’t much of an opportunity for me there. Little King’s Story is one of my best games.
TA: Let’s do something fun. Onion Games has released six games so far. Please tell me which fruit or vegetable you would compare each game to.
YK: When I read this question before the interview, I wondered why you would ask something like this? (laughs) The other questions, I already had the answers for in my mind. This, I had to carefully think about.
TA: Sorry, I thought we’d throw a silly one in here.
YK: Million Onion Hotel, the best choice is an asparagus. Dandy Dungeon is a sweet potato, because Maria-chan loves sweet potatoes. Mon Amour is a melon. The most important item in Mon Amour is the Melon Barrier. Romeo and Juliet is actually a story in a Potato Land. I didn’t mention this. They were potatoes! A Potato Princess, and Potato Romeo and Juliet. Black Bird, maybe, is… there is no real answer, but it kind of looks like an eggplant. It looks like one, to me. And moon… moon is a mushroom. Because my favorite characters in moon are the Kakunte Tribe and Florence. And you know, Florence is a mushroom maniac.
TA: Wow, you did it!
YK: I answered! (laughs)
TA: I’m sorry I threw such a strange question at you, but now I’m happy because I got good answers. (laughs)
YK: I liked this strange question.
TA: So let’s finish up with the usual. Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers at this time?
YK: I’m not sure when this will be posted, but on December 16th moon and Black Bird will be released for PlayStation 4. Also, we’re going to be having a winter sale on our Onion Games starting on December 16th. Mon Amour will be 70% off! I wasn’t sure about this, but I spoke to some fans on YouTube and apologized to them for having a very low price so soon after they may have already bought it for the regular price. After talking with them, I did a survey on Twitter asking about what level of discount we should apply and said that I would stand by the result. It was neck-and-neck between 50% and 70%, but on the last day 70% pulled ahead! So I will keep my promise. Mon Amour will probably never be this cheap again.
TA: Well, there you go. If you want to get Mon Amour at this low of a price, this is the time to get it. Thank you for agreeing to speak with us again, Mr. Kimura.
YK: No, thank you!
A hearty thank you to Mr. Kimura for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us again. Be sure to check out all of the Onion Games stuff. Million Onion Hotel is on the App Store for mobile gamers to play. Black Bird, Dandy Dungeon, moon, and Mon Amour are available on Nintendo Switch. And of course as the interview notes, moon and Black Bird are out on PlayStation 4 and 5 today. You can also find Black Bird and Mon Amour on Steam, and moon will be joining them shortly. Lots of fun for everyone!