We interviewed Chris Galati the man behind Save me Mr Tako! the exceptionally good retro platformer just released on the Nintendo Switch.
-Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into game development?
Hi! I’m Christophe Galati, a 24-year-old indie game developer from France, nice to meet you! I started making games using RPG Maker when I was 12, and began doing pixel art and writing stories around that time as well. At 18, I moved to Paris to attend a game programming school called Isart Digital, where I did many game jams and started my career in the game industry.
-Chris you built Save Me Mr Tako by yourself, what inspired you to make it?
I started the development of Save me Mr Tako! back in 2014, the same year that the Game Boy celebrated its 25th anniversary. I grew up playing the Game Boy Color a lot, and felt like it was the right time to make an homage to the games of this era. I was still a student at that time, so I started with a small demo, but decided to follow my initial vision of a game with a big story when I saw people getting excited about what I was working on.
-Tell us about the game and what players can expect from it?
Save me Mr Tako! is a retro-inspired Kirby-like platformer with RPG elements. You play as Tako-San, a small and peaceful octopus who doesn’t agree with the war between the octopus and human worlds. He can shoot ink at enemies to turn them into platforms that he can jump on, and wear up to 50 different power hats, which will help him travel through the six different worlds in the game. It’s a very story-driven game; players will meet many colorful characters, explore a variety of dungeons and find a ton of secrets while trying to understand why there is a war between the two species.
-Was it important to capture a nostalgic feel with the music and art style?
It was a fun exercise to capture this nostalgic feeling. It was my first time using such drastic limitations in my pixel art, so I learned a lot from it! My main goal was to tell a story, and I’m glad I was able to make it come to life with these limitations. The composer Marc-Antoine Archier did an amazing job on the soundtrack, which respects the Game Boy limitations perfectly.
-How did you balance that Retro feel with modern capabilities which were not available back in the day?
The game respects a lot of the Game Boy limitations, like the monochromatic palette. There is no sprite scaling or rotation, and the music also respects the era. But, I wanted to modernize the Game Boy experience as well, because if you play games from this era today, most of them tend to be too difficult or stiff to play (except Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Kirby). That’s why Mr Tako is much more fluid in terms of its physics and speed, with more sprites on the screen—and you can play in widescreen mode, too. It was hard to keep the balance between traditional and modern, but I hope I found a good spot that will please both players who grew up with the Game Boy and players who might be experiencing this type of game for the first time.
-The game has a feel good positive message, what was the inspiration for a friendly Octopus?
I wanted to explore the theme of tolerance in the game. I had the first vision of an octopus character after I ate takoyaki (fried octopus) for the first time. Octopuses have a lot of cliché and fear associated with them, so I wanted to reverse that and have the main character be a friendly octopus who wants to bring peace to the world. I wanted to feature an iconic character as the games from this era had—a character who could inspire people and someone that players might even be able to relate to.
-How difficult was it for you to make each part of this game by yourself? Was there anything in particular that you struggled more with or had not attempted before?
The most difficult thing for me was to stay motivated for such a long time. I knew from the first day of development that the project would take several years to complete. I was doing most of it by myself, so I was able to take my time—but I had to make a lot of sacrifices for it, as I was working on it in my free time for three years. Seeing the story come to life and hearing the feedback from people during game events or when I posted GIFs on Twitter really helped to keep me motivated. Many times there were development or art challenges that I never experienced before, and I thought that I would struggle with those, but in the end it all came together and I learned a lot from the entire journey.
-Many indie developers these days look to kickstarter or similar to help them with funding. Was this something you looked at?
I had a day job in the game industry throughout most of the development of the game, so I didn’t really invest money in it, just a lot of time and effort. I thought about Kickstarter, but working this way on my own rhythm without the external pressure of people who invested money on the project was better for me. I had the chance to work with Marc-Antoine
Archier almost from the very beginning. Even though I couldn’t pay him then, he agreed to work for free with the understanding that he would be paid later. During the last year of development, I left my job and returned to my parents’ house so that I could dedicate 100% of my time to finishing the game. It was around that time when Nicalis came into the mix and gave me an advance that helped to pay off my student loan. I am very grateful to them and everyone who helped to support me and this project. I hope Mr Tako will do well and help me fund my next games, but that’s another story!
-Now that the game is complete, you must be looking forward to what people think of it. Does it make you nervous?
I can’t wait to hear what people will think of the game, which characters they will identify with, what types of influence the game will have on them, and if it will inspire new aspiring game developers as indie games have inspired me. It would be a lie to say that I’m not nervous about the reaction of people who might not like the game, but I’m proud of what I made and I know that Tako-San has a lot of heart. I’m also looking forward to hearing feedback that will help me improve my skills for future projects.
-After it goes on sale do you have any further plans for the game?
For me, the game feels complete and all of the content I wanted to create is included. I haven’t planned to release DLC or do any content updates, but if players ask for more or find new ways to improve the experience, I’ll do my best! That said, I’m also looking forward to starting my next projects.
Anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Thank you all for supporting me during the development and I hope that you will enjoy your time with Save me Mr Tako!