Nicalis, Inc.
Christophe Galati, Nicalis, Inc.
Action, Adventure, Platform
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Cat with Monocle spoke with Chris Deneos, the developer for the upcoming Nintendo Switch Indie game, “Save me Mr Tako”. A game that plays homage to the Game Boy era.

Hello, Chris! How are you doing?

Hi! I’m fine! First time I’m interviewed by a cat!


Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a 23 years old french indie game developer. I started to make games when I was 12 with RPG Maker, learning Pixel Art by myself. I always loved to create story and worlds. I’m a big Nintendo and JRPG fan. I started to work on Tako on my free time in 2014, and now it’s heading to the Nintendo Switch.

We’ve heard you graduated from Isart Digital, a Game Design & Programming school in Paris, you spent two years in the game industry. What kind of work did you do in those two years and how did you find time to work on your personal project, Save me Mr Tako?

Exactly, I graduated in 2015. As study in video games is very expensive I had to take a student loan. That’s why I couldn’t go directly full indie on Tako. I had 3 internships where I worked mostly as a programmer on serious or ad games. Then I was hired by my third one, where I stayed for 2 years. I was mostly a Game Designer there. We were working on Unreal Engine and I learned a lot of things.

Meanwhile, I continued to work on Tako every night and weekends. As I lived alone in Paris I was far from my family, and refrained from a social life a lot to save time. Tako was the priority. It was very rewarding to work on it, to make its world come to life and share it with more and more people along the way at game events. It helped me to stay motivated.

You do both game development and drawing pixel art for the game. Which do you prefer over the other? Could you tell us positives and negatives about the two?

Hard to say which one I prefer. I don’t have any background in art, but I practiced my pixel skills a lot during Game Jams. I studied in programming, but I feel more like a Gameplay programmer than a tool developer. What I like more is to make a vision come to life, and those two skills are great tools for that. I can’t see myself completely drop one of them. Even if I lack confidence sometimes, I think everything is possible if you dedicate yourself to it (even if you suck at drawing or math as I did).

You started development of Save me Mr Tako in 2014, not an easy task when it comes to a large-scale project. Was there a team, or did you work on this alone? Can you tell us more about it? (Soundtrack, programming and/or other areas)

I did everything except the music for the game. I had the chance to work with a great composer, Marc-Antoine Archier, that I met during a game jam in Paris. He accepted to work on the project almost at the beginning. He made wonderful tracks for the game using Deflemask, a Game Boy tracker.

I used Unity to develop the game, and Paint to make the graphics. I try to stay very organized. Even though I was working alone on it I made Game Design documents, to do lists, and had the structure of the story written right after the first prototype. Everything went as well as I planned, or even better, so I feel pretty lucky.

We notice that the game plays a big homage to the Game Boy. Very clever. We see the game is impacted by games like Zelda: Link’s Awakening (one of our purrsonal favorites) and the Kirby series. Are there other Game Boy games that influenced the game?

The game started for Game Boy 25th Anniversary. One of the main reference is Metroid II, as the main feature of Tako is the ink, that turn the enemies into platform in the same way the Ice beam does in Metroid. Seiken Densetsu, Survival Kids, For the Frog the Bell tolls, Pokemon and of course Mario Land II were great Game Boy references too. I try to use a bit of everything I loved in games of these era. Storywise I was more influenced by Final Fantasy VI.

What about any non-game-related influences?

The game is not influenced only by games. Disney and Miyazaki films also inspired the story. I love horror movies and tried to have some spooky sections in the game too. I also take inspirations in my life and things that have moved me. Tako was a way to express things I felt after the Paris Attacks, and my need to share a message of tolerance.

About the story and its hero, how did you come up with an octopus wanting to stop the war between humans and octopuses? Why an octopus? Why not a cat? (Meow)

When I ate Takoyaki for the first time, I had a vision of an octopus character. I thought that octopuses were often displayed as the bad guy, and that the “hentai cliché” stick to them, so I wanted to twist that cliché and to have an octopus that saved the world.

But don’t worry, there are many cats in the game.

Mr Tako certainly has powers that resemble Kirby such as the ability to take on various powers. He can also breathe out of water. Can you tell us more about him and his heroic efforts?

As you know, the world is divided by war. During his first battle Tako saved a human. A fairy saw his action, and rewarded him with the power to breathe out of the water. It’s the beginning of his journey. You will also meet a strange otter obsessed by hats, which have special powers. You’ll find a lot of them in this mysterious world, and it will help you a lot to find a way to stop this war.

How did Save me Mr Tako find its way to the spotlight? (Did you reach out to multiple game publishers, etc.?)

At first I didn’t want a publisher, and wanted to do everything by myself, including communication. I released the first demo of the game for Game Boy 25th Anniversary in September 2014, and it got a lot of exposure even if it was still a runner game at that time. It started in Japan, with a famous streamer playing the demo on NicoNico, then reached other countries. It motivated me to make a full game from it.

I’ve attended more than 15 events in the past 3 years to promote the game and became very active on Twitter, forums, and IndieDB, posting gifs every screenshot Saturdays. Then I released the story trailer the year after to reach more people. The turning point was when the game was selected for Tokyo Game Show in 2016, and ended up on the top 10 of Indie Games there. That’s when we started to negotiate a contract with Nicalis. I was able to return to Japan this year at BitSummit, and also to the USA for PAX West. I feel pretty lucky to have been able to do that, and it’s only the beginning.

We want to congratulate you for your game being published by Nicalis, Inc. and making its way to the Nintendo Switch! How excited are you about the opportunity to have it published on Nintendo and how does it impact Save me Mr Tako?

Thank you! Having Tako coming to a Nintendo console is a dream come true. Especially on a system like the Switch. The portable aspect fit the game perfectly, and I think it’s the best platform the game can be on.

Originally the game was going to come out for the Nintendo Wii U. Now that the game is going to the Nintendo Switch, will it stop there, or can we look forward to seeing it on other platforms in the future?

The game will be release on Steam as well. Right now the Switch is the main focus, maybe the game will come to other consoles later, but I can’t confirm it yet.

If Nintendo gave you the okay to add amiibo support to the game, would you do it and how would you incorporate it in your game? For example, scanning a Link amiibo give Mr Tako a weapon and shield?

I haven’t really thought about it as it only happened to Shovel Knight right now, but the way they include Amiibo support was neat. Unlocking a special mode with it is cool, like a physical DLC. In Tako an Amiibo could also be used to store a power, restore your ink, gems or life.

Would you be open to have Mr Tako become an amiibo? What games would you want him to be in and what would he do?

If I was ever proposed one day it will be an instant yes from me. Having a Tako amiibo would be neat. With all its power, Tako would have a great moveset for Smash Bros.

Could we see future downloadable content (DLC) in the game if you were given the opportunity to do so?

I was able to make everything I wanted in the game, so no DLC are planned right now. I’m not closed to the idea, if I add something new in the game someday I’ll release it as a free update.

How far is the game developed and could we hear a release date soon?

We are almost at the end of the debug phase with Nicalis, then we have to submit it to Nintendo. When the game will be approved we will be able to set a release date.

Let’s say the game is completed right now. What’s next for you? Do you have any games or ideas you have in the pipeline?

I haven’t decided what to do yet. As I left my job to have more time for the game, I’m back in my parent’s house. The only thing I’m sure of is that I want to leave my hometown to go on a new adventure, but I don’t know where yet- if in France or in another country. I’m already happy that thanks to the advance from Nicalis I’ll be able to repay my student loan. I have ideas for my next games, but I don’t know if I’ll stay indie or return to gain experience in a game company. It will depend a lot on Tako’s sales.

Is there anything you want to add or share?

Thank you for having me, and thank you all for supporting me. I can’t wait to be able to tell you more about the things that are coming. I hope you’ll love my baby octopus. Stay tuned on my Twitter @ChrisDeneos or @Nicalis for the latest news around the game. Be creative and have a nice day!

You are very welcome and thank you for your time!

You can listen to the work-in-progress soundtrack of Save me Mr Tako! on Marc-Antoine Archier’s basecamp.

About Seth Hay - Editor-in-chief / Webmaster

When Seth is not designing or developing, he spends time with his family and his occasional dose of anime, sports and video games.

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[…] tan sólo unos días Seth Hay de la web Cat in Monocle realizó una estupenda entrevista a Christophe Galati sobre su carrera y el desarrollo de Save me Mr Tako. Seth Hay ha tenido la amabilidad de permitirnos traducir su entrevista a nuestro idioma y […]

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