GO Wii RACER, GO! Developer talks "Speed Racer" Video Game

Fri, March 21st, 2008 at 12:00am PDT | Updated: April 2nd, 2008 at 2:23am

Video Games
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

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There have been many movies based on comics. Typically, these productions call for outlandish costumes, extravagant special effects, and �" hopefully �" some faithfulness to the source material. In 1999, a movie was released that many comics fans consider "the ultimate comic book movie;" however, it was not based on a four-color comic of the same name. The film was called "The Matrix," and it was written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers.

Since that time, the Wachowskis have written and directed two sequels to that fiim, and have written-for-the-screen and produced "V for Vendetta," based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. On May 9, fans will be treated to yet another feast for the eyes as these two filmmakers bring the classic "Speed Racer" cartoon into the live-action world. And if the film's trailer is any indication, moviegoers are in for one hyperkinetic ride.

In conjunction with the film's release, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is also bringing fans a movie-based "Speed Racer" video game for the Wii and Nintendo DS systems. The game will later be released on the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system along with the film's home video launch.

"Speed Racer" screenshot
Andy Satterthwaite, Producer/Designer of "Speed Racer" for New Zealand game developer Sidhe Interactive ("Jackass: The Game," "GripShift"), took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with CBR News and give fans an idea of what they can expect from the video game companion to the fast-moving film.

"The Wachowski brothers have been involved right from the start," Satterthwaite told CBR News. "In early 2007, we had a meeting with them early to discuss the film, their vision for the game, and what we had to offer. They wanted 'Car-Fu' (the way the cars fight) to be really key to the game �" and they wanted it to be a really physical experience for the player (so lots of Wii remote movement.) We then met with them several more times to demo progress, get feedback and keep working the game towards their vision �" every time they've been nothing but constructive.

"We got access to lots of film assets; were able to get early readings of the script; look at very early film pre-vis scenes and really all help imaginable. From the beginning, they had a real understanding of what they wanted and what we needed, and were happy to help us wherever they could to meet their vision."

"Speed Racer" screenshot
One of the ways the Wachowskis helped the game's developers was to facilitate the lending of John Gaeta's able hands to the production. A visual effects supervisor for "The Matrix" and "Speed Racer," Gaeta was key for establishing the look of the film and, said Satterthwaite, "he really wanted us to make sure we captured that look in the game. He spent lots of time meeting with us, discussing our demos, providing example imagery and really pushing us to get a vibrant-looking game which matched the feel of the film's visuals. He also provided us with extensive amounts of reference and explained how he and the Wachowski brothers felt the cars should move and how the Car-Fu should look. In our last meeting with the Wachowski brothers, they said that we'd nailed the look and feel of the film, so I feel we've done a pretty good job."

"Car-Fu" has been touted in press releases as **integral** to the film and video game's visual sensibilities. "Car-Fu is absolutely key to the game; it's how the cars fight," Satterthwaite explained. "It all stems from the abilities of the wheels of the T180 race cars. Firstly, they can turn 180 degrees, which allows the cars to do incredible slides and spins, strafe sideways whilst sliding and spinning, and shunt sideways at high speeds.

"Speed Racer" screenshot
"Secondly, each of the wheels has independent 'Jump Jacks,' which can be used to propel the car up in the air with sufficient force to jump, barrel roll, back-flip and somersault (achieved on Wii by holding a +Control Pad direction whilst jumping).

"In the game, the cars can also build up boost, which can, of course, be used for going faster. But boost can also be used for triggering some Car-Fu special moves like 'boost bash,' 'torpedo' and 'hyper-spin.'"

The Nintendo Wii's unique "wiimote" controller incorporates a motion-sensing technology that allows the player to interact with and manipulate items onscreen. The game's developers took advantage of this controller's capabilities in "Speed Racer" to enhance the player experience. "The Wii version uses the Wii remote motion-sensing for all driving and 'Car-Fu,'" Satterthwaite confirmed. "Players tilt the remote to steer. A simple jolt action towards the body with the Wii remote makes the car jump. A quick shoving motion to the sides allows the player to do 'shunts.'All these moves are combined with button presses and combos to get a whole gamut of Car-Fu action, crazy slides, and ballistic driving. The game also has two-player split-screen multiplayer on Wii."

"Speed Racer" screenshot
As to the nature of the game, the game's premise is "race and fight your way to victory." "We've focused on the championship side of racing for this game," Satterthwaite said. "All the action is car-based and there are no direct missions as such. That said, it's a very different sort of racing game. Car-Fu is a key component, sometimes more vital than winning the race itself (and winning without Car-Fu is much harder too).

"Also, each driver has rivalries with some drivers and can form alliances with others. These alliances and rivalries change the way the other drivers' race with you. Do they attack you? Do they let you slipstream them? Do they take out your opponents for you?

"All of this makes it much more than 'just another' fast racing game."

"Speed Racer" production art

Part of what sets this game apart from others of its ilk is the tie-in to the film. As for its similarities and differences from the movie, the game's developer said, "Story-wise, the game is set a year after the events of the film. This gave us the chance to introduce a few other characters, and set up some new racing scenarios without contradicting the film story.

"The game itself is very similar to the movie in its look and feel. Unlike so many other films, the 'Speed Racer' film really lends itself to a videogame. It's bright, it's fast, it's kinetic and it's just supposed to be fun.

"We've got the cars from the movie (and some new ones). We've got the racetracks from the movie (and some new ones). And we've got the super-fast racing action and Car-Fu fighting from the movie (with some new moves thrown in on top of that too).

"Speed Racer" production art
"We differ from the movie in that the game doesn't force the player to play as Speed Racer. The player can play as any of the twenty characters including Trixie, who gets her own unique car in the game (based in part on the helicopter she flies in the movie).

"Also, if you get destroyed in the game, you get reset on the track and lose some time; while in the film, when a driver is taken out it's 'race over' (but we thought that might be a bit harsh on the player)."

One other similarity of note is the characters, which look and sound like what audiences will experience in the theater. "The characters in game are based on the characters in the movie. We also have a few unique characters in the game and we've taken some of the background characters from the film and made them more prominent. In addition, we have the voices of Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer), Matthew Fox (Racer X), and Christina Ricci (Trixie) in the game."

"Speed Racer" production art
There are many challenges in turning a film into a video game. Satterthwaite, however, feels the creative team behind "Speed Racer" met these trials head-on and ended up with a video game that'll make gamers want to return to the racetrack again and again. "It's been a real honor to work on this title; to have the trust and support of the Wachowski brothers and the challenge to deliver on their vision. Everyone on the team at Sidhe is really proud of this game and what we've achieved.

"For me the biggest accomplishment was taking a crazy idea like fighting cars traveling at 500mph, and turning it in to something that is really physical and really fun."

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TAGS:  speed racer, wii, nintendo

 
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