Interview: Director Michel Ancel talks Rayman Legends

Ubisoft recently held a Rayman Legends press event in San Francisco. I had the opportunity to speak with Michel Ancel, iconic creator of the Rayman franchise and director of the upcoming entry in the series. The developer discussed the game, addressed the extensive amounts of content, and explained why he's excited about the next generation of consoles. He also talked about the role that music plays in the game, the differences between the Wii U version compared to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, and more.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, he weighed in on my question regarding how Mario (the man) stacked up to Rayman (the, uh, limbless dude) on a purely physical level.

Michel Ancel

GameZone: So first off, could you give me some brief details on the major changes that are coming to Rayman Legends compared to Rayman Origins?

Michel Ancel: So the main change, of course, is that all of the worlds are completely new. These are more what you would call legends that are standalone stories, so you can jump from one to another. The other thing is that we have improved a lot the graphic engine, so now you've got lights, you've got, uh …

All of a sudden, we realized that it was a bit loud in the meeting room due to the Rayman Legends musicians going to town on their instruments. Ancel then politely told Ubisoft PR, “Less song, maybe? It's noisy.” He then looked at me and said, “Sorry. Musicians everywhere,” before continuing.

MA: So yes, the worlds are very different. The visuals are different, too, because now it's more immersive, so there are more light effects, light mood.

The other thing is that we wanted to add some online things, so you can play some online challenges. We also have this mode called Kung Foot that allows you to play five players on Wii U and four on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

And then the big thing is the musical levels, so you play classic platformer but the rhythm and the music is giving the pace of the experience. So those are the main features of Rayman Legends.

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GZ: How big would you say Legends is? I saw that there's just a lot more game than Origins, and Origins was a pretty big game. How big would you say this game is in scale?

MA: I would say it's not two times, but not far from two times bigger [than Origins], mainly because you've got, for example, the online challenges — a new challenge every day. The Kung Foot, for example, is something you can play for long hours and hours. And we added also 40 levels from Rayman Origins, so of course, it's from Rayman Origins, but it's modified levels. So if you count all this it's like 120 levels that you can play. It's quite big.

GZ: Out of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U versions, what's your personal favorite version of the game to play?

MA: Honestly, it's very hard to say. Depends on if you are more familiar with the touchscreen and you want to play with people who are more familiar with touchscreens, too, it's better to have a Wii U. But if you are more comfortable with joysticks, then the other versions are really made for joysticks.

For example, the little frog that is modifying your environment, you can control it with the joystick — it's very fast-paced, it's very responsive. But if you play with the Wii U, it's more about touching the screen. So it's really two different gameplays.

GZ: So obviously it's probably still a little too early to talk about this, but do you hope to take Rayman into the next generation of consoles?

MA: Yeah, especially when you think about [how] the social thing on those consoles [will] enable you to record yourself, send your movies, your tricks, your tips — everything that could make the experience interesting. For example, you already have these kind of things on the Miiverse on the Wii U, and you can extend that experience with the PlayStation 4 system that enables you to share what you're playing with your friends. Especially for the challenges, because when other people want to beat the score of others, you can share your tricks, and you can make others interested in what you share.

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GZ: In Origins, music was actually a pretty big part of the experience, because everything you did, such as collecting the Lums, kind of added to the sound of the game. This time, music also plays a big role. Exactly how do the music and gameplay play off each other here? I know you have the music levels, but how do these elements play off each other in the regular levels?

MA: Working with the composer, we really wanted to go further in the way the music evolves with the action. For example, you have some underwater levels, and depending on what you're doing, the music is changing completely within the same level. In some levels you have four different musical atmospheres that really follows the action. So yeah, that's really something we wanted to improve, too.

GZ: Are there some things you thought up that maybe you brainstormed for the game and possibly even tested out that you couldn't include?

MA: Oh! You know, we had time to include a lot of things because the game was delayed. So we were just like, “What could we add to the game to make it better?” So that's why we added a lot of content, like the Invasions. That's really for gamers and people that want to have a more fast-paced sequence. And also, we added more bosses. So I think we are done with the content. (laughs)

GZ: Rayman was a pretty big part of the PSOne and then the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. Then he kind of took a little break. He came back with Origins, and now he's back again in Legends. Can we probably expect to see Rayman a little more frequently now?

MA: Yes, I think we still have fun making Rayman games, so I think we still have things to do. So yeah, I hope so.

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GZ: This is probably the most important question I have to ask: Can Rayman kick Mario's ass?

MA: Uh, maybe we'll have the answer very soon. (laughs)

I would like to extend a huge thank you to Michel Ancel and Ubisoft for taking the time to answer my questions about Legends. I would also like to thank them for hosting a pretty rad event rife with live music, some of the best salsa and guacamole I've had in a while, and, of course, video games.

Legends will hit the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Vita, Wii U, and PC on September 3 in North America.

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