Interview with Orioto, the artist who remakes video games

Those who love video game fan-arts will surely know him, but also those who don’t follow the scene have seen something from his pencil… Wiitalia had the occasion to interview Mikaël Aguirre, best known as Orioto, the artist who tries to give his own interpretation to many classic video games with incredible drawings. Mikaël has become famous thanks to the Internet, where he has a page on deviantART and a personal blog (Orioto Inn); here he also provides high-res versions of some of his works. Since being an artist is also his profession, Mikaël has opened an online shop where it is possible to purchase high-quality prints at reasonable prices. Among his works, re-interpretation of Super Mario, Castlevania, Megaman and Metroid, but also pictures and portraits.

Wiitalia: First of all, introduce yourself to Wiitalia readers; probably, many of them already know your works but surelly few are aware of the person behind them!

Orioto: Well hi! I’m a 31 years old parisian. I’ve studied cinema in my youth, directing more precisly. My graphic skills are the sum of lots of hours with photoshop as I love to play with images in general.

Through the Night - The Legend of Zelda

Wiitalia: Before discussing about you as Orioto the artist, I would like to know about Mikael the video gamer. It appears straightforward that you love video games, not a recent passion but perhaps something you’re fond of since a child; which was your first console and video game? Do you still have time to play and how your tastes have changed throughout the years?

Orioto: I started playing games at 11 year old, and quickly became a graphic whore as i exchanged my Genesis (with Golden Axe 2 and Sonic) with a SNES, after I saw Super Soccer and its amazing 3D! But I keep a fond memory of my Genesis actually. I had played Mickey and Donald and Quackshot before and I’m still pretty nostalgic of those games. And Sonic of course! Nowadays, I take time to play when I’m not working on my art. Did my tastes change… I wouldn’t know. I’m not sure. I’m a nostalgic guy and I like pretty old school things! I find myself a little sad about what became videogames, but that’s more a cultural and aesthetic problem than a gameplay problem. Mainly King of Fighter and Final Fantasy are kinda dead for me, purely based on their cultural evolution… As for my evolution in term of genres, I’ve started with platforms as everyone, Mario mainly and I’m still happy to play a new Mario game, but I’ve became more found of RPG and even more tactical-RPG, japanese ones. But those are long to play and I don’t really take the time anymore, unfortunately.

Wiitalia: This clearly leads me to think that you’re a Nintendo fan! Your subjects mainly belong to classic and old series… Didn’t you find any appealing or memorable characters in modern video games?

Orioto: I’m not really a Nintendo fan actually, but let’s say I’m nostalgic of a certain age where videogames were more surrealistic and dreamy, or maybe even more innocent, and Nintendo is associated with that. Videogames are in their dumb “dudebro” or “guns and explotions” age for now, in my opinion. But it’s not only the dudebro thing. Even with Nintnendo, I feel like there has been some kind of disenchantment as I would call it. It’s harder to find games that are really deeply in a surreal world, or even childish and sweet. Just compare the evolution of Mario Kart for example. The SNES one was completely like a child dream, with chocolate roads, lullaby like tones, even when it was funky and all. And everything was tiny, like toys. But Mario Kart had to come closer to us, to the real world, with modern music, racing game easthetics (for sound design and all that), big and wide “human scale” roads. Not that it’s lame now, but it’s a pretty good exemple of what changed. Videogames were once more about fantasy and imagination escapade, and are more and more letting our life intrude in them, like if the had to evolve in the society. Sorry for the long talk but basically, what I mean is that I’m less interested in games, cuturally speaking (not gameplay wise), than I was before.

Wiitalia: Concerning your on-going activity, instead, it would be interesting to know how the drawing process usually works: the decision and the construction of the scene, the colouring, the tools used and so on. I cannot help but noticing that your art is full of details, realistic but faithful to the inspiring subjects and, more importantly, really personal so to say “Hey, it’s Orioto!”.

Orioto: I start by thinking a lot about what I want to do. That means I have to have a “vision” about the game that interests me and that I can think “yeah THAT can be cool!”. It can take some times. That’s why I can wait many years to work on a particular game, cause I don’t find this particular spot. Most of the times it comes from a study of the original art direction of the game. In the 90′s, games were really iconographic and almost abstract, but it’s always interesting to find what the artists could suggest in term of references and mood. That’s why at first I hated Altered Beast, cause I thought it was so cheap and short when I played it long time ago, but suddenly I saw this picture with some kind of swamp and those two headed dogs and sort of weird zombies, and I thought… In an old horror movie, with lots of grain and fog, with some kind of Landis mood, this particular cast could be lots of fun. That’s when I’m curious of what something could become that I begin to feel motivated. Then I usually look for some photos on the web to find an inspiration. Something that will help me to visualise how the art could look. Now, I’m sometimes drawing a rough sketch of the composition I want cause it’s hard to compose something that will make a fine painting AND be cohesive as a sidescroller videogame.

Wiitalia: I would like to know which kind of techniques and tools you usually utilize to draw. A mixture of computer and manual work?

Orioto: Oh, I only use Photoshop! I just do a rough sketch with a pencil sometimes for the composition.

Yoshi's Playground - Yoshi's Island