Just Enough New: Nintendo's Takashi Tezuka on Keeping With Mario's 2D Traditions

Veteran Nintendo producer reflects on the state of New Super Mario Bros. and why touch-screen controls are being kept to a minimum on the Wii U.

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Takashi Tezuka may not equal Shigeru Miyamoto in name recognition, but as the man in charge of the New Super Mario Bros. series, this Nintendo veteran is an important figure when it comes to the direction of everyone's favorite Italian plumber. Following the announcement of New Super Mario Bros. U at E3 2012, we sat down with Tezuka to get his thoughts on where the series is headed and how much of an influence the Wii U touch screen will have on his team's work.

What surprised you most about the reception to New Super Mario Bros. Wii? It seems like the competition aspect was a lot more popular than people expected.

To start with, that was a game where we really focused our attention on the multiplayer aspect during development. In the early experimentation phase, we had some tests with four players on the screen at the same time, and we had so much fun within our group that we decided to focus on that four-player multiplayer aspect.

Of course, one thing we discovered right away was that people were having a lot of fun really battling each other rather than acting cooperatively. Some folks really liked the idea of "that's the one guy that I'm gonna pick on." Of course, there were folks who didn't enjoy that kind of gameplay at all! There was another group that really wanted to cooperate and work together. Frankly speaking, a lot of our female players and female staff felt more in tune with that sort of cooperative element. So we had a lot of internal discussion with which one we proceed with: this combative style or this cooperative style? We talked about this quite a bit, and the result was, let's do both!

Traditionally, Mario sequels have been very different from one another, but the New Super Mario Bros. series games tend to be very similar mechanically and visually. Is that a design decision?

It's intentional. That similarity in the visual style and the control style is all intentional. The things we feel like we've already promised the gamer is that Peach will be kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario will move from left to right. We know that's what people are expecting! [Laughs] We know that there are all types of Mario games, as you said. So for us, with the New Super Mario Bros. series, we don't really need to mess with it. This is what people want.

"Peach will be kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario will move from left to right … This is what people want."

One of the things we always focus on in development is that we want a wide audience to play these games and enjoy them. So we're looking at games that are accessible and intuitive. So, for example, we have a recurring enemy type from one game to the next. If in the first game the enemy acts a certain way and has a certain functionality, our audience says, "OK, I know what to expect." If they see that character in [the new] game and it's completely different, I don't think that's a good thing. For characters like the Goombas and the Koopas, those are the building blocks, the fundamental things that we're not going to change.

There has been a 2D platforming renaissance as of late, with games like Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Kirby's Epic Yarn. Is there any game that influenced you or that you're particularly impressed with?

The Donkey Kong game that we just had out on Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns--I actually got a glimpse of a ROM while they were still in development. The graphics were so pretty that I thought, wow, that looks really nice. We were working on New Super Mario Bros. Wii at the time, and that really became an impetus. That really kicked us in the butts. I don't know if "influence" is the right word, but it had an impact.

Speaking of graphics, what sort of extra work is involved for you with the transition to HD?

I don't know if it's extra work; it's just that we had to focus our attention. Now that we're in HD, what's the best art style that takes advantage of that? So there's extra consideration of the art style itself, but not any extra work per se.

When you first started working with the Wii U touch screen, what were the very first things you tried on those early prototypes?

The thing that we started first was what ended up being Boost mode, that ability to add extra platforms for players [using the GamePad touch screen]. One thing we learned via the DS system was that touch-screen control was something that's best used only when necessary. It wasn't the key controller. We didn't want to throw it in and use it everywhere. To be honest, we didn't feel that traditional Mario [directional pad] movement married with touch screen at the same time worked that well. So that's why using the touch screen only where it made sense, as we learned with the DS, was something that we brought to [this new game].

With the touch screen, our feeling is that it really depends on the type of game you're developing. So if you've a game where you're stopped, thinking about things and checking stuff out, or you've got inventories and whatnot…then man! The touch screen is fantastic! But Mario is a game that's always on the move, so it's not necessary to have it as a key control feature.

There has been a lot of push from certain analysts about iPhone games from Nintendo. How do you feel about the idea of Mario being on iPhone? Pushing past that, is it possible to make a Mario game that would be touch screen only? There was Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis on the DS, which was a puzzle game that was primarily, if not exclusively, touch screen. Do you think it would be possible in any other genre?

We can definitely make a Mario game that's touch screen only. It wouldn't be a 2D side-scrolling Mario platformer, but I think we can definitely make games maybe in the vein of Mario vs. Donkey Kong or something like that. I think that's definitely possible. Would we make that for another platform? No. Of course not. It would be on a Nintendo platform. But it's definitely something we could do. It just wouldn't be a 2D side-scrolling platformer.

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Discussion

62 comments
RulerofGondor
RulerofGondor

I personally have really liked both of the New Super Mario Bros games so far (the Wii one more than the DS one), so bring em on, I say.

inso-maniac
inso-maniac

funny nintendo is known for releasing new innovative stuff but also releasing ages old mario platformers. ooh the irony

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

Why do people keep asking the stupid question of Mario on iOS? I suppose you'll want Master Chief on there too? How about Gran Turismo,or Ratchet and Clank? These are first party IPs people! Putting Mario on a device everyone seems to think is in direct competition with the 3DS would be like Ford saying,"Hey Chevy. You know next year's Camero? Well we've got this huge engine we were going to put in our next Mustang so it would be faster,but you can have it too!" Mario would get out there,sure,but ultimately,Nintendo would be MAKING iOS devices into direct competitors by using their own character to sell Apple's devices rather than 3DS's or home consoles.

 

Phoo,got that out of me. Anyway I look forward to it. I like how every Mario game takes one or two concepts and builds the entire game around it in interesting ways,then later games often include that concept as a basic function,and they add a different concept for playing with.

Lei_11
Lei_11

That music was aweful. doo-WaP...WaP WaP.

You can't listen to that and go "okay yes sounds good, lets add it to our game"

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

Just like death and taxes the one sure thing in life is that Mario will sell!!

Slagar
Slagar

I think it's great that they're making these Mario games - as well as making new 3D style ones such as Super Mario Galaxy. It keeps the old-school fans happy, as well as pushes new ground. But the key to Mario's brand success is consistency - if you purchase a Mario game, you know you're in for a good time. Sega should've been following suit 10 years ago with their Sonic games.

Deadly_Nemesis
Deadly_Nemesis

 

Remember the days when Nentendo was bold enough to make a game called Mario World 2 and have Yoshi as the main character? What happened.

bluefox755
bluefox755

I dunno, Mario was fun when I was little but, pretty stale now, for me anyway, that's why I don't own any Nintendo products because their only selling points are the same games from 20 years ago...which if you still like those, then that's cool I guess, I can't be the only one who is getting tired of Mario though?  Maybe I am lol

raphaelcoelho15
raphaelcoelho15

The fact is, Nintendo doesn't have enough third-party support, so, for me, the answer is create another first-party franchise ( an AAA franchise, we know Nintendo is capable of doing it, i mean, they have myiamoto) or revive some, like Star Fox (an entirely new game). And i hope Wii U is good enough to  play those games

enrique_marrodz
enrique_marrodz

What a bunch of haters in this thread. I can't get all of these people who don't like a game or even a genre and like to flood these threads. Just don't buy it, Nintendo and others surely will take note...

demonic_85
demonic_85

Way to flex that new processing power Nintendo *rolls eyes*

Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

God these games are stale. Keeping the enemies the same is so boring and predictable. This is why I friggin hate Nintendo.

trollkind
trollkind

Meh, a few textures, like the famous green pipes got a bad overhaul. Some arbitrary noisy texture just to show it's HD, the screen is often quite cluttered and not as easy to read like back in the days. They should rather go for a vector graphics style and keep the clear shadows/highlights with basic colors.

badstyle
badstyle

The tiles for the floor on that screen shot look really bad, it is as if they've tried to make them look less obvious as tiles but the way they have been executed has resulted in tiles that look really patchy. Not at all as smooth as the cavern stages on New Super Mario Bros as an example.

supermoc10
supermoc10

I can't wait for this game. I'm also very excited to finally play Nintendo games in HD.

Zelda HD anyone...

Trenchman
Trenchman

I remember reading that some analysts wanted Nintendo to make Mario on the Iphone and how it was a good business decision.  I still can't figure out why they didn't get fired for being morons.  I'm not sure how moving your most successful franchise to someone else's hardware is in any way a good idea.

Stealth_Knight_
Stealth_Knight_

makes sense

 

you cant make real platformers on ios

Bubble_Man
Bubble_Man

I'm all for more side scrolling games, but please change the music already!

DonnyKD
DonnyKD

 @Lei_11 What, people having different opinions? Fuck that, everyone should behave like you.

DonnyKD
DonnyKD

 @Deadly_Nemesis "Remember the days when Nentendo was bold enough to make a game called Mario World 2"THEY ADDED "2" TO "MARIO WORLD"!!!

SO BOLD~~

austrato
austrato

 @bluefox755 I find the new games boring too, but I think that's because the direction the series took after Mario 64 was kind of weird. I don't like "New" franchise, for exemple. I'd rather play Super Mario World over, and over and over again.

nuburoisa
nuburoisa

 @bluefox755

 Yeah mario's getting boring, why don't they do more things with yoshi, i loved his yoshi story 64 game that was fun!~

wexorian
wexorian

 @bluefox755 22 year old and i got a lot fun With new super mario bros wii v, Coop 4 player with firends is Chaotic and fun :)

Deadly_Nemesis
Deadly_Nemesis

 @enrique_marrodz

Well come on. Just take a look at Yoshis’ Island or Mario Sunshine and then look at this and the games they have put out in the last two years and tell me you don't get a sense of stagnation.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

 @demonic_85 Not every game has to melt your eyes with gorgeousness. In fact,that would betray the Mario Bros art style. Just think of games like VVVVV(is that enough Vs I don't remember...), Cave Story, Scribblenauts, etc. These games are INTENDED to look simple. On the other hand, Mario Galaxy 3,or another Donkey Kong Country (Both of which I would kill to get to play) would be opportunities for Wii U to flex its muscles.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

 @demonic_85 Not all games have to push the processing power of a system. How would you except an entry from the NSMB series to push the processing power of the Wii U anyways? I'm absolutely sure the next large scale Mario entry will though. I mean we've seen the massive scope of Super Mario Galaxy, imagine what they're planning for the Wii U in HD. 

mike9876543210
mike9876543210

 @demonic_85 mario is cartoony, therefore doesn't need amazing graphics, in fact, the only mario game that would need better graphics would be mario galaxy as its 3d

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

 @Bread_or_Decide As if any shooter on earth isn't? It's world war,aliens,or post-apocalyptic zombies. All that changes is the method of turning your enemies into mutilated corpses.

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

 @Bread_or_Decide 

Yet how many other developers and their franchises are guilty of this? Aside from the NSMB franchise, Super Mario games have always changed up game play, introduced new mechanics, and each entry tends to have new enemies, but of course they need to include the iconic enemies because the villains also make what a franchise is along with the heroes. It's like saying Call of Duty should have you killing something other than soldiers, or Resident Evil killing something other than zombies or infected/mutated humans. 

mike9876543210
mike9876543210

 @Bread_or_Decide they're the same so it doesn't loose that mario feel, mario is fun and always will be, if you hate nintendo why are you looking at threads about nintendo?

Celsius765
Celsius765

 @trollkind I don't think its possible to judge the graphics yet till the game is actually  on your screen

SiLi34
SiLi34

 @supermoc10 Totally!!  If I buy a Wii U for no other reason than to play new iterations of Zelda, Mario, and Metroid in HD then it will be money well spent!  I have owned every (non-portable) console Nintendo has released specifically because I love their first-party IPs.  With the launch of the Wii, I decided to have one of the "other" consoles (Xbox 360) along with Nintendo's.  The Wii is used only for first party Nintendo titles while the Xbox is for everything else.  It will likely be the same with the Wii U.  Nintendo is a staple in our household.   :)

mike9876543210
mike9876543210

 @Trenchman apple wont get money from it (well i think they wont) and if they did it wouldn't be much. i think it will be a mario galaxy style game but watered down so the iphone can handle it

albatraum
albatraum

 @Stealth_Knight_ Well there's that and the fact that Nintendo's games only being on the Nintendo consoles is the only thing keeping their consoles alive.

moviequest14
moviequest14

 @Bubble_Man It's getting pretty old but it still has nothing on Traverse Town theme song... that song drives me out my frickin time any more. >.< 

Deadly_Nemesis
Deadly_Nemesis

 @nuburoisa

Or they could do a Sonic and Knuckles kind of game and have Mario form a begrudging alliance with Wario and there could be a fun interesting buddy system throughout the game where you would have to swap in and out with characters to progress at times and yada yada think Tails and Donkey Kong and Diddy.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

 @SiLi34 Amen! If I get an HD Metroid,the world better learn to live without me for awhile,cause I'll want to spend as much time sucking that in as possible.

 

Hear me, Nintendo! Bring us a new Metroid game soon! Retro Studios developed, please!

supermoc10
supermoc10

 @SiLi34 My main consoles are always PlayStation (had a PS, PS2,PSP, PS3 and PSV) but I always end getting all three because of the exclusives. Bought an Xbox for Halo, GoW, bought a Wii for Mario and Zelda games. The only Wii games I have are:

-Super Smash Bros Brawl

-Super Mario Galaxy

-Super Mario Galaxy 2

-Mario Kart Wii

-Mario Party 8 and 9

-New Super Mario Bros. Wii

-Mario Strikers

-Skyward Sword

-Sonic Colors (only non-Nintendo game I have on Wii)

SDTalyor
SDTalyor

 @SiLi34 Same here, but playstation consoles have been my alternates since the later days of the 64. Nintendo's system will always be the first I buy though.

ggregd
ggregd

 @mike9876543210

 Apple takes 30% of the sale price and they pay the developer monthly (so they earn interest on money sitting in their bank account for up to a month).  Note that's for doing nothing but hosting the download and keeping track of the sales.  Why they feel the need to use virtual slave labor to make their devices is beyond me.

Trenchman
Trenchman

 @mike9876543210 I'm not sure if they get money or not, but it isn't about Apple making money directly.  It's about selling hardware.  Unlike Microsoft and Sony who usually under price them, Nintendo tends to price their consoles so they make a slight profit on sales, and a keeping their IPs on their hardware can help to sell it.  While putting their games on someone else's hardware could help that company sell more.

 

Now this may not be true, it could just end up being another revenue stream for Nintendo and they will only increase the amount of money they make.  But, some people, which I am not one of, see tablets as competition for handheld gaming, and if Mario is on the IPad/Phone that may less incentive for people to buy a 3DS, or any Nintendo hardware, to play Mario games.  Ultimately, I just don't think it will really help Nintendo in the long run and may only serve to support a rival.  I just don't think it makes a lot of sense.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

 @xpepox It does. Of course I don't have a link,but here on GS there are two articles about the Wii U. One where some named devs,including those working on the Aliens game,say the Wii U is more powerful,and one where some anonymous devs say it isn't. I'll take the word of people with names who I KNOW are working with the system over "some guys" any day.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

 @Trenchman You are correct. Everyone in the business knows software sells hardware. If that weren't true,companies wouldn't show their products running software in their commercials. Apple will have to get their own European, monster stomping, princess rescuing tradesman.