Super Mario 3DS -- Yoshiaki Koizumi Q&A

We speak all things Super Mario 3DS, making changes to how Mario moves, why the Galaxy games drifted from the core Mario experience, and more with Nintendo's Yoshiaki Koizumi.

Nintendo's Yoshiaki Koizumi is one of the powerhouses of Japanese development, having a hand in either directing, producing, or writing such Nintendo classics as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Sunshine, and both Super Mario Galaxy games. Koizumi's next project is the much-anticipated debut of the portly plumber on Nintendo's new handheld, Super Mario 3DS. We managed to catch up with Koizumi at this year's E3 to chat about taking Mario to the third dimension, how Mario changes from game to game, his thoughts on hint systems, and what he believes makes up the core of the Mario experience.

GameSpot AU: From what we've played of Super Mario 3DS so far, you seem to be playing a lot with perspective. There has been a lot of foreground to background movement when it comes to Mario traversing levels, and vice versa. What else do you have planned for the game?

Yoshiaki Koizumi: The effect of things coming from the background to the foreground was definitely something we wanted to use specifically because we could present it in 3D. When you're presenting someone with a fictional world, and you're trying to help them grasp how to move objects around inside of it, it was always very difficult, particularly on 2D displays, to show something coming from the background towards you. But now, we've gotten away from that taboo in development, and we now feel like we can use that effect more easily.

As for other effects, we're thinking of how objects will move in a 3D game and how they will move within a 3D display. We're thinking about several of them, but I'm afraid I can't reveal anything at this time.

GS AU: While playing, we also noticed that, at times, we were presented with a fixed view of Mario. When he moved behind some objects, he was obscured. Was this a deliberate move to get players to explore the world? Are you afraid people might lose track of the character in the level?

YK: We've been using this shadowed Mario silhouette ever since Sunshine. It's important in a 3D game to keep the player from losing the view of the character. In Sunshine, one of the solutions we had for this was to have the camera slowly rotate around the object that was obscuring the view of the character while it was still presented in a shadow silhouette. But we found that the camera movement tended to make some people queasy. We decided to fix this here by having a solution of a fixed camera and a constant presentation of the shadow.

GS AU: When you're designing a new Mario game, how much influence do fans have? The inclusion of the tanooki suit in Super Mario 3DS, for example, answers a lot of fans' calls. Do you listen to fans before you start development?

YK: I think it's important to note that our staff are all fans of the series as well, having grown up with Mario. And, as such, they're very familiar about what the traditional Super Mario game elements are and what makes it a fun experience. So we decided to focus on those few elements and culled the rest, to really get down to the essence. And of course, on that list the tanooki suit was very high. So I would say in that sense, yes, we do listen to fans when we design the game.

GS AU: The upcoming 3DS version of Ocarina of Time will feature a video hints system, while New Super Mario Bros. on the Wii also allowed you to skip past difficult sections. What do you think of such hint and help systems on a platformer, and are you planning to implement something similar in Super Mario 3DS?

YK: I feel like Ocarina of Time is a type of game that players can work through the puzzles even without this type of hint system. At the time, we were very satisfied with the challenge level it presented, even without hints. But looking back, we do recognise that there were some exceedingly difficult spots for players, so we're offering the hints in the form of video to help them out.

But ultimately, I feel that game design should strive for an experience that allows players to complete puzzles without the use of hints at all. And at the very least we should strive to make these puzzles fun to try repeatedly without hints--that's our ultimate goal.

GS AU: So how hard is it to design a puzzle or challenge that doesn't get frustrating to try over and over again?

YK: Of course Mario and Zelda games are very different kinds of experiences in the sense that Mario doesn't have the same type of puzzle-solving you'll find in a Zelda game. But that doesn't mean there aren't some parts of the game that are quite difficult. The important part is to design a challenging area of the game so that it doesn't feel like work if you have to do it more than once. So long as the experience is fun each time, I think players will still be satisfied.

GS AU: You worked on both Super Mario Galaxy games. Given the creative and gravity-defying ways platforming was approached in those games, does it feel more restrictive now to work on a more "traditional" Mario game?

YK: It's kind of strange. When I worked on Galaxy, as with every Super Mario game I always focus on the surprise and the newness of what we could bring to the gameplay experience. Perhaps that's just my personality.

While Galaxy had a lot of very interesting new features that weren't present in other games in the series, I feel like we also were able to sink down to some of the origins of the series at the same time. We put a lot of effort into it as we were working on it.

Similarly, this time I guess our approach is best described as focusing on how to bring the core essence of the Mario gameplay experience to a game that is presented in 3D. And this is taking us to lots of interesting new ideas that go even beyond what we did in Galaxy.

GS AU: So what is the core Mario experience?

YK: I feel like the core experience is something that we may have started to get away from a little bit when we first started presenting games in 3D like in Super Mario 64. The idea in those games is that you walk around in those environments and give the players a lot of opportunity to explore.

But the real basics of the Super Mario series is that players have to get to the goal of a level without dying. You have short levels with a very quick tempo, and it should be a very thrilling experience. So some of that was actually missing from Galaxy. The gameplay was a bit slower, and it was so much easier to die, so the core experience of getting to the goal without dying was harder to achieve.

This time around, you'll find that we have something closer to the three-minute levels you see in Super Mario Bros., so for me, overall this feels closer to the core of the Super Mario Bros. experience traditionally.

GS AU: Since Mario is so well known, people have an expectation of how he'll move and control. Does that place limits on how you can modify the character?

YK: It's interesting that you say that, because in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, the jump height and distance was just a little bit different each time. And that's something we always do--we always tune those jumps and the way you control the character to the specific requirements of the game. Regardless, fans all along have, I think, found the game easy to play and found Mario easy to control as a result. And I hope that's because we were able to tune successfully each time.

As for giving Mario a new power, every time we want Mario to do something really super, we just create a new suit. Hopefully, we've been able to retain that Super Mario feel in those new additions, as well.

I do compare the old games fairly frequently. One thing I always notice was that Mario's foot speed seemed a little slow in Mario 64. That's something we wanted to get faster and faster, until eventually in Galaxy we had to dial it back a little bit. But we certainly look back and tune it as we start each new game.

GS AU: So Mario played around with gravity in Galaxy, and now he's moving into a 3D visual environment. Where is there to go for platformers from here?

YK: Clearly I can't make an out-and-out prediction. And I have to say that presenting Mario in a 3D display still has some secrets that I'll challenge myself to unveil. But I do look forward to the different types of experiences we can bring to the Wii U. Given that very interesting new hardware, I think we'll be able to do a lot with it, and we're exploring that right now.

GS AU: How do you feel about having the responsibility for making the next Mario? Does it keep you awake at night?

YK: I do occasionally have trouble sleeping through the night, but it's not necessarily because of the sense of responsibility I feel for the next Mario game. Probably the feeling I have while working on these games is a sense of accomplishment, because I'm so much aware of what we're bringing new to the series. If anything's keeping me up at night, it'll be the occasional idea that I come up with and can't get back to sleep.

GS AU: So where do you get your inspiration?

YK: I guess I find the inspiration for Super Mario games from regular life. Considering that Super Mario levels are so full of simple props and gimmicks you can interact with, things as simple as turning a knob or hitting a switch are the places you'll find inspiration for similar objects in the game.

I should also mention that because I commute by train, I spend a lot of time looking out the window, and sometimes the buildings that pass me by look like giant Mario courses. For example, I imagine one of those giant, spiky skewers coming out of a building and wondering how cool that would be.

GS AU: There has been a lot of buzz lately about the growth of gaming on mobile devices such as the iPhone and Android devices. Do you see mobile as an opportunity or a threat?

YK: I definitely don't see it as a threat. I feel if more people are brought to games through any means, it's something that makes me happy, it's definitely welcome. I think I would leave the worrying to others.

GS AU: Would a game like Mario work with a touch-screen device?

YK: When we were developing for the Wii and the DS, we actually tried to do a few experiments where people were touching a screen to jump. We feel it's important when making a Super Mario game, which is supposed to be accessible to a great many kinds of people, that you ask questions of those people. In that case, it turned out that buttons were the best option. But that certainly doesn't limit our thinking about new types of interfaces, and those new kinds of interfaces wouldn't necessarily need control pads or buttons, but we just don't know yet.

GS AU: Yoshiaki Koizumi, thanks for your time.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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Discussion

63 comments
Raxyman
Raxyman

@Winthersnow I agree that nowadays FPSs are way too derivative, and i'm placing my bets in Hard Reset and Bodycount. Besides i own a 360 i hate Halo series and therefore i'm not too sure about this new Bungie game. Take a look at Hard Reset concept, it's way off the confort zone of nowadays shooters, in fact, the publisher wants to relive the old days of Doom, Duke Nukem and Wolfenstein. It's worth the look.

Winthersnow
Winthersnow

@Raxyman I'm not going to lie, I'm a huge Nintendo fan. And I've played and loved most any game that Nintendo has put out. That being said, i also love my Xbox but hate the PS3 Because of poor controller design. I'm just tired of the "hard-core" perception in video games these days. It's all about the FPS genre and how "realistic" the said genre can be. I just think that the game developers should take a step outside of their comfort zone and make something new (Nintendo included.) the most promising FPS game that I've heard about is bungie's new MMOFPS.

videun
videun

I think Nintendo went to far with the 3DS because they didn't make much money out of it.People were complaining about it.

videun
videun

Seems like a sequel to Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Bogroll101
Bogroll101

In ways I agree, i know nintendo could do a little better with there games, but there are the best around. every opinion counts. I'm a really big nintendo fan i have been ever since i got my first console the nintendo 64. i believe that nintendo is one of the best video companies around, well at least better then microsoft and sony. anyway Mario is one of the most-favored platformers of all time, you can't really disagree on that to be honest. i know there are other platform games out there, like donkey kong country (one of my favourite game franchises) that improved Mario's gameplay and was inspired. I'm just glad we get another mario game! hopefully another donkey kong.

Raxyman
Raxyman

@braedo_the_stud Finally! At least someone is able to understand why i don't like Nintendo. But about their games, it's not that they're bad, it's that i see so much unused potential because of the fear of losing money... And nowadays gamers are more "exclusive". Most people i know have only 1 console and they defend it like hell, it's not just Nintendo's fans that do that. Sony and MS fans ALSO do that. And it's just my personality to say what i think, even though i know that sometimes i offend other people. From now on i'll try and be more careful of what i say in Nintendo's posts, i realized that there's no discussing nowadays with most gamers. I see at least you understood what i meant, thank you for that.

braedo_the_stud
braedo_the_stud

@Raxyman I see where you're coming from, but you're coming to a Nintendo related post and flaming their games, so the Nintendo fans that are "a pain" are gonna attack you... That's just the way they are. Also about the DSi thing, I was actually reminiscing today about the day I bought my DSi and the guy at Gamestop told me there would be exclusive (Not downloadable) games for it, and how that was a complete lie. So you're not alone.

Raxyman
Raxyman

@braedo_the_stud My biggest problem is, i ALWAYS get a trolling warning whenever i criticize Nintendo. Look below, i apoligized and yet i got a thumb down. It's not the thumb down that i care neither the trolling accusation, it's the fact of no one admit that Nintendo could've been WAY better that it is today. Nintendo's fans not even try to hear other people as well. I'm not here to insult anyone, and i realize that lots of people that do. I own a Wii, it's a cool hardware. I've played Super Smash Brawl. It's a good game, but not the best fighting game. Mario Galaxy was a decent game, but not the best platformer. You get what i'm saying? I hate how people overrate their games, that's all. I also feel like i'm the only one that got annoyed because it bought a DSi only to not have any game exclusive to DSi at all, and then they release ANOTHER ds in a matter of 1~2 years?

braedo_the_stud
braedo_the_stud

@Raxyman My main question is, in COD, what NEW scenarios do they add? Just because Nintendo continues a series for 25 years doesn't mean it's still not original. Remember the original SMB? Then how far it changed from that to SM64? Then how far that changed to Sunshine and Galaxy? I do agree that some Nintendo fans can be jerks, but what about all of the people that go to Nintendo posts just to insult people? Just my two cents.

BasilVZero
BasilVZero

Cant wait love the mario adventure games *-*

lujanr32
lujanr32

im still waiting for Super Mario Sunshine 2

Raxyman
Raxyman

@spike6958 If they are attacked so much shouldn't that mean something? Besides i hate a lot of things that happen nowadays that kills originality, like the multiplayer hype, not just Nintendo. There are some good games for Nintendo's consoles, like Trace Memory, Trauma Center, No More Heroes. The problem is, Nintendo itself doesn't invest on originality. I am, personally, dissapointed with Nintendo, but that is not the only thing i complain, i'm only 17 and i'm already one of those that believe nowadays gaming just don't live up to the old ones. I only said what i said because fan supporting is profitable to the companies. There's been tons of Zeldas and Marios, because it's profitable, and they put little effort on things that aren't hyped. I hate the fact of majority killing some things. But you're right, i've exaggerated a bit there, i'm sorry for not having respected others opinions.

Jon_Sly
Jon_Sly

To me mario will always be its best in 2D something about 3D just isn't my cup of tea. Guess I am just use to the old school days.

spike6958
spike6958

@Raxyman You are allowed to have you're opinions, but the reason Nintendo fans act they way they do is because people like you come into topics about Nintendo games JUST to complain about Nintendo games. Nintendo fans get more s**t than anyone. They get it about there graphics, games, online, even there lack of been able to play DVDs, and sure Microsoft and Sony fans do take the same from each other too, but they at least have the outlet of knowing there system is "better than Nintendo", hell Nintendo even get it from Apple fans. The constant stream of attack from all sides (including a side that doesn't even exists for Microsoft and Sony) was bound to turn Nintendo fans this way. So here's an idea for you, why don't YOU respect that Nintendo fans also have opinions and personality's and if you aren't a fan of Nintendo or interested in any of there games then stop coming into Nintendo articles just to attack them and then complain when they fight back.

chyng85
chyng85

A colorful game ever!~

extracrispy
extracrispy

All these great games coming out for 3DS is making it crazy hard to hold off buying one @_@

Raxyman
Raxyman

@braedo_the_stud I won't discuss that, Nintendo fans are a pain, they act like a pack of wolves and NO ONE is allowed to have opinions, Mario and Zelda does just like CoD or Halo, improve a little the graphics, add some new things, puts new scenarios, add a few things to story... Bring on the haters with their "powerful" thumbs down, i have an personality and i stick to it. I won't change my opinion because of the majority.

rhysthepriest
rhysthepriest

This game is making me consider buying a 3DS. The levels are always perfectly designed, and the fun never dies after these years.

wexorian
wexorian

playng marion even on my mobile phone is enterntaining and fun and also n wii its cool so this could be cool one :)))

dawnofhero
dawnofhero

If anyone wants to exchange 3DS friend codes, check out my blog :)

chimpmeister
chimpmeister

Nintendo needs to move on from the same rehashed Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong stuff to something new, this rehashing of old crap on inferior hardware has worn out.

1-Up_Gamer
1-Up_Gamer

I like the part where Koizumi says that Super Mario 3DS will be closer to the traditional Mario experience of three-minute Super Mario Bros. levels.

soulless4now
soulless4now

I'm not much of a Mario fan, but I am excited for this game.

ace070590
ace070590

I love Mario games, in general, and I feel that it's the only series that has consistently had good games despite it being out for so long. I like the fact that it re-lives original titles, yet twists things to a current standard by adding features like 3D capabilities, new levels, motion controls, etc. Nintendo does spend a lot of time fine-tuning and refreshing their games, as do other companies, but sometimes it gets repetitive. Either way, good read :)

pinicolaroxa
pinicolaroxa

Just how good are the 3ds graphics? I have never played one and judging by the pictures i dont think they are very good, the paper mario looks worst than the gamecube version.

cachinscythe
cachinscythe

@punkdsk8erdude I don't personally agree with you, but I see what you mean. In fact, I made this exact argument on another page where someone was trying to say Nintendo's games are so much better than the competition's because they spent so much time fine-tuning them. I suggested that maybe they didn't, but instead just spaced them out enough that they FELT fresh each time they released. I was doing this in the context of Sonic Team supposedly being a bad developer, not to suggest Nintendo didn't work hard on their games. That said, I believe you've made a big mistake bringing up Zelda. You mentioned it only releases every 5 or 6 years. But if you look at the releases, it actually has seen far more releases than Mario in recent years. On N64 there were two Zeldas in the span of 3 years, and not too long after that Wind Waker came out on GC. Meanwhile two new handheld titles were released during that same period. Then Four Swords Adventure released on GC and The Minish Cap appeared on GBA. Since then, we've seen Twilight Princess on Wii/GC and Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks for DS. That's 10 titles in roughly 12 years. Compare that to core Mario games and he comes up quite short.

Agelu
Agelu

Excellent interview. While it didn't say much about the upcoming game, it says a good deal about what they consider to be the core gameplay of Mario, and what they plan to do about it.

punkdsk8erdude
punkdsk8erdude

lol man i got slammed for my last comment.. all i was saying was that i actually wish super mario games came out less often nowadays. i feel like they are coming out only a couple years apart and its not letting the greatness of each title sink in. Galaxy 1 & 2 were both awesome, i loved them both a lot but i kind of would rather they waited before coming out with another one. i know this is on 3ds not wii but nonetheless its a super mario game. take zelda for instance. if u are only looking at the home console zeldas which were the only 3d ones thus far obviously, one is released once every 5 or 6 years. after i beat one, thats 5 or 6 years i have to go back and replay and appreciate it and then long for a new one. then when i new one comes out im more excited for it, as i am for skyward sword right now. i want to be really excited for every single super mario game, and even though i'm sure this will be great & between this SM and LoZ i'd consider getting a 3DS, i'm not as excited about it as i feel i should be for a SM.. that's all

raptures330
raptures330

I am always surprised at how well designed the levels are. How many times do they have people playing them over and over to make that jump, land on bad guy, pop back up onto another platform be correct each and every time. The jumps are always spaced perfectly, whether horizontal or vertical. Just a really amazing job testing these things before they go out the door. New mechanics don't hurt either!

inso-maniac
inso-maniac

well after reading this whole thing i learned absolutely nothing new about this game,thx for dodging the questions

Dualmask
Dualmask

It would be a far better idea to devote time and resources to the presentation of a new 2D Mario game (which always sells astronomically) rather than constantly playing around with the secondary version of Mario (the 3D version that never sells as well as the 2D versions), but Nintendo's gonna do what Nintendo wants to do.

calvinsora
calvinsora

Mario is always fun to play. It's amazing how good they are at creating experiences that remain entertaining even though we've played Mario for years upon years. That's why Nintendo is one of the best developers out there (granted, there are individuals within Nintendo that make each game, not just one big company, but meh).

braedo_the_stud
braedo_the_stud

@Raxyman Yeah Mario is the only game series that never ends... Not COD or Halo or anything like that... Those games are (Almost) identical to each other through each release, but Mario games are always fresh every time... Although I do agree about Star Fox.

Brettsky128
Brettsky128

Anybody who thinks there's too many Mario games or Nintendo is unoriginal is wrong. Go play your Call of Duty 12.

mario-nin-freak
mario-nin-freak

I wanted a Galaxy game for 3DS more because of 3D, but going back to 2-D origins is just as good!

Nightmareboosta
Nightmareboosta

Whats the similarity between the Simpsons and Mario? Every time they release something expect new content

fkbwii
fkbwii

I can't believe every Super Mario game has something new. Every time! How do they do it?! These guys are geniuses and I'll pick this up on day one.

Lazerith91
Lazerith91

@Raxyman Because 95% of the world still loves mario games. Why stop making what the majority loves?

franzito
franzito

@punkdsk8erdude I don't think you're totally wrong but you need a better argument. You have to consider that every Super Mario game will always get attention and they're generally from good to great games

franzito
franzito

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Raxyman
Raxyman

Another super mario... good to know nintendo is planning to keep it original... I'll always wonder why they keep releasing the same games over and over and simply dissapear with the star fox series. It was the only nintendo game i liked a lot...

franzito
franzito

It seems cool but I like to buy a system based on a solid list of great games.

Nozizaki
Nozizaki

I've seen footage of this game, and much like all portable gaming screenshots, they don't do the game any justice.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@punkdsk8erdude Separate platforms. Anyway Galaxy 1 and 2 were superb how can you not look forward to a title from the same team?, it's in good hands. It's hard to keep innovating when the core character is over 25 years old...

oxjackiechan
oxjackiechan

@punkdsk8erdude trying to write a article?

Preijnst
Preijnst

Mario is as fresh now as he was in Super Mario Bros. for the NES.

valcrist09
valcrist09

mario never gets old, i dont know how Nintendo does it but every time I am like not another mario.. I play it and fall in love.. But this mario looks awesome, finally a full blown n64 style mario on a hand held should be exciting.

mariostar0001
mariostar0001

He said a lot about the series in general, and about game design, very informative. Nothing much here for someone looking for Super Mario 3DS info, but for someone wanting to get a little more into the mind of a Mario game designer, this is what you want.