Nintendo on Reinventing Mario and the Ever-Present Legacy of Shigeru Miyamoto

The developers behind Super Mario 3D Land open up about what made it into the game, what didn't, and where Mario goes from here.

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Mario has been at his princess-rescuing routine for a good long while, but Nintendo almost always finds a way to keep his adventures interesting. With Super Mario 3D Land having just hit store shelves, we had a chat with producer Yoshiaki Koizumi and director Koichi Hayashida to get a little insight into the agile plumber's debut outing on the 3DS.

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GameSpot: How did you decide which power-up suits to create for the game? How do you balance new and classic power-ups?

Koichi Hayashida : The idea for Tanooki Mario arose when we asked ourselves how we could supplement Mario's jumping ability. When you jump in a 3D space, it can be difficult to tell exactly where you are. When you find you can't reach the next foothold after a jump, jump support comes in. In Super Mario Sunshine, there was FUDD hovering; in Super Mario Galaxy, there was spinning; and in Super Mario Galaxy 2 there was Yoshi's flutter jump.

This time, because players can actually see in 3D, we decided to take away regular Mario's jump support. But for people who decided to play without stereoscopic 3D and beginners, we wanted to make it possible to fall more slowly. After discussion between Mr. Miyamoto and the team, the decision was made to use Tanooki Mario.

We included Fire Mario because balls move in interesting ways when you bounce them off walls in 3D space. One could say that the way the fireballs move is similar to how the superballs moved in Super Mario Land. When the enemy character Boom Boom was throwing a boomerang, we thought it would be fun if the player could use a boomerang too, and that's why we created Boomerang Mario. Some elements of Boomerang Mario were inspired by Hammer Mario from Super Mario Bros. 3.

The propeller box isn't a power-up, but it's another idea that we came up with along with Tanooki Mario when we were thinking of jump support ideas. Since the propeller box lets players experience the joy of flight, we decided to include it in the game.

Basically, we try out ideas and find gameplay elements that seem fun. Then, when we're trying to figure out how to put those elements in the game, we sometimes borrow from old Mario gameplay elements if we find similarities, and if we don't find similarities, we create new ways of incorporating the gameplay elements into the game.

GS: Would you consider making another Mario game as an open-world adventure where players have more choice? Or will future games stick to the straightforward level structure?

"My recent goal has been to re-create the feel and tempo of Super Mario Bros. in a 3D Mario game. I think that we were able to boldly step into a new area with this title."

Yoshiaki Koizumi: We've been working on Mario in 3D for 15 years. In some ways, the fun of searching for stars that we discovered in Super Mario 64 evolved into The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and has continued in the Zelda series. I'm satisfied with that. My recent goal has been to re-create the feel and tempo of Super Mario Bros. in a 3D Mario game. I think that we were able to boldly step into a new area with this title. At the same time, search-based gameplay is definitely fun, and I'm sure it will find its way into future Mario games in one way or another.

GS: How is your relationship with Mr. Miyamoto? And what is Takashi Tezuka's role with the game (if he has one)?

YK: We've made games together for so many years now that they're like my family. Sometimes they take on the role of a stern father, and other times they're friends who share my joy. I've presented them with a number of new (difficult) challenges over the years, and I know I've given them some headaches, but they're good guides who always grapple with the challenges I present them with, and sometimes parry them.

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KH: I've recently been working on a collection of Mr. Miyamoto's sayings and researching his thought process. I'm trying to be a Miyamoto analyst on the level of Mr. Iwata. We received a lot of advice from Mr. Tezuka for Super Mario 3D Land. Mr. Tezuka taught us that Mario needs to have happiness and fun. Super Mario 3D Land takes the 3D Mario know-how that myself and Mr. Koizumi have accumulated and adds the support of Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Tezuka. I think this game blends together all the Mario experiences that have been created up until this point.

GS: Which parts of Super Mario 3D Land were clearly Mr. Miyamoto's ideas?

"I think this game blends together all the Mario experiences that have been created up until this point."
KH: When Mr. Miyamoto made the first Super Mario Bros. game 26 years ago, he wanted to make it so that the flag on the flagpole only rose to the point that Mario grabbed onto, and this time we were able to make that a reality. I think this makes people more motivated to grab the top of the flagpole and increases the joy they feel when they succeed in doing so.

We also made adjustments with the help of Mr. Miyamoto concerning the questions of what type of jump Mario should have and what the action of stomping should entail.

The recommended view that makes the stereoscopic view more stable, which we were able to implement at the end, was the result of Mr. Miyamoto saying, "The view in Mario Kart is more stable." We received a variety of different types of advice concerning everything from major concepts to small details, and each piece of advice helped to make the game better.

GS: What was the inspiration for bringing back the tanooki suit?

KH: We started by asking ourselves how to support Mario's jumping ability. We had a choice between Raccoon Mario and Tanooki Mario. We created models of both and tried moving them around in the game. We found that it was more difficult to recognize the difference between normal Mario and Raccoon Mario, so we went with Tanooki Mario.

There were also other cases in which an idea didn't work out when we actually tried displaying it in the game. This time Small Mario isn't wearing a hat. The reason for this is that in levels like 5-2, where the camera is directly above the player's head, we couldn't tell the difference between Small Mario and Super Mario when only his head was visible.

GS: What's the biggest issue you faced developing for the 3DS?

KH: Our struggle to overcome processing limitations lasted until the end of development. I'm the type of person who likes to play games at 60 frames per second. Even when we were developing Super Mario Sunshine, we kept the frame rate at 60fps until the middle phase of development. I was very pleased with the 60fps frame rate of Super Mario Galaxy. I had to settle with 30fps this time. Of course, we created a game that can be enjoyed even at 30fps, but I can't help but think about how fantastic it would be to play this game at 60fps.

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GS: When a person picks up Super Mario 3D Land for the first time, what's the first thing you hope they notice? Is there something in particular that you hope someone sees and then goes to a friend and says, "Hey, look at this!"?

"I really want people to try playing level 1-1 with the stereoscopic 3D turned on, because I really think players will get a sense for just how fun the game is."
KH: As the director, I really want people to try playing level 1-1 with the stereoscopic 3D turned on, because I really think players will get a sense for just how fun the game is. However, as an individual, I want people to check out the room with a mysterious square in it that I created in my spare time. It appears if you keep watching the title demo. It may look like a strange shape at first, but I think you'll figure out what it is if you turn on the stereoscopic 3D.

GS: What's next? Are you planning to take some time off and relax, or have you already jumped onto another project?

YK: In Super Mario 3D Land, we were able to chart out a particular course. In a way, this involved looking back on the past. Next, I want to try to figure out what should come in the future and work to make it a reality. We still need to continue to improve 3D Mario games, and in addition to Mario, I'm also working on another game that I really want to show everyone as soon as possible. Please look forward to it.

KH: I enjoy thinking about what type of game I want to make next, so that's what I'm doing right now.

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