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Nintendo's Yoshi Could Have Been The Star Of Splatoon

Tofu, rabbits, and dinosaurs.


The earliest prototypes for Splatoon used what looked like large blocks of tofu that fired white or black ink. The next unsuccessful iteration involved rabbits. But perhaps unsurprisingly, Nintendo also tried using some of its existing IP while it was searching for the perfect characters to encapsulate Splatoon's splashy gameplay. But it wasn't any of the aquatic denizens you might be thinking of from the Mushroom Kingdom or Hyrule--Splatoon was almost populated by a world of Yoshis.

During a GDC talk in San Franciso this past week, Splatoon producer Hisashi Nogami (who you might recognize as the guy who comes out in the lab coat to deliver the game's updates) dropped some behind-the-scenes knowledge on the making of Splatoon and Splatoon 2. He showed in-development shots of Yoshi in the game, as well as prototype images from even earlier character designs. You can see those slides from the presentation below. But following the panel, we also got the chance to ask Nogami a few follow-up questions, which you can read below.

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Now Playing: GS News Update: Nintendo's Yoshi Was Almost The Star of Splatoon

This is just an excerpt from our full interview, which covered topics including Splatoon's grim lore, the meaning of "dark Nintendo," and why rabbits keep popping up in Nintendo games. You can read the complete Splatoon 2 interview here. The answers to the questions below were provided by a translator from Nintendo.

GameSpot: During your presentation, you showed an image of Yoshi, and it looked like he was in the game. With the rabbits and with the tofu, that was obviously a prototype; but the Yoshi felt like much further along. How far did you get with putting Nintendo characters and other characters that we're familiar with in the game?

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Hisashi Nogami: I think that option we were considering of whether or not to use pre-existing characters or IP came right around the time that we started to have doubts about our rabbit characters. We thought, "Okay, if not rabbits, then maybe we can consider these other characters."

Of course, as Nintendo developers we're aware of this stable of pre-existing characters we have and their appeal with players. It's not that if we had found a character that was perfectly matched to the type of gameplay we were trying to create that we would not have considered going with it. For Yoshi, he can come in many colors, change his color; he was in this case more appealing and a better fit than Mario.

But then when you get that far and think, "Well, okay, Yoshi can change his color, that makes him suitable," you run into the same questions. Why would Yoshi shoot ink or dive into ink? Is it okay that he wouldn't shoot his tongue out or throw eggs like he typically does?

In that prototype, did Yoshi hold a gun or was he shooting the ink out of his mouth?

Well, at the stage we were considering putting pre-existing IP into the game, including Yoshi, we had already decided that this was a game where we wanted to have a large variety of weapons and tools for you to use in order to shoot ink in different ways. We were already pretty far along with that idea, so rather than just give Yoshi the ability to shoot ink out of his mouth in one particular way, we had him hold these weapons that we had already started to design.

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