We were lucky to sit down and interview Mr. Takashi Tezuka from Nintendo. He is working on both New Super Mario Bros 2 for the 3DS and New Super Mario Bros. U for the Wii U.
Take a look at the transcript of the discussion below:
COG: What are you trying to do for the established ‘Mario’ audience since the first New Super Mario Bros on the 3DS released and what are you doing to bring to new people to the franchise?
Mr. Tezuka: There is nothing really special being done. One thing we have continued though is the implementation of the “Assisted Walk” from 3D Land. This is the item that transforms you into the White Raccoon if you die 5 times or more. It is something that helps people who are not skilled at playing Mario games and allows them to continue playing and enjoy the game.
COG: During the press conference, and in the game demo on the floor, I noted the emphasis on coin collecting. I have never seen such an emphasis on it, why make it so prevalent this time around?
Mr. Tezuka: Mario has always been about players going over the same course multiple times and finding all the hidden objects and hidden interactions through the levels. Finding these things is one thing we have always had in the past. So we tried to think of things for the gamers to play the same course over and over again and coin collecting is the theme for this aspect this time.
In the beginning we were joking about making gamers collect 1,000,000 coins, and everyone was like “yeah right”, but in the end we did make a game where you can collect 1,000,000 coins. To do this, we had to figure out how gamers could collect all these coins, and how to make it interesting.
COG: Is there incentive to collect 1,000,000 coins?
Mr. Tezuka: There is, but I just don’t know if we are allowed to say it.
COG: There have been so many Mario games over the years. How do you manage to keep things fresh and keep bringing people back over and over?
Mr. Tezuka: One thing is that Mario controls have stayed the same. We have kept them and protected them. And really, one way we have kept Mario new is by taking advantage of the hardware it is on, highlighting hardware feature. We try to highlight features that are specific to the hardware that each Mario is on. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but with each hardware iteration we release, we release a side-scrolling Mario for each one. And because we focus our attention on bringing out the features of each hardware to each game, it would be difficult to bring 2 or 3 side scrolling Mario games because “the one” we released has already done what we wanted to accomplish on that hardware. For the 3DS we are highlighting the StreetPass feature. With Wii U, it is the Wii U gamepad.
COG: Having worked on so many versions of Mario, do you have a preference of Mario games: 2D or 3D?
Mr. Tezuka: I am going to preface by saying I have been involved most with the New Super Mario Bros. series, so 2D is where I have most of my work. Of course I do oversee and monitor development of 3D Mario as well. I am in Kyoto. The team for 3D Mario is in Tokyo. And the folks in Tokyo are people who have worked on previous Mario games. And actually they have been able to put geographical distance, and freedom, between us and they have put some out some really great ideas. As they continue to push their development it has stimulated and energized me when working on the 2D Marios. We are all good friends, and part of the same company, but there is friendly rivalry. And so when they create new levels for their game, they ask my opinion and I give it.
One thing about having both different types of Marios is that there are some people who don’t like 3D Mario, as it doesn’t suit them for one reason or another. Personally I like both. We try to make games that appeal to both sets of fans (2D and 3D).
COG: Given how long Nintendo have been in business, there are people who started playing on the original NES and have graduated to newer Nintendo consoles. I have a 5½ and a 7½ year old who want to play. What consideration is being given to make the new generation of Nintendo fans, those who are children of die hard Nintendo fans, come to the newer games like those on the Wii U.
Mr. Tezuka: I have two daughters. When they were in elementary school, of course I had them play, although they were not all that interested. I was looking at other games out then, and they were not as flashy as our games. Personally I believe the gameplay that we have with Mario will entice people to play it over and over again, but I do believe there is a wall or barrier.
In recent years I wanted to bring the side scrolling 2D Mario to modern gamers and we thought of ways to make it appealing to people in this era, and that is the New Super Mario Bros franchise we are working on now. Just as we are working on this franchise now, going forward, we always think what it is we need to have to make Mario appeal to the group of people who are going to be playing at the time. Our thinking stays the same.
COG: Given we are still now a 3D world, gameplay wise, what kind of labour of love is it to bring the 2D style of game to a 3D graphics influenced world? It is a style I have grown up with; my children have watched me play them too. Bringing the simplicity into a complex world, what was that like for you to do?
Mr. Tezuka: It is really the simplicity that is the attraction. Players know what they have to do, and they can do it. If we can implement it right we can reach out to as many people as possible. And although I am interested in 3D Mario, and a 3D game world, I think about folks who cannot play it though as there are people who get sick when playing it and because I want those folks, and others, to continue to play Mario, now and going forward. It might be simple or old fashioned to have a 2D side-scroller, but I just want people who don’t, or can’t, play in a 3D world to be able to reach Mario as well.
COG: Do you keep a notebook, or notes, or anything with ideas or things that you don’t get to implement so you can continue to make the games you do? Each time they come out there is always something new or fresh.
Mr. Tezuka: We do, but not as much as people might think. To be honest, we try to implement all the things we are doing at that time, or what the hardware can allow us to implement; however, there are things or ideas that come up but hardware does not allow us to implement it, but maybe when new hardware is developed for next generation, we may think “Hey, remember that idea we had”, then we may be able to implement it.
COG: Is time ever a factor (e.g. not enough time to do it)?
Mr. Tezuka: I am sure it is, but there is nothing that stands out on the top of my head. If there is something we want, we try to figure it out and do it. And really, something we focus on a lot is that we look at the hardware we are developing Mario for, and we look at the features of the hardware and what it brings to us. For example, with New Super Mario Bros 2 for the 3DS, we are focusing on Street Pass, and one Wii U, it is the Gamepad.
With the HD graphics of the Wii U, we can focus on using Mii characters. Let me explain exactly what I mean. When you are playing multiplayer, the screen pans out and the characters get smaller. On the zoomed out view we want people to identify the players, and the HD ability of the Wii U allows player to see exactly who the characters are even when small. This aspect fits the Wii U perfectly. This allows for that fun multiplayer factor to even stand out more, as you can have you Mii doing the work.
Mr. Tezuka: Focusing on the Wii U for a minute, how excited are you to be working on the new platform given its power and features?
Well, for one thing, on the Wii U the ability to play off TV and on the Gamepad. It looks so nice on the screen and is really neat. With the size difference between the screens on portable devices and the screen on the Gamepad it looks so nice to see games on the bigger Gamepad screen.
So at first we did think how we could use the Wii U gamepad. Looking back at New Super Mario Bros Wii, people liked the multiplayer aspect, so we thought what we could do to improve on that. With the Wii U, we have 5-player multiplayer. And what the Wii U gamepad to does, it allows people who have never played a Mario game to jump right in. All they need to do is touch the screen to make a platform, or what we call a boost pad, for others. For example, you may have someone in your household, for example your mother, and now she can join in the fun. For us, thinking of things like that, developing with that goal in mind, getting others to play, that is the development that is super fun for us.
So right now, I am working on two Mario games at the same time, and each team uses the other team as kind of a rival. Each team is saying, “Let’s build a game better then that guy, or appeal to more people”. It is a healthy stimulus and healthy rivalry. It is the first time for us to create two unique titles at the same time.
COG: Do you ever get the two titles mixed up?
Mr. Tezuka: Yes. Sometimes people have to remind me of what title we are talking about.
COG: Is there anything that you want our community, or our community’s family members to know? What are those definitive words or ideas you may want to communicate?
Mr. Tezuka: The Wii U, this is a game machine that expands or opens the doorway for a lot of people to experience Mario on the Wii U. By utilizing the features of the Wii U hardware we have also created a game that is going to appeal to, and have gameplay depth, for long-term fans of the franchise as well.
Another feature worth noting is that gamers can play on the gamepad if someone wants to use the TV. I don’t think people will really understand how cool this feature is until they experience people turning to the TV to watch a show and the gamer can then play on the Wii U gamepad.
In regards to New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS, the StreetPass feature will encourage people to take their 3DS out with them a lot. The new coin rush mode is one such feature. This is a mode where you play with one life and you have to clear three stages with no mistakes. This is a very veteran mode. If you can clear all three levels without dying, as if you die you have to start again, you will get a lot of coins.
Remember, we have that 1,000,000 coin feature. And with StreetPass I can take a coin rush score and have StreetPass trade that score. With the StreetPass feature I can then challenge your score, and if I beat that, I get a lot of coins. I think this is a fun thing for people who want to hone their Mario skills. Also, you can view the total number of coins world wide collected by every Mario player.
Even though each game is a 2D side scrolling Mario, they are very unique and discreet games in their own way.
We would like to thank Mr. Tezuka, and his interpreter, for taking the time to answer our questions during what was no doubt a very busy time. We would also like to thank Nintendo Canada for allowing us the opportunity to participate in the interview. We hope all of you enjoyed the transcript of this interview and we will have more coverage of New Super Mario Bros. for the 3DS, and the Wii U, as it becomes available.