IGN Interview with Takashi Tezuka for New Super Mario Bros. U
IGN conducted an interview with Takashi Tezuka, the director for New Super Mario Bros. U, earlier in the week for information regarding his most recent project [New Super Mario Bros. U].
You can read the interview after the break.
IGN: I’d like to start our discussion by looking back in history. What made Nintendo pursue 2D Mario games again?
Tezuka: I don’t feel like we were returning to it. We’re just continuing something that we liked doing. And we really wanted new users to experience this gameplay, because we think it is so enjoyable. Of course we have the folks in our Tokyo office at EAD working on 3D Mario titles. It’s not like we’re working independently. I’m working with them on those games, they’re helping out on our games – it’s a big, collaborative effort.
IGN: As you approach each new Mario Bros. game, what guides you? How do you determine what elements you’ll put in a game like Mario U?
Tezuka: Well, one thing – and this is especially true for 3D Mario – we really look at creating one Mario game, one 3D Mario game per console. Our goal is obviously to create a Mario title that takes advantage of all the unique things that console offers. So what we look at, in terms of the hardware features that I just mentioned. For example, with 3DS it’s StreetPass. How can we use StreetPass? How can we incorporate that into our titles? With Wii U we have the GamePad, and obviously we have HD processing power. Those are the two features that we looked at first of all when we decided that we wanted to bring Mario to those systems.
IGN: When bringing Mario to Wii U, what does HD give you that you couldn’t achieve with Wii or previous consoles?
Tezuka: Well, it’s something we actually talked about last year. I think it’s the introduction of the Mii characters into the Mario universe. Traditionally you use Mario characters, and you haven’t been able to use Mii characters. One thing we have noticed in multiplayer titles is that sometimes people have a hard time telling which character they’re playing. I think with the introduction of Mii characters, we’ve solved that issue. You’re able to easily identify who you are, and because it’s your Mii. Some of the emotions that we try to evoke when we’re making a game come across more easily because it’s your Mii character in the game.
I really think the HD has made it possible to, again, make those Mii characters so easily recognizable. You’re easily able to identify with that character on the screen. And of course, if you look at the game as a total package, the increase in the graphical fidelity, the power that we have now, is quite obvious. But where we make the best use of it, again, is in the Mii character presentation.
IGN: I think one of the tendencies with more powerful consoles is you make the levels bigger, you make your enemies bigger. Is that something that you’re doing with Mario U this time around?
Tezuka: Well, of course, we’re definitely working on things that are more “impactful.”
IGN: Let’s talk about the GamePad a little bit and how that is implemented into Mario U. Can you talk about your design choices for the GamePad, what your initial ideas were and how that matured into what’s in the game now?
Tezuka: This is something that’s really quite simple, but one of the things we looked at is, we wanted to make sure we had the ability to play this really clean, crisp Mario in HD on the GamePad without the TV. If we could free you up from having to use the TV, you could play right on the game Pad. That was something that we looked at right away. And of course we looked at the touch screen, and thought to ourselves, “Okay, how can we use this? What can we do with the touch screen?” That’s how we came up with “Boost Mode” – where you’re helping out and tapping to create those boost blocks.
IGN: So with “Boost Mode,” it’s primarily a cooperative element, I can help my friends go along and whatnot. But when I played yesterday, the first thing I did was actually use this to stop my friends from jumping properly… I’m very mean. Did you ever consider making that a more competitive element with the touch pad, incorporating it more competitively?
Tezuka: We really did start with the idea of it being more of a cooperative or more of a helpful idea. The development staff was like, “Okay, so we’ve got this feature, let’s take a newer gamer – maybe your mom – who wants to play but maybe won’t be able to get into it right away. This is something we can do to help her.” That’s where we started. That being said, as developers we understand that element isn’t going to be enough. It isn’t, perhaps, enough to make our more veteran gamers or core gamers satisfied. So we thought of ways to make it more exciting for them as well.
For example, as you saw yesterday, if you tap one of the boost blocks that you’ve already created, it turns into a much smaller platform – one of the coin blocks, which of course is a little bit harder to get on top of. So for example, the person who’s in charge of the Wii U GamePad can put those boost blocks in areas that are easy for players to get to, but you can also go ahead and put them in more difficult or more challenging areas. For example, you could make one a coin block, and the people who are playing with the Wii Remote, their goal then would be to get those coin blocks and see who can get the most coins. That’s going to be more of a competitive, almost battle-type of gameplay. With the GamePad controller, you’re the master of where those go.
Basically, you can see here that we have a way to bring in that cooperative, helpful gameplay, but also that battle-style of gameplay, through that one device. I really think that with the inclusion of the Wii U GamePad and that functionality, we’re giving control to the player. Whether you choose to use this in a cooperative, helpful way, or you choose to use this to create some more competition – some more, maybe, antagonism – it’s really up to you. I think we’re just expanding how people play by allowing them to make that decision themselves.
IGN: One of the things that’s always struck me about 2D Mario games is that they’re very precise in how they’re designed – the placement of the pipes, the placement of the blocks. Was it challenging for you and your team to give that freedom to the player?
Tezuka: Well, to be honest with you… we didn’t really think about it all that much. We designed the level, as you said, with a single player in mind. The person who is playing by themselves without the assist of the boost blocks or anything else can go through and have a really great experience. That’s what we looked at. And then afterwards, we were very comfortable just allowing the players to use the Wii U GamePad to do what you said, place those boost blocks wherever they might feel the best place is.
You mentioned how precise those layouts are, I wanted to point out that we don’t create those layouts to force people into playing the levels the way that we want them to play. The thing that we concentrate on the most is – what is going to be the most enjoyable experience? What level design is going to be the most fun? That’s always in the forefront of our thinking when we’re creating or designing those levels. And again, you take that and extrapolate that out to the boost blocks, our thought process on that is, what’s the best way for the gamer to enjoy the use of this? To let them do whatever they want.
IGN: Where did Flying Squirrel Mario came from? Tezuka: One of the fun things about this is trying to think of some new transformations for Mario. We really, at this time, wanted to give some degree of freedom of movement in the air. That’s where we started. The key point there is “some” freedom. If you allow unlimited movement and the ability to do whatever you want in the air, then it doesn’t amount to any sort of gameplay. There has to be a limit to what you allow people to do to make it enjoyable and make it challenging.
If you look back in the Wii version we had propeller Mario, that allowed you to do a lot of vertical movement, of course. And this time we just wanted to do something a little bit different. That was the thought that brought us to Flying Squirrel Mario. One thing that I actually really like about it is when you’re in the middle of your glide, and you give that little flip to the Wii U GamePad, you get that little updraft or boost. He gets a little extra momentum. I especially like that part.
IGN: At the Nintendo Direct presentation, we saw what appeared to be a glimpse of an overworld, a traditional top-down map where Mario moves around, like Super Mario World or Mario 3. Is that making a return, and is it any different from what we’ve seen in games like those?
Tezuka: Yes, actually. It’s interesting, because the director of New Super Mario Bros. U and some of the staff are people who grew up playing Super Mario World. They really have a lot of good memories about that seamless map it used and they thought this was a good time to bring that back. So yes, it’s back.
IGN: Can you talk about the integration with the Miiverse we saw, again, in the Nintendo Direct presentation yesterday? What’s the extent of how players are able to communicate?
Tezuka: Just to start off really quick, I think that video may have given people the wrong impression that, because you see them using that Mario “portal,” and there’s that big message board. But that’s not the entirety of Miiverse. There’s more to it than just a social message board. One of the things that’s great about Miiverse is that each game will find a different way to utilize Miiverse. Each game is going to connect with it or relate to it in a unique way, a way that best suits that game.
One thing we thought about with Mario was how can we allow people who are playing to exchange comments and exchange feelings about the game? Not just the people who are close to you, your friends, geographically or socially close, but with other people who are playing the game. For example, if you’re playing the game and you keep falling into the same pit over and over again, the game will actually come up and say, would you like to write a comment about how you feel about falling into this pit all the time?
Conversely, the game may also ask you when you’ve had a “super play,” you’ve run through an entire course without touching a single enemy, you didn’t fall off once, or perhaps you got all three star coins in one playthrough, the game will then pop up and say, hey, would you like to make a comment about how great you just did? How you feel after having such a good run? Now, of course, you’ll be able to see those in what we’ll just call the Mii Portal version of Miiverse, but with Mario, you’ll actually be able to see those comments within the game itself. So for example, the example we gave of when you keep falling off the course again, the screen goes black and then you’ll see messages from other people who’ve had the same issue. Or when you’re looking at that overview, the large seamless map, you’re also going to see comments from folks on those different areas. That’s what you saw in that video yesterday, that map, and you saw comments on there. Those were from actual people playing the game, that’s where they’ll be able to post some of their comments.
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