Posted on December 15 2009 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Edge Magazine got forty minutes with Nintendo’s mastermind, and needless to say they made good use of it. This time around there was no “small leaks” about Zelda Wii, nor was there any talks about the development of Spirit Tracks. However, he does talk about the approach taken with each new Zelda title, the audience they try to grab with them, as well as how his role has changed yet not changed over the years.
Edge: Games like Mario and Zelda bring such complex webs of tradition with them – is part of the appeal of titles like Wii Fit that you can start with a blank page again?
SM: I don’t really feel there are too many differences between the games with traditional frameworks and games with entirely new rules and agendas. In the case of something like New Super Mario Bros. Wii or the Legend Of Zelda series, I know there are certain expectations from the players, which means there will be elements we always have to incorporate. But it’s also true that we always need to think in terms of newcomers, too, people who have never played any of the games in the past. So already, everything you have to do in any game has to be visible and accessible to anybody. Whenever we’re making these traditional titles, it’s not enough just to live up to people’s expectations, though, and it’s not enough just to build upon something that exists before. So even with Mario or Zelda games, we always have to feature something that’s unique and different.
That’s why I say I don’t really see a difference between what some people might call our ‘serious’ Nintendo titles, like Mario, and our completely new games. Even with a new game type like Pikmin and Wii Music you still need rules, and you still need to be careful to show new rules to the audience. So while I could say that it’s easier to work on new titles because we can just create new rules and traditions, on the other hand, when we’re working on the established titles, it might actually be interesting to introduce new things, because you’re coming up with new themes that might challenge the existing frameworks in interesting ways. With New Super Mario Bros. Wii, we really wanted to realise multiplayer gaming in this world for the first time, but still make sure that a wide range of different players would still find it challenging and enjoyable. What we definitely find is that it’s best to narrow down your focus when working on a ‘serious’ Nintendo game. You still have to know exactly which new things you’re trying to do with each game, whatever it’s about.
Edge: What sort of innovation do you think Nintendo is bringing to gaming now?
SM: Our basic principle is very clear: we’re always trying to be different from everybody else. Many other companies might try to do the same things as someone else who’s already been successful in a certain area: they think in terms of the competition, and they think in terms of how they can be better than their predecessor in any established arena. But Nintendo always tries to be unique instead. We always try to be different all the time. Even when we’re working on those so-called ‘serious’ titles, when we’re hard at work on a Zelda or Super Mario Bros., amongst ourselves in the same development team, the way we discuss the game is to ask: “What’s new? What’s fresh about this title?” That kind of focus on trying to be new, to be unique every time, of trying to create something different every time, will be carried on and on and on, so that even when we are working on several other titles, our spirit of trying to be different is always there in the background somewhere.
To see how his career has changed, checked out the full interview.