Interview:Nintendo Power August 1st 1997
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Nintendo Power was privileged to spend several hours chatting with three of the most creative and influential game development pros in the business during E3. Shigeru Miyamoto (the producer of Star Fox 64 and the father of the Mario and Zelda series of games), Beinimaru Itoh (comic artist and designer of the Earthbound series of games), and Takao Imamura (the lead artist on Star Fox 64) discussed their theories of game development and experiences working on Nintendo games.
NP: After today's Star Fox 64 competition, who would you say is the best Star Fox player: Mr. Miyamoto or Mr. Imamura?
Imamura: I am the best Star Fox player in the world. Right now (laughs).
NP: What's the best multiplayer strategy?
Imamura: First, get the items like the bomb or laser upgrade. Then stay away from the other players and let them damage each other. Finally, swoop in and blast them out of the sky. Mr. Miyamoto just flies around the edges and gets hit (laughs).
NP: Is there anything special we should know about the Star Fox characters?
Imamura: We named Falco after Carlo Lombardi, a special effects man in Hollywood.
Miyamoto: And Pigma Dengar speaks in the Kansai dialect of Japan. In Kansai, people en their sentences with the word "dengar." So, it's sort of a Japanese joke.
NP: Did you like the English version?
Imamura: It rated well with the Mario Club, but I didn't like the voice of Bill the Dog.
Miyamoto: We liked the version with English voices and Japanese text best (laughs).
NP: Do you plan on using the Rumble Pak with many other games?
Miyamoto: Future games and older games, too. In Japan, we're reprogramming Wave Race 64 and Super Mario 64 to use the Rumble Pak. In Wave Race, you'll feel every wave slap against the jet ski. As for Mario, you should feel the vibrations in many places. I think most of my games like Zelda 64 and Yoshi's Island 64 will make use of it.
Itoh: We'll probably use it in Mother 3 (Earthbound 64) in the battle scenes. But we've wondered if it might make the controller too heavy since RPGs take so long to play.
NP: Why is the N64 such a huge success in North America and less of a success in Japan?
Itoh: There aren't enough RPGs. I think they're waiting for games like Mother 3 and Pocket Monsters 64. It's also a matter of recognizable characters. Japanese players like to see the same heroes used and imitated over and over in games and comics. Since we make our own characters, like the animals in Star Fox, sometimes they're not as popular.
NP: What makes the games from the EAD group at Nintendo so special?
Imamura: Mr. Miyamoto's supervision. He doesn't involve himself with everything, but he knows when something should be done a certain way and he points that out.
Miyamoto: We have 20 to 30 people devoted to every title and they each give 100% to that game. I think it's their total concentration on the project that makes a difference, especially in the final months of development. That sort of attention to small details is pretty rare. We also have a great programming group called SRD within EAD. This is a separate company of about 200 people who work exclusively for Nintendo. They know the hardware inside and out.
NP: How do you balance your duties inside EAD with the Dream Team projects at outside developers like Angel Studios or Paradigm?
Miyamoto: It's getting to be touch. I work with about 400 people around the world on more than a dozen projects at a time. That doesn't give me as much time to devote to the projects I want to spend time on, like Zelda 64. Fortunately, there are others who can take some of the load off my shoulders. Mr. Sawano now oversees Mario Paint 64 and all the N64 Disk Drive software except for Mr. Itoh's Mother 3.
NP: When the N64 Disk Drive is introduced in 1998, what will be the first games for it?
Miyamoto: Sim City. Mario Paint. Pocket Monsters and Mother 3.
NP: Who is responsible for developing Pocket Monsters?
Miyamoto: A small group at EAD came up with the idea, and it's been a huge success. There's even a Pocket Monster card game now, which is almost as big as Magic: The Gathering. Actually, the first Pocket Monster game for the N64 won't be an RPG. Instead, it will be more of an encyclopedia of monsters, the second Pocket Monster 64 title will be a new RPG.
NP: How do you feel about including special codes in games for players to find?
Miyamoto: Originally, codes were found in action games, like the old Konami code. Most people get the codes from other players, so it's not really part of the game. I prefer for players to find things in the games for themselves. I think in the future, on the N64 Disk Drive, we will be able to customize codes and secrets for different disks. It will be easy to have a thousand different codes, so all players have something special in their own games.
Imamura: I like the idea of special codes that give players a little gift - something special. But only if it doesn't take a long time to program (laughs).
NP: How will Mother 3 make use of the N64 Disk Drive?
Itoh: The game will make use of the writable disk in many ways. For instance, everything you do in the game can influence the outcome since the game can keep a record of virtually every step you take. Some of the fun things we'd like to include letting players customize the faces of characters. You'll be able to choose from many different faces, or maybe you could use Mario Paint 64 to create your own face and put it on a Mother 3 character.
NP: What can you tell us about Super Mario RPG 64 and Super Mario 64 II?
Miyamoto: Super Mario RPG 64 has a team of about 20 people working on it now and it should be done by the end of the next year. We're just getting started on the second Super Mario 64 game.