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Super Mario Galaxy 2 Staff Quizzed by Iwata

Staff was originally worried that they'd run out of ideas.

 

Nintendo has posted part two of its Super Mario Galaxy 2 Iwata Asks column. Following up on last week's Shigeru Miyamoto conversion, this week's column features four members of the game's Tokyo development staff.

That staff includes Yoshiaki Koizumi (far right in the below picture) as producer. He was director of the first Galaxy.

Koichi Hayashida (second from right) is in the director's role. Iwata noted in the interview that this was Hayashida's first large scale director project. Hayashida pointed out that he did direct the Famicom title "Joy Mecha Fight" 17 years back.

Takeshi Hayakawa (third from right) returns in the lead programming role for Galaxy, although he says that this time the focus of his work was on guiding the other programmers.

Kenta Motokura (far left) is the lead designer. He had a more hands-on role with the first Galaxy. This time his role was, similar to that of Hayakawa, more from afar.

Galaxy 2's Start

After getting through all the introductions, Iwata first asked how the Galaxy 2 project started. Koizumi explained that Miyamoto approached the team immediately after the first Galaxy's completion and said that since they'd spent so much effort on creating the basic systems, they should make another title. This, Iwata noted, is the kind of thinking that Miyamoto has had since Nintendo released Majora's Mask after Ocarina of Time back in the N64 days.

The problem with Miyamoto's request, according to Koizumi, was that the team didn't immediately have the feeling of "Let's do it." So, they held a "reflection meeting" regarding their work on Galaxy. Koizumi made one request -- that instead of reflecting on the bad things, they discuss the good things. Additionally, he decided to keep quiet and just listen.

At the meeting, the team ended up coming up with plenty of positive statements -- stuff like "The way we did this was good, but it would have been better if we'd done this," and "Unfortunately, we didn't get to use this -- it would have been really nice if we could have."

Koizumi took this type of feedback to Miyamoto who suggested that making Mario Galaxy 1.5 would be good -- using the same sphere forms of the first Mario Galaxy and adding new things.

Iwata and Miyamoto revealed in the last interview that "Mario Galaxy 1.5" was the game's original placeholder name. But as Koizumi discussed the game with the staff, Hayakawa came up with another name: "Motto Super Mario Galaxy," or "More Super Mario Galaxy." (You'll recognize the "Motto" name from the Japanese name of Nintendo's Brain Age sequel.)

While Hayakawa was intrigued by the idea of releasing "More Super Mario Galaxy," Hayashida and Motokura admitted that they originally felt they'd run out of ideas -- that they'd put everything they could into the original. In other words, explained Hayashida, they'd had a huge number of ideas for the first Mario Galaxy. They'd taken these ideas and compressed them down to the best ones for that game, leaving them with little for Galaxy 2.

This feeling lead Hayashida and Motokura to be low in the excitement level during early meetings, said Hayakawa.

Yoshi Revives Staff Spirit

At those early meetings, the first thing the team decided was to put Yoshi in the game. Yoshi was actually in the original Mario Galaxy design document, shown in this image:

The reason Yoshi wasn't included in the original, explained Hayakawa, was that with the sphere-shaped worlds and gravity, they felt they already had a large number of elements in the game. Adding Yoshi would make it feel that there was too much to the game. Even if they had used Yoshi in the original, said Koizumi, it would have been for just one stage.

Because of the decision to include Yoshi, Hayashida feels that he became much more positive during the meetings.

Yoshi's Actions

The initial control plan for Yoshi was pretty much identical to what ended up in the final version. The ability to eat things by pointing with the Wiimote was in there form the start. However, Yoshi's pulling action, where he tugs on things with his tongue, came afterwards.

The pulling action is something that Miyamoto felt would be the major new charm of the game, Iwata said. He was impressed to hear this, as Miyamoto apparently does not say such things often.

Hayakawa revealed that the pulling action was originally used in just one place in the game. However, because Miyamoto commented that it was nice, they ended up expanding its use, even for combatting enemies.

One interesting point about Yoshi is that everyone, both on and off the development staff, seemed to have their own feeling for how Yoshi should play. This feeling tends to be based on the player's first Yoshi experience. There were even some who said that you can't have Mario ride Yoshi -- presumably people whose first experience with the character was through Yoshi's Island, speculates Koizumi. Combining everyone's ideas made the character better, the staff feels.

There's one additional point you might not notice about Yoshi when playing Galaxy 2. They re-recorded the character's sounds for Galaxy 2 using a new voice -- Nintendo sound team member Kazumi Totaka. This is the first time in 10 years that the character's voice has been re-recorded, it seems.

Trial and Error

Outside of Yoshi, the team wanted to make use of a world map in order for the game to be played with good tempo. Midway through, they put in the Mario Balloon Ship. This element actually came from a game design doc that Koizumi had made five years earlier. Koizumi had even wanted to include include a Mario face planet in the original Mario Galaxy, and was pretty insistent on it too.

While the Mario Balloon Ship made it into Galaxy 2, there were a number of ides that didn't make the cut, or made it in only after some major changes following trial and error. Once example is the concept of "Switching."

This was originally considered as one of the pillars of Galaxy 2. Push a switch and the world will see some dramatic changes. When they actually tried to put this in, however, it proved extremely difficult, as it's something that has to match up with everything else in the game.

Interestingly, the staff actually knew the difficulty they might have with such a system based off their experiences with Majora's Mask, whose world sees major changes as part of its Three Day System.

Elements from the game's "Switching Phase" (as Iwata refers to it) still remain in the game. You can see a few in these movies:

Mario's Forms

Iwata quizzed the staff on some of Mario's form. Regarding the Drill form, it seems that back from the time of the original Mario Galaxy, Miyamoto wanted to incorporate the ability to enter holes and emerge on the other side of the world. He felt this was essential to fully utilizing the sphere-based world design.

The Drill form emerged in response to this. However, just using the Drill form to drill to the other side of the world did not result in anything interesting as far as gameplay goes. Figuring out how to turn the Drill mechanics into something useful for gameplay took one or two months of testing.

Just two of Mario's forms in Mario Galaxy 2.

An example that's mentioned in the conversion is using the Drill to "climb" mountains that Mario can't climb with just jumps. You can see a clip of that here:

Content Density

Despite the early worries about a lack of ideas, it turns out that pretty much everyone on the staff ended up having stage ideas. This included not just planners, but the visual and sound designers.

Hayakawa and his programming staff made tools that allowed the staff to create and test out stages without the need for programmers. Thes tools allowed for stage formation creation, enemy placement and more.

An example of what could be made using the tools is this stage:

This stage was created by a designer who'd been on the team for just one week. It was used in the final game, although of course the game's planners did some fine tuning on it first.

Because anyone on the team was able to try out their own stage designs, Hayashida ended up getting daily requests from people wanting him to see their stage creations. This continued for two and a half years. Iwata believes that this is a reason the game became so rich and densely packed with gameplay elements.

Classic Mario Stages?

As with the Miyamoto conversation, there's much more in the original dialogue than I've summed up here (what's this about galaxies that are designed in the motif of past Mario stages?). Nintendo's international staff will likely post a full translation at some point, so be sure and look out for it.

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