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How similar is the hardware of the Wii U’s circle pads with the 3DS’s?
The circle pads that we’re using for the Wii U controllers are of a more advanced state than the one we created for Nintendo 3DS. They will perhaps have a bit more precision. The mechanism that allows those circle pads to work is still very different from, for example, the mechanism we used for the control stick on the Gamecube controller. In that sense it’s very tough to compare the precision or how the circle pads will work in that sense, but personally I feel that we’ve gotten them to a point that when you sit down and play with them you get used to them very quickly and they feel very nice.
Why didn’t Nintendo promote the fantastic-looking new Kirby Wii and Kirby: Mass Attack games during its E3 2011 press conference?
We really streamlined the conference this year to focus on a few things, being the Zelda 25th anniversary, the 3DS, and the Wii U. The Kirby games didn’t fall into any of those big buckets. Also, in terms of E3 being an industry show and a business show, we look at the presentation as being one way of being able to talk about our products. Particularly with the two Kirby games you speak of, we still feel there are a lot of ways we can deliver the message of those games to consumers.
I’ve heard rumors that Kirby was named after attorney John Kirby, the lawyer who defended Nintendo in a lawsuit by Universal during the 80s. Is it true?
Yes, it is a fact that I met John Kirby and got to know him when he was defending us during the lawsuit against Universal. And it is a fact that the Kirby name was partially chosen in connection to him, but it wasn’t named after him. Instead, we had a list of names that we were looking at and Kirby was one of the names on the list. As we were going through the list and narrowing down the selections we saw that Kirby was there and we thought John Kirby’s name is Kirby, and started thinking that if those two had a connection that would be kind of funny.
The other element to the naming is that the character is very cute. Kirby is this soft and fluffy character and he’s very cute. In Japan, for cute characters they use very soft names with soft sounds in them. I thought the name Kirby had these harsh sounds to it, and I thought the juxtaposition of this cute character with this harsh-sounding name was very funny.
I’ve read that friendly internal rivalries have existed between Nintendo’s development teams in the past. Are rivalries like this still in place to spur on creativity?
It’s not something that people are consciously thinking of internally. Even in the past I don’t know that it was a very competitive environment. If you have one team of people that works together all the time, then gradually they’re going to drift into a particular area of development or continually focus on the same types of things. So I do think it’s important to have different groups set up with different individuals in those groups who are responsible for doing the creative thinking and ensuring that each of the different teams are continuing to maintain their creativity.
You’ve said in the past that Super Mario World is your favorite Mario game. I was surprised then when I picked up Super Mario 3DS and found it has a lot in common with Super Mario Bros. 3.
It’s true that from a design standpoint the development team has drawn a lot from Super Mario 3, but the overall intention is not to focus just on Super Mario Bros. 3, but really to look at what we’ve done in the Mario franchise overall and look at how we can evolve the Mario gameplay in new ways in order to create this new 3D Super Mario Bros. I think that you’ll find it becomes sort of a Mario 64-esque Super Mario World type of game.
The appearance of Mario in the Tanooki suit during the E3 press conference was met with a very strong positive reaction from the crowd. Why do you think fans seem to love the Tanooki suit above all Mario power-ups?
This is maybe not necessarily related to why it’s so popular, but a couple things about the Tanooki suit is when first worked on it we had a lot of freedom and came up with this whimsical suit that Mario could use. In Japan there are a lot of folktales about the Tanooki, which is an actual animal in Japan. But the folktale talks about how the Tanooki can grab a leaf, hold it to its head, and transform. We had a lot of fun with that idea and bringing it into the game. From a functional standpoint what the Tanooki suit does is Mario jumps in the air and whips his tail back and forth so that he floats down very slowly. The slow floating is something that I think is very fun, but it also has very strong meaning, particularly when you’re playing in a 3D game in terms of having that ability to float down slowly and glide through the environment. Again, not related to why it’s so popular, but those are some of the elements of the Tanooki suit that I really like.
Whether it was the SNES’s buttons, the N64’s multi-colored controllers, or the variety of Gameboy hues, in the past Nintendo was about colorful hardware. The Wii, the Wii U, and their corresponding peripherals are primarily colored a very sterile white. Why the shift away from color?
Based on my background as an industrial designer and Nintendo and my background in creating entertainment, I’ve always wanted to make greater use of color in our hardware. If you look back at things like the Famicom and the original Super Nintendo, they were a lot more colorful from a hardware perspective. What we found over the years when we included a lot of different colors in our hardware is people would kind of point to that and use it to paint us as more kid-oriented. So really what we looked at is what are some ways from a design perspective that we can make the system appeal to all ages? One of the ways that we found to best do that is to minimize the use of color. In that process we asked if we’re going to do that, what’s the best way to go? We found that rather than going all black - all white seems to have a broader appeal to people.