The lights are on
We got a chance to sit down with the director of Super Mario 3D Land, Koichi Hayashida. The expressive, charismatic Nintendo developer worked as the main programmer of Super Mario Sunshine and directed Super Mario Galaxy 2 and several other games at the company. During our interview, we spoke with him about a possible Super Mario 3D Land sequel, the chances of a Super Mario 64 3D remake, and more.
Would you be interested in doing a Super Mario Galaxy 2-style sequel to Super Mario 3D Land?
I guess I have to say first of all that Super Mario Galaxy 2 development was really, really hard for us. We usually have the opportunity to look at technological innovation in a new piece of hardware that can drive us to new play experiences for people who love Mario. When you have to make a second Mario game on the same hardware generation, you don’t have that same driving force to push you into completely new experiences based on unique hardware capabilities. The burden was on us in the case of Super Mario Galaxy 2 to try and come up with ideas that could surprise people without the technological innovation pushing us as it would have normally.
I saw during your GDC 2012 presentation that you used levels from Mario 64 to test out the 3DS’ stereoscopic 3D. Fans were really excited by Super Mario Galaxy 2’s Mario 64 tribute level, Throwback Galaxy. Would you ever consider a 3D Super Mario 64 remake?
That early test that we did on the Mario 64 level when we were beginning development of Super Mario 3D Land was actually just to see how that game might play with stereoscopic 3D. What we figured out very quickly was that that way the levels were all designed was going to create so many stereo window violations – where an object would come in between Mario and the camera – that we knew we were going to need a different approach. So at the very least, we did rule out a remake of Super Mario 64 in stereoscopic view on the Nintendo 3DS.
You’re a very charismatic Nintendo developer who has a lot of experience working closely with Miyamoto. Would you have any interest in taking on the role Miyamoto has one day?
We think about what’s the best team makeup for every project. What’s important when making a Mario game, of course, is putting the gameplay ideas with new technology in a way that can make people smile. The important thing is that it’s not necessarily going to be me in the same role every time on each of these projects. There are so many people working on these games. What we all try to do is take some of these fundamental ideas that Mr. Miyamoto has passed down to us but put our own analysis and spin on it. What we love to see is all of our developers slowly level up until they are in a position where they can take charge of a project and do something amazing. But it’s not always going to be me.
Do you have a favorite Super Mario 3D Land level?
This isn’t one that I designed, but my favorite stage is probably the very last Bowser fight. So not the one that you get the regular ending from, but rather after you clear all the special worlds you have this special fight with Bowser and the fireballs he shoots become much faster. It’s a good challenge.
I’d love to tell you one of the moments in development that led to those Bowser fights. We had a very early test that involved Bowser shooting fireballs towards the camera – towards the viewers. When we noticed that the fireballs popping out of the screen created such a good effect, we thought we had to use it. When we saw how smoothly that effect was incorporated into the final game I was very happy with it.
Do you have a favorite song from the Mario games?
I know this is such a generic answer, but I really love that first Super Mario Bros. theme. There’s a good reason for that. I feel like it uses the rhythm of gameplay to create that sound. The idea that as Mario is approaching that first Goomba he’s like [hums first part of Super Mario Bros. theme].
Why do you think people love Kuribo’s shoe from Super Mario Bros. 3 so much?
I guess maybe one of the elements that’s responsible for why Kuribo’s shoe seems so popular is that it’s just really fun to look at. It’s such a cute object. Another thing that has probably captured peoples’ imagination is how fun it is to get into a vehicle that you’ve taken away from an enemy. Sort of like taking that cloud away from Lakitu is such a memorable experience.
What is it like seeing other parts of the Japanese gaming industry struggle while Nintendo appears to remain in a relatively safe position?
I certainly don’t sit back and think, “We’re Nintendo and we’re doing fine so I don’t have to work hard.” Rather, it’s really hard work to make something fun and new that brings an interesting experience to a lot of people. For example, it’s not that hard to find something new, but that’s not always fun. And we can always create something fun, but if it’s not something that’s fresh and different to people, then we’re not capturing exactly the experience that we need to. I don’t know how to say it, but Mario games are probably not as easy to create as most people must think. I feel like every day at work we’re really wracking our brains and working hard.