Latest ‘Iwata Asks’ A Treasure Trove For Zelda, Mario Fans

by Jeff Cork on Jan 27, 2010 at 03:58 AM

Nintendo’s recurring “Iwata Asks” feature is one of the most interesting game-related segments available online. Each one is centered around a current Nintendo release, but rather than simply go over bullet points and reiterate marketing talking points, Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata brings company veterans out for freewheeling and often hilarious conversations. And since so many Nintendo designers, producers and programmers have been with the company so long, there are plenty of old tales to tell.

In the latest Iwata Asks, Iwata uses the release of the Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks to frame a larger conversation about the history of handheld Zelda releases. There are also a few side stories related to Super Mario Bros. Here are some of the highlights:

•    Have you ever wondered why so many of the Zelda releases incorporate fishing? Thank programmer Kazuaki Morita, a long-time Nintendo programmer. “He’s the kind of guy who makes fishing games without even being asked,” says Toshihiko Nagako president of Systems Research and Development, the Nintendo subsidiary that programs many of the company’s titles.

•    Shigeru Miyamoto is crafty. Nagako says that when he first spoke with Miyamoto about Super Mario Bros., he was shown five of the game’s worlds. “Miyamoto-san wrote them down on a sheet of A4 paper, and said, ‘This is what I have in mind.’ He’d written down the outlines of five worlds. I said, ‘All right,’ and then he said, ‘Actually there’s something else I’d like to talk to you about...’ There was actually another sheet there. He opened it up, and the other three worlds appeared.”

•    Link’s Awakening was inspired by Twin Peaks? Takahashi Tezuka, who co-developed Super Mario Bros. and the first Zelda game before working more extensively on Link’s Awakening says David Lynch’s ‘90s TV drama was an inspiration. In particular, he liked the small-town setting, filled with “suspicious types.” “After that, in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, all kinds of suspicious characters appeared. I didn’t tell them to do it that way, but personally, I did find it considerably appealing,” he says.

•    Nintendo = nerds, Capcom = jocks. After realizing that Capcom’s staff had a reverence for the Legend of Zelda games, Tezuka agreed to let the company work on three handheld games for the series. He found that Capcom’s culture was significantly different from what he was used to at Nintendo.

Iwata: What was your impression?
Tezuka: They struck me as being real sporty types. (laughs) Not at all like us.
Iwata: What type were you Nintendo guys?
Tezuka: A circle of like-minded people.
Nakago: Yes, that’s right. You’re definitely a circle of like minds. (laughs)
Aonuma: Like an afterschool club. (laughs)

These are just a few of the highlights from one of the best installments of Iwata Asks yet. Make sure you have some free time before checking out the entire feature, because you’ll probably want to dig through the archives and read the older ones, too.