Mario's Developers On Hat Capture And Peach's Love For Mario
Super Mario Odyssey was one of the standout games from this year's E3, but even after getting almost an hour of hands on time with the game, we still have a lot of questions, so we sat down with director Kenta Motokura and producer Yoshiaki Koizumi to talk about Mario's new hat Cappy, his unique new abilities, and Odyssey's fun Easter Eggs.
Interview conducted by Kyle Hilliard and Ben Reeves.
Mr. Koizumi, we've been seeing a lot more of your face lately and, in some ways, it feels like you're becoming the face for Nintendo. Are you comfortable with that?
Koizumi: I'd certainly be happy to do anything to help promote Nintendo and its games. And I was also acting as the producer for the Switch hardware project. Because of that I'm also willing to anything to help that succeed. As the producer of Super Mario Odyssey, I'll certainly do anything also.
I was curious about the hat and the hat mechanics. Mario has always had that iconic hat, but where did you first get the idea to make that part of the gameplay?
Koizumi: Well for starters with the joy-con itself, it seems like such a natural fit to use the joy-cons to throw something. And he already has a hat.
Motokura: We believe that rather than introducing something new for him to throw, it would be more enjoyable to have something familiar. So since Mario's cap is very familiar, it fit.
Mario's new has is named Cappy, but where does he come from? He looks like a ghost or something, is that correct? Is he like a hat-spirit?
Koizumi: We're not ready to reveal a lot of Cappy's backstory or secrets about that character, but he is going to be Mario's companion as he travels around all these different kingdoms in this title.
Playing the demo this morning, in the sand area in particular, I thought I saw a lot of references to Super Mario Land for Gameboy. Did you intentionally reference that game with the sphynxes and Easter Islands statues?
Koizumi: I guess, to say if that's an intentional reference, sure...but more important than having some visual aspects that harkened back to a different game, we wanted them to be a part of the gameplay. We wouldn't put it in there if it's not part of the gameplay, so that was the more important reason, not as a reference to another game.
We also ran across Captain Toad in New Donk City, and it was fun to see him. It seems like you guys have a fondness for him as well. Do you hope to do more with him in the future as well?
Motokura: Well I'd certainly be happy if you were looking forward to the possibility of a future Captain Toad game, but none we can mention just yet. But, Captain Toad is also an adventurer, so he will be wandering about in different kingdoms of Super Mario Odyssey.
It's fun to see Mario in a bunch of different costumes as well. What kind of benefits do the different costumes and outfits provide Mario?
Motokura: There are areas that Mario can't get to without wearing specific outfits.
Were there any costumes that we pitched that were like, "Nope, we cannot have Mario wearing that, that is inappropriate"?
Motokura: We have lots of creative costumes in this game, so I would just ask you to look forward to checking some of those out.
So you didn't say no to a bikini then?
Koizumi: Hmmm I wonder if there is a bikini? I don't think so, there's probably not a bikini?
For Odyssey, you guys looked back at the original Mario 64 formula. Do you guys ever pull inspiration from Mario's original 2D games as well?
Motokura: There are places in the game where you become a 2D Mario, which harkens back to that 8-bit era. Some of the 2D gameplay you're going to be seeing is reminiscent of those games.
This is actually a question we asked Miyamoto a couple months ago, and we wanted to see what you guys thought. Does every Mario game contain the same Mario, or is it different versions of Mario? For example, there's different versions of Link in every Zelda game.
Koizumi: I think the easiest way to say it is Mario’s Mario.
Why does Mario want to stop the wedding between Peach and Bowser. Is he interested in Peach romantically, or does he have some other motives?
Koizumi: I've always thought that Mario carries a bit of a torch for Peach. I think that's true even back in the 2D Mario games. If not, he wouldn't be wasting his time rescuing her over and over again.
Do you think Princess Peach feels the same way?
Koizumi: The heart of a woman is a mystery.
Do the levels change as you play through them? Do they evolve? There's that desert level with like a lot of ice, so I thought, "Oh, maybe you melt the ice at some point." How much will Mario's actions effect the shape of a level?
Motokura: I can't say specifically as to whether or not the ice vanishes from the sand area, but the kingdoms do change throughout the progress of the game. When you first enter into a level, you'll get a title for that period of time you're there, and then as you progress through the level, you will see changes in that (level) so the next time you go in you'll get a different title.
Koizumi: Any time you enter a stage you see a main title that gives you like the main critical path objective, and when you keep doing those in order you will get the course to change.
Up Next: What happens to Mario's body when he possesses another creature and whether or not we can expect to see Donkey Kong this time?
In Super Mario Galaxy 2, there was a throwback Galaxy level that was a remake of a Nintendo 64 level. Will there be any throwback levels in Super Mario Odyssey?
Motokura: We don't have any levels that are taken, let's say, specifically from something like Super Mario 64, but we do have elements in the game that will make the folks who played Super Mario 64 happy when they encounter them.
What happens to Mario's body when he possesses another creature? Is he like shrinking down and jumping into them or is he like transported to a parallel dimension or something and then he's like controlling them with his mind?
Motokura: There's a small scene in the promotional video where you can actually see what happens. It looks like Mario is like drowning or trying to swim, and that is actually Mario going into the character that he's controlling. So that's what happens.
We met Mayor Pauline. Did she wrestle Donk City away from Donkey Kong and rename it "New Donk City"?
Koizumi: Well, that's not the setting that we've come up with.
Will we see Donkey Kong in the game, in Donk City?
Koizumi: Well I can't say exactly right now, but Pauline is there, and some interesting things might happen.
I'm curious, 3D platformers used to be a really big genre, but not a lot of companies are making games like this anymore. Why do you think that is? Do you think this is a particularly hard type of game to make?
Koizumi: It's not, I don't think, that they're necessarily hard to make. Honestly, I'd love to hear the answer to that question if anyone has a really thought-out version, because I'm not sure I know myself.
Do you have any recent favorites that you've been playing?
Motokura: Do you know Snake Pass? I did purchase it here on the E-shop, because it's not available for sale on the Japanese version of the E-shop, so I was able to switch my settings over here and buy a version of it that I could play.
Motokura: I think one that has stood out for me a lot recently is Snipperclips, which you guys are probably familiar with, from an English developer. The first time I saw that, it really surprised me and I was so happy to be able to cheer them on during development.
It seems like surprise is a big tentpole for you guys for Odyssey, and it seems like that would help generate a ton of ideas. But, what does it take to say no to an idea that's surprising? Like, if Mario's fighting zombies - is that not something Mario should do? What does it take for you guys to be like, "No this isn't Mario"?
Motokura: It's not just a visual appeal. It has to be something that's interesting, if you think it's fun to do, then it's within the realm of possibility. The Mario IP is so strong, you can take Mario, or a Mario franchise character, and put them in pretty much any situation and it makes it okay. We have a great flexibility. That is why we were able to put him in a city setting for this game, which is not a traditional Mario-type of setting, but Mario carries it off.
Are there any specific lessons from Breath of the Wild's success that have come forward for Super Mario Odyssey?
Koizumi: Well, certainly as the overall software producer, I had a role in the Breath of the Wild development, and so there are a lot of things bouncing around that we take away as interesting ideas from one game project that could be used on another. Perhaps, just a coincidence of really good timing, both of these games ended up with a really high degree of player freedom. Ever since the Famicom (NES) era, Zelda and Mario have been growing up side-by-side. They share a lot of the same roots and as such, the way that they encounter and express their themes is quite similar. If there's any influence of one on the other, I think it's fundamental, it's almost on the DNA level.
Motokura: In a good way, Breath of the Wild is sort of an action game rival to Super Mario Odyssey. I guess you could say that they push each other to new heights.
Mario has a lot of moons to collect on each level, so is there a way to track down where those moons are in each level? If you've only got three moons left, are you able to hone in on where you need to go to find them?
Motokura: Well fundamentally, we are looking at these sandbox spaces where we have a high density of gameplay elements in a relatively small amount of space, we've designed it in such a way that we think everyone can find all the power moons. It's designed in such a way to entice people to look in certain areas. We are thinking of some ways that would perhaps assist players who are not as familiar with the genre or not as comfortable with exploring and looking around, so there are ways that we are thinking of giving them some help.
A good last question, if we exclude Super Mario Odyssey, what are your favorite Mario games? There is a correct answer.
Koizumi: No matter what you say I won't get upset with you.
Motokura: (laughs) Well the first Mario game that I was involved with when I entered the company was Super Mario Sunshine, so I'm going to say Super Mario Sunshine.
Koizumi: I think my favorite is probably the very first 3D Mario game, Super Mario 64, because it was such a new era of 3D gaming, so there was very little for us to look back on and try to draw from. We had such a great time coming up with all those ideas and solving those problems.