The extended unveiling of New Super Mario Bros. U at E3 this year prompted a number of reactions from viewers. In our office there were comments that it looked exceptionally pretty, graphics-wise, but also that it looked extremely similar to its 'New' series predecessors on DS and Wii. Whether that's actually a criticism is down to individual interpretation, but this continuity is certainly deliberate.
In an interview with Gamespot, Takashi Tezuka — producer of the revived 2D Mario series — spoke about Nintendo's intentions to make the series familiar to gamers of all kinds.
It's intentional. That similarity in the visual style and the control style is all intentional. The things we feel like we've already promised the gamer is that Peach will be kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario will move from left to right. We know that's what people are expecting! [Laughs] We know that there are all types of Mario games, as you said. So for us, with the New Super Mario Bros. series, we don't really need to mess with it. This is what people want.
One of the things we always focus on in development is that we want a wide audience to play these games and enjoy them. So we're looking at games that are accessible and intuitive. So, for example, we have a recurring enemy type from one game to the next. If in the first game the enemy acts a certain way and has a certain functionality, our audience says, "OK, I know what to expect." If they see that character in [the new] game and it's completely different, I don't think that's a good thing. For characters like the Goombas and the Koopas, those are the building blocks, the fundamental things that we're not going to change.
In terms of producing a HD upgrade to the visuals, Tezuka highlights a Retro Studios Wii title as one that set new standards.
The Donkey Kong game that we just had out on Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns--I actually got a glimpse of a ROM while they were still in development. The graphics were so pretty that I thought, wow, that looks really nice. We were working on New Super Mario Bros. Wii at the time, and that really became an impetus. That really kicked us in the butts. I don't know if "influence" is the right word, but it had an impact.
Tezuka was also quizzed about the use of the GamePad touchscreen in Mario's latest, as well as the well-worn issue about Mario games on certain other touch screen devices.
The thing that we started first was what ended up being Boost mode, that ability to add extra platforms for players [using the GamePad touch screen]. One thing we learned via the DS system was that touch-screen control was something that's best used only when necessary. It wasn't the key controller. We didn't want to throw it in and use it everywhere. To be honest, we didn't feel that traditional Mario [directional pad] movement married with touch screen at the same time worked that well. So that's why using the touch screen only where it made sense, as we learned with the DS, was something that we brought to [this new game].
With the touch screen, our feeling is that it really depends on the type of game you're developing. So if you've a game where you're stopped, thinking about things and checking stuff out, or you've got inventories and whatnot…then man! The touch screen is fantastic! But Mario is a game that's always on the move, so it's not necessary to have it as a key control feature.
...We can definitely make a Mario game that's touch screen only. It wouldn't be a 2D side-scrolling Mario platformer, but I think we can definitely make games maybe in the vein of Mario vs. Donkey Kong or something like that. I think that's definitely possible. Would we make that for another platform? No. Of course not. It would be on a Nintendo platform. But it's definitely something we could do. It just wouldn't be a 2D side-scrolling platformer.
Is over-familiarity going to be a problem in New Super Mario Bros. U, or are you happy to have more of the same?