Interview: Takashi Tezuka on Bringing Yoshi's New Island to the 3DS
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
"We used the original as a base on which to add new elements"
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is often regarded as one of the finest platformers on Super NES, and potentially a stand-out across generations. After Yoshi's hugely popular appearance in its predecessor, it was a natural progression and one that certainly paid off for Nintendo. Now, after spin-offs and appearances in various other games, the popular mascot gets a full sequel on the 3DS with Yoshi's New Island.
Although Arzest has taken on development duties — it's not uncommon for third-party partnerships on Nintendo games — the Kyoto-based company has been supervising and driving the project. Takahashi Tezuka has been Producer, and it says a great deal for his experience and capabilities that previous producing credits include Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, among many others. To kick off our own Month of Yoshi here on Nintendo Life, we had the opportunity to ask Tezuka-san some questions about the upcoming 3DS title to learn more about its features and what we can expect when it arrives in mid-March.
What inspired you to revisit the style of Yoshi’s Island rather than that of Yoshi’s Story?
Tezuka-san: Both titles featured Yoshi, but looking at it purely in terms of console features, Yoshi’s Story – with its 3D handicraft-esque world – was easier to create 3D representations for on the home console. In contrast, the world of Yoshi’s Island – which feels like it’s been hand drawn – seemed perfectly suited to the expressive power of the Nintendo 3DS.
Yoshi’s Island was definitely the simpler of these two games, both in terms of gameplay and construction, and we thought it would be the perfect choice for a new Yoshi action game for this console.
Were any members of the respective teams involved with the original Yoshi’s Island on Super NES? If so, was that experience valuable when developing this new entry in the series?
Tezuka-san: Yes, we had some members who had worked on the original Yoshi’s Island.
We wanted to follow in the footsteps of the previous title while at the same time creating a new Yoshi’s Island for the current generation, so it was important that we fully understood the meaning and purpose of the enemies and features that appeared previously.
We used the original as a base on which to add new elements, so having some of the original members on board for their knowledge and experience was invaluable.
We wanted to follow in the footsteps of the previous title while at the same time creating a new Yoshi’s Island for the current generation.
Are the world and its stages entirely new designs, or are aspects of Yoshi’s Island on Super NES revisited?
Tezuka-san: For Yoshi’s New Island, we wanted to make a new world that still kept the warm and friendly vibe of the original Yoshi’s Island on the Super NES. We did this by emphasising the hand-drawn feel of the world such as the parts that look like oil paintings, water colours, or crayon drawings.
The art style of the Super NES title was memorable for its hand-drawn aesthetic; was it a technical challenge to reproduce that with 3D on the 3DS?
Tezuka-san: It took a lot of back and forth before we were able to create a world whose hand-drawn style was distinct from the previous title. Implementing the 3D effect also required a lot of time fine-tuning how the game looked, to make sure there were no conflicts between sections that should be appearing in the background and those that should be appearing in the foreground. We couldn’t have done it without the hard work of the development team! It all looks and feels completely natural so I think it’s quite difficult for people playing to really appreciate the work that went into it. It’s a real pleasure for us that you singled this out to ask us about!
Can you tell us more about new features and abilities? We’ve seen footage of Yoshi transforming into various vehicles or throwing a super-sized egg, how important are these abilities, and do they appear frequently throughout the game?
Tezuka-san: The super-sized eggs – Mega Eggdozers – are one of the brand new elements of the game that we hope will appeal to players. Sometimes you’ll need one to complete a course, and they pop up all over the place.
There are also Metal Eggdozers that let you stay under water, or the Super Yoshi transformation you can use to run really fast – the game is full of these sorts of new elements. My favourite though has to be the Flutter Wings, which you get depending on your skill level. It’s up to players whether they want to use them or not, but I hope you all try them out and see what it’s like controlling Yoshi in a different way than usual.
Beyond the main control inputs, will tilt and touch controls play a role throughout the adventure?
Tezuka-san: We haven’t used touch controls for Yoshi’s New Island, but players will control Yoshi’s transformations by tilting the Nintendo 3DS, giving the experience just the right amount of tension and making for a great bit of fun.
Then there are the Binoculars that Yoshi can grab which let players look around an area and see sections they wouldn’t normally be able to, just by tilting the Nintendo 3DS! The tilt element really comes in handy when exploring.
Yoshi’s Island was well known for its challenge not so much in terms of completing the game, but in gathering all collectibles in each stage. Is the approach of Yoshi’s New Island similar?
Tezuka-san: We’ve made the courses themselves a little easier to complete compared to the previous title, but we’ve made the collectables – the smiley flowers, red coins and stars – just hard enough to get to make for a nice challenge for more experienced players.
I hope you have fun searching for them all!
Do you anticipate that this will be a lengthy adventure for players, and will there be incentive to go back and pick up all collectibles?
Tezuka-san: It definitely takes a fair bit of time to pick up all the collectables!
The red coins and smiley flowers are hidden in all sorts of places. For instance, you might find a secret location you wouldn’t normally be able to get to by smashing down a wall with a Metal Eggdozer, or pick up red coins while Yoshi has turned into a Submarine, Hot-Air Balloon or one of the many other transformations. It won’t be easy to get everything, but I think at the same time the joy of searching for the collectables and the fun of improving one’s skills will really keep players motivated.
We'd like to thank Takashi Tezuka for his time; Yoshi's New Island arrives on 3DS in Europe and North America on 14th March.