Remember Dillon, Nintendo's rock-smashing armadillo? Nintendo hasn't forgotten him, and he's poised to return to the 3DS soon. Before that, we had the opportunity to talk about his new adventure with Kensuke Tanabe of Nintendo, the producer on the latest title, Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers, as well as Risa Tabata, the associate producer and Jun Tsuda from Vanpool, who serves as director. We talked about the dramatic shift in tone the series has taken to thoughts of movies, and even a potential crossover with a certain Arwing-flying Fox.
Nintendo Life: Though we quite enjoy the Dillon series, some of our readers haven't tried it out yet. Is Dead-Heat Breakers a good starting point for new players?
Kensuke Tanabe: This new game is a subtitle in the series. The last two titles in the series were more geared toward core gamers. It ended up that those two previous titles were a little too difficult for players. That's how we ended up with this game which is more geared toward casual players. The game world view has completely changed since the last two games. The last two titles had a Western theme to it, but this title is in the post-apocalypse. The world is kind of like Mad Max, so there's no need to worry about playing the last two games. If you like it and you'd like a greater challenge, you can go back and try the previous titles.
NL: What was the reason for switching to a more casual-focused audience?
Tanabe: We used to have Club Nintendo, and we looked at the demographics of the userbase for the first two games. As a developer, we were anticipating to see the games being played by older players, but it turns out the majority of the users were grade-school age boys. And to be honest, I think the last two titles were a little too difficult for players that age. I realised that the game's design and characters must have appealed to kids that age, which made me think I should adjust the difficulty to better appeal to those players.
NL: Is the Mii character's central role an idea that came about as a result of the design shift?
Jun Tsuda: As for the difficulty level and all that, we've lowered it so it can appeal to younger users. The world and story, however, haven't necessarily been watered down for kids. The same goes for the Mii element, we've created it to appeal to players of all ages.
NL: Some believe that the 3DS is on its way out and Nintendo Switch will be Nintendo's sole focus. With that in mind, would you like to see a Dillon game appear on Switch?
Tanabe: Actually, by releasing a new game on the 3DS, that shows people the 3DS is very much on our minds. Another reason is that this game requires two screens to play, which only the 3DS can do. Maybe another reason is that when we started developing this game, the Switch didn't exist.
Risa Tabata: I'm personally looking forward to a lot of people liking this game, and if that carries on to a possible Switch game next time, that would be great.
NL: Would you like to see Dillon crossover with other Nintendo franchises?
Tanabe: Actually, to tell you the truth, we've had that discussion about Star Fox in the past!
Tsuda: Since both Dillon and Star Fox use animal characters, and have cool villains and characters, I think they'd go well together. Personally, I think it would make a great collaboration.
Tanabe: Around the time we were thinking of this, there was a movie out called Cowboys and Aliens. We were worried people might copy us, so we stopped thinking about it! This time, we decided to go with a Mad Max motif.
NL: Have you derived inspiration from any other movies?
Tsuda: Even though I did like Mad Max, I didn't really draw inspiration from any others. I watch a lot of movies, but I'd rather use the designs and characters my team members come up with.
Tanabe: There was a movie called The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington, which our art team used to create some of the scenery in the game.
NL: Would you like to see a Dillon movie?
Tanabe: I haven't even thought of it, but now that you say it, it sounds like a great idea! If you know anybody in the movie business, please send them my way.
NL: Dead-Heat Breakers is a departure from the series' norms in some ways, but mechanically remains similar, would you like to see a gameplay change in a future game?
Tanabe: If this game doesn't do well, we can't guarantee a next game, so we're hoping people enjoy this game! I'd be interested to see Dillon in a different medium if it does happen, though.
Tsuda: We went into a lot of details for designing Dead-Heat Breakers, so I'd love to see those efforts used to make an open world game or something.
Tabata: I always think that games Vanpool makes have strong characters. I'd love to see more from them.
NL: Do you want to see Dillon appear in Smash Bros. on Switch?
Tanabe: You'll have to ask Sakurai for that. Of course, we'd love it if that happens.
NL: What would you like to say to the players of Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers?
Tsuda: We have very many attractive characters in this game and a very strong story. The difficulty has been reduced a little bit, so we hope you play through to the end and enjoy the story!
Tabata: The Mii element of the game and the animal, which is your Mii turned into an animal, means you can run into your friends as animals. We hope you really enjoy it!
Tanabe: For the first time in the series, we spent a lot of time creating the game world, specifically for a place called The City. There's a lot of great dialogue Mr. Tsuda wrote that we think you'll enjoy. We hope you feed (the character) and make him grow real big!
Tabata: There's an area called Scrog farm. If you visit it at night you can see them sleeping and they're very cute.
Tanabe: I wish they could just call it manju. (Manju is Japanese for dumpling, which is what they're called in the Japanese release of the game.)
We'd like to thank Mr. Tanabe, Ms. Tabata and Mr. Tsuda for their time and for chatting with us. Would you like to see Star Fox and Dillon cross paths? Do you think a dystopia is a better fit for the character? Sound off with your opinion in the comments below.