Seeking that creative spark

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team — known as Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. in Europe — hits North America on 11th August, while European gamers are lucky enough to get their hands on it from 12th July. We're currently playing through this for review and will simply say that if this isn't on your radar, it should be.

Ahead of its European release, Nintendo has published the officially translated version of a recent Iwata Asks on the game. As always with these articles, there's plenty of interesting information from those behind the game, particularly as they talk about burn out from working on Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, but also the happier angle that it was a release that revived the series' sales.

One of the most interesting sections, meanwhile, is that where AlphaDream's team members relate the challenges of using pixel-based graphics, and why that's difficult in 3D environments being viewed on an auto-stereoscopic screen. It was partly down to AlphaDream not having sufficient personnel skilled in 3D graphics — some external assistance was given for non-pixel based sections — but also because it gave a unique, charming look to the visuals. Even small touches such as Mario & Luigi's various poses were all created and animated from scratch, as pre-existing data from the previous entries couldn't be reused; keep an eye out for a new variation of (laughs) in this excerpt.

Iwata: And they didn't use any preexisting data?

Kubota: No, they're each one of a kind.

Iwata: You made each one specially? Wow…that would take time! Now I understand why it took three years since the previous game. What a staggering workload! (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs wryly)

Iwata: But it's in proper 3D, so it feels different than polygons, which is mysterious in a way I've never seen before. The more I look at it, the richer it is, like, "You draw it by hand…right? But even so, doesn't it look unique? How did you make that?" You truly are a team that's proud of what you do with pixel art.

Sano: Another thing that was hard in its own way was the process of trial and error in presenting three Luigis together: the pixel-art Luigi in the game, the polygon Luigi in the giant battle, and the Luigi sleeping in the bottom screen, which has an illustrated touch. In the end, we asked them to remake the Luigi in the bottom screen.

Kubota: Yeah, we gave him a big makeover!

Iwata: Luigi's difficult even when he's asleep. (laughs) Hmm. Still, I have to say I've hardly ever heard of anyone who can do stereoscopic pixel art.

Everyone: (laughs)

Another aspect of this game is the balancing designed to maintain challenge for experienced RPG gamers, but to offer assistance to those that are less capable.

Sano: But there are substantial support features for people like me who aren't great at action games, which is a big help. If you get wiped out, you can redo that scene, and right there, for one time only, Mario and Luigi temporarily get strong.

Kubota: That's called Easy Mode, which the player can choose.

Sano: If you get wiped out again and do the same battle over again, a Hint Block appears. In the Mario & Luigi series, all the enemies attack different ways. If you look at the hint, you will learn an enemy's weak point or a tip for dodging. But in the end, you still have to play hard for yourself.

Iwata: The hints don't take away the fun of playing, but they will tell you how to make it easier to advance.

Sano: Right. And if you fail at the Bros. Attack a few times, Slow Attack Mode kicks in. The moment you do a finishing move, it gets slow so you can get the timing just right.

Otani: A reason we put in so many support features this time is we realized how until now there hasn't been enough explanation about how to play RPGs. The regular Super Mario games are action games, so you can avoid enemies and proceed without leveling up, right? But Mario & Luigi is a series of RPGs, so if you don't pay attention to leveling up, you run into a wall.

As always we recommend checking out the whole Iwata Asks article for an insight into how the project came together. How many of you are gearing up for Mario & Luigi: Dream Team on 3DS?