Yutaka "Yoot" Saito is one of Japan's most unique game designers, having creating titles such as Seaman and Odama. Over the years he has enjoyed a close relationship with Nintendo, and was on very friendly terms with the late Satoru Iwata.
Speaking at Reboot Develop 2018, Saito revealed two interesting Nintendo-related nuggets. The first is that he provided direct inspiration for the StreetPass system used on the 3DS:
Once, when we were discussing some of the things we'd like to be able to do with a new piece of hardware, which will be coming for next generation of Game Boy, I told them a story from when I was a middle school student.
Every morning on the way to the school there was a girl on the train I rode. I was almost 15 years old and I was too shy to talk to her. So in the meeting I raised my idea that if we had a kind of magic machine so I can talk to her, that would be wonderful.
A few years later, my company was invited to Nintendo headquarters by developer relations after Nintendo DS was announced. And the guy who did the briefing said, 'There is one big feature remaining we haven't talked about yet. This is something CEO Iwata wants to tell you personally, Mr Saito-san, so I'm going to call him. Please stay here.'
A few minutes later Iwata-san came down to the meeting room, and with a smile he said, 'Mr Saito, we finally put in the feature we talked [about]: it's called StreetPass.'
(Saito mentions the DS specifically here, but it could be that he means the 3DS - or perhaps that Nintendo had StreetPass working on the DS, but didn't use it until the 3DS arrived.)
During the same talk, Saito gave details on an unreleased game in the Mario series which he worked on with Nintendo. The title involved sculpting a car engine from a chunk of metal, taking into account how the shape of the engine would impact its performance.
Saito recalls how he pitched the idea to Nintendo:
I explained this crazy idea and they listened to me very carefully in complete silence, and finally they said, 'That sounds interesting - let's give it a try.' We decided we could do a different type of game. It isn't released. It's codenamed Mario Motors.
The designer explained that his hope for the game was to give people a deeper understanding and appreciation of how engines work:
Do you know what happens in an engine when you press down on the accelerator pedal? When you step on the pedal, [air valves] open and more air comes into the engine. So how did I try to reconstruct this control method in order to teach players how acceleration works in Mario Motors? I wanted to have them blow into the microphone of the DS. I scrapped this idea because this would cause children to get out of breath.
But why did Mario Motors never get released? Saito wouldn't say, adding:
I cannot tell you why now but please guess. That's a very confidential thing. Many things happen. Not... um... are you at the party tonight?
Eurogamer was in attendance but sadly didn't manage to find out what Saito was talking about. However, he did, during the talk, speak a little more about working with Nintendo:
While I was working on this prototype I had the chance to meet with those guys and they were very excited to see how my prototype had gone - not from a business standpoint but from a creative point. They were interested to see what I was talking about each time.
Mr Miyamoto was telling me he is a game creator but he is also a producer, and Mr Iwata always worked hard to try to discover new things and to help young talent grow. I realised just how much they respected each other and how they formed the two wheels that pulled Nintendo's game business forward.
They made an impression on me, because they were always handing people something new despite the fact they'd made great success in the past - they were very much hungry for new things. What Mr Iwata taught me is allowing my character to be different. Please be proud that you're different from other people.
legendary! I treasure my copy of Odama
Dragon Quest IX for the DS did have a form of StreetPass where you could swap dungeons.
Well then, I'd like to see what else this guy has in store.
I haven't played it myself, but I do know Seaman-probably one of the weirdest games to ever be released, but in a good way, and this project seems to be pretty creative in its own right. I hope he gets another chance at a new project some day, he seems like he can make something that can stand out and shake things up.
"Not...um...are you at the party tonight?"
What is that supposed to mean? I feel like if Saito did work up the nerve to talk to that girl on the train, this is what it would've sounded like.
I have got to play Seaman. Interesting story. I’d love a game like he had in mind.
Man, how many more unreleased Mario games are there in the world??
If I was sat in a meeting room, and someone says ‘I’ll go get Iwata’ and he comes into the room says to me, ‘James, we’ve basically ripped off your idea’, I’d just be charmed into submission, too!
Also: StalkPass sounds like a slightly more appropriate name!
Mario makes cars and talks to old people the game
Something something something, another emotional moment over Iwata: "Please be proud that you're different from other people".
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