With Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey having released recently on the 3DS, we felt it was high time for a closer look at the now decade-old DS classic. We were lucky enough to get the chance to sit down with the teams from Nintendo and AlphaDream to discuss what it's like remaking a beloved game, designing a beloved character's guts, some unused concepts for the original DS version and a thing or two that's been forgotten over the years.
Nintendo Life: In Bowser's Inside Story, a huge part of the game takes place inside Bowser's body. What was the inspiration for using Bowser as the setting for the game?
Shunsuke Kobayashi: At first we had an idea to create a game using Mario, Luigi and Bowser as the playable characters, but the idea of having all three of them cooperate sounded a bit strange. In addition to that, if Mario and Luigi entered into Bowser’s body there wouldn’t have to be any reason for them to meet. And also, having Mario and Luigi travel through Bowser's body and touch various parts of the inside of Bowser's body would create effects in the outside world, which felt like a really good way to use the dual screens of the DS at the time.
What was it like having to design Bowser’s insides?
Kouichi Fukazawa: This is how we approached designing Bowser’s insides: we wanted it to be a thorough design of the insides, but not be too disgusting. But since this is in the Mario universe, we wanted it to be interesting to explore as well. These things, of course, inspired how we approached the remake as well.
It’s hard to believe, but Bowser's Inside Story released just under a decade ago. The remake now has a lot of new content and completely new art. Was this the art style you originally wanted to use for the game, or is it something new that you thought of after development began?
Yoshihiko Maekawa: For this game as well as the original game, the approach was to basically draw what the system was capable of doing, so that was the same for this game as well.
This new version also includes a new side story, Bowser Jr.’s Journey. For those that don’t know about it, can you describe it?
Akiko Suigmoto: It’s a specific mode that takes the systems from the minion mode in Superstar Saga but expands on that to show Bowser Jr. going on a voyage where he collects comrades to participate in battle and it shows the character growth arc for Bowser Jr., and how his personality changes.
This is an explanation for the brawl mode. It’s a mode where you gather together a bunch of characters, and the formation is really important because the gameplay is conducted automatically. You have to think about the formulation of your characters, which we think people will really enjoy.
Additionally, this adds in a sub-leader system. Bowser Jr. is the main character of the game, so sub-leaders can be members of the Koopalings or Kamek. This allows us to factor them into the game and results in a story that’s really appropriate for Bowser Jr.
In Bowser Jr.’s Journey, he meets the original Koopalings from Super Mario Bros. 3. What’s Bowser Jr.’s relationship with them?
Akira Otani: As far as the Mario & Luigi series goes, it really is in Paper Jam that the Koopalings became more featured. The character setting for Koopalings is that they aren’t Bowser’s children, they just work for him! That’s the same for Bowser Jr.’s Journey, but the Koopalings have to take care of Bowser Jr. because he’s the boss’ kid.
The Mario & Luigi RPG Series is known for putting the brothers in strange settings, like inside dreams, travelling through time or – in the case of this game – inside the series’ main villain. Where would you like to see them go next?
Maekawa: With the first title in the series, they were in the Beanbean Kingdom, and with the second game they weren’t really going to a new place, but what we’d love to preserve is giving the player a sense of adventure, and that’s what we kept in mind when making new titles. If we made a new game we’d love to preserve that for the player.
Otani: Mario has so many different games, but particularly in the Mario & Luigi setting, we are aiming at setting up our own world. In other words, we’d love for Mario to do the things he wouldn’t do in other series. So that’s how we chose these interesting settings.
Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga featured cameos from other Nintendo characters that didn't make it into the final game. Could you tell us why these cameos were removed?
Maekawa: I really don’t remember that at all!
Given the opportunity, would you like to a see a new entry in the Mario & Luigi RPG series on the Switch?
Otani: Nothing has been planned.
Was the Bowser's Inside Story remake being worked on while SuperStar Saga was in development?
Sugimoto: We began development on this after we completely finished the Superstar Saga remake. In creating the extra mode in this game we looked at things we wanted to do in Minion mode, but couldn’t.
How does it feel to come back to Bowser's Inside Story after 10 years?
Kobayashi: In going back to the original game, there were some places when I was playing the original game where I thought, “Oh man, this is really tough to play.” So we approached the remake trying to fix some of those areas. But since this game is the best-received in the series among fans, we wanted to preserve some of the good memories that the fans had about the game. So, we didn’t want to do too much about changing the game. That’s the feeling we had while working on the game.
Did you feel any additional pressure given the game’s popularity?
Kobayashi: Nope! [laughs]
Where did the idea to have Bowser eat a Vacuum Shroom come from?
Maekawa: There are many different kinds of mushrooms, such as poison mushrooms, that exist in the Mario universe. In the 2D Mario games, it’s a symbol for growing big, and it has magical properties. So, taking that magical quality, we decided to use it as a magical means to impart Bowser with this ability to suck up Mario & Luigi and make them smaller.
Where did the idea to make enemies fat come from?
Maekawa: At the time, in terms of the concept for both the gameplay and scenario, we wanted to think of something that had dynamism to it, and health struck us. In Japanese, Blorbs are called Metakoro.
There was this idea of maybe having Bowser eat too much and get fat. But the idea of the blorbs has to do with health. And the dynamism has to deal with the gameplay element. The theme of health has to do with the story element.
What would a game where Bowser was fat have looked like?
Maekawa: In terms of the idea of Bowser getting fat, and this applies to the blorbs as well. This is also, it also can be seen in one of the brothers’ attacks, where Luigi gets fat. On the whole, the whole concept came from the idea of your attitude towards food and health, and that’s where we received our inspiration from.
Otani: For this Mario & Luigi series, we really wanted to focus on doing something different from the original Mario series. Some of that means some of the characters familiar from the original series might get big and fat and round, but they’re still cute and loveable. We wanted to show that the characters can change shape in a way that they wouldn’t in the original series.
Kobayashi: The theme of health can be seen in a lot of other places in the game. There are some characters doing Yoga poses and there are some fat goombas that are afflicted with the Blorbs. There’s also another character that’s a swamp with a cold.
Were there any other ideas?
Maekawa: I’m really sorry to say this, but I completely forgot!
Otani: Just like any game, we went through many many ideas to get to the final concept.
Are you working on your next project, or is that undecided?
Maekawa: I remembered something from your previous question! When we were drafting concepts for the original game, we used clay. That’s something we wanted to do. The art using clay is actually still on our internal site!
Otani: Please don’t think that’s the answer to this question! We’re not working on that! (laughs)
Maekawa: I can only answer the first question of the two. We didn’t decide to make the whole game in clay. We were essentially just making models of clay and using that to create all the characters in the game. Through doing that we discovered it was too time-consuming to do it that way.
Otani: Since then there have been other titles using clay art, so there’s something that these ideas must come out organically.
We'd like to thank the teams at Alphadream and Nintendo for their time and for chatting with us. Do you hope we get a claymation-style Mario & Luigi RPG title? Are you planning to make some fat Bowser fan art? Let us know which alternate universe version of Bowser's Inside Story you'd want in the comments below.