Back to basics. It's a phrase that Yoshiaki Koizumi uses to describe Nintendo's approach to Super Mario 3D Land. It's strange, then, that director Koizumi and his team have created a Mario game that's unlike any other. Sure, fans of 2D Mario platformers will be familiar with the Tanooki Suit, coin collection and end-of-level flagpoles but these 2D levels are interspersed with new 3D levels to make a different kind of Mario game. In this exclusive interview with ONM, Koizumi reveals more about the forthcoming Mario platformer.
ONM: Miyamoto-san called Super Mario 3D Land a cross between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. Is that the best way to describe it?
Yoshiaki Koizumi: I'm not sure that mix is the right term, but what I can say for sure is that with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, the development staff worked on all of these games with me as the lead. They carried forward that same know-how on how to create 3D Mario environments and 3D Mario gameplay.
On the surface there might be some visual similarities to some of the worlds you've seen, for example in Super Mario 64, but I would say that the technology draws more from Super Mario Galaxy in terms of how we present 3D worlds visually.
So maybe that's why Mr Miyamoto called it a mix but I guess I have a slightly different perspective having come through the entire progression of the game.
ONM: Has 3D changed the design process?
YK: It certainly is an exciting new hardware platform! This being the first Mario 3D world designed exclusively for the system means that we haven't been able to draw as much from experience on previous portable Mario games.
I guess you'll remember Super Mario 64 on the DS. Mario's movements were controlled by the D-Pad in a 3D world so we couldn't take any direct comparisons there in terms of how it controlled, but I think the Circle Pad movement in Super Mario 3D Land feels much better and we are very proud of it.
As for my thoughts on design that has changed because of the hardware update - I would say that Mario at its core has a very simple, very pop aesthetic and a very functional notion informing it and we may have started to drift from that in some of the Mario console games which are very large and occasionally very complex.
The portable Mario gives us the chance to get back to the very simple basics of the Mario universe.
ONM: So would you say this new 3DS title takes a 'back to basics' approach?
YK: Well I guess we didn't set out to create less storyline, less power-ups and fewer stages but some of those may well be the end result of this idea of going back to basics.
The story of Mario games is, of course, very simple. At its core, the princess has been kidnapped and you have to rescue her. What we strive to do is to find a good balance of presenting a certain amount of narrative in the game without hindering the gameplay experiences.
As for the number of levels and things like that, our main goal is to create levels that you can enjoy playing many times, and that may have an influence on the perception of how many levels there actually are in the game.