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E3: Nintendo Roundtable Focuses on 3DS, But Offers Broader Insight
E3: Nintendo Roundtable Focuses on 3DS, But Offers Broader Insight
June 7, 2011 | By Christian Nutt




At Nintendo's E3 roundtable, Nintendo EAD general manager Shigeru Miyamoto used it as an opportunity to talk about the 3DS, rather than the just-announced Wii U -- opening with an Ocarina of Time trailer and closing with Luigi's Mansion 2 -- and very good Q&A.


"Today, I am very tired. And I'm a little worried I may forget what I want to talk to you about," Miyamoto said, before launching into recollections about the development of Nintendo 64 hit The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, soon to launch on the Nintendo 3DS.

For example, he noted that the game's writing is better than he remembered it, but joked that it may be too late to finally compliment the developers for the work they did in 1998.

Another port, Star Fox 64 3D, got attention next. "People refer to Star Fox as a space shooting or dogfighting game, but when I play it, what I find fun is how you fly around or through objects and spaces," said Miyamoto -- something which works well on the 3DS.

He spoke of the divide between gamers who want the stick, in flight games, to have the plane move up or move down. "The people with their hands up in the air are people who grew up on Sega games," Miyamoto joked.

This dilemma also hit Ocarina of Time's slingshot -- so Miyamoto had the developers implement gyro control on both games. "I thought, 'This is my chance to bring the world together!'" he said. Star Fox, however, has hybrid controls -- left-to-right with the stick, not the gyro, to "keep the 3D visuals in focus," as players moving the system that way will distort the visuals.

Next up, Miyamoto segued into a discussion of Maro Kart for 3DS -- noting that the game is "running at 60 frames per second and feels great," and that the Texas-based, Nintendo-owned Retro Studios is "helping out" with courses on the title: "thanks to them, you can play it later this year."

Interestingly, Miyamoto observed that when it comes to the 3DS, "We think that it's fair that people might say, 'I want to play in 2D anyway,' and turn the depth slider off... And that's why the depth slider is there." He did urge the audience to make sure to turn it back on for cinematic moments in Ocarina of Time, however.

Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma came out to discuss The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but the two first traded quips about the Ocarina of Time Water Temple, and the notoriously awkward menu system which made equipping the Iron Boots a "pain in the butt," per Aonuma, continuing a thread from last year's roundtable. "I told him to change the difficulty," said Miyamoto, but Aonuma declined -- just refining the UI instead.

Switching to Skyward Sword, Aonuma demoed the game to showcase gameplay elements he felt journalists might miss playing the game on the show floor -- between the press conference and this event, the company is emphasizing the robustness and variety of the Wii's second Zelda game.

Aonuma joked that in the demo dungeon, he broke the key Link must quest for into five chunks "because it seemed like a good number," acknowledging the arbitrary nature of RPG quests. "But it's fun to search for," Miyamoto remarked. Nintendo makes very video gamey games -- and is secure enough in this to joke about it too, apparently.

An example of the volume of content the team has put into the game was in the "Siren" demo, which shows Link entering an entirely different dimension to solve puzzles -- a "mysterious world," in Aonuma's words. "Last year I mentioned I really wanted to try some different ideas and concepts in Skyward Sword, and now the areas that even lead to the dungeons are there for you to solve," he said.

"Typically when you've been to an area in a Zelda game you solve the puzzles... And then move on... because you've done everything you need to do there. But this time there will be new puzzles to solve... in areas you have been to before," Aonuma said.

"This is a game that you can play for a very long period of time, and it's one where understanding the map of the world is going to make the game much more interesting to play, so we've spent a lot of effort on improving the game's map system as well," Miyamoto observed.

Next up came Yoshiaki Koizumi, the producer of the Super Mario Galaxy games, and now the tentatively-titled Super Mario 3D for the 3DS, which is also being developed in Nintendo's EAD Tokyo studio.

"I wish I could have shown you the real title, but the real title is something we're talking about, and that's all Mr. Miyamoto's fault," Koizumi joked.

"I think you'll notice the environment is very different from what you saw in Galaxy -- it's a return to a traditional world," he said. "In the last games Mario journeyed to space, and it gave me a lot of opportunity to reflect on what a Mario game is all about."

In this game, the team "decided to focus on the elements that make Mario fun, and create the 'most Mario-like' 3D Mario game -- I guess that's one way to put it."

Mario 3D is something of a hybrid, blending 2D side scrolling and 3D gameplay. And since it's a 3DS game, remarked Koizumi, the team could add in hazards that launch directly at the player. "Until now, we couldn't really show things coming out of the background out you -- it was taboo in 2D games."

They also demoed a Zelda 25th Anniversary commemorative level in the game -- at which Miyamoto remarked "Oh, Zelda!" and couldn't resist singing the signature Zelda victory jingle when Mario solved a puzzle.

At the end of the presentation, Miyamoto took control back to discuss Luigi's Mansion 2, which will be out "perhaps... relatively early next year," he said. "I'm sure a lot of you are wondering why when Nintendo would leave Pikmin aside and return to Luigi's Mansion, but the discussion of Pikmin is prohibited today. This is something we made because I wanted to."

The first 3D experiment the company did in the development of the 3DS was using the Gamecube version of Luigi's Mansion, Miyamoto mentioned, and revealed the game is under development by Wii Punch-Out!! developer, Vancouver's Next Level Games.

When the Next Level team turned in a prototype, "the entire company got behind it and said 'Let's make this game,'" he said. Miyamoto has "become responsible for this project," he said, laughing.

The team, which also developed soccer title Super Mario Strikers seems to be turning in a game indistinguishable from a first party Nintendo product -- including adding the sort of small touches Japanese developers focus on, such as using the 3DS' gyro to allow players to peer around while looking through keyholes in the game.

The Q&A

The Q&A began with two guidelines: no Wii U questions and "no Pikmin questions -- that was not a joke."

Wired's Chris Kohler kicked off by asking about the 3DS' lack of casual-focused titles at E3 this year, given the DS' success with titles like Brain Age.

Miyamoto replied, "We actually made Nintendogs before we made Mario -- which is kind of a strange pattern for us." A lot of the casual ideas EAD had "we've already built into the system," he said, such as the Face Raiders and other AR games packed in.

The original Nintendo DS' "new play style" with stylus and touch play caused the company to focus on bringing in new types of games, but in Miyamoto's view, the new system is more about bringing traditional games into 3D for the first time.

"Our development teams, though, myself included, are working on more expanded, casual titles, which we'll be announcing as we are getting closer to bringing them to a final state," he said.

Another journalist asked about the gender split on Nintendo titles -- whether boys and girls play the company's titles differently.

Miyamoto was, at first, stumped -- as was Koizumi. "One thing that I've talked about with Koizumi is that a lot of women do play Mario, but the title Mario Galaxy has a male sound to it. We found that when we created the original Luigi's Mansion, some girls said it was too scary. My basic philosophy is that boys and girls, men and women can enjoy games the same, so when I'm creating a game I don't separate the two -- I just try to create experiences that both can enjoy," Miyamoto said.

"But I can say that when we created the original Star Fox was to take a very male-oriented dream, the ability to fly a jet fighter, and realize that."

"When I was working on Galaxy I wanted to make a really cool game about Mario flying around in space, and that might have been the little boy in me speaking," Koizumi admitted.

Next question: is Skyward Sword the Nintendo's last game for the Wii? "I dunno," said Aonuma, laughing. "Sorry, not the most interesting answer there."

"From my perspective, I feel one of my biggest responsibilities is to be developing for the newest upcoming platforms, so from my team's perspective, it's not the last but perhaps one of the last coming from our teams," said Miyamoto. "And we do have some Wii titles we've not announced at the show on the way."

"Since we do have the 25th Anniversary, I do want to make it the kind of game we can close the Wii chapter on," Aonuma remarked.

"I told Aonuma that if this wasn't the best Zelda ever, we might have to stop making Zelda games," Miyamoto joked. "And I told the Star Fox 64 producer that if we can't re-convince people to play Star Fox games, it might be the last one we make -- so everyone is working very hard," he said, and that didn't sound nearly as funny.

The Wii Vitality Sensor came up -- the pulse monitor peripheral debuted at E3 2009 with no game attached, and no repeat appearance as yet. "Next question," Miyamoto said immediately in English, to laughs. "Development has continued, but what we've found is the device sometimes has a hard time performing consistently in a different variety of situations and conditions... And we don't feel that it's consistent enough to bring to a product yet, but we will continue researching it to see if we can bring it to market at some point."

The final question, from freelancer Heidi Kemps, asked about Mario's Tanooki suit which is reappearing in the new 3DS game. Where the idea of making a tanuki fly came from in the first place?

"It's true that Mario was able to fly in the Tanooki suit in past games... Flying does present some interesting issues in 3D dimensions... Having a character fly in 3D on the smaller 3DS screen would be a little bit difficult," Koizumi said.

"So as to the question about why Mario is able to fly with a tail, I think what we ought to do is call down Takashi Tezuka, who is in the audience, and ask him to answer the question for you," said Miyamoto, pointing at the developer at the back of the room.

It turns out that while it's not exactly appropriate to Japanese mythology, flight came about from iterative development and experimentation. "Actually the idea for the Tanooki suit came originally from wanting to put a tail on Mario... We wanted to put the tail on Mario so he could do the spin move and attack. But once we put the tail on him, we thought, 'Couldn't we do something else with it?' Then we had him flutter ... So he could jump further. But once we did it, it felt so good, we said, 'Let's just make him fly!'"

Miyamoto closed by announcing a new Pikmin game for Wii U -- details here -- because the audience was "all good" and "As requested... you didn't ask about Pikmin."


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