Konno-san and Yabuki-san, how frequently were you communicating? I had the impression that Yabuki-san had an idea of the goal and you confidently worked towards it.
Yes. I basically just left it to Yabuki-san as the director, because we had the same targets in mind. I was always playing the prototype, so we could discuss the details as we went.
There are a number of new elements, so carrying over everything from earlier in the series would have resulted in too much data. For that reason, we left out a few things from the past, but Konno-san would give me advice like “Put this in,” when it came to the jump action5 or the strength of the computer, for example. 5 Jump action: One of the actions that happen during races in the Mario Kart series. Action commands performed during a jump will let the characters dash when they land on the ground again.
You can’t understand some things without playing the game or talk about it if you don’t know the contents, so I must have played thousands of times before completion. As I played, I would eavesdrop on what they said. (laughs)
You usually watch from one step back, but you stayed in contact with it as if you were one of the hands-on developers.
Yes. (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san says that while I may be the producer, I have to keep a close eye on the product just as if I were the director. I didn’t want to simply leave it to others. I wanted to lend concrete support.
Earlier, Yabuki-san said that if you had kept everything from past games, new things wouldn’t fit in, but it’s packed so much that I can’t tell what you left out, and you’ve added quite a lot of new elements. I’m impressed by how much you were able to include in the available time. In addition to all the elements carried over from past games, what did you add that was new this time?
We wanted it to be instantly enjoyable, but deep. As a result, we came up with things like flying, diving underwater, coins and customising your racing machine.
This time in Mario Kart, you can use a glider to fly and you can race underwater. Did that idea come up early on?
Yes, from the start. We were thinking about that before the team even formed. To begin, I remember modifying Mario Kart Wii6, preparing floaty karts, flying karts, and presenting it. 6 Mario Kart Wii: An action-racing game released for the Wii console in April 2008.
He came in with something that had all kinds of floating karts and gave a little demonstration, saying, “Doesn’t it look like they’re underwater?” and “Wouldn’t it be fun to drive underwater?”
Oh, that’s right. Until now, water has always been an obstacle, so using it like that is quite a change. Anyone who plays it will think, “This is fun!” - making for some fun communication. What are the coin and customisation elements?
In Mario Kart 7, we’ve brought back coins. In the original game, Super Mario Kart, when you got coins on the course, your kart would speed up. When you crashed, your coins would scatter around. Coins are something that Miyamoto-san had always been focused on, but they disappeared somewhere along the way.
They just lost priority to other things and wouldn’t fit in. But this time, even though the processing was tight, we designed the coins back in.
I thought that if we put them in from the beginning, it would be alright for Shiraiwa-san and the other programmers.
I wanted to bring back the coins, too, but with past games in the series, putting them in came up towards the end of development, overlapping with other tasks, so we couldn’t do it. This time, from the very start, I told the programmers, “Include the coins in the early experiments!”
Yabuki-san thought putting them in from the start would work out alright, and that fit your approach perfectly.
Yes. Looking back now, I think they’re an essential element. There aren’t many obstacles in the air or underwater, so I was worried that players might find themselves with their hands free. The coins are floating, so it’s fun to get them.
And then there’s customisation. This time, the performance of your racing machine changes with your combination of custom parts. You get those parts by collecting coins.
I see. The coins tie in there. So your custom parts combo influences your advantage in the race. Does everyone tinker around like that?
It depends on your preference. Apart from performance, some people say, “I want to drive with this setup,” and others think it out fully, saying, “This has got to be fast!”
Some combinations are clearly faster on land but not so much so underwater, so it’s worth tinkering around.
And the StreetPass7 feature comes into play with customisation as well. 7 StreetPass: A feature that allows users who enable it to walk around with their Nintendo 3DS system turned on to exchange certain game data with other Nintendo 3DS users whom they pass on the street.
That’s right. You can show your own favourite customisations to people you pass. I really like to have Lakitu drive a cloud kart. I always set it to that and show off to everyone. It isn’t an especially fast combo, but I’ll say, “Isn’t this great?! Isn’t this cool?!” (laughs)
If you race and beat your opponent who has a part you want, you may be able to unlock it this way. Later on, I’d like to talk about StreetPass in more detail.
It isn’t just about speed, though. There are some parts that simply look good or cool when you put them together, so I hope you’ll look for them.
I think people will use the parts like fashion items.
In other words, it’s one manner of self-expression in a competitive communication tool.
Yes, that’s right.
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