With Super Mario Bros. Wonder releasing nearer to the end of this week, Nintendo has made Super Mario Bros. Wonder the latest game to get the “Ask the Developer” interview treatment. Across the interview’s multiple instalments, we got to hear from the likes of Takashi Tezuka and other developers all involved in Mario’s latest 2D outing.
During the interview, we heard from the devs behind Super Mario Bros. Wonder, as they discussed the process behind creating new character and enemy animations and movements:
Mario Devs on New Character and Enemy Animations & Movement:
Masanobu Sato: The game’s animation has the role of communicating the character’s state to the player. In this game, we revisited Mario’s iconic poses from the days of pixel graphics. We took a look at each of them, including a jumping motion with arms extended and a sudden stop after running. As a result, we believe we’ve been able to create characters that leave a strong impression.
However, while it was good that the characters were more expressive, another challenge surfaced when we tried to turn their faces towards players to show their expressions. It’s a well-known story within the company that Miyamoto-san said designing Mario’s nose to be big back in the day of the very first pixelated Mario made it easier to see which direction Mario was facing. But if we set Mario’s nose to face the direction of travel, like we used to, with a modern 3D model, you wouldn’t be able to see his facial expressions.
On the other hand, if we turned Mario’s face towards players so they could see his facial expressions, it would be difficult to tell which direction he’s moving. Therefore, we had to find the right balance to make it easy for players to see both the character’s expressions and where they’re headed.
If you look at the picture on the right, you’ll see that Mario’s face is distorted when seen from the direction he’s travelling towards. However, if you look at the picture on the left, you can see how Mario appears on-screen. During gameplay, players can see both the direction Mario is heading and his facial expressions. In fact, we’ve made these kinds of adjustments not only to the facial expressions but to the entire body.
Koichi Hayashida: I think the sound effects have also evolved greatly, along with the advancement of facial expressions and movements.
Koji Kondo: I agree. We gave each character a distinctive jump sound and deliberately created sounds that would help convey the characters’ movements to players. Also, we wanted to give it a fresh feel by integrating the sounds of musical instruments into the sound effects, so in this game, we used an electric ukulele made of Yezo spruce for Mario’s jump sound. Using strings to accompany the traditional action of running before jumping to increase jump distance has enabled us to add sounds of varying dynamics to better express the feeling of ascending. This is the first time the jump sound changes based on how the player jumps, just like how string instruments make different sounds depending on how strongly or softly a musician plucks the strings.
Masanobu Sato: But I’m sure many of the sound effects must have been difficult to create because this game has more movement patterns than previous titles.
Koji Kondo: Many of the movements weren’t in past titles, so we couldn’t always simply apply previous sound effects. Let’s take, for example, a character entering a pipe.
In this game, the character always performs an action before they enter a pipe. So when we triggered the sound effect right as the player pressed the button, as we’d always done in previous games, it didn’t match what was happening on-screen. So we ended up readjusting the timing for this sound effect. It was fun to look closely at the characters’ expressions and movements and notice those kinds of details.
Koichi Hayashida: As I tested the prototype every day, I tried different ways of playing the game. Sometimes I played like a beginner and sometimes like an advanced player. Every day, there were surprises and discoveries that made me think, “I never knew these sounds or visuals were in the game!”.
Masanobu Sato: Since we knew we had ample budget to develop the game, we didn’t have to worry about the amount of resources we’d spend to craft even small details.
Koichi Hayashida: You can see Goombas greeting each other as they meet or sleeping peacefully, for example.Masanobu Sato: Even before development on Super Mario Bros. Wonder was confirmed, we were looking to broaden the range of expressions that enemies had. It wasn’t possible to completely change the behaviour of the well-known enemies in this game without altering the gameplay, but we wanted to be able to demonstrate to fans that we’d made some adjustments to them.
Takashi Tezuka: Such trial and error in character design inspired those in charge of course creation to make a world that matched those designs.
Koichi Hayashida: Since the designers had created fed-up expressions for Goombas caught in gaps, we thought we’d better develop nice gaps for the Goombas to get stuck in at the right time.
For the full interview, why not click here to check out Ask the Developer Vol. 11, Super Mario Bros. Wonder – Chapter 2.
Ask the Developer | Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Participating Developers)
- Takashi Tezuka | Executive Officer Senior Officer, Entertainment Planning & Development Division
- Shiro Mouri | Entertainment Planning & Development Department Production Group No. 10
- Koichi Hayashida | Entertainment Planning & Development Department Production Group No. 10
- Masanobu Sato | Entertainment Planning & Development Department Production Group No. 10
- Koji Kondo | Senior Officer, Entertainment Planning & Development Department