Mario Golf: Super Rush devs on the game’s origins, opening, Swing Mode, change in mechanics, and more
A few developers behind Mario Golf: Super Rush have opened up about the game, including how the title came to be and the series’ history, the opening movie, Swing Mode, change in mechanics the franchise has seen previously, and more.
You may recall that we recently posted some excerpts from a Nintendo Dream interview conducted an interview with some of the lead staff involved with the development of Mario Golf: Super Rush. Camelot’s Hiroyuki Takahashi (Producer) and Shugo Takahashi (Director), along with Nintendo’s Shinya Saito (Producer) and Tomohiro Yamamura (Director) gave readers a peak behind the development curtain by talking through their experiences making the game.
Since the interview is quite lengthy, we’ve decided to split it up into two parts. Our translation of the first half can be read below.
Finally, it’s time for a new Mario Golf!
H Takahashi: Every time we design a game, whether it’s golf or tennis, we don’t really approach it like we’re making a sequel. We’ve thought this way dating back to the development of Golden Sun; we treat previous titles more like rivals.
You look at older entries as rivals?
H Takahashi: We look at the popularity of previous entries as the baseline to hit when we develop. This time around that meant looking at Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS) and Mario Tennis Aces (Switch). There was a big jump from Mario Tennis 64 to Mario Power Tennis, but after that I feel like things started to stagnate.
That makes sense.
H Takahashi: Nintendo asked us to make something fresh, so we made Mario Tennis Aces. It was well received by the audience, and we wondered if the progress we made mirrored the jump between Mario Tennis 64 and Mario Power Tennis. We wanted to match that when developing our next game, and Super Rush was the opportunity to do so.
Saito: From Nintendo’s perspective, we were on the lookout for the next sports title for Switch following the release of Mario Tennis Aces, and made a proposal to Camelot because of their expertise in golf games.
What ideas did you have for Mario Golf that were unique to the Switch?
Saito: The Joy-Con control scheme felt like a good fit and was one of our starting points. Internally, that also felt good at Nintendo, so we had high expectations for Camelot.
H Takahashi: Nintendo asked a lot of us, so development was a challenge. It was as if we were developing multiple games (laughs).
Yamamura: But you made a golf game unlike any other.
H Takahashi: Like with Mario Tennis Aces, we wanted esports-style competition that was playable online. My personal thought was that rather than playing alone, it should feel like you’re getting into the competition alongside an audience – that was our biggest hurdle.
Yamamura: The key point from Camelot was regarding a recent golfing trend in the US, where people go out to both enjoy a meal and play golf. It’s popular among people who play the sport casually and I thought that was a great idea to help appeal to a new audience.
I’d never heard that, but trust the Takahashi brothers to know that about golf (laughs).
Yamamura: With that in mind, I think it’s a good idea to make a game with both the competitive and casual in mind.
Saito: Internally we thought of it as more party-focused.
Yamamura: We picked up on aspects that people enjoyed and helped polish them.
The title of the game is a big change after all the games with ‘Tour’ in the title.
Saito: We wanted to highlight the spirit and speed of Speed Golf. “Super Rush” does a good job depicting the momentum of golf balls flying in the hole one after the other.
H Takahashi: We thought it’d be “Aces” until we heard the title.
S Takahashi: Tennis was Mario Tennis Aces, so you thought it would be Mario Golf Aces? (laughs)
Saito: ‘Aces’ was a candidate at one point… (laughs)
Mario Tennis and Mario Golf on the console have always had unique and interesting opening movies. What were your thoughts on the opening this time around?
Yamamura: We had complete faith in Camelot and left it entirely up to them.
H Takahashi: I think opening movies are about building the world of the game and the relationship between characters. Take Wario and Waluigi for example: They’re a real pair, aren’t they? They’re always up to no good, but you can’t really be angry at them because they’re just so clumsy.
The Wario and Waluigi duo’s hijinks are always a lot of fun.
H Takahashi: I’ve loved Mario since Donkey Kong on the NES and have my own image of what Mario’s world looks like and how the characters interact. I’d wanted to express that to fans, or rather, have those characters express it for me (laughs). We started storyboarding the opening cinematic with that in mind.
Yamamura: The opening cinematic alone is really entertaining, especially the King Bob-omb part (laughs).
S Takahashi: Wario and Waluigi never change (laughs). The last thing I’ll say is that even though it’s a golf game, we wanted to mark the start of a new chapter.
S Takahashi: In the openings of the Mario Tennis series, Wario and Waluigi are always a little goofy, but they give it everything they’ve got to win. We wanted something similar in Mario Golf, but were determined to make it something new this time around. I think golf games have a very different feel and I hope people can see that, too.
H Takahashi: I wasn’t sure it was a golf game after watching the movie.
H Takahashi: Just one thing to add to that, I said to staff that we should use the systems in Everybody’s Golf as the standard while we made the game, but at times that got in our way.
What do you mean?
H Takahashi: Actions that take place after a shot, like moving around the course, are entirely left out.
S Takahashi: It’s a golf game after all (laughs). It’s only natural we’d make something that focused on the most important and fun parts of the sport.
H Takahashi: Playing a golf game where all you do is take shots makes sense, but for golf fans… There are definitely other enjoyable aspects of the sport too.
H Takahashi: I think people will get a little frustrated if scores are decided solely by hitting shots and sinking balls. Moving around the course is a part of golf, too. Take Super Mario Bros. as an example: even though there’s a boss fight at the end of a world, the bulk of the game is moving through the levels. Movement is what makes the game interesting.
As an action game, running and jumping in Mario feels great.
H Takahashi: There’s usually no movement in golf games, which is why I wanted to see if we could somehow include it in this game. The opening movie represented that desire.
S Takahashi: When we were making tennis for example, our default was to show the player the interesting aspects of the sport. In the same way, I think golf games are at their best when they let players play the innately interesting aspects of the sport. The game features different modes including Adventure Mode, Speed Golf, Battle Golf and Standard Golf and I think we embodied and highlighted the key aspects of each. We’ve worked hard to make it as fun as we could, but as someone who tried it, what did you think?
… The result was incredible!
H Takahashi: Wasn’t he a little slow to respond? Does he really think that?
S Takahashi: Stop it, you’re making me anxious!
Yamamura: The movement component was a new challenge for us, so people finding it enjoyable is the highest compliment we can receive.
This year marks 22 years of the Mario Golf series since its debut on the Nintendo 64. What changes have you made to the development process?
Yamamura: I’ll let the Camelot staff talk more in depth about what changed, but from the Nintendo side, we asked for nothing too eccentric to be added. In Super Rush, Speed Golf stands out as the biggest innovation, but that mode is a big departure from normal golf. We made it clear that normal golf is here, as it always has been, for fans who enjoyed the regular golfing aspect of the series.
So it was about keeping what made the series great up until now.
Yamamura: Camelot has been making golf games for many years and I think all they had to ensure was that the fun and challenging aspects of the game remain. This time that meant a complete reworking of the shot gauge system; could you tell us how you handled that?
H Takahashi: Every game I find myself thinking about whether we can implement a special shot system. They’ve been in the tennis games since Mario Power Tennis, surely we can find a way to make it work in Mario Golf too! That was the thought at least, but we could never find a way to make it work.
Yamamura: This was the franchise’s first attempt at it.
H Takahashi: If we pull it off, I think it would be a lot of fun, but practically speaking we weren’t sure how to program a special shot. That was the biggest worry at our company; how about on your end Mr. Yamamura?
Yamamura: We were worried, all right. We considered various options including a Zone Shot akin to Mario Tennis. Ultimately, we thought that wasn’t in the spirit of golf and nailing the special shot was really difficult.
H Takahashi: It all started with a TV show about a Self-Defense Force group. I didn’t think much of it while watching it, but in the car on the way to the golf course the next day, suddenly a spinning Donkey Kong appeared in my mind and crashed down on the green with a huge shockwave.
H Takahashi: To the point where golf balls flew in all directions (laughs).
Yamamura: Golf is a solo sport in the sense that your actions don’t directly impact other players. That’s how we landed on the idea of a shot that would directly impact other players’ balls in a mode that everyone can play together. I think that was our biggest innovation.
I don’t think golf games have had an element like that before.
Yamamura: We weren’t convinced initially, but it was fun when we tried it and I think that was a real breakthrough moment. Hitting other players’ golf balls to send them flying is surely breaking the rules, right? But it’s the natural phenomenon, the shockwave, that made it fly (laughs).
H Takahashi: These ideas come out of nowhere. There are countless numbers of these experiences that have helped us, and this idea had a big influence on what we could implement in a golf game.
What do you think of the Swing Mode?
S Takahashi: Honestly, we were tweaking it up until the very end. On a programming level it’s not hard, but the difficulty is making it feel like real golf.
What do you mean?
S Takahashi: When you take a shot in real golf, your body reacts to what’s around it. In a golf game, things like the state of your ball and slopes on the course aren’t in front of you while you take your shot. Taking that into account, while considering both golfers and players who have never golfed alike, we designed it to feel like you’re playing golf.
Finding something golfers will approve that’s also approachable for first-timers is a difficult balance to strike.
S Takahashi: Let’s take an easy example: The ball won’t roll unless you swing your putter, but when using an actual putter, even a small swing makes your ball roll a lot.
S Takahashi: If you were to do that in-game, it would make things very difficult. We had to strike a balance between the two as we developed the game. We made continual improvements to different points in the game to make it a smooth experience. When a player misses, we try to convey as much as possible regarding the kind of mistake, what caused it, and how the player can correct it next shot. Hopefully, people will see the golf resemblance there.
That must have been tough to develop, but from the player’s perspective, that sounds like a lot of fun!
S Takahashi: Nintendo also asked us to add the Rookie Course, which is a blast. It’s a good thing to have in the game; it condenses everything that’s fun about golf games.
Yamamura: Usually there’s only one fairway in front of you, but on the Rookie Course, there are multiple fairways running parallel for you to choose from. Whether you hit right or left, the choice is yours.
S Takahashi: Right, right. I think the fun thing about golf is you always have different options to choose from. Pete Dye (American golf course designer) who is my course instructor and one of the three greatest golf course architects in the world said, “Golf becomes more interesting as more choices become available before the ball ends up in the hole.”
Saito: Every week we’d hold a beta test tournament internally where we collected feedback. We’d play a revised version the following week after the team made drastic changes and adjusted the balance. Repeating this process allowed us to make the game as good as it is.
S Takahashi: I know that the early versions were quite difficult in many ways. We took on the feedback/opinion of Nintendo staff and made it easier to play.
In this game, the power gauge is vertical and impact controls are gone completely – that’s a pretty big change from previous titles.
H.Takahashi: Speed Golf had a big influence on the flow of golfing. Continuing the pattern of pick a shot route, decide on a club and pick a direction, before finally hitting the ball didn’t really line up with the new game mode.
S Takahashi: Golf is a static sport and with such a dynamic new game mode in mind, we thought about how we could make golfing work across the different modes. Even in a lively game mode like Speed Golf, you still need to carry out the static act of shooting shots.
S Takahashi: In Mario Tennis, you can hit the ball with a single button press. Controls are simple enough for even kids to get their heads around. In Mario Golf, the first button press activates your shot gauge, the second button press sets your shot’s power and the third press determines the impact of the shot. Humans can adapt to up to 2 button presses pretty easily, but 3 presses is a big ask for small kids.
Lining up a button press with the shot gauge is a big ask.
S Takahashi: Up until now, it was too easy for younger players to whiff shots in our games. We always wanted to grant them the praise that comes with nailing a shot. While we were figuring out how to make dynamic modes like Speed Golf work, we took it on ourselves to see what would happen if we removed the Impact system entirely.
What did you think once you’d tried it?
S Takahashi: Honestly, we thought it really felt like golf. We had our doubts about it, but not unlike when we were developing Mario Tennis. We worked those doubts though a bunch of prototypes until we landed on something that felt like golf.
It turned out great, didn’t it?
S Takahashi: It did. We thought long and hard about whether removing the Impact system would make things easier or even more difficult. We ultimately think it landed in a good spot, which is why we used the systems that are in the game now.
H Takahashi: The courses are huge, too. We got technical support from Nintendo for this game.
S Takahashi: The fields of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were incredible, weren’t they? With the Speed Golf concept being a focus for this game, something we considered for a long time was putting all 18 holes on one course. (laughs)
In the past there was loading between each hole, but this time it was seamless, allowing players to play each successive hole without a loading screen.
S Takahashi: I’ll admit I always wanted to do this, but technology at the time of each previous entry never allowed for it. Especially in the Mario Golf 64 era (laughs).
S Takahashi: We only show it in a small part of the game, but we really wanted to make a game where you hit the ball anywhere on the vast courses. A game where if you hit the ball as far as the next hole, you’d have to go and hit it all the way back. A map the size of Hyrule Field was our goal, and the Zelda team at Nintendo shared ideas with us as to how we could get there.
H Takahashi: Thanks to their help, Mario Golf was able to evolve. I think it’s specifically because of the maps that we were able to rework the shot system.
Yamamura: It wasn’t simply losing the Impact system, but the sprawling courses, as if connected, increased the amount of freedom within golfing. I think we were able to strike the perfect balance with difficulty, down to the difference in elevation. Being able to use things like spin shots makes the game as challenging as it has always been.
S Takahashi: How was it when you played it?
I feel like compared to previous titles, it was easier to make long putts and consequently take birdies.
S Takahashi: Changing the gauges in the game completely changed the feel of the game. It felt like we were making a golf game by starting over from scratch. Thinking about it in terms of real golf, when you’re a beginner you tend to only focus on techniques like the timing of your impact. As you improve, you start to calculate in advance how much bend or fluctuation the shot may have because of the condition of the fairway/rough and the slope.
With the gauge now being vertical, it’s much more intuitive to gauge the trajectory angle of shots.
S Takahashi: In this game, we aimed to create a system that explicitly displays the bend and deviation in a shot caused by an incline, so that the player can get a true sense of golf without having to know the timing of impact. One of the answers to this question is the new shot gauge. Also, now that the location of the pin is displayed in the gauge, you can get a better idea of how close the green is based on its position. This will help prevent disastrous shots among younger players.
H Takahashi: Golf games up until now have created a completely different feeling to real golf. I feel like we bridged the gap with this game. As an example, in previous games, you could tell where a ball was going to stop by moving the camera to where it would land, but that’s also changed by things like the slope and how hard the point of impact is. Calculating how far the ball will fly or how far it’ll roll on landing is an enjoyable part of golf. In this game, none of that information is displayed, so it feels like you’re calculating those sorts of things in a way that’s similar to real golf. I wonder if this game came closer to how it is for more advanced golfers.
S Takahashi: In this game, we made the distance meter and altimeter into separate functions. It took a little more time to make, but felt more like real golf. I hope people use those functions as if they were really looking through a scope. It’s why you can’t see the grid unless you explicitly buy the altimeter in Adventure Mode.
The Mario Golf: Super Rush interview did touch on a number of other aspects outside of topics like the opening movie. Stay tuned for the back half of the translation.
Translation provided by Jarop and centurionnugget on behalf of Nintendo Everything.
If you use any of this translation, please be sure to source Nintendo Everything and please do not copy its full contents.