Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash team on HD development, new characters, amiibo, and online play
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash finally launched in Japan last week. To celebrate, Famitsu spoke with a few developers who worked on the game. The lineup includes director Shugo Takahashi and producer Hiroyuki Takahashi from Camelot as well as Nintendo producer Toshiharu Izuno.
Our complete translation of the interview can be found after the break. The staff touched on topics like approaching HD development for the first time, how new characters were selected, amiibo integration, and online play. There’s also an interesting bit about how Nintendo was initially opposed to including Boo in Mario Tennis 64.
Return to the roots and challenge of HD
Famitsu: So everyone [in this interview] has been involved as key people since the development of the first game in the series. But how’s the concept for development this time (Ultra Smash)?
Shugo: The last game (Mario Tennis Open) was strong in replay value, but this time the theme is “going back to our initial resolution”.
Hiroyuki: Just like the first game Mario Tennis 64, the concept was to make an action game that can easily give anyone the taste of how tennis is interesting. We’re especially putting an emphasis on making a good feel in development.
Famitsu: Indeed, in this game, I feel it’s easily approachable just like the MT64 times.
Shugo: I’m glad you said that. In this game we made it easy to continue rallies just like MT64, so while the rally continues, players will have a better understanding of deeper strategies, such as where to aim in the middle of a rally.
Famitsu: So with new features like Jump Shot being added, the breadth of strategy is getting bigger, isn’t it?
Toshiharu: Jump Shot was implemented as a request from Nintendo’s side at the beginning of development. When we speak about Mario, it’s all about jump actions after all. By adding Jump Shot to Mario Tennis, we’re adding more thought to [strategies like] “Where to hit the ball after it lands”, adding options like “Should I hit it straight away in the air? Or should I wait first then hit it?”, thus generating new tactics.
Famitsu: The Mega Battle mode where you grow bigger with mushroom is also a new feature that’s very Mario-ish, but was this also ordered by Nintendo?
Toshiharu: No, Mega Battle Mode was an idea proposed by Camelot.
Hiroyuki: This game is our company’s first HD title. We took in many kinds of experiments, and among that the idea of making characters bigger was born.
Shugo: I thought making them giants was a rare idea that could make people enjoy Mario-ish features while playing tennis, and Nintendo’s reaction was also favorable. However, when the time came to implement it, there was a lot of trial and error (bitter laugh). Like how you can see giant characters hitting the ball, are there any problems with the hitbox, etc. The work was to solve those problems one by one, in the end we were able to implement it without problems, and honestly I was relieved.
Toshiharu: By the way, for the players who want to enjoy a pure skill testing, we’ve also provided a Classic Tennis rule where you can play without Giant Mushrooms. You can also choose whether to activate Jump Shot and Chance Area or not, so the options are also recommended to people who want to enjoy pure rallies like in MT64.
Famitsu: Just now, you said that this game is Camelot’s first HD title, so how did you actually work on it?
Hiroyuki: We were afraid before development (laughs). Because we heard from people from all directions that developing HD titles has a high difficulty. We were also concerned whether we had enough manpower with our staff number at that time, but we reached a conclusion that in the current era, it’s inevitable to create HD titles. So we readied ourselves and tried to challenge it.
Shugo: We started development while receiving support from Nintendo, but after about 3-4 months passed we could make a demo that had good feedback, so we were confident that the users could enjoy this.
Famitsu: For Wii U, I think another point [to consider] is how to use the Wii U GamePad.
Shugo: That’s right. For action games, if we look away from the main screen it’s going to be a problem that hinders gameplay. So from there we made it in this game so that the Wii U GamePad always shows the player character on the front side, even if they are currently on the far side of the court. So with this you can play from each of the view points, and I think it also answers some of the users’ concerns like “After Court Change, the distance feel becomes different and harder to play”.