Miyamoto, Tezuka, Kondo on Super Mario Bros. 3 – scrapped overhead perspective, power-ups, music, more
Posted on November 6, 2016 by Brian(@NE_Brian) in General Nintendo, News
Over the past couple of weeks, Nintendo has been publishing new interviews about some of its classic games in celebration of the NES Classic Edition. A couple of these have started to receive official English translations, but one is still untouched: Super Mario Bros. 3. Since it was incredibly fascinating and arguably the most interesting interview out of the bunch thus far, we went ahead and produced our own translation.
Directors Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka participated in the interview, along with composer Koji Kondo. During the conversation, they opened up about how the game was originally planned with an overhead perspective, spoke about the different power-ups including Tanooki Suit’s origins, and touched on the music. Miyamoto also cleared up where the idea for Small Mario came from in the first Super Mario Bros.
Continue on below to read our translation in full.
The Grand Finale of Famicom Carts
Mr. Tezuka and Mr. Kondo, you both started working at Nintendo in the same year, after the Famicom had already launched.
Tezuka: That’s right. The Famicom was released in 1983, the year before we joined.
Did you own a Famicom back then?
Tezuka: (flatly) I did not.
Tezuka: But I did buy one after I joined.
Kondo: I didn’t own one either, I mostly played arcade games. Donkey Kong 3 (*1) was really popular around the time I joined, so I spent a lot of time playing that.
*1 – Donkey Kong 3: Shooting game released in arcades in 1983. The Famicom version was released in July of the following year.
What was your impression of the system back then?
Kondo: I really liked that you could play arcade games at home.
Tezuka: I didn’t know what a ‘family computer’ was back then, so I thought it was actually a whole computer. [note: ‘Famicom’ is short for ‘family computer’]
(laughs). There was no shortage of people who made that same mistake back when it launched.
Tezuka: Indeed. I wasn’t familiar with [computers] at all, so I never would have imagined I’d end up developing games for the Famicom.
Well, our topic this time is Super Mario Bros. What inspired you to make the game, Mr. Miyamoto?
Miyamoto: My goal was to make the ‘grand finale of Famicom carts.’
The game didn’t come out until two years after the release of the console itself, but it helped the console achieve massive worldwide success. Did the addition of Mr. Tezuka and Mr. Kondo have a big influence on its development?
Miyamoto: They did. I had been the only one doing design work, so having Mr. Tezuka join was immensely helpful. We first created Devil World (*2) together.
*2 – Devil World: Action game released for the Famicom in October of 1984
Devil World was Mr. Kondo’s debut as a sound designer as well, wasn’t it?
Kondo: It was.
Miyamoto: Afterwards, I made Excitebike (*3), which is also included in the Classic Mini. I had a bit of help from Mr. Tezuka on that as well.
*3 – Excitebike: Racing game released for the Famicom in November of 1984.
In Devil World, you worked with character sprites twice as big as usual, and in Excitebike, you dealt with screen scrolling and warps. It seems like you called on your experience with those games, and combined these technologies together in Super Mario Bros.
Miyamoto: That’s right. We decided we would cram everything we could into that Famicom cartridge. The character you controlled was much larger, and the courses were much longer, and could scroll.
The Disc System (*4) wouldn’t launch until the following year.
*4 – Disc System : The Famicom Disc System. A peripheral for the Famicom released in February of 1986. It used disc media rather than ROM cartridges, allowing for larger storage space and the ability to save game progress.
Miyamoto: And that’s why I decided Super Mario Bros would be the ‘grand finale of Famicom cartridges.’ We had been building up all kinds of knowledge relating to game development from the moment the Famicom launched, so you could say that Mario was our most opportune chance to put all of that knowledge to use.
From Big Mario to Small Mario
Mr Tezuka, when you were working on Super Mario Bros., what sort of ideas would Mr. Miyamoto discuss with you?
Tezuka: He told me he wanted to make the kind of game where a big character could run and jump around in a fairly large course.
So when you began development, you only had Big Mario to play as.
Tezuka: That’s right.
This is a very old story, but there was once a comic about the development of Super Mario that was published in a manga magazine.
Miyamoto: Ah yes (laughs).
According to the comic, there was a bug where only the upper half of Big Mario’s body/sprite would display on the screen. It went on to describe how you witnessed that, and then came up with the idea for Small Mario…
Miyamoto: (flatly) That’s incorrect.
Miyamoto: I remember it distinctly. Myself, Mr. Tezuka and Mr. Nakagou (*5) were in a meeting, and there was a whiteboard with all of the course lengths depicted. I had said something like “wouldn’t it be nice to see further ahead.”
*5 – Toshihiko Nakagou : President of SRD(Systems Research and Development). SRD was a gaming and software development company, who had developed and sold CAD software packages. In their later years, they assisted in the development of the Mario and Zelda series.
Because Mario was big, you couldn’t see very far ahead?
Miyamoto: That’s right. So, if you made the screen wide enough to see the further ahead, you would think “Mario looks much smaller”. That was when Nakagou said “Wait a second… Wouldn’t it be something if we had a smaller Mario too?”
I see. So you decided to include a smaller Mario, to make it easier to see the rest of the course.
Miyamoto: That’s correct. Furthermore, we decided that getting hit as Small Mario would cause you to lose a life, whereas getting hit as Big Mario would only turn you small. We planned out all of the new mechanics for it at that whiteboard meeting.
So the comic was wrong, and it wasn’t because of a bug (laughs).
Miyamoto: No it wasn’t (laughs)
By the way, did you ever consider starting players off as Big Mario?
Miyamoto: We thought it was much more fun to grow bigger after starting as Small Mario, rather than starting off as Big Mario already. (to Tezuka) I think we decided that pretty quickly.
Tezuka: Yes we did.
Miyamoto: And we also decided that, because he changes from small to big, we should/would call it “Super Mario”.