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Nintendo on the creation of Star Fox 2, the SNES controller, and more

Posted on September 6, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in General Nintendo, News

An Old Diary Goes Public

Watanabe-san, you’re holding some materials.

Watanabe: Yes. (laughs) For this interview, I rummaged through my desk drawers and found this. (He opens a folder.)

Watanabe: This is a picture Imamura drew of Star Wolf. Without hesitation, he simply dashed it off!

Imamura-san has stamped the date on it. May 29, 1994… He drew this over twenty years ago!

Imamura: To mark this occasion, we included it in the game manual available for download. We were finally able to share this twenty years after the making.

Watanabe: We just talked about the transforming fighter, so… (flipping through the folder) As for exactly what that entails, check out these illustrations.

It’s quite detailed, down to the way each part connects. Does that mean you thought out how the fighter transforms?

Watanabe: Actually, I drafted these later. I thought the players would enjoy having an explanation of how the fighters transform mechanically.

So you produced these for the game manual. Did you draw all these yourself?

Watanabe: Yes.

Imamura: Watanabe was in the high school manga club.

Oh, really? (laughs)

Imamura: He was always good at drawing mechs.

You drew all this but then Star Fox 2 got canceled. Watanabe-san, what did you think when that happened?

Watanabe: I was shocked.

I would suppose so.

Watanabe: I worked really hard on it and thought it was too bad that I couldn’t deliver my work to the players.

After all, the game was complete and you had done all this art.

Watanabe: For that reason, it was an event that really made me think, and I was really disappointed.

How do you feel now that it has come back for Super NES Classic Edition?

Watanabe: To be honest, it’s embarrassing! It’s like having an old diary suddenly appear and be exposed in public! (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

Watanabe: At the time, we used the latest technology and worked as hard as we could to make the game, but I’m not sure how enjoyable people will find it today.

Well, you did complete it 22 years ago.

Miyamoto: Actually, I’m glad it’s coming out now in this fashion. Back then, the reasons we couldn’t release it had to do with pricing and timing. It’s not like we showed it to testers and they gave it a low grade.

The Curvy Controller

This interview is being conducted due to the release of Super NES Classic Edition, so I’d like to ask about the Super NES game console.

Miyamoto: All right.

Miyamoto-san, you were deeply involved in the development of Super NES, weren’t you?

Miyamoto: Yes. Together with the industrial designer, I did most of the console design for the original Super Famicom version of the system released in Japan and Europe, plus the packaging.

How did you handle the contents of the hardware?

Miyamoto: During the NES era, the company grew and evolved to the point where hardware designers would consult game developers on how to handle various matters.

Nintendo is an integrated hardware and software business, and you were just then achieving that.

Miyamoto: That’s right. That solidified during the days of NES.

Compared to NES, Super NES features a curvier design.

Miyamoto: Yes. Relatively early on, we decided to introduce round elements to the controller design.

The design around the A, B, X and Y buttons, as well as the +Control Pad, has round aspects.

Miyamoto: And the design of the round ends, where you hold it, makes it easier for small children to grip the controller wherever they want. We shaped it that way so it would be easy to hold for any hand size.

And compared to the NES controller, there are four more buttons.

Miyamoto: For example, the arcade version of Street Fighter II8, which is included in Super NES Classic Edition, had two sets of three buttons per player, so a total of six buttons would be necessary for playing.

8. Street Fighter II: A fighting game developed by Capcom. Many Street Fighter series games have been released since the arcade version debuted in 1991. Super NES Classic Edition includes Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, which first released in arcades in December 1992.

You increased the number of buttons for Street Fighter II?

Miyamoto: Not just for Street Fighter II, but we wanted the console to be compatible with a lot of such trendy games at the time, so we increased the number of buttons. Also, the A, B, X and Y buttons are lined up in a cross, right?

We placed them that way for use like a +Control Pad. And depending on the game, you could play with a ten-yen coin on top! (laughs)

Ah, I see! (laughs)

Miyamoto: But we really worried about the arrangement of the A, B, X and Y buttons. We couldn’t figure out whether to put the B button diagonally above or below the A button.

And after some thought, you decided on below.

Miyamoto: Yes. We decided on that placement to unify it with Game Boy, but that made it impossible for Mario to do a B Dash! (laughs)

That’s why it’s a Y Dash in Super Mario World9!

9. Super Mario World: A platform game included in Super NES Classic Edition. Originally released in Japan on the same day as the Super Famicom system in November 1990.

Miyamoto: Yeah! (laughs) And we tried to divide the buttons into groups. We assigned priority, so the primary buttons are A and B, with X and Y as secondary. That’s why we decided to call them X and Y instead of C and D.

That makes sense.

Miyamoto: We also decided to use four different colors for the buttons. I actually wanted to call them the Red button and Yellow button and so forth, but…

The American version of the controller adopted two tones. Japan and Europe used the same design, for the main console as well.

Miyamoto: In America, they did their own design for their market. For example, if you touch the X and Y buttons, they’re concave.

Oh, you’re right.

Miyamoto: By making them concave, you can tell the difference between the primary and secondary buttons without looking at the controller. That was impressive. I realized America has some outstanding industrial design. But I was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t call it the Red button! (laughs)

The Models for Team Star Fox

By the way, Imamura-san…

Imamura: Yes?

The characters you designed for Star Fox were a topic of conversation in a session of Iwata Asks10, so it’s on purpose that I haven’t asked about them today.

Imamura: That’s right. I’ve talked about them all over the place! I originally considered making the characters human, but Miyamoto overturned that and suggested making them animals. We made the main character a fox because of its association with the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine near the head office, and then for the other characters, we chose from among the types of animals that appear in Japanese folk tales.

Yes, yes… (laughs)

Imamura: But there’s something I still haven’t talked about. The faces of the characters on Team Star Fox are based on staff members at the time.

Huh? Really? (laughs)

Imamura: Fox has a fox-like face like Miyamoto.

Miyamoto: (laughs)

Imamura: Falco is Watanabe. At the time, we laughed over how his nose sticks out like a beak! (laughs)

Watanabe: (laughs)

Imamura: Director Katsuya Eguchi11 has a mouth like a hare’s, so he became the hare, Peppy. Planner Yoichi Yamada12 has large, round eyes, so he became Slippy Toad.

Miyamoto: Yamada’s personal mascot has always been a toad anyway. (laughs)

Katsuya Eguchi: In addition to participating in development of the Animal Crossing series, he has recently served as general producer for games such as Splatoon and ARMS.

12. Yoichi Yamada: Since serving as assistant director for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, he has participated in the development of almost all subsequent Legend of Zelda games.

Imamura: And the villain Andross is…I shouldn’t say. (laughs)

Miyamoto: Yes, you can’t say this one! (laughs)

Imamura: (softly) Andross is my boss at the time. (laughs)

(laughs) I thought I had heard everything about the Star Fox characters, but some information had yet to be revealed!


Imamura: I was surprised to see the materials that Watanabe brought today. I did the illustration for Star Fox 2’s packaging this time, but if I had seen those first, I might have drawn something different.

Watanabe: I’m the manager of the group in charge of package design. When the subject of package design came up, I was going to show you those pictures, but you had already finished! (laughs)

Miyamoto: He’s always fast! (laughs)

Imamura: Yeah, well… (laughs)

Everyone: (laughs)

(Look forward to Volume 2: F-ZERO!)

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