Yoshi’s Crafted World devs on the art style, kindergarten inspiration, flip side gimmick, more
Last month’s issue of Nintendo Dream had a big interview with the Yoshi’s Crafted World development team. Nintendo’s Takashi Tezuka, Nobuo Matsumiya, and Emi Watanabe participated in the discussion alongside Etsunobu Ebisu and Masahiro Yamamoto from Good Feel.
You can read our full translation of the interview below. In it, the team talks about how it settled on the final art style, the surprising kindergarten inspiration and how the game was built around that, the creation of the flip side gimmick, and more.
First can we talk about both the birth of Yoshi and then his progression into a title lead?
Tezuka: Well, this is going back a long time… Yoshi first appeared in the SNES game Super Mario World, but he idea for him originally came from Miyamoto (Shigeru Miyamoto – you might have heard of him) telling us that he wanted Mario to ride a horse. He had an illustration on his desk for a long time of Mario riding a horse that he had drawn himself. Because of that, I basically had no choice but to have Mario riding a horse at some point. (All laugh) But as just having a normal horse in there wouldn’t really fit with the Mario universe, I talked a lot with the designer at the time Hino (Shigefumi Hino) to come up with something rideable that would still fit into the Mario world. Originally his mouth was jagged like a crocodile, but at some point he underwent a change and became as he is now.
We talked about this in a previous interview for the SNES Classic Edition, but Yoshi is a turtle, isn’t he?
Tezuka: Yes, I had to always insist he was a turtle… (All laugh) Because we wanted a character that wouldn’t feel out of place in the Mario universe, we decided on a turtle. It might have been Miyamoto’s idea but I’m not entirely sure.
I think because the message you can read at Yoshi’s house says ‘Super Dragon’ people thought that he might have been a dinosaur (The Japanese word for dinosaur contains the character for dragon).
Tezuka: I think we wrote that without really thinking about it too much. (laughs)
After first appearing in Super Mario World, Yoshi then appears in his own game, Yoshi’s Island, and from there is a clear divergence between the two series.
Tezuka: After Yoshi appeared in Super Mario World, we felt that we wanted to do justice to this character who has his own way of moving and other unique attributes. So because of that we wanted to give Yoshi his own standalone series, rather than him just being something that Mario rides.
So when you decided to make Yoshi the star of his own game in Yoshi’s Island, did you start thinking about how to give the Yoshi series its own distinctive feel?
Tezuka: That’s right. It wasn’t as if we knew everything we wanted right from the start, but bit by bit we started developing a Yoshi feel. As Yoshi can shoot out his tongue and eat things, we thought there might be something he can do with the things he’s eaten, which is where the idea of pressing the down button and laying an egg came from. Then we thought, if he’s going to lay an egg then we want him to be able to throw it too. But controlling Yoshi and throwing the egg at the same time was difficult.
Because it’s difficult to throw the egg exactly where you want it to go?
Tezuka: Right. But then we didn’t want to just have Yoshi throwing the egg directly forward because then it would end up more like a shooting game. We spent a lot of time worrying about this. But then Miyamoto said, “Won’t it be OK if you just make it so you can move the cursor freely in your own time?” So that’s what we did. The extended jump was also aimed at making it easier for novice players, because we thought if you could float to the ground it would make landing simpler. And there was also the fact that this makes the movement distinctively different from Mario.
What were the deliberate changes you made between the Mario and Yoshi series?
Tezuka: While the Mario series is mainly focused on speed and using your technique to navigate limited landscapes to reach the goal, in Yoshi I think there is more freedom. There is no time limit, so you can take your time reaching that goal. And during that time you can explore. While Mario is all about finding that perfect route, I think Yoshi is more about taking your time absorbing the game as you play.
And so from that system of exploration came the red coins and Smiley Flowers that we have now.
On Yoshi’s Woolly World for the Wii U you began working with Good Feel. Could you give us more details on that?
Tezuka: Good Feel made Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the original Wii and I thought the techniques they used had created a genuinely new type of action game. And because of that…
Ebisu: … They asked us if we could make a wool-based game for Yoshi too.
Tezuka: They had already been successful, and I thought that they had already created something that would fit well in the Yoshi universe.
What was the response like from everyone on the development team for Woolly World at the time?
Watanabe: We definitely spent a lot of time figuring out how the game should look…
Tezuka: We originally started with a game drawn in lines of thread like Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
Ebisu: When that thread Yoshi powered up, we had the idea that he would become a stuffed toy and that is where the form of the plush Yoshi came from, which then lead on to how he is now.
Watanabe: We also had trouble capturing that idea of an exploration game mentioned earlier.
Ebisu: We did a lot of research on the essence of a Yoshi game, but those loose exploration elements took us a while to get our heads around.
Matsumiya: The heart of that game is the excitement the player feels when discovering something new. Because of that you really want the player to search out those things, so it’s important to put a lot of thought into the way you hide things. It was tough achieving that balance.