Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo’s famed design team is well-known for taking inspiration from a wide variety of sources — the idea for the ghost-like enemy known as Boo came from the wife of co-designer Takashi Tezuka, Miyamoto said years ago. That remains the case for Super Mario Run, Nintendo’s first proper video game on mobile devices.
Mario games are very popular with the speedrunning community, where people compete to race through games as fast as they can. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Miyamoto said Nintendo noticed that these “super players” always had to keep moving; the skill in speedruns comes primarily from jumping at the right times. Thus was born the idea of Mario in an endless runner — in Super Mario Run, the only interaction with the game is tapping on your smartphone or tablet’s screen to make Mario jump.
We’ve collected a few more interesting tidbits about Super Mario Run from a bunch of recently published interviews with Miyamoto and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime. You can read up on the game before it launches Dec. 13 on iOS, with an Android version set to arrive sometime in 2017.
The device is held vertically on purpose
All of the Super Mario platform games have been side-scrolling affairs, so it may seem odd that Super Mario Run is played with an iPhone or iPad held in portrait mode. But in an interview with The Verge, Miyamoto explained that the orientation “gave us a lot of new ideas for how to stretch the game vertically,” and that it allowed for one-handed play.
Some of Super Mario Run involves climbing a tower, for instance, not just a beanstalk that grows out of a green pipe. Miyamoto also noted that a vertical orientation made more sense for a mobile game, because those experiences are best played without extra inputs beyond the device itself.
“If you’re playing horizontally one of the challenges is that people have a tendency to want to play it with a traditional controller,” he told the Financial Post.
Nintendo has high standards for hardware
A major part of the reason that Nintendo waited this long to develop mobile games is that the company had to figure out where the platform fit into its overall business strategy.
“We’ve said for years that we could make this type of content, but for us it really was thinking about how it fits in the broader ecosystem of driving our [intellectual property],” said Fils-Aime in an interview with TechCrunch.
The business side certainly wasn’t the only consideration, though. Nintendo games have always been developed to run only on consoles and handhelds manufactured by Nintendo, allowing for the same kind of marriage between software and hardware that Apple proudly promotes. According to Miyamoto, mobile devices didn’t meet Nintendo’s exacting standards for hardware — until now.
“The hardware has to provide a stable experience and until recently we felt that we couldn’t get that,” Miyamoto told Pocket-Lint. “But the response that these systems can provide is good enough now.”
That may be why Nintendo is focusing on iOS before Android. Apple updates its iPhones and iPads annually, and maintains multiple concurrent versions of the hardware, like the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. But the Apple hardware ecosystem is still a far cry from the wide world of Android, where it’s harder for developers like Nintendo to guarantee compatibility because of all the various devices running Google’s operating system.
Super Mario Run includes unlockable characters
Mario’s not the only one running and jumping through the mobile game. As seen in Super Mario Run’s latest trailer, Toad, Yoshi and Luigi are all playable. They’ll have to be unlocked first, however, which requires completing certain, secret conditions.
Although Super Mario Run’s gameplay is so simple — it’s an endless runner where players just tap along to dodge enemies and collect coins — there will still be some differences between each character and how they traverse the Mushroom Kingdom.
“It’s less on having those characters to achieve or accomplish specific tasks, and more of giving players a tool to unlock more of their gameplay creativity,” Miyamoto told Time. “Even if you’re trying to collect the same group of colored coins, doing so with a different character will require you to do it in a different way.”
Super Mario Run drew inspiration from ... Neko Atsume?
On the surface, it’s hard to see anything but Mario’s DNA in Nintendo’s next big mobile game. Miyamoto always pulls from the most unexpected places when designing his games, however, and he told Time about a certain beloved mobile game that left a big impression on him while working on Super Mario Run.
“There is actually a game in Japan that I’ve been playing on a smartphone with my wife, it’s called Neko Atsume,” he said. “It’s sort of a cat-collecting game. From that, I really got the sense of having this thing on your phone that you interact with on a regular basis, and then you grow and build it up from there, is a very compelling feature.”
That comes through in the Kingdom Builder feature, in which players can customize their own Mushroom Kingdom. They’ll use the coins collected in the main mode to buy new buildings and other decorations, much like how sardines are used in the adorable Neko Atsume.
There’s one big difference between the two games, however. Neko Atsume, although it has microtransactions, can be played without ever spending a dime. Super Mario Run will cost $9.99 beyond some trial areas.
Nintendo’s not interested in porting classic games to smartphones
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime was also on hand for part of Miyamoto’s press junket, where he talked about Nintendo’s next steps into the mobile market.
When former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed the company’s plans to tackle mobile devices in March 2015, many hoped that this would mean familiar games optimized for the smaller screen. Fils-Aime insisted that likely won’t be the case, at least for the immediate future.
“Candidly, no, without a fair amount of modification,” he told CNET, when asked whether we’d see iconic NES games on smartphones. “And this hearkens back to the questions that we received maybe five years ago saying, ‘Nintendo, when are you going to get into mobile?’ And at the time, it was positioned as, just take all your legacy content and just put it on mobile.
“The fact of the matter is, to make a great mobile game, you can’t do that. You need to think about the input device. You need to think about, how is this going to be sticky?”
Instead, Nintendo will prioritize using familiar franchises in new, mobile-exclusive games. That means Super Mario Run may make the jump to the Nintendo Switch, and Super Mario Bros. is likely staying put on home consoles and the rare NES Classic Edition.
Super Mario Run live gameplay from the Apple Store in Grand Central!Posted by Polygon on Thursday, December 8, 2016