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'New Super Mario Bros. U' producer talks flying squirrel controls, Miyamoto

Takashi Tezuka discusses being Shigeru Miyamoto's "greatest ally."

Takashi Tezuka
Takashi Tezuka
Matt Leone has written about games for three decades, focusing on behind-the-scenes coverage of the industry, including books on Final Fantasy 7 and Street Fighter 2.

Takashi Tezuka discusses being Shigeru Miyamoto's "greatest ally."

Takashi Tezuka is a classic example of the guy behind the guy. He started at Nintendo in 1984, shortly after Nintendo superman Shigeru Miyamoto. He worked on the original Super Mario Bros., almost every mainline Mario release, all early Zelda games, the Pikmin series, Animal Crossing, etc. In recent years, he's overseen the New Super Mario Bros. franchise, currently producing both New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Mario Bros. 2.

His fingerprints cover Nintendo's legacy. In a quick chat at this year's E3, he tells me that he came up with the name "Paper Mario" and he thought up the original idea for New Super Mario Bros. In a recent Iwata Asks interview, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata called him "Miyamoto's greatest ally," which Tezuka chalks up to him working with Miyamoto longer than anyone else at the company.

And yet, he tends to stay out of the spotlight, occasionally playing the comic relief in Iwata Asks interviews — joking about how he has a bad memory — but typically keeping to himself.

"I think that a lot of people consider me to be someone who's sort of simple," he says. "But I really am a deeper thinker than people give me credit for."

But back to that "greatest ally" thing. When I ask Tezuka about where he sees eye to eye with Miyamoto and where the pair differ, he says they have a very similar game design sense, and the main differences come down to which details they fight over.

On New Super Mario Bros. U, for instance, the duo didn't quite see eye to eye over the controls for the flying squirrel transformation where players can shake the controller to make their character flap their wings.

"I was really happy with how it worked out, and Mr. Miyamoto wasn't quite as satisfied," he says. "He thought maybe there was some twist that we could put on it or a different way we could look at it to change it up a bit, but I thought that what we had in there was just right. I understood where he was coming from, though."

When asked more specifically about New Super Mario Bros. U, and whether the game's design or difficulty will change to match the slightly more hardcore marketing focus that Nintendo seems to be putting behind Wii U as a system, Tezuka says they won't. He says the game will maintain the same difficulty level as New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and that he thinks more about connecting players than appealing to any certain group.

"Let me just take a step back and talk about the thing we focused on most when creating New Super Mario Bros. U, and that was the multiplayer aspect," he says. "Now of course, when you talk about multiplayer in terms of Mario games, you I think traditionally have been limited to, 'Hey, I play Mario. You play Mario? Let's play Mario together.' With this game, we really opened that entrance up to a wider group.

"That being said, we know there are a lot of veteran core Mario game players, and I think we really thought about creating something that would be satisfying to that group of users as well ... I really believe that the Boost Mode we have in this game [where an extra player can use the screen controller to create blocks to help others along] is something that will be super enjoyable for multiple players who are all really into this sort of action style game.

"If you remember on New Super Mario Bros. Wii, we included the Super Play videos that were in the game itself. We have that same feature in New Super Mario Bros. U as well."

Tezuka also confirms that New Super Mario Bros. U will only use one of the Wii U's touch screen controllers (though the system supports two), and the game's design document is locked at this point, so the developers are putting on the finishing touches right now to have things ready for launch.

When that will be, of course, is still up in the air. New Super Mario Bros. U will launch sometime later this year.

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