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'New Super Mario Bros. 2' started with course design first, mechanics second, creators say

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There's more to New Super Mario Bros. 2 than just hoarding gold.

New Super Mario Bros. 2
New Super Mario Bros. 2

New Super Mario Bros. 2 creators talk about Dash Mario, one million coins and the "Mario Cram School."

In the latest "Iwata Asks" Q&A, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata interviews the talent behind New Super Mario Bros. 2 — Masaki Ishikawa, Yusuke Amano and Takashi Tezuka — on designing the upcoming Nintendo 3DS game.

According to Amano, Nintendo game designers started by designing more than 80 courses for Mario to conquer before they'd settled on any of New Super Mario Bros. 2's fundamental gameplay elements.

Amano tells Iwata that a group of designers from various departments within Nintendo called the "Mario Cram School" created all-new 2D Mario levels first, then "other staff were called in to turn it into an actual product."

"I heard Tezuka-san believes that the course design plays a key role in determining the fundamental elements of 2D Mario games, so he opened the cram school in hopes to spread that knowledge across others within the company," Amano says.

"Some knew a lot about games and some didn't," he says, "but the Mario Cram School we mentioned earlier came in incredibly useful. Participants got a firm grasp of the basic ingredients of what makes 2D Super Mario enjoyable and experienced actually making stages, so we were able to begin this project with a solid foundation."

"I suppose many people may take a quick glance at New Super Mario Bros. 2 and think, 'Oh, it's the usual Super Mario.'"

Amano says the concept of New Super Mario Bros. 2's goal of letting players collect a million gold coins was Tezuka's. Enemies made of gold and gold-spewing power-ups were also spawned from Tezuka's idea. At one point, Amano says the team considered naming the game New Super Mario Bros. Gold.

Ishikawa and Amano talk about some of the "surprises" in store in New Super Mario Bros. 2, including the massive ghost named the Boohemoth, which plays on the Mario mainstay Boo, and new Dash Mario stages. In Dash Mario stages, Mario is fired from a cannon and runs at unstoppable speeds to the right. Iwata likens the mode to Donkey Kong Country's mine cart segments.

"The staff had a strong desire this time to think of tough things that people might even get angry about," Amano says of Dash Mario. "And we've changed some things with regard to the setup to make a fresh impression."