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SNES Classic interviews revisit the creation of 21 great games

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Revist the creation of Star Fox, Super Mario Kart and Super Metroid

SNES Classic Shai Ben-Dor/Vox Media

To hype the launch of the SNES Classic Edition, Nintendo has been posting interviews with developers of the games that appear on it. Sure, they’re on a marketing page for the unit, but in the spirit of the great Iwata Asks roundtable discussions, they’re chock full of details on how and why the games were made.

For example, we get the real story on why Star Fox 2 was canceled. Dylan Cuthbert of Argonaut Software previously speculated that it had to do with the imminent launch of the Nintendo 64. He is partly correct. Shigeru Miyamoto said launching Star Fox 2 on the Super Nintendo would have required another chip, the Super FX 2 (successor to the Super FX developed for the first Star Fox) and that would have raised the price of the game.

“The price was high and the timing of the release was awkward, so we decided to cancel it and start from scratch with a new Star Fox game for Nintendo 64,” Miyamoto said.

Miyamoto said the system producer for the SNES Classic wanted to include Star Fox 2 on the console. “He said it had been through debugging and was a complete game, so it would be a waste not to put it out in the world,” Miyamoto said.

Other highlights:

F-zero Nintendo

F-Zero

The futuristic setting and vehicles were inspired by the look in Tim Burton’s Batman, which premiered in 1989. Kazunobu Shimizu, the F-Zero director, had been in the United States at the time of the craze, brought several Batman comic books back to Japan, and these helped the team create the look of the vehicles and courses.

Also, going with a future setting removed a big problem from animation: tires. Designer Takaya Imamura had been making pixel art for each vehicle, and doing that while showing tires rotating created a “staggering” number of frames. “So we decided to lose the tires and have the racers hover,” he said with a laugh.

Nintendo

Super Metroid

Kenji Yamamoto, Super Metroid’s ground-breaking sound designer, references one of the great traditions of baseball — Japan or anywhere — in describing how it felt to complete the game.

Hanshin Koshien Stadium, home to the professional Hanshin Tigers, has an all-dirt infield and was built as the home of the nation’s high school championships. In the tournament, an eliminated team takes home bags of infield dirt as a reminder of their time there.

“You know how the members of the losing high school baseball team cry as they collect soil to take home from the Koshien field,” he said. “I felt a desolation similar to that.”

Yamamoto burst into tears when Makoto Kano, his boss, said “Let’s master this up! We’re done!” Yamomoto had poured maximum effort into getting the most out of the SNES’ sound generator, creating themes that seemed to have choral accompaniments.

Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart’s genesis was “F-Zero for two players.” That was the task Miyamoto assigned to an eight-man development team (including himself). As the developers went to work, they realized that split-screen gameplay would not work with F-Zero, in which racers rocket down long straightaways at high speed.

“If you look back at the Super Mario Kart tracks, you'll understand,” said Hideki Konno. “Instead of tracks with long straight lines, the track designs are compact, with lots of twists and turns so they fit well within a square.” On such a course “about the only vehicle that made sense within such tightly woven courses were karts,” he explained.

While karts show off characters more, that was never the intent. Early in development, placeholder characters had “young men in overalls” at the wheel. Judging that look boring, they explored other options, and came up with another character who wore overalls.