An evening with Shigeru Miyamoto
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario and architect of the Wii and DS gaming revolution, cuts a relaxed figure as he takes to the stage at E3 with his American translator. The veteran game maker skipped Nintendo's big E3 press conference this year, and he tells us that he is in a relaxed mood as a result, having sat in the audience during the main conference.
Explaining that Nintendo are a little short-staffed at this year's E3 via a swine flu quip ("I'm expendable, others are not"), he tells the hushed audience in the auditorium that he is still involved in numerous projects at Nintendo - and has actually been directing programmers back in Kyoto via email from his LA hotel. Moving onto his work in hand, Miyamoto-san revealed that his project to better integrate the DS handheld into daily life is well under way; the boss aiming to deliver local services and information to the handheld via the WiFi Connection.
Apparently, prototype systems are already operational in Japan, where the DS is being used for tests in certain schools - but the game designer admits that there is much work still to be done.
Highlighting his most interesting projects on the table at this show, Miyamoto says that New Super Mario Bros. and Mario Galaxy 2, not to mention Wii Sports Resort and the new DS Zelda remain very important, and that he wants to take us through these games in a little more detail.
New Super Mario Bros.
With three players from Nintendo's Tree House (Nintendo's US localisation experts) playing the game on stage to much amusement, Miyamoto explains that he wanted to recreate the classic Super Mario Bros. experience with the focus firmly on multiplayer fun. Different levels in the game will offer different co-operative experiences, while familiar gameplay has been enhanced with some 'clever tricks' by Miyamoto's team - the game offering support for up to four players.
Yoshi makes it into the heart of the action, and we witness players leaping joyfully around the colourful, side-scrolling stages, catching spanners and other items and hurling them back - while players can also team up to thrown themselves around the landscape. Miyamoto himself then picks up the pad to take us through a little singleplayer fun - showing off a previously unseen snowy level - incorporating an entertaining penguin suit.
The designer says he is a little nervous playing in front of a crowd, and having frozen a few enemies early on in the level, Miyamoto immediately falls to his death, prompting laughter from the audience. He says that he hopes the mix of retro and evolved gameplay in this new look Wii Mario will encourage old and new gamers to play together, telling us that the game has been great fun to work on.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Introducing the next title he hopes to take a closer look at in our company, Miyamoto acknowledges that it is unusual for Nintendo to be creating Super Mario Galaxy 2 on one platform (the firm usually only releases a franchise once per hardware iteration). He says that the new title will focus upon spherical worlds, and the use of gravity in gameplay.
One of the reasons why a second Galaxy title is being mustered for the Wii is also because the development team had so many game ideas left over from the first release, meaning that more than 90 percent of the new experience really should be entirely fresh. Miyamoto says his team are inspired by the new game - with Yoshi also being added into the mix - and a release in 2010 on the cards.
Wii Sports Resort
Given that Wii Sports Resort's success will dictate the future of the MotionPlus Wiimote enhancing peripheral, it's unsurprising that Miyamoto is quick to talk up this 2009 release. Admitting that focussing on sequels might rile some fans, the designer states his belief that Resort is not a typical sequel. While Wii Fit Plus (announced at Nintendo's conference yesterday) makes the fitness experience more accessible and more communicative, the Big N also debated heavily their next step on from Wii Sports - having considered Motor Sports and Leisure Sports before deciding on Wii Sports Resort.
The added subtlety of the MotionPlus will make the experience a lot more detailed, offering players plenty more room for improvement. Miyamoto is particularly proud of the basketball game, given the importance of accuracy and timing, while the sword fighting on offer is also very slick. Bowling and golf both return from Wii Sports, albeit dramatically overhauled; golf in particular made a lot more realistic (we witness Miyamoto twisting his remote while the on-screen club also twists); the game maker joking that the game makes him feel like a pro.
The game game should offer something for varying levels of player - with a full 18 hole course being introduced, while we're shown a frantic bout of Table Tennis which is perhaps the best use of MotionPlus we've witnessed so far. Set on Woo Hoo, the same island as Wii Fit Plus, Miyamoto says that this setting might come into play in different games - the designer jokingly suggesting that he might make a game set in a hotel on the island, where a murder mystery might take place. Even the translator doesn't seem to believe the veteran Nintendo man, although are told the island is likely to appear again in some future form.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Moving away from the Wii for a moment, Miyamoto said that the new DS version of Zelda will be shown off at E3 in some detail - with three modes available on the show floor. For the purposes of this talk, however, the designer wants to show us a standard dungeon from the game. Phantoms will be a friendly force in this new outing; a new way to solve puzzles, while Link will forego oceanic voyages for a land-base outing, where he will travel around by train.
Miyamoto is something of a train fanatic it would seem, the designer talking up the impact this will have on gameplay. Moving onto matters less specific, we were told by the designer that he had hoped to unveil a new Zelda for the Wii at E3, but with question marks still hanging over the series' future direction, his team have instead opted to continue development, delaying any announcements.
What we were treated to, however, was an impressive slice of Zelda artwork - and Miyamoto confirmed that the new adventure will land in 2010. More over, the new title may well require the MotionPlus Wiimote extension in order to play, the big cheese telling us to look at the swordplay and archery in Wii Sports Resort for further clues.
Moving the discussion away from Nintendo's line-up, the Nintendo veteran invited questions from the floor and responding to one poser about the motion technology coming from Sony and Microsoft; Miyamoto cautioning that technology demonstrations are not full games, while also hinting that Nintendo have their own hardware evolutions in development. Referring to the full body motion technology, the designer said that he's "seen these things before".
Nintendo's pulse-taking Vitality Sensor was under discussion, this unique contraption regarded by Miyamoto as an evolution of game interfacing. The designer waxed lyrical on the manner in which most game inputs are user prompted, while the sensor would be all about involuntary input. Apparently, the the idea was inspired by a robot Miyamoto-san once tried out - which was controlled by the users brain waves.
With the clock now firmly ticking, Miyamoto admitted that he'd like to see the Wii Speak peripheral used in more ways (New Super Mario Bros. won't make use of it, sadly), while admitting that while the Wii's hardware is limiting, every platform has its eventual constraints. Miyamoto was asked about his influences, too, revealing that Will Wright's Sim City has been an important game for him, before wishing the crowd good evening with a polite bow. After an illuminating session we're reminded once again why Shigeru Miyamoto is still the most important name in video gaming.