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Is Miyamoto interfering too much with other teams' games? [roundtable]
 
Those who've been following Nintendo development lately know that Shigeru Miyamoto tends to "upend the tea table" at times. But for all the guy's solid contributions to Nintendo, a few of his recent interferences have left me scratching my head.

It seems to have started with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Rosalina's storybook in the original Galaxy was an element that a lot of players enjoyed (even if it would've been nice to be able to skip it), and while SMG2 gets to the action in a quicker way, many feel that some of the charm is lost when that extra bit of atmosphere/backstory is missing.

As it turns out, Miyamoto vetoed the idea of more story in Galaxy 2. A snippet:

But does he really agree with his boss, or has Koizumi just been overruled? In an interview with Wired.com in 2007, Koizumi said that he’s been trying to sneak bits of story into Mario and Zelda games for his entire career at Nintendo, even as Miyamoto has been trying to keep them out.

I told Miyamoto about what Koizumi had said, and he looked slightly taken aback.

“He said that?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I put a stop to that at the beginning, this time,” he said, and for emphasis punched the air with his fist.


Super Mario Galaxy's backstory added some development to Rosalina, but was it necessary? Shiggy says no.


Now, I realize that story in Mario is a bit of a split subject, as many players feel SMG2's focus on platforming led to an ultimately stronger game that had better pacing. But it wasn't until a few months later where another platformer released that had some Miyamoto interference...

After simply running back and forth for ten minutes and watching the animations of Donkey Kong turning around, Shigeru Miyamoto told Retro that it seemed like Donkey Kong was "blowing" when he created dust clouds. The "blow" mechanic used in Donkey Kong Country Returns was born from this off-handed remark.

As it turns out, Miyamoto told Retro to put the blowing mechanic into Donkey Kong Country Returns. As much as I loved the game, I think the blowing was far too stop-and-go and unnecessary when you already had a much more visceral (and DK-ish) move with the ground slap.

Eh.

The main reason for this thread, though, is the recent talk of Miyamoto's involvement with Paper Mario: Sticker Star. From the latest Iwata Asks...

Iwata: Miyamoto-san really persevered with Paper Mario this time. Exactly what was he particular about?

Tanabe: Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot, there were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—"It's fine without a story, so do we really need one?" and "As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.

Iwata: That's a difficult task. In some ways that would be the exact opposite direction from recent games in the series.


And now the consistently hilarious Bowser has no lines at all.

Now, I know the guy created Mario, but the fact that he's poking his way into second party titles--RPGs, no less--and imposing some major rules like "No original characters" (PMSS has only a single one) and "Do we really need a story?" seems awfully invasive and myopic.

On a side note, Yokota (Galaxy's outstanding composer) wanted to fully orchestrate the OoT 3D soundtrack, and Kondo told him to simply make it sound identical to the N64 version.

So what do you guys think? Has Miyamoto gone mad with power? Is the rigid conservatism of Nintendo damaging the quality of its games?

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Posted: 11/29/12, 18:56:34  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 18:59:30
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rebonack said:
Is that supposed to convince them that we don't need another new game along these lines (A Link To The Past/Link's Awakening)? A new game similar to Link's Awakening would be the best thing ever. (As long as it's not a travesty like the Oracle games.)

@rebonack

How about Minish Cap?
Posted: 11/30/12, 19:05:02  - Edited by 
 on: 11/30/12, 19:06:05
Minish Cap was ok, but in no way could it be viewed as an excellent follow-up to Link to the Past. I mean as far as, people wanting Link to the Past and then some.
Posted: 11/30/12, 19:08:06  - Edited by 
 on: 11/30/12, 19:08:56
Why not? I'm honestly curious.
Posted: 11/30/12, 19:10:31
Zero said:
@V_s Because Oblivion (and I assume Skyrim) are like the anti-Zelda.

Could you elaborate on this a bit? Because I don't see enough differences between the two for that statement to make sense to me (unless Oblivion was a lot different from Skyrim, as I've played the latter but not the former).

Zero said:
Minish Cap was ok, but in no way could it be viewed as an excellent follow-up to Link to the Past. I mean as far as, people wanting Link to the Past and then some.

I disagree. TMC is my favorite Zelda game of the entire series. For all intents and purposes, it was to me "ALttP and then some". Better combat, better characters, better story, more sidequests, more unique weapons and items (some of them optional), an overworld of similar feel that is more defined... The only step back from ALttP was its length/number of dungeons.

Back to Miyamoto though, I forget who mentioned it previously, but we really haven't seen how a game would turn out if Miyamoto was given the choice to interfere and didn't (at least as far as I'm aware). So I'd like to see that happen to see what the finished product looks like. It'd go a long way towards revealing whether Miyamoto's interferences are more helpful or hindering towards these games.
Posted: 11/30/12, 20:01:12  - Edited by 
 on: 11/30/12, 20:03:19
Zelda focuses on a tight, specific design where details matter. Every area has a specific purpose, every enemy has a specific reason for existing, every item has specific uses, etc. The scope is big, but only big enough that it can maintain these point to point details.

Oblivion focused on huge, sprawling design where the details are, for the most part, incidental. That's how it felt to me, anyway. It's pretty impressive from a macro view, but once you scale down to any specific thing you're doing well... ug.
Posted: 11/30/12, 20:13:45
Minish Cap was pretty great, no doubt. I definitely enjoyed it more than A Link To The Past. Though I was never a really big fan of the SNES game.

The beginning was pretty cool though, when Link first steps out of the house and into the rainy night. That was really neat back in... 1992, I think it was?
Posted: 11/30/12, 22:15:37
Minish Cap is pretty good -- definitely a big improvement over the Oracle games -- but I still think it pales in comparison to A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. One of the things I hate about the game is the returning characters, like Malon, Beedle, Dampé, Tingle, etc. It feels like the game lacks its own identity at times, or like the developers were lazy or something. I think this issue was even more prevalent in the Oracle games, but it still takes me out of the experience in Minish Cap too.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the Kinstone fusion stuff. I think it could have been implemented better. It seems like it was intended to give characters more depth, but it didn't work for me -- it just seemed very fetch quest-y. And I think the overworld feels too... segmented? Some of the bosses were boring too -- who wants to fight a giant chuchu?

That's not to say the game doesn't do some great things, because it does -- I think that the sword upgrades were well done, and there were a lot of secrets and stuff to find in the overworld. It's got a lot of original ideas too, which makes me feel bad saying that it doesn't have its own identity, because clearly it was trying. But at times it just doesn't work for me. I don't hate the game by any means, but I feel like the game is full of highs and lows, and while some of the highs are very, very good, the lows bring it down quite a bit for me.

As much as I have these complaints, I'd much rather see a new Zelda in the vein of Minish Cap than one like Spirit Tracks.

For me though, the high points of the series are Majora's Mask and Link's Awakening. I also absolutely adore Wind Waker above any other Zelda, but I have no problem admitting that that game has its own issues that I'm willing to overlook because other elements are more important to me.
Posted: 11/30/12, 22:38:39  - Edited by 
 on: 11/30/12, 22:41:10
I do wonder how Miyamoto is portrayed in these interviews. It seems they always want to include how he "upended the tea table" rather than the smaller daily stuff he helps guide.

The story in Galaxy 1 was charming and perfect, but I thought it was great that 2 focused on cutting the bloat and getting straight to the action - a similar story telling mechanic and hub world would have grated in the sequel.

At some point, people just need to tell Miyamoto his ideas are shit if they are shit (like blowing in DK). Even the best of us can have terrible ideas, but without other people stepping in to critique, they make it into the game. How many times have we seen great writers succumb to getting rid of their editors, only to see there next book bloated and directionless. How many directors have made bad films when all their produces are simply yes men. It's a cultural thing, and if Miyamoto is pushing something that is clearly bad, then someone simply needs to have the backbone to step up and say so. In Japanese culture, this is no simple task though.
Posted: 11/30/12, 22:48:46
VickiL said:
@Hinph Reading what you want kinda reminded me of when Reggie said gamers are insatiable. We really do want everything! And cake! (Or pie!)

It's doable, though! Each time I'm hyping myself up for a new Zelda game, I wonder if it can be "the one."

The two areas that they need to work on most is overworld design and removing annoying elements such as excessive player hand-holding and artificial game-lengthening. In fact, if I were king of the world, those would become my first two gaming commandments.

1. Don't ever help the player until the player asks for help.

2. Don't add in a bunch of silly item collecting sequences to make a game longer. A shorter game is preferable.
Posted: 11/30/12, 23:18:35
Did you consider the trials in Skyward Sword to be pointless collecting? I rather enjoyed them. Gave a chance to play "Zelda" in a bit of a different way than usual.
Posted: 11/30/12, 23:49:41
Those weren't bad... the only one that I remember being a hassle was collecting the orb things underwater. But when is an underwater event ever any fun?

Obviously, the Wind Waker Triforce quest and, to a lesser degree, those stones that you have to activate at the end of Twilight Princess are more of the kind of thing that bugs me. It just seems like a mindless and blatant waste of time.

I really don't have a problem with a shorter game.
Posted: 12/01/12, 00:09:15
Minish Cap was a horribly derivative game to me. Some good ideas here and there but it felt like a fan game in many respects.

I guess it may not feel any more derivative than other recent Zelda games, but something about it just didn't feel right to me.
Posted: 12/01/12, 04:13:46  - Edited by 
 on: 12/01/12, 04:17:58
rebonack said:
One of the things I hate about the game is the returning characters

That's just a part of the Zelda mythos now to me. Everybody gets reincarnated, not just the main three. We've seen it in every Zelda game since MM (except debatably FS, but that one's not even fair since Link and Zelda are the only characters that appear in that game).
Posted: 12/01/12, 04:52:50
rebonack said:
Minish Cap is pretty good...One of the things I hate about the game is the returning characters, like Malon, Beedle, Dampé, Tingle, etc. It feels like the game lacks its own identity at times, or like the developers were lazy or something.

But you're a fan of Majora's Mask! That game is all about re-using characters!

I dunno, Minish Cap felt like an SNES game, which would have been a great follow-up to A Link To The Past. (even though Link's Awakening did a better job at being a "sequel" IMO)
Posted: 12/01/12, 05:12:58
@GameDadGrant

That's because Termina is an alternate universe! Majora's Mask was all about taking your happy cartoon character memories from Ocarina of Time and messing with them to create an emotional and slightly disturbing world. Minish Cap was doing its own thing, so it should have used its own characters.
Posted: 12/01/12, 05:20:47
@Secret_Tunnel - Debatably an alternate universe. Before HH, there was more information pointing to the idea that it was the same universe as the rest of the Light World (or if not then it was simply so accessible to the Light World that it might as well not be considered an alternate universe).
Posted: 12/01/12, 05:51:32
@V_s

Yeah, I always thought the "alternate universe" thing was odd. I mean, Link got there by falling down a hole. How is that an entrance to another dimension?

I mean, sure, the hallway that lead to the clock tower was all...twisty...but was that supposed to mean Link crossed worlds....?
Posted: 12/05/12, 15:44:33
@GameDadGrant - Right. And it's not like we haven't seen the same things (more or less) in OoT. He entered a twisty tunnel in the Forest Temple. He entered several holes or passageways that teleported him across Hyrule. None of them ever sent him to another dimension. Plus there's all sorts of evidence in MM showing that the residents of Hyrule and Termina are either in close contact or are much more easily able to come and go from each others' lands than a giant hole and twisty tunnel would seem to suggest.
Posted: 12/05/12, 17:54:53
@GameDadGrant I admit that it was a little lazy for Nintendo to re-use the character models from Ocarina of Time. However, I don't mind it because the characters are often cast in different roles and are often more well-developed than their original incarnations. They also added some context with the alternate universe contrivance, but admittedly it would have been preferable to create new models.

I don't mind the returning characters in Minish Cap as much as I do in the Oracle games. It just felt lazy as hell in those games and made them feel incredibly derivative, whereas at least this game is in Hyrule, so they can feel like they belong. Like I said, I like Minish Cap, just not as much as some other Zelda games.
Posted: 12/05/12, 18:39:59
@V_s I suppose, but I'd like to see more new races, and the few they have added lately don't quite live up.

@GameDadGrant It seemed kind of obvious to me that Majora's Mask was the Alice in Wonderland Zelda... fall down a hole, end up in a completely different world. Although honestly I don't think "where" that world exists is the kind of thing that demands a concrete answer, nor do I think Nintendo should try to provide one. Same thing with the timeline, for that matter. People want to nail down a bunch of things in concrete ways instead of just rolling with it. Can people in Hyrule walk to Termina? Well... can they? Can people on Earth fly to heaven? If not, why did Jesus float up into the sky? Do we really need concrete answers for these things?!

Another thing, time travel in general makes no sense. You have to turn off the part of your mind that demands concrete, logical answers to enjoy anything that uses time travel as a mechanic. So it's not a huge leap to me to turn it off a bit for other things too.
Posted: 12/05/12, 20:24:55  - Edited by 
 on: 12/05/12, 20:27:27
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