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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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@Zero

No offense to the people that do it, but I find trying to figure out the Zelda timeline incredibly stupid. That kind of obsessing over details for no reason is some of my least favorite nerd behavior. It doesn't need to make sense, Nintendo was clearly never trying to make a cohesive story from one game to the next. In fact, it almost makes me mad when Nintendo tries to throw those people bones.

I like to think of the different games, particularly the ones with Ganon and the Triforce, as different ways of telling the same story. It is the legend of Zelda after all.
Posted: 12/05/12, 20:35:52  - Edited by 
 on: 12/05/12, 20:37:48
Yeah if we're all honest with ourselves, there is no single coherent timeline for Zelda games, because Nintendo doesn't think in those terms when making games. And when "Nintendo" (who though? Miyamoto / Aonuma? or some interns?) tried to nail it down it was obviously created after the fact and had more holes than some of the fan ideas.

We do kind of have that easy out with the Zelda games. They're "legends", legends often exist in many forms, and are only partially true.

Whatever the case, when I played Majora's Mask it always felt "obvious" to me that it was some kind of alternate dimension or something. It very clearly utilized the Alice in Wonderland mechanic of getting there, and then everything was just plain weird, also like Alice in Wonderland. I don't think it was supposed to just be a different place on the same planet as the Hyrule we know. But whether it was just another dimension as real as the one Hyrule exists in, or a messed up dream of Link's, or... something that I can't even try to define, who knows.
Posted: 12/05/12, 20:41:28  - Edited by 
 on: 12/05/12, 20:44:54
@Jargon

The issue is that the games themselves often reference other titles, making it pretty clear that there IS a timeline. Zelda 2 directly references Zelda 1. The backstory of ALttP essentially becomes the entirety of Ocarina of Time, and both MM and TWW heavily build off of OoT's story as well. And Skyward Sword had a bunch of nods to games that followed in continuity.

It's not that people are trying to make sense of something that was clearly never meant to make sense--several of the games themselves directly reference and build off each other's storylines.
Posted: 12/05/12, 20:42:30
@TriforceBun All that shows is that certain individual titles connect to each other (and no one is debating that), it definitely doesn't show that there is a coherent timeline for the entire series, nor does it even suggest that one exists.

You have to read in between the lines for this, but I've honestly gotten the sense from Miyamoto / Aonuma / etcs. comments over the years that they never really had anything coherent for a long time and got pressured into thinking in those terms by the fans. The only time I recall them saying they have a timeline was semi-recently after years of questions about it, and I think that this resulted simply from fan pressure. And the timeline Nintendo inevitably released was, as I said, more problematic than some fan ones... to the point where it generally just gets ignored in these timeline debates, and I believe Aonuma? himself later said something about how it shouldn't be taken as fact. So if we don't take what Nintendo claims (and then backs away from that claim) is the timeline as canon, how can we ever claim we are basing it off of some kind of actual intent from Nintendo to have a coherent timeline? Either they had one in mind all of this time, in which case the one they released is it (unless they felt like screwing with us for some reason) and we have to accept that as canon, or... they didn't. Which is my point. If they never had one in mind, why should we assume one exists?

I suspect that if it were up to Miyamoto and crew, there would be no question of what the overall timeline was... because it simply wouldn't matter. It's not a Nintendo way of thinking about story, it's a "modern gaming" way of thinking about story.

Uh oh, we just opened up the Zelda timeline debate again, didn't we?
Posted: 12/05/12, 20:45:54  - Edited by 
 on: 12/05/12, 20:55:23
@TriforceBun

I'm fine with seeing continuity between Zelda 1 and Zelda 2, and OoT and MM, because they did clearly follow the originals. But pretty much anything else is exactly what you're saying: "nods" or bones thrown to timeline theorists. Referring to a past game does not mean there's some complex mystery to be unraveled.

Look, if people want to spend their time dissecting this stuff, more power to them. I think it's stupid, but I'm not in charge. But I do think it leads to people trying to pass off their theories as "canon" or other such nerd bullshit, which just makes me feel more strongly that it's a silly waste of time.

@Zero

I don't even think it's a "modern gaming" way of thinking. There's plenty of "modern" game creators who don't care about tying every thread between titles or even trying to, but fans have a way of trying to force that kind of stuff.

And I haven't played much Fire Emblem, but maybe that game does try to create more of an overarching world where the stories fit? It's certainly appropriate in some cases and can be fun and interesting when it's intended by the creators. But it shouldn't be shoehorned when creators don't care and are focused more on the single entry at a time.
Posted: 12/05/12, 20:50:21  - Edited by 
 on: 12/05/12, 20:54:15
Maybe modern gaming isn't the best way of wording it, but I don't think we obsessed with this kind of thing in the NES and SNES eras, did we? I guess not enough game series even had much of a story to think about. At some point story started becoming a bigger focus in games and more and more fans needed coherency in the storylines.

For instance, at the time, I remember Star Fox 64 was... an awesome game. It wasn't until years later that I heard this idea that it was a "remake" of the first game's story or whatever. Maybe because I didn't hang out on the Internet so much back in the N64 days, but did we really debate that when it first came out? I didn't. I wasn't even thinking about how it connected other than it kind of seemed to... ignore the first game.
Posted: 12/05/12, 21:00:16
I'm still stuck in that oldschool mentality when it comes to stories, I guess. I would actually strongly prefer each Zelda game to stand on its own rather than fit in a timeline... it allows more freedom for the developers to do whatever they want.

Of course, I'm generally not a big story guy at all when it comes to games... certain genres, sure, but I'd usually prefer that they keep the story to a minimum. Give me the original Legend of Zelda over Skyward Sword... Super Metroid over Other M.

On this matter, Miyamoto and I agree. The princess has been kidnapped again. Whatever. Cool. I'm here to jump on shit.
Posted: 12/05/12, 22:24:17
Jargon said:
@TriforceBun

I'm fine with seeing continuity between Zelda 1 and Zelda 2, and OoT and MM, because they did clearly follow the originals. But pretty much anything else is exactly what you're saying: "nods" or bones thrown to timeline theorists. Referring to a past game does not mean there's some complex mystery to be unraveled.

But almost every game in the series is connected to another game in the series, and the ones that aren't obvious sequels are pretty easy to connect to each other. There's nothing complex about it, really. The complexity comes in when you try and argue about the time travel, which, like Zero said, there's really no point in arguing about.

I agree with you saying that fan theories shouldn't get in the way of Nintendo not wanting to strictly stick to the timeline and branch off to do something else with Zelda. Little details from a game released fifteen years ago shouldn't affect the development of a game being made today. That's why I have no problem accepting Skyward Sword as the prequel to everything, even if all the facts don't line up.
Posted: 12/06/12, 02:25:43  - Edited by 
 on: 12/06/12, 02:26:57
Zero said:
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.

Actually, time travel makes quite a bit of sense as long as you're utilizing the Self-Consistency type or the Parallel Universe type. The only type of time travel that "in general makes no sense" is the Plastic Time type, and even it makes sense to a degree. It just requires a little bit of abstract thinking and being able to figure out simple cause and effect.

Jargon said:
That kind of obsessing over details for no reason is some of my least favorite nerd behavior. It doesn't need to make sense, Nintendo was clearly never trying to make a cohesive story from one game to the next. In fact, it almost makes me mad when Nintendo tries to throw those people bones.

1) I may not be the type of timeline theorist you're talking about since I've never "obsessed" over the details, but assuming you don't literally mean "obsessed":

2) Fans of the series don't look into the details "for no reason". They do it because it's fun. It's another puzzle, a game, and a narrative challenge at that to go through the games' details and figure out how the games can and can't match up. Why would it bother you when someone does something for fun?

3) Nintendo may not have been trying to make a cohesive story from one game to the next, but they were undoubtedly making a story from one game to the next. We know this because 13 of the 16 Zelda games (if we're including the original) were created as prequels or sequels to existing Zelda games. The three that weren't? Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, and Four Swords... All of the Capcom games (outside of The Minish Cap). So since every single Zelda game made by Nintendo has been made as a prequel or sequel to an existing game in the franchise, it's really hard to feasibly deny that there is a timeline (even if there can be more than one interpretation of it).
Posted: 12/06/12, 03:18:00  - Edited by 
 on: 12/06/12, 03:19:34
@V_s

It doesn't bother me that people do it, if you think it's fun then vaya con dios. What bothers me (and it's really only a mild annoyance) is that Nintendo does things like the Hyrule Historia, a clear attempt to cash in on some fans' love of this stuff in my opinion, and retroactively tries to jury-rig an explanation.

I actually didn't deny the existence of a timeline (although spoilers: it's all made up anyway) but the fact that the "official" explanation, from what I've seen (which admittedly isn't a lot since I try to avoid it), appears to be incredibly convoluted provides pretty good support for the idea that there was no real attempt to connect many of the games at the times of their release. And as someone who likes to contemplate time travel, you'll understand my feeling that what was intended at the time of the game's creation is just as "true" as what current Nintendo employees concoct years later to try to appease fans.
Posted: 12/06/12, 04:53:51  - Edited by 
 on: 12/06/12, 04:56:01
@Jargon - Hey, believe me, I'm a timeline fan, and Hyrule Historia really annoys me (especially because 1) just weeks before the book was announced, Aonuma said they'd never reveal the timeline because that would discourage theorizing, and 2) because Hyrule Historia is so poorly put together, full of mistakes, and clearly didn't involve any fact-checking; like you said, it just comes off as a cash grab, and a lazy one at that).
Posted: 12/06/12, 05:00:49
@V_s The parallel universe to me is just a way to try to get around paradoxes with a preposterous invention instead... this doesn't really solve the issue for me. Self-consistency tries to get around paradoxes by um... defining anything that would result in a paradox as impossible because um... clearly you can't have a paradox so clearly it can't happen? That solves nothing for me either.

I mean honestly, if we accept either of those, we might as well accept a third. "Time travel that has no paradoxes because god is behind it and you know... god is god, god can do whatever god wants by definition." This works too, right?

I'm not sure that I buy that any of them actually solve the paradoxes in any reasonable manner. They just invent stuff that we have no proof exists to deal with it.
Posted: 12/06/12, 05:12:40
Came too late in this thread, but overall I think Miyamoto should step off from his EAD management role. He is the modern father of videogames as we know them, but like every good thing that doesn't last forever, he is way past his prime as recent Minamoto-interference games have shown. A time comes that you have to take care of your parents when they are no longer able to take care of you. The least Miyamoto interferes with other teams ideas the better. He comes to me as a stubborn ultra conservative man whose antiquated game design ideas are better served on eShop titles.
Posted: 12/07/12, 18:47:50  - Edited by 
 on: 12/07/12, 18:51:04
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