Apple’s keynote presentation, where it revealed the latest iPhones, Apple Watchand AirPods, has just finished. But while others are scrabbling for hands-on time with the new devices, we’re on our way to talk to the man whose entrance received probably the biggest roar of excitement during the whole event: the father of Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto.
He’s sitting in a hotel room where plush figures of Nintendo fan-favourite characters, from the mustachioed plumber himself to Bowser, sit on the sofa with him.
According to Pocket Lint, With the help of his translator, Miyamoto-san talks us through the news. From December, Mario will be on iOS devices in a game called Super Mario Run. “Do you want to play it?” he asks, as we grab the iPhone out of his hand before he changes his mind.
So there we are, being shown how to play. By Miyamoto himself.
Miyamoto on Super Mario Run gameplay
“As soon as you tap once, the game’s going to start. Are you ready? Just press, you don’t have to swipe up to make him jump,” we’re told. “It’s designed so you can play it one-handed.”
This takes some getting used to, but as soon as we stuff our other hand into a pocket, it all makes sense.
It quickly transpires that this game isn’t like other endless running games. First of all, it’s not endless – when you reach the end of a level, you find yourself jumping up to hit the top of a flagpole, just like in other Mario games.
You also hold the iPhone in portrait mode, unlike most platform games, including the original Mario platformers, meaning you don’t get as much notice of what’s coming next. This game is also richer than many other runner games. The scenery is populated with familiar details – from pipes to holes to piranha plants and dungeons – all recognisably backed by Mario-esque music.
The controls are simpler than ever before too: press to jump, press harder and he jumps higher.
Miyamoto on bring Mario to mobile
The purpose, though, is that once you’ve played this, you might be tempted to try other Mario games on Nintendo’s fully-fledged consoles. Nintendo’s step over to smartphones is happening. The question is, why now?
“The hardware has to provide a stable experience and until recently we felt that we couldn’t get that, but the response that these systems can provide is good enough now,” Miyamoto says.
He also explains that a rethink of what works on mobile was important: “Over the years we have been making the side-scrolling games like the Super Mario Bros series and Super Mario Maker, and we also have the 3D games, like Super Mario Galaxy, where you’re running around in a 3D space.
“Our intent has always been that the side-scrolling new Super Mario Bros games would be simpler – games that more casual players could be able to enjoy. But what we’ve found is that even though they are designed to be simpler and easier to understand, the controls can still be difficult for some players and they have a hard time controlling Mario or making him run and jump at the same time.
“We wanted to ask how we can make the experience even simpler for somebody who had never played a Mario game before. That’s been the focus with Super Mario Run: a game that’s even easier to get into and play.”
This is not a port of a game from another console – which has often been the downfall of titles which have thrived when real buttons were available to use but where pressing your thumb on unyielding glass is less satisfying.
Miyamoto on smartphone gamers
So is this the next stage in accessible, casual games?
“For many years our mission in approaching hardware has been our goal of expanding the number of people playing games. Now, people are having these interactive experiences through their smart devices and so that’s accomplished this great mission of helping to turn more people into gamers.
“We’re using this opportunity to bring our characters to this audience and let them experience the fun of our games and hopefully bring them back to our platforms.”
What are the bonuses of a smartphone over a conventional console, we ask: “Even when we were working on the first DS system, we were thinking about opportunities to incorporate GPS or how to use a persistent network connection. We didn’t do it then, but now with a mobile device we’re looking into functionalities like the persistent network connection.
“That will play an important part in the Kingdom element of the game where you have your own Mushroom Kingdom and you’re bringing the Toad characters into the Kingdom and expanding and customising it, using that network connection. We’ll continue to look at the uniqueness of each hardware platform and create mobile games that leverage this to do things that can only be done there.”
Miyamoto on working with Apple
Although the game will be available on Android devices one day, for now it’sApple only. “The iPhone and iOS are great to work on because it’s stable. In terms of working with Apple, we found we shared a lot of philosophies and we found from early on it was easy to work with them.
“It’s Apple’s hardware of course, not ours, but that just means it’s a framework in which you try to be as creative as possible – it’s not a limitation, I look at it as a lot of fun.”
That brought us to our last question, how important will smartphone gaming become?
“We’ll continue to look at the opportunities smartphones bring and when we see one we’ll continue to design for that hardware in a way that takes advantage of the functionality there. But we’ll keep designing for our own platforms as well.”