"Mario Kart 8" wasn't the only newly announced Mario game that Nintendo's longtime employee Hideki Konno had a hand in creating. Shown for the first time last week at E3, "Super Mario 3D World" also has the head of Nintendo's Software Development Group No 1's fingerprints on it, albeit they are quite faint.
With the reintroduction of Princess Peach as a playable character in a Mario game for the first time since "Super Mario Bros. 2" on the NES ("Super Princess Peach" aside), Nintendo dug deep into their archives to pull some game mechanics from one of Mr. Konno's first titles, "Doki Doki Panic." While some fans in the west may not be familiar with this game specifically, they are likely to be aware that it was the title that was ported for the U.S. release of "SMB 2." When the game jumped from the Famicom Disk System to the Nintendo Entertainment System, a host of changes were made; most importantly the family of characters in "Doki Doki Panic" were replaced with Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad, where each of them had their own special abilities. When Peach debuted in the new trailer for "Super Mario 3D World" her floating jump from "Mario 2" also returned, a mechanic that she inherited from Lina, one of the characters Mr. Konno knew well from "Doki Doki Panic."
While speaking with him last week about "Mario Kart 8," I took a short break to get his thoughts on his influence on another one of Nintendo's key holiday titles, even if it was a bit of a stretch.
Multiplayer: I know this isn't "Mario Kart" related, but there was another game that was announced this week that has a direct influence from you, and sometimes I to bring props to interviews...
Mr. Konno: Whatcha got?
Multiplayer: (I pulled a small box out of my bag, with a yellow diskette inside of it)
Mr. Konno: Oh, "Doki Doki Panic"!
Yes, I was in charge of this game. Mr. Tanabe was the Director, and I was the Planner.
Multiplayer: The characters that you worked with in that have managed to work their way into "Mario 3D World."
Mr. Konno: And Shy Guy into "Mario Kart," too.
Multiplayer: What are your thoughts about the characters in this game influencing the way that Luigi jumps, the way that Peach jumps, and the way that Toad runs, both in the original "Super Mario Bros. 2," and in the new "3D World" so many years later?
Mr. Konno: Right, these guys were not originally Mario characters in the Japanese version. When we brought it over to the U.S., we changed this Aladdin type guy and his family to Mario, Peach, and Toad. Seeing the jump mechanics where Peach hovers reappear in "Mario 3D World" just makes me happy, standing off to the side, with a smirk on my face.
I've got a lot of interesting stories about the development of this game.
Multiplayer: I've got about 10 minutes left...
Mr. Konno: When we made this game, the mother figure, who later became Luigi, since this is a really old game, was made with cel animations. They made this mother figure to jump with gravity not influencing her as much as Mario [Imajin], so Luigi had a really slow jump.
When Mr. Miyamoto came through and evaluated it, he said it doesn't feel right, let's add something with his legs, maybe they can each shake like this (making a fast back and forth fluttering movement with his index and middle fingers), and adding in that one element, made it feel just right. Then, later on, that became the mechanic that he was known for.
He later referred to the "Doki Doki Panic" as a "roots" game, since it was one of the first titles that he worked on.
Another Famicom/NES games that bears Mr. Konno's name is the sports classic "Ice Hockey." When asked whether or not fans of the original can ever hope to see another "Ice Hockey" game, Mr. Konno only said, "We'll think about it." His answer was a phrase that most may recall from their childhood as a deferred "no," but you have to figure that with Reggie's comments about revitalizing classic games, there's always a chance.