Super Mario Land 2 – 1992 Developer Interview

Super Mario Land 2 – 1992 Developer Interview

This small Super Mario Land 2 interview from 1992 was originally featured in the official Nintendo guidebook published the same year. It’s a quick but fun read, with the developers joking around as they recount the making of Wario and the challenges of breaking conventions to create a “different” kind of Mario game.

Hiroji Kiyotake – Director / Designer
Takahiro Harada – Main Programmer
Kazumi Totaka – Composer
Takehiko Hosokawa – Director / Character Designer

—Let’s start off by having everyone introduce themselves.

Kiyotake: I’m Kiyotake, and I was both director and game designer for Super Mario Land 2. Before making this game, I worked on Metroid 2, and before that, Dr. Mario.

Harada: I’m Harada, the main programmer. Also, they didn’t come today, but there were two other programmers working on SML2: Masaru Yamanaka and Yuzuru Ogawa. I also worked with Kiyotake on Metroid 2 and Dr. Mario before this.

Hosokawa: I only joined Nintendo a year and a half ago, and this was the first game I was really allowed to do some solid work on. I started out as an assistant character designer, but by the end, I was sort of half a Director.

Harada: Most of the enemies ended up being created by Hosokawa, actually.

Totaka: I’m Totaka, and I handled the music. I also did the music for kaeru no tame ni kane wa naru. Before that, I worked on Mario Paint.

—When did the SML2 development begin?

Harada: It began in November of last year (1991), and we finished this September.

—The characters and sprites somehow look a little different from the other Mario games…

Kiyotake: With Super Mario Land 2, one of our ideas was to not be bound by the conventions of the previous games. However, when we showed our first draft to everyone, they were like, “I don’t know… is this Mario?” We realized we were on the wrong path, so we toned down that idea and made something a little closer to the existing Mario world.

Clockwise from top left: Takahiro Harada (28), Kazumi Totaka (25), Takehiko Hosokawa (25), Hiroji Kiyotake (31).

—One of the new things I noticed is that in this game, Mario isn’t fighting to rescue the Princess.

Kiyotake: Mario has always fought for someone else’s benefit, but we thought it would be a nice change of pace to make a game where he’s fighting to win back something of his own. We wanted to make a world… how can I describe it? — a world that would appeal to Mario’s manly heart!

—What was the idea behind Wario?

Kiyotake: We imagined Wario as the Bluto to Mario’s Popeye. The truth is, we kind of came up with the idea of the name first, and everything else came after. Since he was a “warui” (bad) guy, he should be Wario. And we had the idea to flip the M upside down. To our surprise, the idea was a big hit with everyone on the team.

—What was your process for creating the character of Wario?

Kiyotake: Whenever I had the idea for a character—not only Wario—the first thing I would do is talk it over with Hosokawa. If he thought it was cool, I’d present it to the rest of the staff. Then, once I thought the idea could work, I’d discuss the details of the sprite animation and movement with Harada. That’s the process I went through for Wario and all the other characters in SML2. Granted, there were a lot of direct rejects, or characters that no one took a liking to.

—Can you tell us about Wario’s past / origins?

Kiyotake: There’s been a rumor going around that Wario was childhood friends1 with Mario, but it’s just a rumor: I don’t know if it’s true or not. His favorite food is crepes. That much seems true…

—The controls for Spacesuit Mario and Bunny Mario felt very fresh too. I especially liked the high jump you can do by pressing up and the A button.

Harada: On the Game Boy, when trying to make a diagonal, some people have a hard time holding down both buttons with their thumb. For them, we thought of a different method of doing a high jump, and came up with these controls.

—The music for Super Mario Land 2 feels different from the previous Mario games, too.

Totaka: Well, if you take the sound effect when Mario turns into Super Mario as an example, up to midway into the development, we used the same sound effect there that the Super Famicom used. However, using that sound effect on the Game Boy gave a weird, overlapping impression of Super Mario World. We were afraid the player would become negatively conscious of the fact that he was playing on a small screen, that there was no sprite scaling with this hardware, etc. For that reason, we chose a lot of different sound effects from the other Mario games.

Wario Crepes

—Totaka, besides music, did also you contribute to Super Mario Land 2 in other ways?

Totaka: When Kiyotake, Harada, and Hosokawa would have discussions, I’d sometimes sit on the sidelines and give my comments and suggestions, or say I thought this way was better, or suggest a certain character, and so forth. Most of my ideas were rejected though.

—What was the biggest challenge for you in this development?

Harada: Definitely the 2-3 months after we finished the test version. We’d all been playing the game since the beginning, so naturally we’d got very good at it. As we got further along, we had started to wonder if it was way too easy. But then we finished the test version and let playtesters give it a go, and… they couldn’t get anywhere! (laughs) They said it was way too hard. All the little adjustments and fine-tuning after that was the hardest part.

—There’s a lot of really charming enemies in Super Mario Land 2. I especially liked the “Be” flies from Tree Zone and Mario Zone. Where did they come from?

Hosokawa: They’re impossible to step on. We call them “the flies that do nothing”!

Kiyotake: I love useless characters that do nothing in games, so the first time I saw the Be fly I burst out laughing. I said, I know there will be people who hate this, but let’s leave it in anyway!

Totaka: I loved that character too. I put extra effort into his sound effects. (laughs)

Kiyotake: If we had had more time, I would have liked to program in some way for the player to be able to stomp on them.

Totaka: No way, it’s better to leave it this way!!!

Harada: …whoa. (laughs)

—Well, finally, please sum up Super Mario Land 2 in one sentence if you can.

Kiyotake: “Wario’s big debut.”

Harada: “A fun game.”

Hosokawa: “Mario’s Toybox”, maybe?

Totaka: Um… my Obon vacation.


Totaka: Super Mario Land 2 stole my Obon week vacation!

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  1. The Japanese used is 幼なじみ (osanajimi), which can also include mere childhood acquaintances--ie. someone you knew or played with, but not necessarily close friends.

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