How did such an unprecedented project as Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games become popular with so many people, especially in Europe and America4? 4The total number of copies sold for the Wii and Nintendo DS versions of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games surpassed 10 million in Europe and North America. Also, the total number of sales for the Wii and Nintendo DS versions of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games surpassed 8 million copies in Europe and North America (as of 10/2011).
We were surprised ourselves! (laughs)
SEGA already had an established reputation making sports games. What do you think was the key to Mario & Sonic not ending with the first game and continuing on as a series?
Hmm… There were many keys, and some I don’t really understand, but I think the setting of the Olympic Games was a big factor. (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san had also talked about this, but the game worlds of Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog are not perfectly compatible, so simply mashing them together wouldn’t have worked.
But a game world that transcended both Mario and Sonic existed in the form of the Olympic Games.
Yes. If some problem arose, we could say, “But it’s the Olympic Games, so it’s all right… right?” (laughs) If someone said, “Mario runs like this,” or “Sonic runs faster,” we could say, “Well, the 100-metre sprint at the Olympic Games is supposed to be like this,” so it was good for settling matters.
SEGA and Nintendo had talked for a long time about having Mario and Sonic appear together, but an acceptable setting was hard to achieve. I suppose the Olympic Games fitted that bill quite nicely.
I think so.
In my own opinion, when you line up Mario and Sonic... I actually like Mario better.
Is it all right for you to say that, Kasahara-san? (laughs)
But to be honest, I think a lot of people are like that. Nonetheless, we didn’t use that as a reason for putting in more Super Mario characters. I think that was important. If five appeared from Super Mario, we put in five from Sonic the Hedgehog. Even if lesser known characters appeared, we would stick with five. We didn’t budge from that fifty-fifty rule.
We can tell that it’s really even, without any bias.
I think that’s why fans of both series supported it. I don’t know if that was the key to its success, though.
I’m sure it’s pleasing for both sets of fans to be treated equally. With the Olympic Games as the setting and the composition and forms of each set of characters differing, you must have had a fair amount of trouble.
Yes, we most certainly did.
Did you discuss things like what Princess Peach should wear to go swimming?
Yeah, definitely. (laughs)
You guessed it. (laughs) Like, “Mario doesn’t wear swimming trunks?”
You might think, “He can’t swim in overalls!” (laughs)
But in Super Mario games, he does swim in overalls, so while we thought, “Maybe that would be all right,” we also thought that since it was a sports event, if he didn’t wear swimming trunks…
He would be breaking Olympic regulations.
Yeah. (laughs) But the animal characters couldn’t wear swimming trunks! Bowser in swimming trunks? And everyone on the Sonic side is animal-based, so…
Swimming trunks would be weird on Yoshi, too.
Right. When we made the first game, the most difficult SEGA character was Sonic. He isn’t supposed to be able to swim.
Huh? But then… he couldn’t compete in a swimming event!
And aquatics is one of the star attractions at the Olympic Games, so we were stuck. (laughs) I went back and forth with the supervisor in charge of Sonic. I’d say, “It’s the Olympic Games, so I want him to swim,” and the reply would be, “No, Sonic can’t swim, so it’s out of the question,” but I’d be like, “But the Olympic Games without swimming is unthinkable!”
You’re just butting heads.
Yeah. So I tried saying, “I want him to swim, even if it’s with a kickboard!”
Oh, a kickboard? (laughs) The kind you hold onto in swimming lessons and kick your feet? But… for Sonic?
Yeah. (laughs) That wouldn’t look very cool, so it ended up that he could swim if he wore a life jacket.
I see. (laughs)
That’s why when Sonic swims, he doesn’t put his face in the water and his upper body is positioned like it’s floating.
(laughs) The life jacket buoys him up.
Yeah. He can’t swim, so we paid attention to that when making the game.
We also came up with designs for Peach and Daisy when they swim in the first game and presented them to Nintendo, but unfortunately they got rejected.
We decided that normal sportswear would do, but after the game went on sale, people said, “It’s weird that they don’t wear swimwear to swim!”
So when development of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games began, we said, “This time let’s put them in swimwear!” But then at SEGA they told me, “Sonic can’t take off his shoes!”
These characters just aren’t naturally suited to sports.
Ohashi-san, what a thing to say! (laughs)
It would be weird to wear shoes with swimwear.
The characters weren’t originally created to appear in the Olympic Games. And swimming trunks on a hedgehog is a bit…
Yeah. (laughs) Then we decided that only the girl characters would wear swimwear. But we were like, “We can’t have them wear retro swimwear like from the 1930s era, so how should we design them?” Then Nintendo…
That’s right. The supervision team at Nintendo got into it and designed swimwear. But when we compared it to the designs SEGA had proposed four years earlier, they were almost the same! (laughs)
The kinds of swimwear designs that will suit them are fairly limited.
So this time they are wearing the swimsuits that they should have in the first game.
Yes. (laughs) Two characters on each side, Peach and Daisy on Mario’s side and Amy and Blaze on Sonic’s side.
So it’s fifty-fifty for swimwear as well.
That’s right! (laughs)
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