Star Fox Zero – Dev Team Interview: Part Three
Our Focus During Development
Shigeru Miyamoto, Creative Fellow, Nintendo Senior Managing Director (Pictured second from the right)
Yugo Hayashi, Game Director, Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development Division (Pictured right)
Hello there! My name is Akinori Sao and I’m a writer who‘s filled with joy every time I hear the Star Fox theme. But anyway, let’s turn now to the final part – the last level, if you will –of our Star Fox Zero interview. Mr Miyamoto spoke in our last interview about working as a director for the first time in 20 years with boyish glee.
Now, for this final discussion, we’re going to look at the development process and find out what a veteran director like Mr Miyamoto and a young rookie like Mr Hayashi set out to achieve with Star Fox Zero. Naturally we’re also going to talk about Star Fox Guard which was released together with the Star Fox Zero, as well as a short animation that you can watch online. Okay, here goes!
Part Three: Our Focus During Development
Your skills improve the more you play
Sao: There’s so much to enjoy in Star Fox Zero, but I wanted to ask you what aspects of the gameplay you focused most on during the game’s development?
Miyamoto: For me, the most important thing was feeling as if you were really the pilot.
Sao: I guess part of that were the voices that you can hear in the cockpit, which we spoke about in the first part of this interview.
Miyamoto: Yes, that was one aspect of it. There’s also the way that you can devise your own individual strategy and then carry it out, boosting your score in the process. Things like that all come into it.
Sao: Yes, it’s important that you don’t just plunge blindly into the action but instead come up with a tactical approach that you can then try out.
Miyamoto: Right. I think that in an action game, this will increase your sense of achievement. Action games can be tough, and I’m sure there are plenty of players who would like them to be a bit easier. But for me, the fundamental appeal of an action game is that your skills improve the more you play. What I mean is that someone who may not be all that good at first has room to improve and can take satisfaction from that. We aimed to make a game where that is possible – isn’t that right, Hayashi-san?
Hayashi: Yes, we did. We spoke last time about the positioning of buildings, and it was the same with enemies and other objects. I would discuss their location with Miyamoto-san and spend a lot of time fine-tuning them. Everything’s structured so that you can play each stage again and again, and gradually improve your score.
Sao: I see. So it’s designed so that you might think it a bit tough when you first play, but if you persevere, you’ll steadily improve.
Miyamoto: That’s it. You can play the same stage over and over, and you’re guaranteed to discover new things. But having said that, in a game like this, you’re bound to hit upon your own way to approach each stage.
Sao: So as you play the same stages again and again, you’ll settle on a way to approach them.
Miyamoto: You’ll start by finding your own route through a stage, but after that, if you experiment with other approaches, you’re sure to find other ways that work. You can then use that approach four or five times, try to perfect it, and then you’ll be in a position to decide which one works best. We designed the game carefully to allow these kinds of possibilities.
Sao: So you might think that flying through a particular stage in a particular way is the best approach, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Miyamoto: If you watch other players, you’ll realise that there are other ways to do it. There are always things you can learn from each other.
Why Dogs and Monkeys Don’t Get Along
Sao: What other issues did you focus on while you were making the game?
Miyamoto: Well, I’ve often said that the story is secondary to the gameplay…
Sao: Yes, you’ve said that a lot.
Miyamoto: But actually, when it came to making Star Fox Zero, I paid a lot of attention to the story. I was particularly concerned with the relationship between each character, for example between Fox McCloud and his father, or the way that the canine characters related to the monkeys.
Sao: So by canine characters, you mean the Cornerian army led by General Pepper, which Fox McCloud and his friends belong to.
Miyamoto: That’s right.
Sao: Then on the other side, you’ve got the monkeys, with Andross being the chief antagonist. So basically you’ve constructed it so that the dogs are fighting the monkeys.
Miyamoto: Right, but if it was just a tale of good versus evil, it would end up being too simple and leave no room for the imagination. In Japanese culture, we talk about dogs and monkeys not getting along with each other, but it’s nice to delve a bit deeper and find out why. So we’ve come up with a backstory this time round.
Sao: So it isn’t a simple tale of good versus evil?
Miyamoto: No, it isn’t. A new element in the story is the introduction of the teleporter…
Sao: You can use teleporters to travel to new areas.
Miyamoto: That’s right. But that’s not all. The teleporters are closely related to the story. The split between those who wish to use them and those who wish to abolish them explains why the dogs and monkeys are enemies.
Sao: So there turns out to be a reason why they don’t get along.
Miyamoto: Right. I really wanted to add this element to the story, so I came up with a Star Fox Zero animation(1).
1. Star Fox Zero: The Battle Begins: the first-ever animated short based on the Star Fox games and characters, produced in a collaboration between Shigeru Miyamoto, Production I.G and WIT STUDIO.
Sao: You really did get very deeply involved in this game!
Miyamoto: I really threw myself into it! (laughs) Anyway, I feel that by watching this animation, players will be able to get more deeply into the game. If you watch it before you play, you’ll understand the game world better.
Sao: Ah, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Miyamoto: We actually completed work on that animation just before the game was released, so it’s available now for you to watch.
Star Fox Guard is Fun Even for Big Groups
Sao: Now, you’re releasing Star Fox Guard along with Star Fox Zero. Can you tell me how this game came about?
Miyamoto: Well, Hayashi-san directed this game, at least for the first part, so I think it’s best to let him speak about it.
Hayashi: Sure. Well, Star Fox Guard began as an idea we came up with to utilise two screens. We worked on developing something where even people who weren’t playing could watch the action on the TV and enjoy it too.
Sao: The genre of the game is best described as a surveillance camera shooting game.
Hayashi: Yes, that’s it. You’re defending a mining facility against waves of robots that are attacking it. You have 12 cameras with lasers attached that you’ll use to take out the enemy.
Sao: So you have the views from 12 different cameras all shown on a single TV screen.
Hayashi: Yes, that’s right. I think if you’re playing alone, you might start to panic a bit as you try to spot which camera the robots are near. But if you’ve got other people there, they can help you out by shouting, “Look at camera three! It’s a robot!” That makes it a lot easier to take out the robots as they try to storm the base.
Sao: So it’s technically a one-player game, but actually you can enjoy this game with others too.
Hayashi: That’s right.
Miyamoto: Originally we came up with this game as a kind of introduction to Star Fox Zero. Some people find shooting games difficult, but in Star Fox Guard, you just have to point the camera in the right direction before opening fire, so it’s easy for players to get to grips with. We wanted something that was both simple and fun.
Sao: A game with 12 screens seems more achievable now in a time where large-screen TVs are becoming the norm.
Miyamoto: Yes, that’s a big factor. This is an idea we’ve experimented with since the Super Nintendo era, but with a game console that has two screens and the larger TVs we have today, it felt like this was the best time to release this game.
If You’re Worried, Try Invincibility Mode
Sao: To conclude this series of interviews, I wonder if you could say a few words to the readers.
Miyamoto: At its heart, Star Fox Zero is a game that’s about finding a path. To put a figure on it, I’d say there are around 20 different ways to navigate through the game, and while you might be perfecting one route, you could discover another and end up coming up with your own original way to negotiate a stage. I think that approaching the game in this way will give players a lot of enjoyment.
Sao: You could also select an approach each time you play. So for instance, you could focus exclusively on racking up a high score, or you could dedicate yourself to finding a new route and try flying or running into all sorts of places.
Miyamoto: Yes, you’re right. I’d recommend watching videos of other people playing as you’re bound to pick up tips that will encourage you to find out everything that’s in the game.
Sao: How about you, Hayashi-san?
Hayashi: In the first part of the interview, we spoke about the immersive elements of the game, like the 3D feel of the voices. The only way to really experience this is to play the game yourself. I feel that we’ve come up with a game that really brings you close to the action, whether it’s the intuitive controls made possible by using two sticks, or the view from the cockpit via the Wii U GamePad screen. The game can be challenging, but I think that as you play, you’ll really start to feel like you’re right there in the cockpit of the Arwing doing battle with the enemy. It’s an exciting game that will give you sweaty palms and I think players are going to enjoy that a lot.
Sao: You just mentioned that the game was somewhat challenging, but for players who perhaps lack confidence, there’s a mode where you have an invincible Arwing, isn’t there?
Hayashi: That’s right. If you fail to complete your mission three times in a row*, you’ll be given an item when you restart that will make you invincible.
*If you run out of ships after playing from the start three times in a row, the item that makes you invincible will be available the next time you start.
Sao: So that means your ship won’t be destroyed no matter how much damage it takes.
Hayashi: That’s right. But to make up for that, your score won’t be saved.
Miyamoto: We were intent on making the game accessible to as many players as possible, but we were aware that some people won’t want to play the Invincibility Mode. That meant we were really torn about whether to make it available after you failed three times or if it should be six times.
Hayashi: But if someone doesn’t want to make use of the invincibility feature, they don’t have to use the item. We left it up to the player.
Sao: For someone like me whose ship tends to get destroyed a lot, it’s a nice feeling to have the option of an invincible Arwing after failing three times.
Miyamoto: Well, it seems like we chose right by making it three times.
Hayashi: It would seem so! (laughs)
That concludes our interview with the team behind Star Fox Zero. There wasn’t enough room to include it in the interview, but at one point, Mr Miyamoto made reference to Star Fox Zero as the culmination of his vision for Star Fox, made possible by the Wii U.
Mr Miyamoto is of course the creator of the Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda series, so needless to say, Star Fox Zero stretches the possibilities of a shooting game. Mr Miyamoto has spent many years distilling the essence of action and adventure games, and this has resulted in a game packed with enjoyable elements. Who’d have thought you’d even be able to go fishing?
So there we have it – the culmination of the Star Fox series is available now. Mr Hayashi mentioned at the end that it was quite a challenging game, but that’ll make it even more satisfying to beat it. Also, if you aren’t a natural action game fan, Invincibility Mode is sure to make your life easier.
Now, if everyone’s ready, it’s time to take off and do battle!
Prepare yourself for take-off and learn more about Star Fox Zero at our official Star Fox Zero website.