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GR: From your talk this week at GDC I know you have a background in level design. Do you think it’s important for a director to have those skills?
KH: This is a really basic way to put it, but for a director I think that knowing how a game is produced from start to finish is very helpful. You should have a base knowledge of every single process along the way, but they don’t necessarily have to be an incredible expert in any one of those per se. Though now that I think about it, Mr Koizumi, the director of Mario Galaxy 1, had done some level design as well. Now that’s not something that he spent all of his time on, but the first level in Galaxy 1 was something he created. But as I said, a high level of stage design knowledge isn’t critical.
GR: Given your background with 3D Mario games, does working on a 2D Mario interest you?
KH: I hadn’t really thought about myself necessarily doing that. It’s something I have a passing interest in, but that comes from wanting to explore all the possibilities for Mario games. Having done a lot of level design, there’s part of me that’s curious about that sort of thing. But it’s just something I’ve explored when thinking about the possibilities for Mario overall.
GR: Recently Nintendo began to add download content to its game, like in the upcoming (in Japan) Fire Emblem for 3DS. Do you see that feature working for future Mario titles?
KH: Of course there’s some possibilities there. As with any new Mario game we have to look at what sort of potential new technology can present, and think about how that matches with Mario gameplay to make something interesting and compelling. For example, for 3D Land we looked at the stereoscopic display and StreetPass and tried to think of what type of possibilities exist in a Mario world for those types of things. We’re always looking for things that match up like that, and if we find a particularly compelling combination it is, of course, something we’d pursue. Finding that match is part of my job, so it’s something I’m always thinking about.
GR: As a developer, what interests you about the potential of the Wii U?
KH: I certainly think it’s interesting hardware with many possibilities. If I had to share just one idea from my own personal experience, it would involve when my family is watching TV together. If I want to play games on the Wii I can’t, but if I had a Wii U I could use that smaller display to play a game while they watch TV. That’d be really good for someone with a family like me.
GR: 3D Land had a bunch of secrets hidden throughout the game. Are there any you think players have yet to find?
KH: It’s really hard to say. Maybe I should ask you if you found one that ’m interested in. Have you had the experience of hitting a Question Block with your head and having it stick to you and pop out coins?
GR: Yeah, though I can’t recall which stage it was in. One of my favorites was in a swimming level where I saw the flag in the background and wondered if I could reach it from there. Then I skipped the whole stage and went straight to the end.
KH: (Laughs) We have that one set up so you can clear it in seven seconds. There’s also an interesting spot in level 2-3 with the pixel art everywhere. Toward the end if you go to one spot in a white area in the background, you reach a place where there’s 1Up picture and you get a 1Up Mushroom from it. That’s one few have seen, so I’d challenge yourself to try and find that.