In 2005, Canadian developer Next Level Games brought Mario’s crazy sports style to the beautiful game in Mario Smash Football for the Nintendo GameCube. To find out which goals the team set themselves for the Wii sequel, we sat down with Game Director Mike Inglehart.
Nintendo of Europe: Please tell us something about the origins of the game: at which point after completion of the GameCube game did you start making the Wii sequel, and what where your goals for this project?
Mike Inglehart: “The development for Mario Strikers Charged Football began shortly after Mario Smash Football for the Nintendo GameCube was completed. Given the strong success of the first game, we wanted to focus on bringing users the features they were asking for on the message boards and forums.Also, you never truly get all of your ideas into each game cycle so we had many features that we had to leave behind in the original Strikers game.
“Our goals this time around were character differentiation and online play. We wanted to offer as much depth as possible from base attributes to new sidekicks combinations, Special Abilities, and of course even consider the stadiums as characters, making them play and feel different as well.
“We really hit our goals with differentiation, which should make Mario Strikers Charged Football a game that forever stays in your game library. We also have delivered on the online play via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection which takes one of the purest head-to-head games and takes it online to make it a truly international game!
“Gamers will be astounded as to how much is actually new. You could almost call it a ‘three-quel’!”
NOE: Upon evaluating the GameCube original, were there elements that you think didn’t work as well others, and how did that influence the development of the Wii game?
MI: “Everything that we included in the GameCube game was there for a reason and worked in making a fun, high quality experience. The main issue was that people wanted more of everything and we wanted to deliver this time around. The GameCube game was fun, but needed more depth and we set out to make that a big part of this Wii game and I am confident gamers will find that we delivered in a very big way.”
NOE: Regarding the motion-based controls, where there any ideas you played around with that seemed good as a concept, but didn’t work so well in actual gameplay? And how did you end up with the motion-based controls that made it into the final product?
MI: “We tried anything and everything with the motion-based controls in pre-production. But in the end, we needed to ensure that the integrity of what made the first game great, was still intact.
“Nintendo was also very open about being smart with where we introduce these controls, and to not simply use them because they were available. We listened, and in the end offer motion-controlled hitting and of course the pointer-based goalkeeper gameplay in the MegaStrike.
“We’ve had great previews on our control scheme and while we do not offer a ton of motion-controls, I feel we have used it in the right places to make our game a great experience that is fun to control.”
NOE: The Team Captains now have Super Abilities and MegaStrikes. Please tell us something about the creative process behind designing these.
MI: “We wanted the game to feel like it had evolved and that everything was much bigger now, including the characters. Especially the Captains we wanted to feel like superheroes, so we gave them abilities that were bigger than the game. We also used our power-up rule, which asks that all items, but also Super Abilities, be useful with and without the ball.
“In the end, we have twelve new items creating twelve Super Abilities which can be used at the user’s discretion to affect the game. Super Abilities are always exciting whether it’s DK’s Thunder Wham or Wario’s Gas Mask, you can be sure that they will impact the outcome.
“The MegaStrike builds on the success of the Super Strike, but we wanted to include a way to defend against this attack to build more gameplay and tension in the moment. It only made sense that we add more balls to the mix and create a more intense head-to-head mini-game that feels right for the experience. You still earn the moment in the same way by charging the ball, but now the offensive player can choose how many balls to kick at the goalie. The more time you have, the more balls you can send at the net, so it’s some fun risk/reward gameplay.
“The goalie now has a chance to save the balls, which is a huge improvement over the SuperStrike. Simply point your Wii Remote at the screen and move the hands over the ball and then press the A Button to save the balls. It’s fun, simple and exciting.”
NOE: Apart from the Captains, the Sidekicks are now also more diverse, and have their own special moves. This adds a new tactical level to the game.
MI: “We simply wanted to add new and exciting ways to score with a dash of character differentiation. We decided to use the charge-the-ball-moment from the Captain’s MegaStrike and give that to the Sidekicks.
“When they charge the ball to its peak, they change the ball into a set attack on the goalie. The charge times and attacks are all different so while they create a good scoring chance, you have to figure out exactly how they work to really maximize your scoring chance.
“Sometimes many of the best features in a game leverage what already works, and the Skillshots are great example of that in Mario Strikers Charged Football. My favourite Skillshot though is Monty Mole’s Dirt Drill.”
NOE: What is the role of Mii caricatures in online play via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection?
MI: “We used the Mii’s as the users’ representation when they connect to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. You simply select the Mii that you wish to create a Wi-Fi profile for and then you’re ready to go. And if you are lucky and win Striker of The Day, your Mii will appear on everyone’s Wii for that given time period. A moment in the spotlight that nobody can take away from you.”
NOE: What can you tell us about the differences between Ranked and Friendly matches online?
MI: “You will be able to actually play against friends in Friendly matches and against strangers in Ranked games. Friend Codes are only needed for setting up your Friends Roster. But right out of the box, you can jump into Ranked games and just starting challenging all comers, and climb the Leaderboard. This Leaderboard will be regional since we wanted to ensure a fast-paced, low-latency experience.”
NOE: How do you feel about this game being released in Europe first, where football is easily the most popular sport?
MI: “In my opinion it makes sense to release a football-inspired product to the part of the world that has the longest standing appreciation of the beautiful game.”
NOE: Can you explain how the Stadium Events work? Perhaps you can also tell us something about the design process behind the Stadiums built specifically for this game.
MI: “Mario Strikers is all about scoring. So we wanted the stadiums to have an impact on the scoring but also be something that users can manipulate. We created great logic around how Stadium Events are triggered so that users can figure them out over time and then use them to their advantage.
“We made it a point to not have the Stadium Events beat up on the user but create opportunities for great gameplay. The designs are simple, smart and fun. I can tell you that Thunder Island out of the box offers a unique feel with no side walls, meaning players can fall off the edge, plus a selection of wind debris being blown across the pitch trying to knock down the players. And some words of warning, watch out for that cow!"
NOE: Mr. Inglehart, thank you for your time!
Mario Strikers Charged Football will be in shops May 25, only on Wii.