Pure Nintendo Interviews Nintendo of America’s Marc Franklin
Editor’s Note: At E3 2014 this year, we had the great pleasure of interviewing Marc Franklin, Senior Director of Public Relations at Nintendo of America. We discussed a lot of Nintendo’s E3 announcements as well as his personal favorite Nintendo series.
Justin: Mr. Iwata mentioned, in a previous Nintendo Direct, the need to emphasize the Wii U GamePad features more in future games. Can you give us an overview on the ways that Nintendo will accomplish that goal?
Marc: Sure, I can give you a bunch of examples. I think some of the new examples that were just announced were the games that Mr. Miyamoto is creating. He’s coming out with a new Star Fox, very exciting. He also announced a new game called Project Guard and Project Giant Robot, and all these games use the GamePad in unique ways.
Let’s start with Star Fox. You’ve got two views: one is the complete view on the TV, and you have another view on the cockpit on your GamePad. So, as you’re learning the controls, you can look between the views; that’s a deep experience, as you explore the area and you’re encountering enemies, you can either take out enemies, or you can also convert to different vehicles. So that’s a new use of the GamePad.
Project Guard is super fun. Have you checked out Project Guard? It’s on the show floor.
Justin: Yeah, we did. One thing I noticed with the security cameras is the Star Fox logo. Is Project Guard related to the new Star Fox game?
Marc: That’s a good observation. We’re not really saying much about that, but yeah, there is a logo on the cameras. Project Guard is a frenetic, robot invasion. You’re trying to protect your base from robots getting to your core, and you do that through this security camera system. So the GamePad is this top-down view of all of your security cameras. You can use your GamePad to manipulate the security cameras: move them around, change places. And then your TV screen view is the bigger view of your whole complex, and where you see the robots coming in. Your security cameras also act as lasers.
So, you’ve got on the big TV screen, you can only look at one camera at a time. You can see the views of all of them, but the main one is in the middle; that’s the one you see where you’re shooting. So you basically go around, you’ve got twelve cameras, and you’ve got to work to take out all of the robots. The great thing about this game is, even though it’s one person using the GamePad, it’s a richer experience when you’ve got you’re friends around you, because they’re helping you [by saying], “Okay, camera 4! Camera 1! Camera 8! Hey, there’s a bird robot coming in at camera 9!”
Justin: Yeah, that’s what we were doing. We were back-seat driving.
Marc: [laughs] Yeah. The player with the GamePad is getting all of this input, that is very helpful, but at the same time his anxiety level is going to raise, right? So, there’s a real tangible feel to the experience. You kind of immerse yourself in this frenetic pace with the help of your friends. It’s a really good use of the GamePad.
The third project [we] talked about was Project Giant Robot. In this game, you actually build a robot, and the GamePad is actually the cock-pit view of the robot, and the TV view is the bigger view of the environment of two robots. You use the GamePad plus the motion controls to sumo-fight the robot, and as you are fighting the other robot you are also trying to knock him over. You’ve also got some enemies on the ground that you can shoot with lasers. So you’ve got the motion controls, you’ve got the view, and that’s yet another version of the GamePad experience. So those are three [we] announced at E3. They are coming out next year, and we are all looking forward to it.
One other I would mention is Mario Maker. This is something that I personally really enjoy because I am a huge Mario fan. The ability for any player to make a Mario level is like a dream come true. You use the GamePad with your stylus to move and create your levels; you can move blocks, you can put up warp pipes anywhere, you can put piranha plants and other enemies anywhere you want. You can be really cruel and put, like, twenty piranha plants, one right after another, or whatever you want to do. You can switch between the two visual looks of Super Mario Bros. or New Super Mario Bros U. So you can go between the old look and the new look, and it’s all in real time. You can play-test it in real time. You’re like, “Oh, I don’t like that piranha plant there. Let me take that out, and let me see how that plays.” Or you can let your friend try it out and see what he does, you know, so it’s fun.
Kaelyn: I don’t know if you’ll be able to tell us, but will there be any different backdrops, any underground or underwater levels?
Marc: I don’t think we’ve made any announcements about that. The version we have out on the floor just shows the standard [level].
So those are a few examples. What we try and do is, you know, for every game out on Wii U, we have some functionality on the GamePad, even if it is as simple as off-TV play. Amazingly, as simple as it is, [off-TV play] is a very powerful feature, and I use it all the time at home. When my family wants to do something like watch TV and I am still wanting to play Mario Kart, I can be on my couch and still play the game, and someone else can watch TV or do whatever they want. Even something as simple as that is taking advantage of the GamePad.
Kaelyn: Could you tell us a little more about Splatoon?
Marc: Sure. Splatoon is a brand-new game, a brand new IP that we are introducing at this year’s show. It’s Nintendo’s take on multiplayer online action games. It’s unique in everything it does. From the look, you can see the vibrant colors that we’re introducing. To the characters, and the style of character; you can switch between human form and squid form, and that in-and-of-itself is a strategy.
You can move faster in the ink, or you can hide out in the ink, and wait for the enemy to come, and then you blast them. It’s a 4-on-4 online game, and it’s approachable because you can use the GamePad to aim. So all you need to know is to move the GamePad around, and then you use the controls on the GamePad as well.
So it’s approachable that way, but also goes into a lot of depth, if you want to go that deep with strategy in terms with how you approach it. You can stay at your home base, and protect if you feel comfortable with it, you can lay ink on the ground, or you can advance into enemy territory, take out enemies, and put ink on their territory, because at the end of the day it is a turf war of who can make the biggest mess, and put the most ink down on the ground. So that’s a brand new IP that uses the GamePad. I mean, there’s a ton of games out there that are doing stuff with the GamePad in unique ways.
Justin: On the Virtual Console service, how is Nintendo looking to expand that in the coming year?
Marc: Yeah, you know we are always looking to put new content into the Virtual Console, and it comes whenever we’re launching it. We just launched a Virtual Console game last week: [Legend of Zelda] Minish Cap. It’s a real important service for us. It does provide that ability for players. You get that nostalgic feel for some of the older games, players that have really grown up with Nintendo. For new players, it gives them a great way to get that history. So we’re still looking to build that and introduce new content when it’s available.
Justin: Nintendo has announced Nintendo DS games are coming to the Virtual Console on Wii U. Do you have any timeline for that?
Marc: We don’t have any announcements for that right now.
Justin: A follow up: We really love the GameCube controller adapter. Obviously it’s got people thinking about GameCube games being on the Virtual Console or some sort of compatibility. Now that I can plug in my GameCube controller, can I play my old GameCube games on the Wii U?
Marc: We haven’t made any announcements about that, either. The reason we introduced the GameCube controller [adapter] is for Smash. And that’s such a great experience for those veteran players that are really accustomed to playing Smash with the GameCube controller [and] the Wavebird Controller, then that’s the best thing for them. We wanted to be able to provide that.
We’re going to make it available in a couple of different ways; you can buy the adapter, you can buy the GameCube controller, or you can buy a bundle: those two plus the game.
You know, Smash coming out on the 3DS is such a big deal. Just being able to play Smash anywhere you want; on the bus, on your way to work, or wherever you are going, on your way to school. That’s a big deal, and it’s such a big experience. The scope of that game is just so robust. Some people will question and say, “Hey, how did you get that onto a portable and make it feel really big?”
As soon as you touch Super Smash Bros on the 3DS, you can understand that it’s done in a way that makes it completely approachable. Mr. Sakurai’s done the gameplay control in such a way that for casual players that want to enter via the 3DS, they can do it and use just a couple of buttons, but it also scales to all of the moves you can make. It feels like a real visceral experience with the 3DS. I love the “Smash Run” mode, that’s brand new, and being able to go through the level, and getting all of these power ups, and building up your character, and battling it out at the end; it’s pretty compelling.
Justin: Speaking of Smash, we were at the Smash Bros. roundtable last night. They mentioned that you can transfer that [power] even though the game is coming out before the Wii U version. You can level those characters up, build them up, and transfer them over [to the Wii U].
Marc: Yeah, you can transfer the characters over to the Wii U. We didn’t give a lot of detail on that, but [Sakurai] did say that was possible.
Justin: The new Legend of Zelda looks awesome and fans are certainly excited for it. Can you tell us more about the background of the game?
Marc: Well, you know, Mr Aonuma gave the best explanation on the digital video, but a few key things. Open world, so it’s massive, HD, so it’s going to look amazing, and a whole new visual look to it.
Justin: It looked even more like Wind Waker than Skyward Sword did; kind of the combination of the pastels (of Skyward Sword) and cel-shading (of Wind Waker). It also looked like there was some weather. I saw some clouds moving over, so it looks like there are some dynamic weather effects.
Marc: Yeah, the grass was moving, and you saw maybe an enemy there. You’re not really sure who or what that is. There’s a lot of mystery around it. I can just say, and I personally don’t know everything about that, so I just love seeing it and watching it over and over, and trying to figure out what’s going on. [laughs]
Matt: How big is the map in the upcoming Zelda Wii U, can you put a number to that? Like, if I did not care about my horse’s health at all, and I wanted to ride to one end of the map to the other, can you give me a time estimate, like how long that would take?
Marc: We’re not sharing details like that, yet. We’re just giving people a taste of what it looks like, and Mr. Aonuma did say that it’s this huge open world. He said that if you wanted to go from where he was in the foreground to the mountains, you could do that, and the mountains look pretty far away.
I’m excited that there is a new game coming in the new franchise. That said, I love Hyrule Warriors. It’s a great new spin-off on the series. Mr. Aonuma teams up with the Techmo-Koei guys, and it’s this mash up between The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors, and they’ve done a great job. The game looks really good, it’s really beautiful. It’s these massive battles that take place on some landscapes that you are familiar with in the Legend of Zelda and you can play as Legend of Zelda characters the way you’ve never been able to before, including Link, but you can also play as Zelda, and Midna, and some other people. We’ve got some familiar weapons, you’ve got familiar bosses, and the bosses are huge. These bosses take up like a quarter of the screen. It’s just a really great experience. It looks like an amazing game. I think that’s really one of the surprises of the show is Hyrule Warriors and how well that game is coming out.
Justin: I think it’s really cool that you’re doing Hyrule Warriors, because I think it’s a good way to do a spin-off and have people experience playing as Zelda or as a different character without it being a mainline game, because I feel like if you did a mainline Zelda playing as Zelda, people would be like, “That’s cool but, I kind of want what we’re used to.” But with Hyrule Warriors, you kind of live that fantasy of playing as Zelda, Impa, or Midna without detracting from the main story.
Justin: Rounding out the interview, we have some fun questions. How did you feel about the Luigi death stare videos? You guys kind of mentioned it in the event, you had Luigi flying by. Did you guys know it was there, waiting for fans to find it?
Marc: [laughs] You know, that’s the fun thing about Nintendo properties; our fans are the best. They will find everything in the game that is there. We’ve just embraced it, [which] you saw in the Nintendo Digital Video. It’s great.
Justin: You should make some t-shirts of Luigi looking behind him.
Justin: Last question: What is your favorite Nintendo game or series, and why?
Marc: That’s the hardest question. I get that a lot. Because there are so many great franchises, and they’re all different. If you ask anyone at Nintendo, then they’re going to have a hard time telling you the answer. But I would say my go-to is probably Mario Kart. It’s so much fun! I love being able to play with other people. The 3DS I have with me has Mario Kart 7 in it. I’ve been playing it non-stop since launch. I still have it in cartridge form, and I never take it out. I have digital titles to, but I just play it and play it and play it and play it. And of course I am playing Mario Kart 8 now. For the longest time I was playing Mario Kart 7 strategically at certain times of the day, so I can play with the most people around the world. As soon as I go on the world-wide mode, and as soon as I see people from Japan hooking up to play against me, I’d be like, “Uh-oh, I’m really going to have some good competitors.” Usually they would win, and I would learn something from them. So Kart is one of my favorite franchises, and I’ve really been enjoying Mario Kart 8. Getting Kart in HD is great, racing upside down, getting your speed boosts in anti-gravity mode, who would think you could do that?
Justin: Thanks so much for your time Marc.
Matt: Thank you
Kaelyn: Thank you
Marc: Thanks, guys.