Nintendo Talks Mario Multiplayer And Keeping Zelda's Secrets

The president of Nintendo of America is sanguine about the lack of online play in what he calls the new Mario game for "even your most jaded" gamer. But it is the curiously under-hyped Zelda about which he's most excited.

Last Friday, Reggie Fils-Aime sat with Kotaku and got to discuss the unusual: Releases, within a month of each other, of new games in his company's two star series (no offense, Pokemon).

The Mario hype train was already trundling along by the time we spoke, charging through a Sunday release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a game Nintendo is marketing heavily as a four-player twist to the most classic of its video game franchises.

Fils-Aime, who chatted with me in his suite at New York's Waldorf Astoria, was ebullient. "I really do believe that New Super Mario Bros. Wii will satisfy even your most jaded, even your most competitive player," he said. "I'll tell you, there's nothing like playing New Super Mario Bros. with three of your friends. You're picking each other up and throwing each other into the lava pits and the crevasse. This game is the most fun."

The biggest concerns I had seen from Kotaku readers prior to the game's release has been among those who believe their lives don't allow for co-op shared-couch Mario adventuring. They'd either have to play the game alone or lament its lack of online play.

Fils-Aime maintained that the game is "superb" for single-players, but he admitted desire for online options. Nintendo's multiplayer racing and fighting series, Mario Kart and Smash Bros., did have online on the Wii. New Super Mario is the odd one out.

"This was a decision made purely by the developers," he said. "They believe this experience, in the same room, to be elbowing your friends and family members as you're playing the game [is ideal]. It was really their decision. I personally would have loved for it to be online capable as well, but having played the game, I really can't fault it for not being online multiplayer."

In just a few weeks Nintendo will release a Zelda game as well: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Fils-Aime refers to it as the game he is "personally looking forward to most this holiday season." Despite that enthusiasm it's among the Zelda games Nintendo has kept most quiet about. The company announced it in March, showed it at E3 in early June but offered little news about the game since, before publicizing in recent weeks that hero Link would spend this adventure alongside an active Princess Zelda this time.

Why keep so quiet about this game for so long?

Nintendo Talks Mario Multiplayer And Keeping Zelda's Secrets

"We believe that to tease fans over an extended period of time really doesn't do the gamer just service," he said. "So, we have always been mindful of: When's the launch date? When's the right time to share information? How do we break information? In particular, with this game, given the Zelda dynamic — which you find out about right at the start of the game — we really wanted to keep that secret and have it be a big reveal. That is something very new and very different in a Zelda game, [having] Princess Zelda essentially playing along with you. That's essentially what drove the strategy for how we reveal the information, when do we reveal the information and the fact that it had to be fairly late."

I related to Fils-Aime the discussion that the blog Press The Buttons started regarding the different box art for Spirit Tracks in Europe, Japan and America. For the American gamer, the box is darker and Link looks a bit tougher than he does on the package being sold in other regions.

"We just thought the package art we developed with [Nintendo's Japanese headquarters office] NCL that highlights the train and highlights the Phantom… was a great representation of the game," he said. Does it show that Americans want a tougher, more aggressive Link? "Not at all," he replied. But he did note that he was proud that Zelda sells more copies these days in the U.S. than in other regions, meaning Japan and Europe.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is in stores for the Wii now. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks will be released in North America on December 7 for the Nintendo DS. (And if Pokemon fans are feeling left out, a new downloadable Pokemon game is out today.)