Screenshot: Nintendo (VGMuseum)

Prior to her interview at E3 this week with Splatoon 2 producer Hisashi Nogami, Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio asked me if there was anything I wanted to know.

“Yeah,” I said. “Ask how Yoshi’s Island got its hand-drawn style.” Nogami, you see, was credited as a character designer on that legendary 1995 Super Nintendo game, which was finally re-released as part of the SNES Classic last year. Surely he’d have some anecdotes to add about how they pulled off that gorgeous, unique look.

As it turns out, he did. And the answer is: very carefully, pixel by pixel.

I’ll let Nogami take it from here.

Hisashi Nogami.
Photo: Nintendo

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“I was actually an artist on the Yoshi’s Island team myself. The person who was my supervisor at the time, who was leading the artwork side of things, Mr. [Shigefumi] Hino, said, ‘Why don’t we try to do this hand-drawn style this time?’”

“We did a number of trials where we’d think, okay, let’s do some actual hand-drawn drawings, scan those, and then figure out how we can take these scanned images and turn them into Super Nintendo graphics.”

“After repeating that process a number of times, we kind of hit on a way we could take these scanned-in images and use what was in our head during the process of drawing them and what we were seeing on the page to actually get them on screen and keep them looking like hand-drawn images.”

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“What that involves is, when we made images for the Super Nintendo, we’re actually filling in spaces. In this case it was a pixel at a time, basically to match the scanned image we’d hand drawn, and carefully fill them in to make sure they still looked like that. It was kind of like I had a hand-drawing rendering engine in my head that was guiding my hand while I was filling in pixels, to make sure they looked that way.”

“It took quite a bit of time.”