After being left thoroughly impressed by Luigi’s Mansion 3’s E3 2019 demo, I got to chat with the game’s two leading developers: director Yoshihito Ikebata, and Nintendo’s legendary Kensuke Tanabe who is overseeing the project (and others).
In a wide-ranging chat on the game and their work at Nintendo, I got to ask about features left on the cutting room floor, the possibility of Labo support, and how online play will work (following confusion over Nintendo’s offering for Super Mario Maker 2).
But my favourite parts of the interview were where things got, undeniably, a little silly. Prompted by a much-reported E3 remark from Nintendo of America’s Bill Trinen, I asked the pair why they thought Luigi was so popular with a female audience. I also pressed Tanabe on the current status of a character he was involved in the creation of – Birdo – and another upcoming Nintendo sequel he happens to be looking after – Metroid Prime 4.
What did you want to change from Luigi’s Mansion 2 for this sequel?
Tanabe: I wanted to change the setting. And, for me personally, I was not a huge fan of the boss battles in Luigi’s Mansion 2. I want people to feel excited fighting them, that’s something I was focused on.
Ikebata: We were really fortunate to have so many people play Luigi’s Mansion 2, so making the third version – it had to be different. This is why we added the new action elements like the Slam and Burst. In addition, we have new hardware from the 3DS, and I wanted to take advantage of being able to hand a Joy-Con to someone else.
And why a hotel, not another mansion?
Tanabe: With the overall hotel structure and different floors, we wanted players to be able to visualise how the hotel was set up. So, for example, if there’s water dripping through the ceiling, maybe there’s a bathtub upstairs and you should look up there. Having that kind of three-dimensional exploration is something we put a lot of focus on.
One idea was the puzzle gimmick of turning on a TV in one room and being able to emerge via a TV in another room – and go back and forth between them. We had planned that warp feature throughout the game but ultimately we weren’t able to put a TV in every room, so we didn’t do it throughout the hotel.
The main method of exploring the hotel is the elevator, but its buttons are missing and you have to get them by defeating bosses. It doesn’t necessarily go up in order, either. You may find yourself on the seventh floor, then the third floor, jumping around.
We’ve seen a medieval area, and on Treehouse Live you showed a movie set – how far can you push the hotel idea without it feeling too wacky?
Ikebata: We thought that as long as we maintained the elevator and hall areas, we’d be able to maintain the look and feel of a hotel. Because we had that foundation, with each floor we tried to make it as unexpected and even un-hotel-like as possible.
Tanabe: There was nothing too wacky, but initially we were thinking about the hotels you see in Hollywood, with rollercoasters going through them. We were thinking about it, but it did not ultimately get used. We wanted to make things even weirder, so we moved away from that.
We’ve seen King Boo is back. What’s he up to this time?
Tanabe: King Boo has been defeated by Luigi at least twice in previous games, so this time he comes back with a vengeance. This time the whole gang comes to the hotel – they’ve received an invitation, but it’s a trap. He captures them all in portraits, except for Luigi, who somehow escapes. Now, he’s coming back to save everybody despite being very terrified.
I feel like maybe Luigi and co. should be warier of strange invitations by now?
Ikebata: The invitation looked pretty real.
Tanabe: There was nothing weird about it.
I would have my doubts.
Tanabe: That’s wonderful for you. [Laughs] The Mario family does not really doubt.
A couple of quick questions, as I know people have been wondering – can you play online with both strangers and friends?
Tanabe: You can do both – play with friends or those you don’t know.
And have you thought about Nintendo Labo support?
Tanabe: [Pause, laughs] Do you think it should be done?
Yes. Have you thought about how it might be used?
Tanabe: Yes… maybe if there’s an opportunity down the line!
Apart from feeding my obsessive need to collect everything in the game, what can you use the money you pick up for?
Ikebata: You can buy things like the golden bone [a once-per-level item from Luigi’s Mansion 2 which let Polterpup revive you if you died]. You’re able to purchase that in-game. You can also buy hints which tell you where to go find the game’s collectible gems.
Polterpup is great – I’ve already seen memes online about how you can indeed pet the dog.
Ikebata: The development staff, including myself, are huge fans of Polterpup. We just really wanted to put him in the game. Polterpup has historically always been more of a handful – he gets into stuff and causes trouble. But in this game he tries to help Luigi and provide him hints. He’s a support-type character.
When you, presumably, free Mario, Peach and the Toads, do they support Luigi as well?
Ikebata: Hmmmmmm… no.
Tanabe: When you rescue them, there’s a place called the safe camp. They go there and wait.
So, we were all in the room the other day when [Nintendo of America exec] Bill Trinen mentioned how Luigi’s Mansion – and really Luigi himself – was particularly popular with a female audience. Why do you think that is?
Ikebata: At least from what I know, the comments I see online, people say he’s constantly terrified, very comical, and it’s adorable.
Tanabe: When I heard that I wondered if it was accurate, but if Bill said so I guess it must be. Of course, Mario is universally loved. But Luigi is a little different, perhaps.
Mario has Peach, while Luigi is an eligible bachelor?
Tanabe: [laughs] It might be that, I don’t know.
Ikebata: Mario is a star but Luigi is a bit more timid – a little bit more relatable, realistic. Maybe it’s that.
Mr. Tanabe, you have a long career at Nintendo spanning more than 100 games. Your first, though, was Doki Doki Panic, and it’s here a character very close to Eurogamer’s heart – Birdo – first appeared. We miss Birdo. Is there anything you can do to get Birdo in Mario Kart?
Tanabe: That’s probably a better question for [Hideki] Konno-san, who’s in charge of the Mario Kart franchise. In the games I make, Birdo does appear. She was in Paper Mario [Color Splash].
Is Birdo in Luigi’s Mansion 3?
Tanabe: No, I’m sorry.
Tanabe: Birdo is such a unique character that you have to be careful, when you put them in the game, in case it does not match the mood.
It is a horror game. Some people might find her scary.
Tanabe: [laughs] In the future I will put Birdo somewhere.
And lastly, Mr. Tanabe I can’t not ask you about a certain other project you’re working on – Metroid Prime 4. We haven’t seen anything of it at all this E3. Do you have an update for fans waiting patiently for it?
Tanabe: I shouldn’t say, it’s a little tricky… To be completely honest, at this E3 I just want people to pay attention to Luigi. If I mention something about Metroid Prime 4, people will focus on that. But when the time comes, I am so ready to talk about it!