Like other 2D Mario games, the upcomingSuper Mario Bros. Wonderfeatures online multiplayer. But it also introduces a new feature to the series that would allow solo players to feel like they were interacting with others, which the team dubbed “casual connection.”
In the developer’s new pair of blogs, theWonderteam described it as such:if two solo players are playing the same course at the same time, they can connect and play together. The other player is represented as a shadow, and they can interact with each other, exchange items, and help progress through the course.
This form of asynchronous multiplayer is already common in games likeDeath Stranding orDevil May Cry 5. It’s a less stressful form of cooperation that fits with previous 2D Mario games likeNew Super Mario Bros. Uand allows some onlineprotection for Mario’s kid-focused audience.
Director Shiro Mouri acknowledged how online games can often lead to inappropriate behavior, and wanted to “create fun online gameplay free from those sorts of worries.”Sound designer Koji Kondo called the casual connection feature “the most significant innovation we’ve made for this title.”
“I’m no good at competing, so I’ve mainly been playing NES games that don’t involve online matches,”Kondo admitted. “With this casual connection, I feel more comfortable stepping into the world of online this time.”
TheWonderstaff said they had numerous mechanics to make the game more challenging (or fun) to play, either solo or with others. But one idea they eventually had to scrap was live commentary similar to real-life sports commentators, or inStreet Fighter 6from this past summer.
Designer Koichi Hayashida revealed the team spent “about six months”genuinely working on adding live commentary to the game. They wanted to have the commentary match the player’s actions in real-time, but admitted it eventually “didn’t feel right” because they couldn’t help but overthink things.
“Even though we’d added various voices, questions like, ‘Who’s doing this commentary?’ started to pop up amongst the team,”he laughed.
Mouri went on to reveal that said voices ranged from a standard “generic” one (like a newscaster) to a “tsundere”voice (someone with a frosty exterior with occasional glimpses of affection). “According to our playtest records, quite a few people were switching to the Tsundere commentary.”
What also led to its omission, saidproducer Takashi Tezuka, was that voice variations “would’ve involved a tremendous amount of work.”But the feature wasn’t completely scuttled, and he revealed the staff later brought on a full-time staffer to dedicate themselves to it so it can presumably be used in another project.
The live commentary idea led to the in-game Talking Flowers, which offer commentary and hintsto players throughout courses. Because flowers are so commonplace in Mario, this was a better justification for in-game commentary, and like the casual connection, would help solo players feel less alone.
“If you were all alone in a course, it might feel like it was you against the world,”noted Hayashida, “but the Talking Flowers speak to you at just the right time.”
“We thought the gameplay might be more enjoyable if the Talking Flowers speak to you and you can resonate with what they’re saying,” continued Tezuka. “We hope as many people as possible will give it a listen.”
TheSuper Mario Bros. Wonderteam also gave their thoughts on the in-game character badges that modify gameplay, and using 3D Mario games to influence this new title’s direction. You can read their musings on that (and more) here and here.