2013 is going to be a big year for Mario’s little brother, Luigi, so much so that Nintendo has already taken to calling it “The Year of Luigi.” Never really one to steal the spotlight from Mario, Luigi has always been a secondary character for the franchise, but, that still makes him arguably one of the biggest names in video games… ever. Between the release of “Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon” on March 24, the upcoming “New Super Luigi U” expansion pack, and his role in a host of other Nintendo games on both the Wii U and 3DS, Luigi is set to have an unprecedented presence this year, which should make his faithful followers, both inside and outside of Nintendo very happy. We recently had a chance to ask Luigi’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, some questions about the origins of everyone’s favorite green-shirted plumber, and we learned that there’s a lot more to Luigi than you might think.
Multiplayer: At what point did you realize Luigi would develop into his own character, and be more than just a palette swap for Mario?
Shigeru Miyamoto: The definitive moment was probably “Luigi’s Mansion” for the GameCube, but even before that, the first opportunity for Luigi to change was “Super Mario Bros. 2.” That’s when we decided to give him a slightly different jump from Mario, and make him a little bit taller, and a little bit lighter. Then with “Super Mario World,” we really went though the artwork for the game and started to make him look very different.
Multiplayer: In “Super Mario Bros. 2″ Luigi started to act differently, is the fact that he is kind of based off the character Mama from “Doki Doki Panic” one of the reasons that he became a lanky, tall character with a floaty jump?
Miyamoto: With “Doki Doki Panic,” that was a game with four characters that had different abilities, and in bringing the Mario characters into that game, it make sense for Luigi to fill the role that you mentioned. But, actually, before that, in Japan we made a different version of “Super Mario Bros. 2,” now generally known in the U.S. as “The Lost Levels,” and in that game we had a Luigi mode, where he jumped differently, and performed differently. So, even though the art was the same that was the first time that you saw slightly different abilities.
Multiplayer: Do you think that the red and green colors, the two that were chosen for Mario and Luigi, are important, or were they just products of the technological limitations at the time?
Miyamoto: I think that the red and green choices were the right ones to make, especially where “Mario Bros.” is a two-player game, and you needed to be able to tell which one you were controlling. But, in fact, as you note, the system at the time had severe limitations as to the number of different colors that could be used in the palette. What we ended up having to do was look at the green of the turtle characters in that game, the shells were green, and the color of their faces was essentially somewhat skin tone, so we were able to use the same color palette as the turtle on the Luigi character. So, because of the limitations, we had to make that decision, but looking back on it now, it appears to have been the right decision to make.
Of course, as those limitations have gone away, and we’ve had more colors to use, Luigi is not only green, but he also has his own blue shirt. In “Mario Bros.,” he originally had a white shirt, but now he has a blue shirt, and we were able to make him a little bit taller and things like that to differentiate him.
Multiplayer: So is it safe to say that Luigi has a little bit of koopa in him?
Miyamoto: [Laughs] I don’t think so.
Multiplayer: Luigi has appeared to play a lesser role in more recent Mario games, say as an unlockable character after you complete the game, as opposed to a main character, how do you factor his role into Mario’s games from the beginning?
Miyamoto: Of course, when we are developing the Mario games, we always start off with Mario as the main character, and so the focus is that Mario is the main, and then Luigi becomes a sub character. Because he’s a sub character we often look for those other roles that he can fulfill. For example, the Super Guide in the “New Super Mario” games, we see Luigi appearing in those hint modes, but also because Luigi has a higher jump, but also he slips a lot more. That makes him a little bit of a harder character to use, so that is why you may not be able to as him until later.
Certainly in multiplayer modes, Luigi is always one of the first characters to appear, and I’m fairly certain that he is there in the multiplayer mode in “Super Mario 64″ for the Nintendo DS, as one of the first characters you can play. But, you know, certainly I don’t think that once the Year of Luigi is over that is going to change when or how Luigi will appear in a single player mode.
Of course we do have “Super Luigi U” coming to the Wii U, and certainly that will change his role in that game.
Multiplayer: In “Super Luigi U,” does Luigi have his own storyline, or does he just have the levels available to him?
Miyamoto: He doesn’t get his own story, but all of the levels have been redesigned for Luigi, so it should be a pretty good role for him.
Multiplayer: Does Mario make an appearance at all?
Miyamoto: I can’t say yet.
There are some people that say that they want Mario to appear, but Mr. Tezuka is saying that he’s not going to let Mario into this game.
Multiplayer: I look forward to seeing who wins that. Going back to Luigi’s original mechanics – how was his higher jump, and sliding run determined to be his unique set of mechanics?
Miyamoto: In creating a game, one thing that you do is you establish a number of different parameters that set the framework for what that gameplay is going to be. In trying to determine those parameters we looked at a number of different varieties of Marios, and how they performed. Ultimately, we made the decision on the Mario that you see in the original “Super Mario Bros.” games. After completing the primary development on the game, and determining if we were to create another variety of parameters through which people could play the game, what would it be? In looking back at the work that we had done, we decided on the parameters that became the settings for Luigi’s jump and slide.
So that’s actually what makes the character interesting, it brings this new style to the courses that you’ve played through and already mastered once as Mario.
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