Shigeru Miyamoto's 'Bad' Game

Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's lead creator of Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong, was recently showing me Pikmin 3, but there was something he'd just said that I had to follow up on. "I have to ask, Mr Miyamoto, you said you have made a bad game. What was the bad game you made?"

I wondered how he'd reply. He was responding in Japanese, at first, to a translator. I don't speak Japanese, so I had time to ponder. What game might he mention?

The underachieving Super Mario Sunshine? It wasn't that bad.

The disappointing Yoshi's Story? Was he even involved in that?

The iffy Wii Music, which I know he'd been really invested in?

Maybe some game I'd never heard of?

Maybe he'd just dodge this question?

"I wouldn't say that I've ever made a bad game, per se, but a game I think we could have done more with was Zelda II: The Adventure of Link," he said.

OK. Way more specific and high-profile than I was expecting!

For you youngsters out there, he was naming the second ever Zelda game, which was released on a disc on the Famicom Disk System in 1987 in Japan and on a cartridge on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988 in North America and Europe. The game was radically different than any other Zelda before or since, as it alternated between a vast overworld viewed from above to towns and dungeons presented from a side-scrolling perspective. This Zelda game had experience points and levelling up. Miyamoto was 34 when the game came out (I was 11). He's 60 now.

"When we're designing games, we have our plan for what we're going to design but in our process it evolves and grows from there," Miyamoto said. "In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, unfortunately all we ended up creating was what we had originally planned on paper."

"So that's a rule of thumb," I asked, "that if you find yourself at that point, you know the idea wasn't successful? Or is that you didn't give yourself enough time?"

"I think specifically in the case of Zelda II we had a challenge just in terms of what the hardware was capable of doing," he said.

"I'm just curious," I pressed, "what would you have liked that game to have been like?"

"So one thing, of course, is, from a hardware perspective, if we had been able to have the switch between the scenes speed up, if that had been faster, we could have done more with how we used the sidescrolling vs. the overhead [view] and kind of the interchange between the two. But, because of the limitations on how quickly those scenes changed, we weren't able to."

That part of Miyamoto's reply puzzled me, because I hadn't remembered the transitions taking that long. A YouTube video of the original Famicom Disk System version of the game shows, however, that there was a few-second delay going back and forth.

"The other thing," he said, "is it would have been nice to have had bigger enemies in the game, but the Famicom/NES hardware wasn't capable of doing that. Certainly, with hardware nowadays you can do that and we have done that, but of course nowadays creating bigger enemies takes a lot of effort."

"I'm sure people would love for you to return to Zelda II with [Zelda lead producer] Mr Aonuma at some point," I said.

For now, Miyamoto's all about the soon-to-be-released Wii U game Pikmin 3. And the Zelda franchise is booked with a fall remake of The Wind Waker, a sequel to the Super Nintendo's A Link to the Past and an eventual brand-new Zelda game for the Wii U.

Coming tomorrow: Miyamoto On The Clamor To Make Something New


    I loved Zelda II and a sequel would be fantastic. While Zelda II was a little rough around the edges with some more polish it would make a fantastic 3DS game, even if it was eShop only.

      It was made available to gamers via the 3DS Ambassador Program:

    I got through Zelda 1 recently with some help from a guide. I tried to do the same thing with Zelda II but I was just getting slaughtered and gave up. That game is Dark Souls for the NES.

    Modern games have softened me up too much.

      there are so so many games that are dark souls for the NES :P
      Kid Icarus, Mega Man, Battletoads to name a few. Hell, basically any game from that era that used a life system could qualify by today's standards.

        Contra! I know people can beat that game but I can't for the life of me beat the first few levels

    I was ready to come in here and rage a little after seeing the title.

    I love Zelda 2, first Zelda game I had and I made some good friends as a kid solely because of the game.
    I would love to see another Zelda game in the same style, the side-scrolling combat and maybe even those bigger enemies Miyamoto mentioned.

    I got my first chance to have a go of Zelda II with the GCN Zelda Collection. At first I thought it was really cool, I'd played other 2D Zeldas but with this one the towns and everything reminded me of OoT and I kind of saw how things evolved into what we had in the 3D games. But then I got stuck and couldn't figure out where to go at all and it seemed like everything was a dead end and I gave up :P

    I did not like Zelda 2 anywhere near as much as the first one when I was a lad. I still remember that I could not kill shadow link at the end. Someone told me back then if you beat him you only got the first piece of the Triforce and had to go through the game two more times. Don't know if it's true though.

      No, that's not true. But here's a hint: When fighting Shadow Link, just stand on the far-left side of the room and swipe forward like a mad thing. He'll go down in no time!

        If only I got that advice a quarter of a century ago. I could have actually finished the game. Man I feel old.

    The disappointing Yoshi Story? That game was great, what are you talking about?

      Hell yes it was! I'm glad someone defended it, I love Yoshi's Story.

        That music makes me so god damn sad and I don't know why. It was the best thing since Yoshi's Island.

          EeeeeeeaaahhhhhhhOooooooo, EeeeeeeaaahhhhhhhOoooooooooooooooo

      Great?? Seriously? That game was for babies. I can still remember vividly the feelings of disappointment and betrayal as I played that game. (Although I reckon it's still better than Yoshi's Island DS)

        That game was for babies.

        No shit, it was set in the Baby Mario universe. Did you not play Yoshi's Island?

        Despite the whole Baby Mario theme, Yoshi's Story was actually reasonably difficult. It's harder than the "mature" games that feel the need to tell you where to go and what to do next every single time you complete a tiny objective.

        That's Nintendo for you; appears for all audiences, still puts more faith in you as a player than anyone else.

        Last edited 19/06/13 4:45 pm

        In what way was the game for babies? There were some serious challenges in that game, especially in the later levels, or hunting down the special Yoshis.

          "For babies," in that all you needed to do to finish a level was eat 30 pieces of fruit. (I think it was 30)
          "For babies," in that you could only play 5 (or 6?) levels before the game finished.
          "For babies," in that the enemies looked like they belonged on Play School.
          "For babies," in that... I mean, just listen to the damn music!!

            So you mean the aesthetics were light and playful, and the gameplay happened quickly in bite sized pieces.
            Let's ignore the fact that there were 24 courses which could be unlocked, some shockingly hard platforming towards the end of the game, plenty of secrets to uncover, and you could make the game as hard as you wanted with extra challenges, such as by searching out all 30 melons in each stage.
            Perhaps it is more suited to a modern handheld experience, but by no means was the game for babies.

    So they wanted the game to go from overhead to sidescrolling? Is it a coincidence that A Link Between Worlds is doing that?

    Lol he picks my favorite game his made as his worst? The only thing that gets to me in Zelda 2 is the repetitive castle music, everything else about that game is totally awesome.

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