WHAT: A ten-minute clip from a documentary set inside the Nintendo offices in the early ‘90s heyday of the Super NES (or Super Famicom, if you’re old school).
WHO: Game historian and podcaster “Game Escape” unearthed the clip and added the English subtitles, but the director is Jean-Jacques Beineix, who used the footage in his 1994 documentary Otaku. This version comes from German television (so you’ve got English subtitles over a German dub of a French documentary featuring people speaking Japanese).
WHY WE CARE: Nintendo’s been in the news a lot lately–the rollercoastering stock prices around Pokemon Go, the forthcoming NES Classic Edition–so it’s got our attention right now anyway. This glimpse into the company during its brightest creative stretch is fascinating–Beineix sits down with Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Super Mario franchise, who explains that because the character was so small on the screen, he wanted to create something memorable. (“So I thought of an Italian with a mustache,” he explains.) The excerpt is full of fascinating details–Nintendo started out making card games in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but found that Japan’s culture of Confucianism meant that there were cultural elements that viewed games as a waste of time, which only changed during the country’s economic upturn; the games were priced to correspond to the average allowance of a Japanese child; Miyamoto didn’t view other game companies as competition, but consumer expectations–and highlights a (very, very ‘90s) glimpse of a company that was known during its heyday for playing its cards very close to the vest. Beineix’s camera crew deals with that secrecy as well–the consoles in the office only showcase games that are already out, and there are rooms they’re not allowed in–and in true French documentary fashion, they pepper Miyamoto with probing personal questions like, “Do you think you’re as creative now as you once were?”, which he answers with disarming frankness. It’s a fascinating look at a company that was extremely relevant to the era the documentary was filmed, and which–as recent news has revealed–remains important more than two decades down the line.