Super Mario Bros. Crossover Xplained: An Interview with the Creator (Ninja Edition)
Andre Segers
May 25, 2010, 8:04 pm

If you haven't heard of Jay Pavlina's creation, Super Mario Bros. Crossover, it's high time you check it out (play it here). Jay set out to recreate the original Super Mario Bros., but with a twist, or rather, five of them. Not only can you play through as Mario, but also as one of several other stars of the NES era, such as Link, Samus, Simon Belmont, that guy from Contra, and even Mega Man! 

Although we had the chance to interview Jay a few weeks back, which you can read here, he's been incredibly busy since working on his latest addition: Ryu Hayabusa, of the Ninja Gaiden series. We decided to follow-up with Jay Pavlina and find out more about how Ryu plays, and what's in store for fans of Super Mario Bros. Crossover.

GameXplain: First off, congratulations on the continued success of Super Mario Bros. Crossover. Ryu’s trailer looks amazing. When can we expect to play as him?

Jay Pavlina: Thanks. I’m glad people like the game and are excited about playing as Ryu. I’m trying to get the next update out within the first two weeks of June. There will be an official website for the game launched with the update.
GameXplain: As we discussed previously, several characters were cut from the original game, including Luigi, SOPHIA the battletank, and of course Ryu Hayabusa. What inspired you to finish Ryu's inclusion? Was there any reason why you chose him over the other characters?
Jay Pavlina: I chose Ryu because his gameplay is the most varied. Being able to climb on walls adds a new dimension to the game. Also, I wanted the next character to get people excited so that they would know I plan to continue updating the game. Ryu was also the most requested character, but I was going to put him in anyway. Consider Ryu Hayabusa my thank you to all the fans of the game.
GameXplain: Judging by the trailer, it looks like Ryu kicks some serious ass. What’s it like to play as him? Is he now your favorite character?
Jay Pavlina: I know that people sometimes say it feels like a different game with each character you play, but with Ryu, it TOTALLY feels like a different game. I’ve been playing with him exclusively for about two weeks, and then I decided to play as the other characters to make sure they still worked, and I couldn’t believe how different it felt. I was happy, because it didn’t feel different in a bad way. It just feels like there’s a lot more variety with Ryu as a playable character.
Ryu’s climbing controls are awesome, and they’re very easy to use. I was sometimes frustrated with the original Ninja Gaiden games with how overly complicated or annoying the climbing was. With my version of Ryu, you can easily attach or detach to a wall at any time, and when he’s near the top of a wall, just press the jump button and he’ll jump on top of it. He can also move backwards while in the air, unlike the original.
Ryu also has a variety of attacks and a very adaptable fighting style. If you don’t want to get too close to the enemy, you can throw shuriken, and you can even throw them while climbing. If melee attacks are more your style, you can walk right up to them and give them a few slashes with his sword. I find that it’s most effective to combine his close-range and-long range attacks.
The most important thing when designing Ryu was that he feels like a ninja. I think you can see from the trailer that I accomplished my goal. And yes, he’s my new favorite character.
GameXplain: Any fears he may be too powerful?
Jay Pavlina: I’m already getting a lot of people commenting on that. I know he looks over-powered in the trailer, but that’s because the trailer was designed to make him look like a badass. Personally, I don’t think he’s overpowered at all. His attacks are weak, and there are limitations on his windmill shuriken attack that you can’t see in the trailer. He also moves very fast, so it’s easy to make a mistake. I think people will be surprised at how many times they die while playing as Ryu.
To tell you the truth, I think Ryu is the most advanced character in the game and only the best players will be able to master him. I make it look easy because I’m a very advanced player. He’s not for beginners. I put several limitations on Ryu because when I first designed him he was too powerful. I promise he won’t break the game.
And on a side note, if you play as Ryu with your keyboard, you will die. It is practically a requirement to use a gamepad while playing as Ryu.
GameXplain: Were there any lessons you learned during the game’s original development that helped when it came to implementing Ryu?
Jay Pavlina: Ryu was a very difficult character to program and animate. I would not have had the skill to put this character into the game earlier, so I’m glad I didn’t try it. I’ve spent at least a hundred hours working on him, and he still has a few kinks to be worked out. There’s actually a bug in the trailer, but it’s nothing major and most people probably won’t even notice it.
I wanted him to feel as close to the original as possible, and I had to change my entire system for animating just to make it match. Also, it was pretty challenging implementing his climbing abilities, but I just kept on experimenting until I got it right. I used a lot of things I learned from Link’s boomerang when programming Ryu’s windmill shuriken attack. The windmill shuriken looks a lot better than the boomerang, and it moves pretty much just like it does in the original.
GameXplain: As I recall, it took an entire year to finish the original version of Super Mario Bros. Crossover. Did this experience reduce the time and effort it took to implement Ryu versus the original characters?
Jay Pavlina: Yes, it was way easier to get Ryu into the game since I already put six other characters in. I was still surprised at how much effort it was though. I thought it would the sort of thing where I could just plug him into everything I already built, but it didn’t work that way. I had to make several modifications to make him work the way I wanted.
But even with a few hiccups along the way, it was still way easier putting him in because of my previous experience. Working on this game gets easier every day. The cool thing is that as my knowledge grows, I can do cooler things. So as doing simpler things becomes easier, I can take on much more complicated tasks. I have to admit, I’m kind of afraid to keep working on the game because I know the crazy things I want to be in it, but I’m also excited because maybe I’ll become good enough to make the game I want. I’ve been able to achieve my vision so far, so I plan on continuing, and I just deal with problems as they come. Every problem only needs to be solved once, and I gain from every challenge I overcome.
GameXplain: I found the Ryu trailer to be hilarious and very-well edited, which shouldn’t be a surprise given your background in film. The nod to Smash Brothers was especially clever. Do you enjoy putting those together? And do you have any plans to produce more video content for the game?

Jay Pavlina: Oh God yes, I love making videos. I make them for all sorts of reasons, but it mainly helps me to relax. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing with all of this game development stuff, but I know exactly what I’m doing when it comes to videos. I’ve already made 4 videos about the game before I made the trailer, and you’ll see that I get more and more absurd in each video. That’s because I’m starting to get comfortable and being more myself. And I’m a pretty silly person. My passion is making people laugh. And I’m a big fan of video games, so I’ll make tons of videos relating to games. I have some great ideas for videos relating to Super Mario Bros. Crossover, so stay tuned.
The funny thing is, I don’t even have a video camera because I had to sell it to pay rent. Those videos were made with my laptop’s camera. I’m hoping to get a video camera soon so I can do some cool stuff. And I’m glad people appreciate the Smash Bros and Ninja Gaiden references in the trailer. I like putting in little things like that.
GameXplain: Alright, so I've picked up on a 'subtle' attribute of yours--you hate bugs! I forgot to ask last time: were there any particularly memorable bugs that cropped up during the development of Super Mario Bros. Crossover? And did any new ones rear their ugly head when adding Ryu?
Jay Pavlina: Since my game has been a success, my opinion of bugs has changed. I love watching youtube videos and seeing people experience bugs. I find it hilarious when someone is playing the game and they start a level, and the ground disappears and they die. I made a joke in one of my videos that I should put more bugs into the game just to be mean. That would be funny, but don’t worry, I won’t put more bugs in. And I’ve already fixed most of the bugs in the new version.

There were tons of bugs during development, and some of them were funny. And a lot of times when I’m working on the game, my girlfriend is in the room with me, and we joke around a lot. If you’ve seen my videos where I’m playing the game and making comments, I do the same thing while I program.
There was a really funny bug when I was working on Bowser. I was testing out the game as usual, but when I got to Bowser, he freaked out and started chasing me. I’m not kidding. And I started screaming because I thought the game came to life. He was chasing me all around the level and his jump code was already in the game, so he was even jumping over gaps following me. It freaked me out, but it was hilarious and my girlfriend always made fun of me after that saying my creations were rebelling against me.
There was also a pretty funny bug I experienced just a few days ago while working on Ryu. The time ran out while I was climbing a wall, and Ryu died and floated off into the sky. And of course, my girlfriend commented that he was flying to heaven.
When I’m experiencing bugs, I always blame the characters themselves instead of my own programming errors. If I can’t get Mega Man to climb a vine, I threaten him and tell him he better do what I say or I’ll take him out of the game. If the turtles won’t fly correctly, I curse them out. Talking to the characters as if they are real helps me to enjoy working on the game more. I’m sure it sounds like I have a psychological disorder, but if it helps me to make the game, then it’s all good.
GameXplain: I have to that Ryu's finished, who's next? Do you plan on adding more content/characters, or was Ryu an exception?
Jay Pavlina: I put in Ryu right away to show people that the game is going to be updated. I plan on updating the game until it reaches my original vision. The game is in a very early state right now, that’s why I was surprised how many people like it. But I guess you guys have no way of knowing what it will ultimately be. There will be a lot of content added.

GameXplain: Due to their similarities, have you considered expanding the Super Mario Bros. Crossover concept to include the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, more commonly known to US gamers as The Lost Levels?
Jay Pavlina: Well that’s a very interesting question, isn’t it? I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.
GameXplain: With Super Mario Bros. Crossover having been out for almost a month now, how are you enjoying your newfound fame? Are you still surprised by the extremely positive reception?
Jay Pavlina: The first week after I released the game was very rough. Most people probably dream about their “big break,” but when it actually happens, it’s not what you expect. It’s fun to have everyone’s attention on you, but there are two sides to it: some good, some bad. Tons of people were making me business offers, making requests, wanting to collaborate with me, telling me my game made their dreams come true, and some people telling me I’m stealing other people’s work and my game sucks. All of that attention can be very stressful if you don’t know how to handle it. After thinking deeply about it, I figured out how to deal with it a lot better.
I try to approach most of it with a sense of humor now. And there are tons of benefits to having a lot of people watching you. For example, now I can make stupid videos and people will watch them. And basically anything I do now will get attention, which is good, because I have a lot of previous work to show and future projects planned. And I kind of like to mess with people, so I put Ninja Gaiden music at the end of my last video before I released the trailer to hint at the new character. And I’m sure there’s a way I could make money off of the attention, but I haven’t really looked into it much yet, especially because I don’t want to make money directly off of the game for legal reasons.
You can only be surprised for so long before you accept reality. So I’m not surprised at the extremely positive reaction any more. And I’m not surprised that this trailer is getting a lot of attention too. I accept that this is how it’s going to be for me from now on. People will be watching what I do and expecting a lot from me, and that’s fine, because I think I can continue to give people stuff they want and stuff they want but don’t realize it yet.
GameXplain: What’s next for you? Last time we spoke, you alluded to a videogame parody film you’re making. Has there been any progress, or is Super Mario Bros. Crossover still consuming your life?
Jay Pavlina: I decided to focus my attention on Super Mario Bros. Crossover for now because that’s what people want. And I can still do funny videos during that time, but they won’t be as elaborate as I was going to do. But seriously, the movie I wrote is so funny. I have to make it at some point. I won’t allow myself to die without that movie being made, so I can guarantee you I will make it at some point unless someone murders me unexpectedly. It’s too funny not to exist. The cool thing is that if I do find a way to make money, I can use it to improve the production quality of the movie.
But for now, Super Mario Bros. Crossover will be my main focus. I have a lot of videos planned about the game as well, and some of them are really funny. I think you’ll really enjoy what I have in store for you. And the game is going to keep getting more awesome as time goes on. A few people have been asking to see my short films, so I do plan on putting those up, but I’ll probably wait a while. I’ll give people what they want, and for now, everyone wants more Super Mario Bros. Crossover.
Well, I'm excited to see what's in store! For more information about Super Mario Bros. Crossover, be sure to visit Jay Pavlina’s site,
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