Growing up, admission to the treehouse meant being part on an inner-most circle of friends. What’s said in the treehouse stays there. Inside jokes and code names are plentiful, and you wouldn’t dare try and explain them to outsiders.
Nintendo applies that concept with their own Treehouse. It’s located on the third floor of their offices, reserved for only a select group of employees. Members of the Treehouse team are responsible for taking the original Japanese versions of Nintendo games and adapting them for American gamers. The folks at Kotaku were lucky enough to take a tour of the Nintendo headquarters in Redmond, Wash. and visit the Treehouse, an opportunity most gamers could only dream of. Hit the jump to find out more!
Nintendo devised the Treehouse back in the early days of Donkey Kong Country. Treehouse manager and voice of Princess Peach Leslie Swan explains the origin:
“Because it was really confidential information and the visuals of that game were so confidential, they locked them away in a room where nobody else could have access and get into what they were working on. And Treehouse actually became a codename because Donkey Kong’s residence in the game was a treehouse.”
One of the biggest tasks the Treehouse is faced with is localization. Not everything translates well from Japanese to English. Some symbols are more meaningful in other cultures. For example, American holidays differ from those in Japan. Animal Crossing runs on real time, so the Treehouse needed to incorporate a calendar more consistent with western culture.
Translating A Link Between Worlds was particularly tedious to the team, as the game’s predecessor, A Link to the Past, was developed before the Treehouse came along. English writer for the Mario & Luigi RPGs and Treehouse member Nate Bihldorff elaborates on the challenge:
“The developer might have put together this enemy that looks like a Tektite, but they’re not called a Tektite in Japanese. So it may have this name that’s based on the original Japanese for Tektite, and we didn’t even localize that particular thing, so it’s not fresh in our mind, but that guy is doing a very specific callback to a very specific enemy that means something very specific, and we have to sniff down, go all the way down that path and find that same character and make sure we do the same—if they’re just using the ‘Tek,’ maybe we’ll use the ‘Tek’ and make it a Tekling. Whatever.”
Hours were spent naming one little monster. It’s the little details that really make the Nintendo brand stand out. So when you pick up your copy of A Link Between Worlds, take a moment to stop and think about all the work the Treehouse does to bring you the greatest game possible.