A portion of an Engadget interview with producer Hisashi Nogami,...
E: In a recent Iwata Asks interview with the Splatoon team at Nintendo EAD, you explained that after finishing your work on the Wii U, you set out to make a game that didn't fit into any established genre. You wanted to make something that wasn't a Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda. What's the biggest challenge in making something totally new at Nintendo?
HN: Rather than setting out to make something that didn't fit into any genre, I would say that we didn't want to get caught up in the idea of genre. In making the game, we started out by reconsidering our experiences making and playing games as well as our experiences in life. The sort of things we enjoyed doing while growing up. We wanted to make something that captured those past experiences.
I think it's true that, with Nintendo, in an established franchise like the Mario series, there are challenges and new things that need to be done with each new title. I think it's really true that in creating a game like Splatoon, we were basically starting from scratch and there were many more fundamental ideas and decisions that we needed to set in place before we could get going with the rest of development. That was what I considered to be the largest challenge we faced.
E: Just the design of the Inklings has that spirit. The T-shirts, the hair, the fashion, the guns themselves; everything is playful. They're very striking characters. The Inklings are also the very first original characters to come out of EAD since Pikmin in 2001. What's the secret to making a new Nintendo character?
HN: We didn't start [with] wanting to create new characters, but rather a new type of play experience. These new characters you see now followed naturally. I feel that no matter how interesting a character you create, if that character isn't fitting within the context of the gameplay that you're creating, it's just not going to have that much lasting appeal.
We knew that we wanted to have gameplay that featured switching back and forth between two forms that have these very different abilities just like the squid and humanoid forms the Inklings have. Their look is more a product of us granting them those abilities and really cementing those things as part of the game that we wanted to create.
This goes back to the points you mentioned with the hair, and fashion, and weapons that the character has. In designing this game, we also knew it was going to be a game that people would play online. In playing games online, when you have a character representing you -- and this applies most specifically to the humanoid form the characters have -- we thought that players would grow a greater attachment to those characters being able to customize the way you look when you go to face other people in battle.
Full interview here