During Comic-Con 2019, Death Stranding director Hideo Kojima took part in a panel meant to focus on his role as a storyteller. But during the panel, the video game auteur also gave fans some more info about his upcoming game, including the inspiration for some of the traversal elements in Death Stranding.
Although Death Stranding has many iconic elements and imagery, one gameplay mechanic that has stood out to players is the collapsible ladder. During the latest Death Stranding trailer, protagonist Sam (Norman Reedus) can be seen taking the ladder and using it to ascend a rocky hill. It’s a very Kojima-esque mechanic but as it turns out, the developer conceived of it as an homage to the early days of gaming.
During the Hideo Kojima Comic-Con panel, the Death Stranding director explained that the ladder and rope being used as traversal items pays homage to the early days of gaming, where titles like Super Mario and Donkey Kong ruled. In these games, Kojima explained, players would ascend to new heights by ladder or rope and so he wanted to develop a game that had a similar approach, albeit with a futuristic slant.
Kojima doesn’t imagine that the bulk of Death Stranding is like Donkey Kong, but that one mechanic is adapted to a 3D space and inspired by those older games. Obviously, there is much more to the ladder in Death Stranding than in Super Mario, but it’s interesting to hear that Kojima took inspiration from those games when designing it. At a glance, the ladder seems like a classic Kojima mechanic, not unlike the Fulton system in the Metal Gear Solid series, which airlifted items away via a balloon system.
At the same time, there is always a deeper meaning behind almost every element in a Kojima game. As one of the few visionary creators in the game development industry, Kojima tries to design games with thought and care put into everything from the story to the characters to the environment. So it only feels fitting that he would have a long explanation behind an expanding ladder beyond just that it looks cool.
Death Stranding releases November 8, 2019 for PS4.