Sakurai on Smash Bros. Ultimate – his health, choosing bosses and Spirits, new stages, much more
Were the Spirit Battles themselves based on the Spirits team’s proposals? What about your own ideas?
Sakurai: They largely came from the Spirits team’s proposals, yes. There were a few things that I came up with, but they weren’t much. I primarily oversaw maintaining the game’s balance as opposed to ideas – how a Spirit would feel a certain way while actually playing the game, that kind of thing.
So, the Spirits team was responsible for all sorts of things like adjusting the game’s balancing, looking around for material to use, and then verifying those materials.
Sakurai: That and the game’s adventure mode. It was a tough job, but they basically were able to manage through setting parameters.
I get the impression that in terms of order, it started with Spirits… “World of Light” would come from that, right?
Sakurai: Right. Speaking of “World of Light,” from the get-go Kirby wouldn’t appear as an enemy – he hadn’t been captured!
That’s right… (laughs)
Sakurai: That being said, he appears more in the latter half. My line of thinking was that Kirby was unknowingly being analyzed the whole time; out of all the fighters, Kirby was the easiest one to apply to the Spirits – he suits all of the round characters. I thought it might be a bit strange to completely exclude round characters, though, so I was more lenient in the second half of the mode. I did my best to keep them out of the first half.
Speaking of fighters that could apply to a lot of characters, as I was playing, I found myself thinking that Lucina seemed to be easy to use in that regard.
Sakurai: When you’re fighting the Spirit of a female “Fire Emblem” character it tends to be a fight against Lucina.
There are a lot of female knights, after all.
Sakurai: For example, Female Robin would be suitable for the Spirit of the magic-user Tharja; that being said, Lucina’s color variation and the pattern on her cape also suit her. So, I chose Lucina instead – that was also a kind of situation that came up.
We could delve into this more and talk about it forever…
Sakurai: Digging any deeper into it would turn this into a day-long course!
This is something that was bound to come up… What exactly are the snacks you use to raise Spirits?
Sakurai: There needed to be something to help level Spirits up, and the concept of a “Spirit” is pretty ambiguous in the first place. No matter what I picked it wouldn’t have fit perfectly, so we just called it a “snack.”
If that’s the case, why not call it something more interesting?
Sakurai: Right, well, it was the name that I had attached to it. That being said, among some of the staff the atmosphere was basically, “huh? Snack?” It was something that was appropriate “to give” without it sounding like pet food. It’s something that you can reasonably give to humans, but the impression it gives off is still relatively similar, so… I called it a “snack.”
So, it’s more of a conceptual snack than something that’s concrete.
Sakurai: It seems like various stories about it have spread. For instance, rather than calling it “energy” or “power source” or something, I feel like calling it a “snack” is a little better, don’t you? Even when you’re leveling up the most rough-and-tumble character, the little sound it makes still sounds happy! Giving them snacks is a little fun in and of itself.
It’s like you wanted the player to feel like the Spirit itself is happy!
Sakurai: At its base level, giving something food is a positive thing!
Adventure Mode’s map is full of all sorts of fun little obstacles; where did those come from at first?
Sakurai: They basically just came from the map. I had left all of that up to the Spirits team for a while, but there just weren’t that many ideas being thrown out, and it felt like things were at a standstill. Since at the end of the day Adventure Mode would just be a series of battles, I had it branch out a little from that single line of fights and organized it in a way that would make things more fun. That was what I ended up deciding on, but by no means did it go perfectly.
Is that so?
Sakurai: At the time I had just quickly drawn it up on a whiteboard. Here’s a mountain, a temple, a town… There was a maze and dividing paths that continued on into the second half… That was what I was working with.
It was a prototype.
Sakurai: That was the first time I took a crack at it, after that I delved even further into it. I decided what fighters would go where and set up some general routes the player would follow, and from there that was where we placed the Spirits. That was the point at which I also decided that the map would start out by branching into three paths.
So, it feels like you had already come up with a framework for the map when you continued on to choosing which Spirits to include.
Sakurai: If I were pushed to say, there were some places on the map that assigned Spirits were pigeonholed into. We had a lot of stages associated with the “town” theme in that specific area of the map, for instance.
And stages associated with the ocean around that area.
Sakurai: Right, for example, Spirits that were appropriate for the “Pirate Ship” stage were – of course – placed in the ocean portion of the map. We also adjusted the difficulty according to the area on the map. Here and there it can feel like you’ve hit a wall, though.
There are Spirits that appear relatively close to the beginning where some might say to themselves “How am I supposed to win against this!?”
Sakurai: You can always come back to them. I designed the map to be intricate intentionally so that players can continue onwards and try again later. There are also plenty of situations in which the battles were designed to be easily completed. If you play as one fighter along one path in a way similar to a knockout competition, it’s almost certain that the game will feel repetitive. The concept that we pursued made it possible for the player to have a degree of choice and proceed through the game in a variety of patterns. In that way, it’s possible for the player to bypass some of the stronger Spirits.
“World of Light” doesn’t have a story for all intents and purposes but going through the map and meeting Spirit after Spirit can feel like a story in its own right.
Sakurai: There isn’t a story like “The Subspace Emissary” in that the characters aren’t all actively moving around.
Why is Fox the first one that speaks in “World of Light’s” opening movie?
Sakurai: Hmmm… Well, who do you think would’ve been a good choice? Let me try asking you!
Who indeed? (laughs)
Sakurai: (laughs) It had to be somebody that’d be at the front of the vanguard, for sure.
If that’s the case, how about Marth?
Sakurai: Marth… He wouldn’t have been a bad choice, but if you’re thinking “who would be the person to assess the coming battle?” then he’s better suited for that. Surprisingly enough there are only a few characters that actually talk!
That’s true now that I think about it.
Sakurai: Of course, what’s important about the climax is that while Fox appears first, after that he isn’t seen in the opening movie again. Each character appeared on-screen at least once in order to give them a sense of presence within the scene.
So, it wasn’t necessarily that Fox has been around since the beginning of “Smash Bros.” – he was just given the role out of all of the fighters.
Sakurai: That’s right.
“World of Light’s” ending was incredibly exciting – you get to control Master Hand!
Sakurai: It’s something I wanted the player to be able to do at least once. In the previous games’ debug modes, you could move him around a bit, but I felt it’d be fun if you could actually control him!
It’s almost as if his finger beams are his down special! (laughs)
Sakurai: (laughs) It’s like you’re forcibly taking control of him, even so it feels fresh to play as him.
A Message from Mr. Sakurai to Nintendo Dream’s Readers
Sakurai: I think you should only play how you want to play. It’s a game that extends itself out in every direction, and since it’s pretty enormous volume-wise I think there’s an extremely wide variety of ways to play. That being said, it doesn’t matter if you’re just playing in training mode by yourself – as long as you’re having fun. There are characters and ways to play for everybody, if you only play like that. Even though we put a lot of effort into a variety of the game’s elements, it was never meant to be a game where you “want to play everything.” Pick and choose which parts are your favorite! I want it to be that kind of game. Everybody – now and forever – thank you.
Translation by provided by Nico Thaxton and Oni Dino on behalf of Nintendo Everything
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