Sakurai on Smash Bros. Ultimate – tempo, items, changes and additions, choosing taunts, much more
Today, Nintendo published a new interview with Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai via Switch news. If you’re subscribed to the official channel, you’ll receive the discussion in five parts.
We have the full transcript from the interview below. In it, Sakurai discusses the increased tempo, why items are in the series, changes and additions, how he chooses taunts to be in the game, the additions of Inkling and Ridley, and much more.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Sakurai. Let’s start with a question that may help people who are new to Super Smash Bros. Can you describe what the game is and what you feel the main appeal of the franchise is?
Fighting games have a lot of advanced players playing them, so it might seem a little intimidating. But fundamentally, this is a casual game, so I’d be grateful if people just had fun with it, without being scared. I’ve created the game with that intent.
How was your approach to this game different than your approach to the past Super Smash Bros. games? What did you want to achieve with this game specifically?
The difference between this game and the past is that all the characters are in it. We really tried our best to make the impossible possible, to prevent situations where someone misses a certain character because they’ve been cut.
And another comparison I can make between past titles and this one, is that in retrospect, I do feel that Melee may have been geared a bit too much towards a core audience. We made Brawl when the Wii came out. At that time, games like Wii Fit became popular, attracting a lot of casual players that have never really touched a video game before, so we lowered the speed a bit so that those players can enjoy the game as well. For the Wii U and 3DS versions, it was on a portable device, so there were parts of it we had made specifically to increase playability on a portable device. This time, the screen is easier to see than the 3DS version, and it’s not just people who are not used to playing games, so we focused on bringing up the tempo of the game. I think that sort of covers the characteristics of the series.
How would you describe the overall pace or speed of the gameplay?
It’s more the sense of tempo than speed. For example, when a fighter is launched, by increasing the launch speed to a certain extent, the fighter quickly then becomes controllable. By slightly reducing the time the fighter can’t be controlled, we are aiming for a well-paced gameplay experience. We are aiming to make improvements here and there, like reconsidering buttons, allowing short hop attacks by pressing buttons simultaneously, etc to make the controls easier, but at the same time keep a good tempo.
Items have always been a big part of Super Smash Bros. What goes into designing new items and what do you think items add to the franchise?
The fact that in a fighting game, it’s usually a given that the more skilled player wins. There’s just the two players, no random elements, and it works. But when you have things like items, players who would normally lose, can sometimes win. In order to summon up this shuffling nature or this sense of randomness, I think items become necessary. Some people may never use them, but I believe it’s an important essence when we’re talking about people just gathering and playing together. So I’d like to continue to include them in the future.
Can you tell us any specific details about the new fighters? Any tips for making the best use of their different playstyles?
I think both Inkling and Ridley, each for their own unique reasons, are very different in a 1-on-1 match and in a 4-player match. A unique feature of the Inkling is the ability to increase the damage dealt by inking their opponent. This means that in a 4-player match, there are those who had been inked, and those who haven’t, so you’ll need to think about who to target, and how long this effect will last. But in a 1-on-1 match, the opponent is obviously inked, so you don’t really have to think about those things.
Ridley has a down special that deals massive damage in one hit, provide you hit them with the sweet spot, but this is actually pretty hard to hit in a 1-on-1 match. But in a 4-player match, it sometimes just works. Ridley is shaping up to be a character where the action you take based on the situation around you becomes an important factor. I think it’s fine to decide what a character’s forte is, or what kind of strategy to use with them based on your fighting style or likes and dislikes. But I feel that to have characters that are completely different not only by themselves, but also depending on the number of opponents they are facing, is deep.
What was the thinking behind slowing the action down and zooming in when someone gets hit very hard?
Within the dev team, we’ve been calling it Special zoom and Finish zoom. Special zoom is something that occurs when a special move that deals a lot of damage, like Captain Falcon’s Falcon Punch hits in something like a 1-on-1 match.
There’s also the Finish zoom. This happens with a flash of light, when, for example, a hit against the last person in a stock match looks like it’s going to end the match. There was an issue with Smash where the fighters are small – it’s a game where the camera needs to be constantly pulled back, and as a result, the impact and intensity of the character is diminished. So, we were trying to come up with a way to create that feeling of “Nailed it!”, by zooming into a character where possible, and creating an effect that just feels good.
While the zoom effect mainly happens on 1-on-1 matches – when it won’t really get in the way of the match – there are times when it happens even if there’s someone moving off-screen, like for Final Smashes. There’s some fun to be had in predicting your movements off screen, so we left it in!