Sakurai on Smash Bros. Ultimate – why Decidueye wasn’t chosen, Piranha Plant, character changes, online, much more
In this month’s issue of Nintendo Dream, a lengthy interview was published with Masahiro Sakurai. The magazine has several pages touching on a wide variety of topics with the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director. Sakurai weighed in on the lack of certain playable characters like representatives from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and ARMS, explained why Incineroar was chosen over Decidueye, spoke about Piranha Plant, talked about specific character changes such as giving Ganondorf a sword, online play, and more.
We’ve prepared a complete translate of Sakurai’s interview with Nintendo Dream. You can read it in full below.
Sakurai: Hello, everyone! And Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! (laughs) This is the first issue of Nintendo Dream in 2019! Anyway, let’s jump right into it. What do you think about “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and what a successful launch it had?
Sakurai: We’ve really had a tremendous reaction to the game upon release. In particular, we’re very impressed that the game reached 5 million in worldwide sales in the first week alone. I think this is the fastest that a game has reached that milestone on a Nintendo home console.
Sakurai: Thank you. We’re very happy that so many people are playing it. This is a production that’s come together thanks to many people, and I’m not just talking about the development team. Above all else, this game has materialized piece by piece thanks to all the talented individuals who had a hand in the creation of each character, plus all of the fans of these characters. And this is not a game that plays favorites with any specific subsect of fans, this is a game that a huge amount of people can enjoy in various ways. I’m very grateful for what we were able to create.
That’s how it felt to us. More so than past entries in the series.
Sakurai: I think fans knew to some degree how the game would turn out. I’m sure a lot of people have seen the videos online from the Nintendo New York store when we announced “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”. In terms of what a “celebration” that was, I’d say it was a success.
Speaking of, you have some future plans for the game at conventions and events now that it’s out. Are you excited about it?
Sakurai: I unintentionally end up looking at these events from an operations point of view. There’s going to be things that go extremely well and other things that I’ll have to reevaluate, so it’s kind of hard to say if I’m “excited”. I’ll be supervising the events as well as giving a lot of opinions, so I should really start polishing up on everything. I’m hoping I’ll be able to accurately convey all of the aspects that this game has where tons of people can have fun playing it, regardless of their skill level.
So these are events where beginners and pros alike can enjoy “Smash Ultimate” together, right?
Sakurai: Yes. That’s basically what Nintendo is thinking, so it’s not me trying to take the wheel on that. For me, I want to help out in any way I possibly can.
I think there are many readers of Nintendo Dream who would consider themselves in between the likes of “beginners” and “pros”. Do you have something you’d like to say to them?
Sakurai: In between the two?! I feel like your readers are pretty much all “pros”. (laughs) My impression was that Nintendo Dream readers are all hardcore.
I say that because they’re not just looking for gaming advice. They want to hear about love for their favorite characters, visuals, and a whole lot else.
Sakurai: I see. So they’re hardcore about a lot of things, not exclusively about skill.
It was incredibly impactful when you announced the game’s main slogan, “Everyone is here”. Could you tell us a bit more about how you came to this slogan?
Sakurai: It came up naturally from the very beginning during planning. You can’t really decide halfway through development that you suddenly want all the characters in the game. With big projects like this, there’s a lot of money and people involved, so you can’t do anything that would endanger development. Long story short: it was from the very beginning.
Putting the word “Special” in the title adds to the uniqueness of “Everyone is here”.*
Sakurai: It’s a word that can also mean “a production” or “a work”, so we felt it was quite appropriate. The overseas version is called “Ultimate”. I don’t think this word has the same feeling in Japan, so we unfortunately made the titles different from each other.
*NOTE: The Japanese title for the game is “Super Smash Bros. Special”.
Yes, I think the word “ultimate” gives off a somewhat obsessive impression.
Sakurai: The word “Deluxe” has a powerful feeling to it as well, but we wanted to use a word that’s familiar. When you look at titles used in TV shows, the word “Special” is all over the place. It made me wonder if it’s being overused (laughs). We’ve already used “Deluxe” with an entry in the “Smash Bros.” series*, so we tried to think what would come after that.
*NOTE: “Super Smash Bros. Melee” is known as “Super Smash Bros. Deluxe” in Japan.
You’ve used “Super Deluxe” before.* (laughs) But “Special” works well, as it combines several meanings together.
*NOTE: The interviewer may be referring to “Hoshi no Kirby Super Deluxe”, which was the Japanese title for “Kirby Super Star”.
Sakurai: I’m happy we went with this title. It’s not a simple “2” or “3” or something.
Were the development staff from the last entry brought over to work on this one?
Sakurai: We included people accordingly on the team who did not work on “Smash for Wii U/3DS”, but basically, the main members from Bandai Namco Studios that worked on “Smash for” all worked together during development.
What was the mood like during development?
Sakurai: Well, it was quite a relief that we didn’t need to explain anything at the start. When we worked on “Smash for” in the very beginning, we had to describe everything starting from scratch and prepare all of our resources. We had only made up until “Brawl” when we started working on “Smash for”, so there were staff at that time who had not worked on a Smash game before. Under those circumstances, it’s not really possible to bring a precise vision to “for” from “Brawl”. For them, it might just look like increasing the number of characters or making a sequel that’s by the numbers. So, it was great that we pretty much didn’t need to explain anything during the beginning of “Ultimate”.
It sounds like you had a smooth atmosphere to create.
Sakurai: Everything went smoothly, from the team to the tools. We were able to rectify things we weren’t happy with in the previous game. Even tools that we used to a small degree have been refined over time. And even when doing the same thing, the ease of doing it varies. So it can make things more manageable.
You want to avoid repeating the same mistakes, right?
Sakurai: But even still, bringing everything together is a monumental task. There’s metrics involved when, say, you add something and then there’s a flaw in it how meshes with everything else. Then you’ve got debugging and whatnot to handle.
Compared with previous games in this series, how have you adjusted this new entry?
Sakurai: We worked on stuff for those who are used to the game more than others. We alleviated some of the issues that came up with restrictions from the 3DS version. And although the game isn’t as fast-paced as “Melee” was, we have increased the tempo of the battles with this entry.
Could you give us some specific examples?
Sakurai: We reduced the delay when landing, reduced the time it takes when starting a jump, adjusted the frequency of item appearances, we made sure the end of Final Smashes don’t take up more than five seconds, and we reduced the time that victory fanfare played. Things like that.
That way everything feels as fluid as possible when playing, right?
Sakurai: I can’t quite say I feel that way yet. At the time, I was thinking that the speed of “Brawl” and “Smash for” were appropriate because there were so many beginners. But something that was beyond my expectations this time around was that the game sold better than we thought it would. There were even more beginners than we thought, due to the sales. And because of the tempo of battle, there’s less time to think about what you’re doing. So for newcomers, it’s easy to lose.
That makes sense for the beginners.
Sakurai: At the same time, I can’t really say with confidence that veterans of “Brawl” can play by themselves and have much fun. And then there are also fans who miss the fast-paced gameplay of “Melee”. So I thought we could make allowances for fans in those circumstances.