Sakurai on Smash Bros. Ultimate – why Decidueye wasn’t chosen, Piranha Plant, character changes, online, much more
Speaking of which, you can even choose “easy” in this game’s adventure mode.
Sakurai: There’s people that say it’s still tough on easy mode, though. There are people who’ve been playing “Smash Bros.” for 20 years and there are people who just started today. There seems to be a lot of debate on what’s the best way to balance the game to satisfy everyone. I think if the opponent doesn’t put up a fight, then modes like Spirits wouldn’t be any fun. In my opinion, it’s extremely important to have the player experience emotional discoveries, like reluctantly admitting to yourself, “This is impossible right now! Alright, I guess I’ll come back later,” or, “I figured out how to do it! This is easy now!”
We really felt this huge sense of accomplishment when we went up against a tough Legendary spirit.
Sakurai: But still, that’s not for everyone. There are some people who don’t like to feel any stress when they play games.
The Final Smash Meter in this game is a really great battle mechanic.
Sakurai: It’s a lot of fun to watch players when they make big and bold moves, right? It takes less time to perform a final smash, so it’s a way of building that back up.
It really changes up the pace of things when the last hit goes slow-mo.
Sakurai: That’s purely a situation of, “It’ll be so much fun if we put that in!” “Smash Bros.” at its essence is about opponents being hit so far away that they can’t recover, or trying to get back on the stage but falling to your doom. So, it was kind of natural that we haven’t had some sort of finishing move or animation. But now we’re playing our part in the wide variety of games that have this great feeling when landing a powerful blow.
We’d like to talk now about some of the new fighters in “Ultimate”. There are tons of Echo Fighters and new players to choose from!
Sakurai: We’ve included characters that were in high demand from the “Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot” we held in the past. This is the case for characters like Ridley, King K. Rool and Simon.
Both Simon and Richter have appeared in various entries in the “Castlevania” series, but which game did you choose to model them after in “Ultimate”?
Sakurai: We took parts of them from several games, but primarily, it’s fairly apparent that their style is from the Famicom games and “Castlevania: Harmony of Despair”. This is because aspects from 2D “Castlevania” were mostly consolidated into “Castlevania: HD”.
So these two characters were brought in because they were so popular from the “Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot”?
Sakurai: That was the case, but in addition to that, when we were thinking about how we wanted to include a character from [Konami], we didn’t have a lot to choose from. Alucard may actually be the most notable character from the “Castlevania” series.
Ah, that’s true.
Sakurai: “Castlevania” has a rich history. There are a lot of main characters in the series, and a lot of them don’t use whips. When you separate it all out and there are games which are similar, we have a tendency to choose the founding generation. For example with Mega Man, [Capcom] has released all the way up to “11”. And if you add the “Mega Man X” series and whatnot, there’s even more games. We used a lot of music from the first generation with “2” and “3”. After “4”, it gets a little fewer and farther between. For the series that have a lot of entries in their history, we hold the origins in as high of a regard as possible.
Just like with the Inklings, huh?
Sakurai: Their games are definitely popular, but I think everyone expected it as a given that we’d include them.
Sakurai: Looking at how things are now, it may seem like a strange omission that there aren’t any new fighters from “Xenoblade Chronicles 2” and “ARMS”. However, this is because they needed to be included from the very beginning at the planning stages.
So it was an issue from a timing aspect?
Sakurai: It’s not possible to decide to include one or two more characters when you’re in the thick of development.
Ink Management with the Inklings is Really Difficult
Sakurai: It’s super difficult to manage ink capacity when playing as an Inkling; they might be the most troublesome fighters to handle so far. You can get ink on characters and even put ink on all of the stage’s surfaces, but there’s something really crazy about that: anytime we add a character or a stage, it takes additional effort.
The appearance of the roller really surprised us. We couldn’t help but think about how much extra work it must’ve been for the development team.
Sakurai: But there was no other way about it, and everyone on the team really worked hard on that. We also had to think about what kind of effect inking the opponent would have. We’re quite happy with what we came up with.
When a character is inked, the damage they receive from the Inkling increases, right?
Sakurai: Correct. We discussed with the “Splatoon” team in the beginning when we wanted to include Inklings in “Smash” and everything was decided on seamlessly. Thanks to the discussions we had back then, we got the impression that Inklings really hated getting inked by their opponents. We interpreted this awful effect of being inked in various ways, and we settled on increasing the damage you receive. If we hadn’t talked about it in the beginning, we might have gone with a different system entirely.
That makes sense because you get defeated in “Splatoon” by your opponents’ ink.
Sakurai: Yeah, it’s not as simple as dealing and receiving damage, though.
It can even be seen as humiliating from a mental perspective! By the way, we think the costume variations that change up the gear are all really vibrant!
Sakurai: This is something the “Splatoon” team helped us figure out.
It’s often a factor in the games, right? You can tell during Turf Wars.
Sakurai: There are tendencies to it, but the team basically chose gear from “Splatoon” for us that they thought looked good. They kept in mind the usual colors that you can choose for characters in “Smash Bros.” and thought about what matched well together.
The Secrets Behind King K. Rool’s Lightweight Arts
King K. Rool is really powerful and easy to use, so we relied on him quite often when playing in Spirits mode.
Sakurai: The main concept for him was “a heavyweight that doesn’t act like a heavyweight”. He has a useful Propellerpack making his recovery really good. He’s kind of a fighter that challenges the conventions of what makes a heavyweight character the way they are. I think we nailed our main concept of making him a character that’s fun to fight as; with his attacks that are based on his original games, the Propellerpack up special and such, he uses a lot of different things to battle with and fights in a way that’s really unique to his character.
Turning Isabelle into an Active Fighter!
Isabelle is pretty similar to Villager in a few ways, one being her specials.
Sakurai: In terms of her similarities to Villager, in the end one of the most important things was making sure Isabelle still felt like an Animal Crossing character. Since I built Isabelle from the ground up as a different fighter than Villager, it wasn’t really necessary to have her use the same moves. Somehow or other, the “Pocket” move and the variety of tools you use in Animal Crossing – which are characteristic of Isabelle – ended up resembling Villager’s moveset at a basic level.
It was a bit of a relief to see Isabelle fighting using the tools from the original games instead of punching. (laughs)
Sakurai: Well, you can fling others around using the fishing rod and blow them away by building the town hall, so it isn’t exactly like the source material.
I’d think that Isabelle is pretty well-known even among people that aren’t really familiar with action games. Was there anything in particular that you did to make her more manageable for those players?
Sakurai: I haven’t really done anything out of service, no – Villager’s already a maniac of a fighter. That being said, though, if we made her completely different from Villager, she’d still be hard to handle in her own right.
Villager’s a technical fighter, for sure.
Sakurai: With regard to making her easier to handle, at one point the monitor team was of the opinion that extending the duration of Isabelle’s up smash might be a good idea. That might have lent itself to players burying a Lloid Trap as a diversion and then using her up smash when the opponent got close as their primary strategy. If that were the case, Isabelle would turn into a fighter that wouldn’t move much – and that wouldn’t be very interesting.
It is pretty characteristic of Isabelle to not be much of an aggressive fighter…
Sakurai: If I had placed too much importance on that kind of thing, I have a feeling it would’ve fallen apart as a fighting game. I don’t really think that extending the wait would’ve been a kindness to beginners; after all, everybody had to be able to fight on an equal playing field.