Sakurai on Smash Bros. Ultimate – why Decidueye wasn’t chosen, Piranha Plant, character changes, online, much more
Smash’s Outcome? Online Mode’s State of Affairs?
This Game’s Level 9 CPU’s are Strong!
There are a lot of people that are saying Ultimate’s level 9 CPU’s have gotten a lot stronger!
Sakurai: There were also people that said the level 9 CPU’s were too weak, so it was something I did my best to work on.
Up until now you couldn’t make a strong enough CPU…?
Sakurai: Working tirelessly could make it happen. For instance, now they can respond at a moment’s notice and use a perfect shield against an opponent’s attack. This time the CPU’s don’t rely on anything like “reactions” – they’ve been adjusted to be more strongly attuned to logic. Instead of just doing something after watching the player’s movement, the CPU’s now actively attack in response to a variety of situations.
So, the CPUs’ strength really stands out in this game.
Sakurai: It isn’t like there’s any official statement saying, “a level 9 CPU is this strong,” but make no mistake, this time they’re smarter. There are even still people saying that this level 9 isn’t good enough, so I suppose that means it’s just about right, isn’t it? Even still, though, there are people out there who are winning against three level 9 CPU’s, aren’t there? The game’s userbase is incredibly broad, so the player can choose whichever level they prefer.
The player can choose according to their own skill level, then.
Sakurai: At the very least, a player that chooses to fight against a level 9 is looking for a certain “feel” to their fight, there’s no doubt about that – I think strengthening the CPU is a good thing in that case. As for something like the Spirits Board there had to be a fixed difficulty. I left it difficult enough so that players would be able to think, “if I had a strong enough Spirit I could manage.”
Would you say that balancing all of the fighters was difficult?
Sakurai: There’s a separate team that’s pretty big in scope that I’ll refer to as the “regulation team.” There are a lot of skilled people from the monitor team that are involved, as well as people who speak with the planners, people involved in the actual numbers themselves, and some that listen to what the monitor team has to say. Regarding adjustments being made to the game’s balance, however – sometimes adjusting it just because you’re able to causes it to lose some of its unique “flavor.” I don’t always think being fair is a good thing, exactly. In this game, the results of a one-on-one match vs. an all-out brawl can differ completely. When compared to a one-one-one match, heavier characters might be relatively more advantageous in a multiplayer smash.
So, you don’t try to average out everybody’s performance; instead you emphasize each character’s individuality.
Sakurai: Right, having that individuality – but among all of those characters there are both good and bad idiosyncrasies. For instance, if you make waiting and acting extremely protectively advantageous, playing can quickly become boring; this is a game that requires acting both aggressively and defensively. That being said, you can still make quite the daring “escape” if you have a little time left.
If you can hold out for however much time is left in the match, you might be able to pull a win out of it!
Sakurai: Alas, there’s little you can do about it from a rules perspective. At one point there had been an idea for a physical penalty for trying to “escape,” but because judging what qualified as “escaping” was so difficult the idea was scrapped. One example would be Samus charging her gun from a distance; the CPU wouldn’t be able to determine whether she was “escaping” or not.
That does sound difficult.
Sakurai: Besides, implementing limitations that would only stress players out isn’t all that interesting – in that sense, I didn’t really want to make online battles. If four buddies can get together and shout things like, “Hey, you, stop that!” at each other… (laughs) By nature, that’s the kind of game Smash Bros. should be. There aren’t many people who’d try to “escape” when it comes to tournaments, though.
Do you think it’s the “being watched” factor at work there?
Sakurai: It’s harder to use more underhanded tactics when people are watching, but more so than that, the people that go to these tournaments are really strong.
There really wouldn’t be a need to “escape” then, would there.
Sakurai: Right; if you as a player are fundamentally strong, then there’s no need for you to try to run from a fight. If a player is winning, they’ll continue to attack without even so much as flinching. On the other hand, though: even if a player is losing, they’ll still aim to turn the tables on their opponent until the bitter end.
On Online Matchups
What’s the current state of things with respect to online matches?
Sakurai: Well, there’s “Elite Smash” of course – I’ve been watching over a variety of things related to that. Most of what I’ve heard from the monitor and regulation teams is that most of what has been said about online is that it hasn’t been “reliable,” and it seems that that might be the case. Given the Elite Smash players’ win rates, the characters people say are strong aren’t exactly unexpected. The players who keep climbing the ladder seem to have been able to take measures of their own to do so.
There’s also the DLC fighters.
Sakurai: We have to think about all of the various matchups among the 70+ fighters, to start. If there’s a character that keeps winning tournaments consistently, and people start to think “oh this character’s strong,” only those that play that character will end up strong. That being said, when you put too much emphasis on balancing the game, it starts to get a little boring.
When it comes to the players that are actually able to participate in Elite Smash, do you know if there are strong fighters that they tend to lean towards?
Sakurai: I don’t think that that’s necessarily the case. I can’t really say anything about the distribution itself, but it doesn’t seem to lean too far towards any one character.
So, we’re still in the stage where people are examining the strengths of each character.
Sakurai: Even though they might go looking to certain characters for strength, they might find that isn’t always the case.
The specifications for matchups have also changed, haven’t they?
Sakurai: Since online play is completely synchronized in this game, everything stops if the connection falters. It isn’t like in Splatoon or Mario Kart where you can keep playing smoothly while everything around you lags – everything stops. So, in addition to GSP, online play prioritizes short distances for matchups. What this could mean in the future is the possibility of region-based play. This is just an example, but if Simon is the only fighter you see being chosen in Elite Smash rooms, people might think “Simon’s strong, isn’t he?” To that end, there may be completely different trends in areas far removed from each other.
I see, I see. It’s interesting that popular fighters may differ based on region.
Sakurai: In Japan a lot of the players are close together distance-wise, so it may be relatively harder to see trends like that pop up.
A national championship would be fun!
Sakurai: Even before the game’s release at the Nintendo Live presentation in 2018, the characters that ended up winning were completely different. It was pretty interesting to see.
There were even people who tried their hand at Richter – a completely new fighter – and won!
Sakurai: And that was before the game had even been released! The top matches were interesting to watch for sure, but the best thing by far was getting to see everybody enjoy playing it.
Translation by provided by Nico Thaxton and Oni Dino on behalf of Nintendo Everything
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