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Sakurai on Spirits mode in Smash Bros. Ultimate – how it came to be, lack of story, more

Posted on December 12, 2018 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

As mentioned yesterday, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai was interviewed in this week’s issue of Famitsu. But much to our surprise, there was a column as well. We’ll be posting a translation of the interview soon, but are sharing the column first below.

In his piece, Sakurai addresses Spirits mode in great detail. He explains how it all came to be, why there really isn’t much in the way of story, and a whole lot more. 

Here’s our full translation:


Now that the release date has passed, I’m sure there’s all sorts of people playing Smash Ultimate – thank you all so much!

This time, I think I’d like to talk a little bit about how “Spirits” mode came to be what it is.

In making this new Smash Bros. I felt like the amount of multiplayer content was sufficient as it was, so I wanted to enhance the single-player mode some.

There was a mountain of issues. Due to the high volume of stages and the fact that all of the previous fighters were in the game, we didn’t have enough resources to devote to modeling things for the single player mode – that’s why there weren’t any new enemies or side-scrolling stages. At that point, we were already on the verge of hitting limits a lot higher than other series. In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, there couldn’t be a story like in Brawl’s “Subspace Emissary” mode due to how many fighters there were. It was impossible for us to make a reveal scene for each character and have dialogue with each other and have it still make sense. There was also the issue of people uploading footage, making the story less rewarding.

All of that was difficult, but if you turn your focus to Smash Ultimate’s assets, you’ll find there’s a lot for you to think about:

  • An abundance of fighters
  • A lot of collaborations with other titles
  • Stage variety
  • An incredible helping of music
  • Shorter fight lengths

By the by, games are a bit different than books and movies; no matter how many times you play through a game, it’s the same systems and the same playstyles. There aren’t really many exceptions to that rule. How I could make that repetition enjoyable was the driving point behind making the single player mode.

At any rate, we took care to make sure that fighting against a CPU once would have enough to it; they’re short, one-round fights that the player had to be able to repeat. For that reason, there’s a wealth of ways you can go about them.

After going over all the advantages, I decided on theming the fights after the other games the characters appeared in. Smash Bros. is a game that can collaborate with all sorts of other titles – from all times and places, you’ve got a lot of fighters with their own distinct traits, and if they could fight…!

That was where the ideas started to snowball. I chose to have the spirit character influence the fighter’s own characteristics, that was where the whole “spirit” idea came in (when in reality it just means that they’re borrowing their power). Since in the end having one strong spirit would be boring, I separated them into three attributes in a rock-paper-scissors style. Similarly, I tried to make it so that beating up on weaker spirits wasn’t profitable. That being said though, there needed to be some kind of reward for winning – that was where levels came from. The adventure map came from needing a way for players to fight the characters that had been turned into spirits one after another, and that somehow the spirit was linked to the character. And to wrap all that up, I came up with the boss “Galeem.” In order to make it seem more like a journey to free everybody, we added things like the opening movie to give it context.

“Spirits” mode’s biggest feature is by and large the absolute mountain of characters that make an appearance in it. I dare say that this might be the game with the most collaborations, and that title won’t be taken from it any time soon.

The fans have a lot of love for those characters, so even seeing them should make them happy, I’d hope. The “Spirits” team put a lot of work into creating the setting and the like, and in retrospect, I think the mode is pretty well made.

Not limited to Smash Bros., there are lots of ways things can be born out of using a game to overcome any problems that may crop up. Smash Ultimate’s “Spirits” mode is something that came out of extremely limited planning, while taking advantage of the game itself to solve those problems.

Translation by provided by Nico Thaxton on behalf of Nintendo Everything

If you use any of this translation, please be sure to source Nintendo Everything. Do not copy its full contents.

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