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Sakurai on the creation of Byleth in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Posted on February 9, 2020 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

In this week’s issue of Famitsu, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai wrote up his latest column in the Japanese magazine. Many of his pieces as of late haven’t been related to the Switch game, but seeing as Byleth has now been added, he felt he should publish a few words on the character’s creation.

We published a brief summary of Sakurai’s column a few days ago. Now, however, we have a full translation – which does include some quick mentions of Smash Bros. having too many Fire Emblem characters and sword-users.

Here’s the full piece:

On January 16th I announced Byleth – Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ protagonist – as the newest DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This week, I’d like to delve into how the character was developed. As for Byleth as a fighter, well, there’s already a presentation that goes into pretty minute detail about it, so please give that a watch!

My preferences don’t play a role in which new fighters are added; Nintendo has a larger say in that decision and brings their thoughts to the table. At any rate, the “theme” for this character was the how much freshness they brought to the game. The fighters that we include in Smash Bros. tend to come from series that have histories. For instance, Dragon Quest’s “Hero,” “Banjo & Kazooie,” and Fatal Fury’s Terry Bogard all first appeared around 20 to 30 years ago – I want to include quite a wide breadth of characters.

For this fighter, an important factor was being able to turn the protagonist of a game that people are playing right now into a fighter that players could experience immediately in Smash Bros. As such, I tried my hand at working on the character while the source game was still in development.

I’m not exactly aware of what Nintendo’s future release plans are, so I go along with what they decide. It just so happens that the timing was right with Three Houses’ completion.

That being said, I understand. First and foremost: there are too many Fire Emblem characters; and what’s more there are too many sword-users. It’s something that’s already been decided, though, so let’s move on – I should be thinking more about other things.

I had asked Three Houses’ development team for a rundown of the game and ended up playing it in secret after borrowing a production ROM. As for putting forward a proposal, you have to come up with something early or talks with the team can’t start. For example, you can’t create a sound without a motion to produce it, and you can’t have motion without a model, and you can’t make a model without developing a plan for it first. Planning encompasses a wide variety of factors, too: you’ve got stages and balancing, debug, PR, the works. The higher up the business there is the sooner we take care of it, but I’m the one that sets up the foundation for everything. To that end it was pretty much required that I be intimately familiar with the source material.

I’m no stranger to games, I typically play them a good deal, actually; and if you have that sort of experience, things like the story and its direction generally come to you more quickly.

Even so, you can’t really do much with a game that hasn’t been released yet! So, I continued working on other things alongside Three Houses’ development. There’s also a mode where you can watch the movie cutscenes from over the course of the game, but that doesn’t really give you the whole story or an understanding of the character’s mannerisms. I followed the story from the very beginning, but after a certain point the game splits into three paths, so it was pretty hard to get a complete understanding of what was happening.

If you aren’t familiar with the source material, however, it’s impossible to wring out the info you need to use during development. After I got a good grasp on what was going on, I went ahead with making bigger decisions concerning the fighter I was developing and so on.

Smash Bros. has a problem of there being too many swordfighters. So, as a workaround I considered what techniques the character should use and ended up implementing the three houses’ leaders’ “Hero Relics” as some of their moves to keep with elements present in Three Houses. For instance, though the character uses a bow all the same, how the player uses it can differentiate it quite a bit from say, Link or Pit’s bows.

And that’s how Byleth came to be; I think you’ll be able to see how they differ from the other fighters if you play around with the character a bit.

As of right now, Three Houses has been pretty well received overseas as well: sales have exceeded 2.2 million units, and the game has won a variety of awards, including ones chosen by players – that’s great! There’s no mistaking that it’s a great game, so I think it’d be pretty nice if more and more people chose to play it.

All that aside, I announced during the same presentation that I’d start development on the next wave of DLC fighters, which I’ll go into some more during the next column. See you the week after next!!

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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