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Sakurai on all DLC fighters for Smash Bros. Ultimate, scrapped mechanic, future, more

Posted on November 20, 2021 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

smash bros ultimate all dlc

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai has spoken about a ton of topics related to the game, including all of the DLC fighters, a scrapped mechanic for air Smash attacks, the future of the series, and more.

The discussion with Sakurai took place in a recent interview with Japanese magazine Famitsu. We’ve translated the full talk, coming in at over 5,000 words.

Here’s our complete translation:

To start things off, how does it feel now that all eleven fighters have been announced?

I feel at peace…

At peace?

The character team’s finished, the motion team’s finished… with that much out of the way, we’re increasingly finding ourselves with more wiggle room. It took a long time, but production is almost finished. It’s my most peaceful time when there are no new projects on the horizon and I’m free to do what I want. I’d love to take a drive somewhere. (laughs)

(laughs) Jumping straight in, let’s talk about the eleven DLC characters. Firstly, you revealed in the ‘Battling with Sora’ video that he has been the most requested character since Smash 4.

We polled character requests from all fans over the world. An absurd number of them. Sora shot up to the top of the poll.

Talk us through developing Sora into a playable character.

Well, of course he was the final character. The further a player progresses in Kingdom Hearts, the less time Sora spends on the ground. He does all his fighting airborne. I thought we ought to faithfully recreate that. Even if the game wasn’t like that, a look at the other DLC fighters showed us we should make fighting in the air a priority. There was no other character like him on the roster, and aerial combat in Smash is very important. Truth be told, when Smash Bros. Ultimate was initially developed, we were thinking about implementing an air Smash attack.

That comes as a surprise.

We decided against it because it was too complex. We reflected on the importance of fighting in the air in Smash and how there aren’t that many air options that could be utilized. Mid-air conflicts consist of a series of neutral and directional air attacks.

It’s true that the better the player, the more aerial attacks they use.

I believe that balancing that part of the game properly allows for deeper mind games to develop. We didn’t do it, because we felt it was the dividing line between casual and competitive players. When making Sora, we wanted the air combat to be something that could be enjoyed casually, which extended to his air combos and flexible recovery. We balanced that with things like his light weight and ease of attacks. Sora is yet to be released at the time of this interview and we don’t know how players will react, but we think this is the balance that Sora needs. The fact that he can rotate through his spells is unique to him, too. Be it his spells or side specials, I hope players enjoy playing in a way that feels very true to Sora.

Were you responsible for the plot of Sora’s reveal trailer, as you have been up until now with the other trailers? Do you have any behind the scenes stories you can share?

Yes, I was responsible. As for behind the scenes stories… after reading through Disney’s production guidelines, I wrote the whole thing in an hour and a half.

An hour and a half!? Did you refine something you already had in mind?

No, I put it together from scratch. At the start, I wanted Mario to swing around his own Keyblade. While he was swinging it around, Sora would appear in the keyhole. According to Kingdom Hearts lore though, ‘only Keyblade masters can wield the Keyblade,’ so while others might be able to use it temporarily, Keyblades always return to their master. That’s why we changed it into what the trailer is now.

Continuing on, let’s look at the other fighters. Could you talk a little bit about Joker?

As the first DLC fighter he should have been the first DLC fighter to be developed. He was actually developed a few months before the game went gold and we had to design him during our most difficult development period.

It’s scary to even think about.

We have to settle on parts of the design well in advance when making DLC. Without it, we can’t work on things like graphics or motion. In addition, we always had it in our minds that every DLC fighter would have their own unique system. With the deadline for the final build around the corner, we had to decide on a system for each of those characters. Something I’ve talked about in previous columns is that when animating each character, we modeled it using figures. Joker’s system, Arsen, meant we had to make motion for both characters, which was twice the work. During an especially busy period, we had to produce twice the amount of photos, making it twice the work of a regular character. So it was… really tough.

It’s unimaginable from the outside. Continuing on, do you have any stories regarding Hero?

Firstly I’d like to take the opportunity to offer my condolences to Mr. Sugiyama’s family. Hero from Dragon Quest was a big deal for us, something the Nintendo team worked incredibly hard to get the green light on. Hero has no voice in the original games and we originally had no plans to add voice acting. The release of Dragon Quest XI brought voice acting to the series, so we gave all iterations of Hero a voice. Even after that decision though, we initially decided to not have the voice actor say the name of the spell because that’s not something the series has seen outside of the anime. What got us was how fun it is to scream “Frizz!” while you’re casting it and we got Yuji Hori-san’s blessing for the voice actors to say the names of the spells. Navigating menu commands and using MP takes the Dragon Quest feel to a new level. Through it, mind games and strategies unique to the character were born. I also enjoy watching top players using him.

Initially, some people thought it turned it into a game of luck, but eventually they understood him to be a strong, solid fighter.

His spells have an element of luck, but even if a player was incredibly lucky, we made sure there was counterplay to balance it out. Saying that though, landing Thwack and Magic Burst is an amazing feeling.

I don’t know how many times I yelled them out while playing.

Saying that, you need a lot of skill to win consistently. Utilizing your luck is a part of that.

Next up, Banjo and Kazooie.

In the survey we conducted about new fighters that fans wanted to see, under Sora were Banjo and Kazooie. As a fighter Banjo and Kazooie is really ‘two characters as one’, and also has a unique ability that can only be used up to five times per one life. If that move wasn’t powerful enough, it would be boring, so we really ramped up the impact and made it into a strong ability. They are a fighter that feels really good when you land a hit. As for the music, this was the first time Smash Bros. had enlisted help from overseas for the arrangements. Grant Kirkhope was the original composer for the game, and really understood our aims for the music. I’m very grateful that he was able to create such great music for us.

The reveal trailer had a similar set-up as King K. Rool – it really made me laugh.

Yeah, we did use the same gag again. It wasn’t just about making it funny, but also about keeping production costs down. Making those reveal trailers really does cost a lot! It was certainly far more of a task than everyone imagined. Besides keeping the highlight of the scene great, we wanted to keep the cost down as much as possible. Coming up with ingenious ways to do that is the crux of making these kinds of movies. In any case, the price for our DLC for a fighter, stage and tunes comes to only 662 yen (tax included)!

That is truly extraordinary! How was it for Terry?

Well, his reveal trailer was made by Bandai Namco. The pixel art was made new for the trailer – it wasn’t simply a case of reusing the art from the original NeoGeo game.

Ah I see.

In the scene where Geese Howard falls, the pattern on his hakama is different to the original – it was the same as the hakama he wears in Fatal Fury 3. Lots of other parts were remade too. I have touched on this in my column before, but the lead pixel artist for this also worked on Genpei Toma Den. I thought it was very interesting for a key member of the Namco team to emulate the art style of SNK.

It was truly an amazing team! How was Terry as a fighter?

We were aiming for ‘Terry Bogard: the coolest!’ These kinds of characters from older games can seem a little old-fashioned, but we thought it was important to make him seem cool and relevant. To do that it wasn’t just about his body shape and movements, but also about making sure his effects had a clean, crisp feel. We had to pay attention to things such as spacing and combos to make Terry Bogard feel like a truly cool character. During that development time, games such as Fighting EX Layer came out, and a female Terry appeared in a spin-off, but despite these other appearances, we wanted to make sure our Terry had enough of his own presence.

Terry’s super special moves are also a big feature.

I really wanted to include a unique system for his super special moves. The moves can be used when his damage is more than 100% and by inputting a special command, which offers a great chance at a time when a player may be in a bit of a bind. Inputting those commands may be a little difficult for some Smash Bros. players, so we also added a simpler input system to make sure it would be interesting for all players to use. We had to take a lot of care when implementing and refining the concept to make sure it wasn’t overpowered and a player couldn’t spam it. The results were moves that felt great to use, and made you want to shout out the moves names as you did them.

Names such as Burning Knuckle and Power Geyser are now known by many more gamers, crossing over the generations.

I imagine lots of young people may say, “Terry? Who’s that?!” He may also seem like a difficult fighter to use, but I really want people to know that whether you know him or not is really not important.

I understand that Byleth also had an unusual situation surrounding his development.

At the time of development, Fire Emblem: Three Houses had yet to be released. But without knowing the game’s contents we couldn’t make a fighter, so we asked the game’s team for a summary. However, in conversation alone, we had no idea what they meant.

Even within the Fire Emblem series the system was something quite unusual.

When I heard “there are three houses, and the battles are fought in a futuristic way”, there was no way for me to imagine what that meant. So during development we borrowed a ROM and played it as we went… which presented its own problems. We were using a debug version, but even so, working through all three stories took a lot of time. However, of course, at that time everything was still top secret so we couldn’t take it home or show it to others in the company. So instead we would need to play secretly during work hours without anyone else seeing, which was pretty difficult.

Playing Three Houses to try and learn so much must have really been a tough experience.

Yeah, I worked hard at it, and once I had deepened my understanding I knew we would need to make good use of the ‘three houses’ system. Ultimately we implemented a system where we mapped the three iconic weapons to three directions. Also, when it came to adding guest characters to the stages we couldn’t see players’ reactions to the game to know who was popular and who we should use. So instead we collected data from the Three Houses team and used that to predict “They will be popular, we have to use them!”

The announcement of the fighter was about half a year after the release of Three Houses and there were a lot of people playing so it was truly a wonderful surprise.

I think including characters from a new game was a great thing. The reveal trailer had both anime parts and game dialogue scenes, both of which were made by companies connected to Three Houses. The anime sections were made by Sanzigen, and the gaming parts by Koei Tecmo. Interestingly, in his game, Byleth never really smiled much, but in the reveal trailer I thought it was funny to see him smiling.

Now, let’s talk about the Fighters Pass Vol 2, starting with Min Min.

Well, we had already considered the idea before when Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and ARMS were both out, but we deemed it impossible to add such a fighter, so we added Spring Man as an Assist Trophy instead. Some time later it was decided that we would add one, but I kept thinking, “How should we do it?” Some people may think “Just make the arms extendable”, but that didn’t feel very close to the true feeling of ARMS. The fun of the original game came from being able to move the right and left arm independently. And ARMS, unlike a lot of other games, didn’t really have ‘special attacks’ and such – it was more to do with the difference between the arms, which presented another challenge. So we made a system where the A and B buttons controlled an arm each, and could both be used to attack; we were able to really recreate that ARMS feeling.

Sakurai discusses Steve and Alex, Sephiroth, Pyra and Mythra, Kazuya, and the future of the series on page 2 here….

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