Sakurai on all DLC fighters for Smash Bros. Ultimate, scrapped mechanic, future, more
And then those that truly shook the world, Steve and Alex… it was truly unthinkable.
Truly! But what could I do?
How on earth was a fighter like that thought up?
Because it’s Minecraft! I knew the character would need to be able to place blocks, and although imagining it was easy, even I knew how much trouble it would pose for the programmers. While always thinking, “We can do this, right?” somehow we managed it, but in actuality the data for every stage needed to be rewritten.
So you had to rework every single stage just for Steve?!
In order to position blocks, we had to add something of an invisible grid from scratch. Since you shouldn’t be able to cut an area off in a stage, we planned for the blocks to be breakable from the start. Rigorous debugging was done on the block adding aspect so that there was no skipped terrain. There were stages that we as developers could tell would be difficult just from one look. (bitter laugh) It’s a huge relief that no bugs present themselves at events and such now. I couldn’t stand to see it if any bugs were to appear during big events.
I also got that the feeling from the fighter’s characteristics that you play a lot of Minecraft.
It goes without saying that I really did play a lot of Minecraft. I don’t want it to sound like we decided not to play other fighters’ games, though. Because Minecraft is played by a broad group of players, we also considered making him an easy to control fighter… but I didn’t think that felt right! The fact that he has plenty of special actions caused difficulty to the head programmers as well… It’s true that what he can do is totally different to any other fighter.
Let me share some backstory. In making the eight player colors, for Enderman, there was the problem of it disappearing into dark backgrounds. It had to be explained to the people working on it that its poor visibility needed changing. From there, screenshots were taken with the caption, “There’s an Enderman somewhere in this picture! Try to find it!” We went through levels 1, 3, 5 – I don’t know how many times we quizzed each other. In the release version, we fixed this by adding a slight border around Enderman.
Moving on, Sephiroth’s reveal trailer was undeniably sensational. He’s a character with very passionate fans, though I’m sure anyone would agree that was a spectacular video.
In order to meet fans’ expectations within these limits, it’s essential to start from the groundwork. After all, if the reveal trailer hadn’t been made the way it was, I don’t think we would be getting this kind of response. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children had such a powerful impact, so we want it known that our aim is to make something equally impactful. In the development and production of his reveal trailer, we thought about how to create the impression that Sephiroth is no ordinary person, but a true villain.
As a fighter, he also has outstanding abilities, doesn’t he? In particular, his long sword has a particularly far reach, which also makes a big impression.
In the end, the far reach is balanced out by the big opening it creates, as you need the skill to judge if your strike will land or not. I worried that experienced players who came to tournaments and VIP matches would struggle to reach first place because of the techniques which create openings for attacks. However, I think it’s important that anyone can easily experience Sephiroth’s ‘high firepower, high output,’ so as it stands, I’m glad that I made a fighter with such impact. Though his fighting style is a jumble of sword techniques, you can play very intuitively.
As for Pyra and Mythra, I was initially shocked that both of them were included.
Even now I think we did well on their inclusion. We first had to figure out if two characters could fit in the spot of just one, given the hardware’s limits. That is – Pyra, Mythra, and Rex would have to fit just one character slot. Pyra, Mythra, and Rex have probably the most intricate costumes in Smash, so that part in itself was difficult to introduce. It must be remembered that there aren’t many games on the Nintendo Switch that maintain 60FPS like Smash Bros. Ultimate. To include Rex while maintaining 60FPS was terribly difficult. We had to also keep in mind the possibility that eight people could be playing at the same time as Pyra and Rex. We really cut it close with their addition.
Putting in such nimble moves must have been hard work.
On that note, I had already planned for the fighter included to be Rex as a main character. However, when I considered who would have the top role, between Pyra and Mythra, I thought Pyra would be best. My thought pattern during the planning stage was, “Just Rex.” Then “Rex and sometimes Pyra.” “Only Pyra.” I went on like that until it became “Pyra and Mythra, sometimes Rex.” The form it’s taken makes me think my judgement was sound.
Many users were quite pleased. Famitsu’s editorial department even has favorable comments. (laughs)
Truly it’s amazing that Pyra and Mythra are even included in Smash. The fact that I was able to create such anime styled characters was groundbreaking. Up to now, they are the most ‘Japanimation’ style characters, after all.
And how are things concerning Kazuya?
Since he’s from a traditional fighting game, we pondered on how to go about bringing him into a ‘3D fighting game’.
In places such as your column and ‘Battling with Kazuya’ you explained the difference that Tekken is about distance and Smash Bros. is about position.
Yes. Though similar, I’m aware that Smash, Virtua Fighter, and Tekken are all different genres of game. That’s why, in order to portray the feeling of playing Tekken, I thought it was necessary to allow 8-way directional commands with the joystick.
So that’s how that came about! That surprised me!
Good judgment is needed in order to act quickly and do combos. But this way, it’s possible to enjoy an assortment of skills and pull off combos easily by using a Tekken-like playing style.
On top of that, Devil Kazuya compensates for the distinct way of moving in Smash. We wouldn’t be able to do this without Devil Kazuya. If, say, Tekken’s Heihachi were to be included, I would say he has no way of returning from offstage. Would he use his fighting spirit to jump and fly upward? Or should Kuma toss him back? No matter how I thought about it, it would only be a gag move. That’s why we were very lucky to be able to make the included character Kazuya with his devil form.
Come to think of it, the Rage system is a huge feature with some explosive power.
You can be losing but still end up being the winner. While Fatal Fury had Super Desperation Moves, many fighting games are now including an element of ‘turning the tables,’ which exists as the Rage system in Tekken. The ‘turning of the tables’ does fit into Smash well, doesn’t it? I’m very pleased that by adding that, we have created a Tekken-like character who can stand up against any opponent or situation.
Looking back at it this way, there really were many amazing fighters.
Though it was very difficult to find ways to stretch Smash Bros. Ultimate’s original system, I truly had fun developing through these various issues. Surely the people familiar with the original will have fun spotting how this and that turned out, so I’m very proud of the completed product.
Looking back, every new live stream felt like a festival. It was a lot of fun.
It’s nice to have a festival that comes at regular intervals. I’m grateful to the people who enjoyed it, of course, and also everyone who was involved. After having prepared the groundwork for this kind of festival, I’m really glad that I’m familiar with video games. I’d never researched a game from the ground up other than Fire Emblem: Three Houses before.
This has been touched on a bit already, but it’s amazing that you’re able to do that while also developing such a large-scale game.
Oh, no, making Smash Bros. is just normal. As normal as breathing. If I wasn’t playing games at least that much… (laughs)
Were you yourself always consciously aiming to put together a ‘festival’?
Of course. I wanted to hype everyone up, so I was conscious of the announcement format as well.
As for the announcement format, I was happy that the last fighter announcement was a special program.
For the end, I thought it was more fitting to make it its own program as opposed to a part of Nintendo Direct, so I made it like that.
Speaking of which, the direction of the beginning of the Sora video seemed to be a continuation from the first public image of Smash Bros. Ultimate, and I found it very impactful as a finale. Were you thinking “Let’s make the end like this!” the whole time?
I wasn’t thinking that at all, but I think the end result was that it was a very good way of presenting the final landing.
I always looked forward to seeing “Battling with…” when it came time for a new fighter to be announced. Please tell me the reason this program came to be broadcasted.
At first, when we decided to start making a variety of DLC, the plan was to make a lot of fighters that had unique systems. That would require a more detailed explanation for players on the fighters’ properties, but if we put an explanation in the game or on the website, it would be likely that not many people would see it. We considered what the best method would be and reached the conclusion that it was video, the biggest form of media right now. The first one we made was the 3.0 update introduction video that introduced Joker, but that took a lot of work! There was no end to the video production and editing we had to get done. If we had kept making them like that, we wouldn’t have had quite enough budget. Upon examining what a less costly method would be, someone in charge at Nintendo said, “Wouldn’t it be best to have Sakurai present?” Basically, “Will you be a YouTuber?” (laughs)
I see, so that’s how the conversation went. (laughs)
I agreed that there was no other option. Even within the program, I said multiple times that we didn’t have the budget, and I wasn’t kidding. We really didn’t have enough time, money, or work capacity. That’s why we decided it would be best if I just put the game on a screen in front of me and did a relaxed presentation with the controller in my hands.
In your “Battling with…” segment, you explained techniques that I thought may be difficult for beginners to pull off, such as a combo using a rapid descent. What kind of user, specifically, was the intended audience for this?
I introduced that kind of technique not as a way to win, but as a way to enjoy the game more. For example, if you play as Sora using the conventional view, a lot of people would likely just stop at ‘you jump, you attack, and then it’s over.’ By showing off the possibilities of what moves you can do, people can see more worth in playing as him. I think it’s important to leave it up to the players what further modifications they’d like to make. Otherwise, they might end up not being used.
On the subject of places to inform players of ways to enjoy Smash Bros. more, I think you could consider it an extension of the past web blog Smash Bros. DOJO!!
Communicating with people is difficult and requires thorough preparation. If we’re going to go through the effort of creating fighters, then I want people to know everything they can about them when they play!
With every update, there were adjustments to the game balance. Did you have any criteria when you made these adjustments?
I don’t know if I would call it criteria, but we were careful not to kill what makes the fighters unique when making adjustments. Each fighter has its own strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s best that the fighters clash using those strengths and weaknesses, which may lead to mixed reception, but also to the creation of various strategies. Also, our policy is, if one thing is too strong, we don’t erase what makes it good, we give it a drawback.
Drawbacks, I see. It’s true that in Smash Bros. updates, there were almost never times where you were no longer able to do something you could do before.
We kept that in mind. It’s disappointing to stop being able to do something.
I imagine the hardcore players are happy about this adjustment policy.
However, if you adjust the game balance specifically for the top players, the game becomes selective for who can play, so we don’t do that. Maybe this is a similar concern to most fighting games, but it’s difficult for beginners to keep up with the hardcore crowd these days. The fan consciousness as a whole skews toward hardcore fans and is overly competitive, so it can feel like that’s the only way to play it. There are arenas that can turn the tables even if there’s a skill gap, such as items and auto-handicaps, so I would like those to be used more.
Nobody likes to lose, after all…
That’s an eternal topic of discussion. Personally, I’m constantly thinking about leaving a margin for beginners to be able to make a comeback and widening the scope.
You’ve said that about past series as well.
It’s all up to the player whether they want to play seriously or for fun. Thus, Smash Bros. is created for anyone to play as they like. This stance hasn’t changed since the early days of Smash Bros., and it will remain the same in the future. However much it may seem like a game for only hardcore 1-on-1 matches due to the popularity of tournaments and treating victory as the goal in online play, what I think is important is what’s going on in each individual household. Matches where siblings or friends play together and get laughs from unexpected accidents. You can play co-op, and I also think it’s good to play different modes on single-player. Smash Bros. aims to have broad and deep gameplay, so there are a lot of different ways to play depending on the settings and choices. There’s no one thing you absolutely must do, so I want people to find what they personally enjoy and freely play with that.
Smash Bros. Ultimate has such a huge amount of content, you might say it’s gone as far as Smash Bros. can go. I know this is a difficult question to answer, but is it even possible to create another game…?
Impossible! Completely impossible!
Oh no… (laughs)
First of all, we haven’t even considered making a sequel. We never think about it, after all. We always go in thinking this will be the last one. But since we’ve kept making Smash games up until now, I can’t say for sure that this will be the last Smash Bros. There are endless possibilities for the future, and the possibilities for a future Smash Bros. will continue to exist as well. However, it’s for certain that we’ve reached limits in multiple aspects, so I think it’s important to consider whether it’s important enough to release another Smash Bros. that it’s worth taking out some fighters or otherwise disappointing the players.
I think a lot of people would like a Smash Bros. sequel directed by you. However, some are of the opinion that in order to continue a game series for multiple decades, it needs to not rest too much upon one individual.
This is true for many series, but it’s important to consider whether there’s someone who could pick up where they left off if the original creator dies. Takao Saito, the creator of Golgo 13, passed away recently, and it was announced that production would continue, but I imagine the decision would be different for a work like Berserk, even though they’re both manga. The more a work relies on its creator, the more difficult it is for it to continue to exist. For now, at least, I don’t see a path for Smash Bros. to continue without me. Take just the fighter reveal videos; I don’t think they would reach the same level of completeness if we subcontracted them out to somewhere else. And there aren’t staff anywhere who are saving all of the Smash Bros. knowhow in one place. I think it would be difficult to grasp the essence of the various titles and integrate it all into a process. Nobody but me has even directed for the series or drafted a new fighter. I would have to think seriously about whether success would even be possible in someone else’s hands, given all of this.
Right, if there were talented enough people to do that…
Quite honestly, it’s a lot of work, so I would like to leave it to somebody else. I’ve even tried in the past, but it hasn’t gone well. They can do everything apart from going from zero to one, but as for creating a starting point out of nothing, they can’t find where to begin at this stage. If the series were to continue, I would have to communicate with Nintendo and discuss what form it should take to be successful. This is an important topic to think about if I want the series to continue in the future.
Thank you so much. I’m reluctant to bring this to an end, but please leave a message for everyone who loves Smash Bros.
Thank you so much for everything up until now! We wouldn’t have been able to put out so much DLC without everyone who supported it, so I’m very grateful. It’s possible to do a variety of things in the game, so please don’t feel constrained to one play style and play as you like!
Translation provided by centurionnugget, Jarop, Kim Louise Davis, MEG G., and Simon Griffin on behalf of Nintendo Everything.
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