“I’m Making Smash”, Sakurai’s Famitsu Article on Brawl

I translated the following text is translated from Think About the Video Games Vol 3. If you would like to compare the translations, please message me and I’d be happy to send you a transcription of the original Japanese text.

This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect Masahiro Sakurai. The following is a selection from Masahiro Sakurai’s book: Think About the Video Games X. If you enjoyed this article, I would strongly encourage you to support Sakurai by buying his books. If you have any questions about this article, please contact the administrator.

2005 : December 2th, December 9th, December 16 (vol 130-132)

Even though the title states it clearly, I have started work as the director and game designer for a new Super Smash Brothers Game (henceforth referred to as Smash)*. Of course, I was engaged with writing the project plan.

A new “Smash”
“Super Smash Brothers: Brawl,” a game for Wii. It went on sale on January 1st, 2008 [in Japan].

It was the day before E3, May 2005. I sat in the assembly hall for Nintendo’s presentation for distributors. There, Nintendo announced that they were working on a new ‘Smash’ for their new gaming system codenamed, Revolution. People started clapping. “What?” I thought. At the party, people came up to me saying “So, you’re making Smash!?” However, I hadn’t been informed about anything, and it was at that time that I first heard that there was even a Smash project in the works.

Even though I originally created “Smash” as a game designer, I don’t hold any rights* to 1the game. So, if Nintendo says, “make it”, they can make one, no problem. I don’t really have a problem with that….

Copyright. According to “Brawl”’s contract, the copyright is forfeited by Sora Ltd. This is in order to make the copyright less complicated.

It was autumn, 2003. I had just quit the Hal Laboratory, the company I made Smash with. I sought out advice of my former superior, the now president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata. To my surprise, the topic of whether or not there would be a “Smash” sequel came up in our conversation.

Mr. Iwata said something like this. “You are able understand a variety of people, and you go through the proper channels, so I don’t think anyone can replace you in Smash. However, Smash is a big, important title for Nintendo so I can’t say there won’t be a sequel for sure. However, if we do proceed with a sequel, I will definitely talk with you.” Because we had that conversation, I was incredibly perplexed at E3.

…It was the first day that E3 was in session. Mr. Iwata called me to his room on the top floor in the hotel he was staying at, alone. “Smash,” at this point, was more or less decided. Mr. Iwata must have summoned me here with something in mind, so I cut right to the chase.
“What would you like me to do?”
“I would like you to assist in the development of the new “Smash” as a director-of-sorts.”
The reason that he announced a new Smash at the assembly hall was this: When Nintendo was developing the Wi-Fi connection, Nintendo asked, “what games do you want to see playable?” Respondents in Japan and America both overwhelmingly said “Smash” as the game they most want to see. To start with, Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, Nintendo had decided they would present a “Smash” that utilizes this, but it seems that they didn’t actually decide anything related to the project’s organization.

I was deeply troubled.

Since, I was a free agent, I had come to E3 to look for new work. I had a number of requests for game projects, but I wanted to wait until E3 was over with before deciding. This is because I wanted to see the next generation hardware with my own eyes before making deciding creating a game plan.

Therefore, this was a sudden interruption of my plans. What would happen if I refused?

Mr. Iwata said: “I might dictate that even though it would require some work, Nintendo would just implement online capabilities, while keeping the 26 fighters, and without changing anything to Smash Brothers: Melee!”

I really wondered if that would really be a new game. However, I had the image of someone else making an inferior game. It wouldn’t really interest Mr. Iwata. Maybe.

The request to make the difficult game, Smash came up when I was speaking with Aonuma, the producer of the “Legend of Zelda” series. Mr. Aonuma understood this topic well. Here is a summary of our conversation.

We were at a big party with people from the industry, the day of Nintendo’s E3 presentation.

“Mr. Sakurai! Please make Smash! You’ll do it, right?”
“Nah, hmmm, What should I do?.” (I didn’t know how to respond at that time)
“To put it bluntly, if you aren’t involved with Smash, then I guess it’s the end of the series. Without your ability to integrate a variety of games, you skill, design sense and without your way of thinking, the team would fail. Simply put, there’s no one who can replace you. I believe that we would be forced to make a new Smash game without heart [without you].”

I was searching for something that only I could do. If I didn’t show my power then, when would I? In addition, as much as possible I wanted to satisfy the most amount of players, including those abroad. Taking all of those into consideration, there was no other choice but to make Smash.

If I left someone else in charge, the customers and the people who originally worked on Smash might be disappointed. If that happened, I would be deeply hurt. I couldn’t ignore these demands as the original author!!

Therefore, I decided to become the director. At that time, May 2005 there was only one staff working on the new Smash. Just me. For me as a free agent, deciding to participate in the development of Smash, caused serious damage. As a director, I would have to be absorbed in all aspects of the project. Needless to say, while making a game like Smash one need’s to put all of their energy into it.  It’s not the kind of project where you can be indecisive.

With the exception of one project that I was already working on, I ended up refusing the rest of my offers. For all the people who were waiting until the end of E3, and the people who had worked so hard on giving me proposals: I’m truly sorry. However, I hope that you won’t abandon [the projects]….

The project that I was in the middle of: “Raise Your Own! Mushiking: King of the Beetles**”. I presented the project plan May 2005, right before I went to E3.
**Note: That this game is a tamagotchi-like version of Mushiking: King of the Beetles. It was never released abroad, therefore the “Raise Your Own” is my personal translations of the title (そだてて!甲虫王王者ムシキング).

What about composition of the essential personnel? Even though it’s Nintendo, we decided to organize in a new place in Tokyo, close to me. Essentially, we would have to make a new office. There was a plan to work on the new Smash in Kyoto, or Nintendo’s hedgequarters but recruiting people is difficult and it was necessary for me to be in Tokyo. Also, the new place would be closer for the majority of staff who have previously worked on Smash.

It was decided that Hal Laboratory would not handle Brawl’s development, but they were gracious enough to provide us with the same studio space and programs we used while developing Melee. The production process would have been far less efficient without access to these resources, so I was extremely grateful.

However, there was still not enough personnel. In order to make a game like Melee, we needed at least 50 people. Collecting people from here and there was requiring a lot of effort.

It was at this time, that Nintendo’s Miyamoto introduced me to Game Arts, who had just finished making Grandia III.

“Let’s work on it. Please let us do it!” Discussing the project with the executives of Game Arts was quite simple. I was really surprised when they showed me their Gamecube controllers. The analog stick were like a worn out eraser…?

“Our team has played over 10,000 matches in Smash!”
You’ve got to be kidding me!
However, when I looked at their battle records, I realized that they weren’t lying. They have been playing Smash Brothers Melee for a number of years during their lunch breaks. Even though there are aspects of the original game that the staff can’t understand, I’m not worried. They are promising. I guess this was fate. There, it was decided to add the Game Arts staff, which quickly increased the number of personnel.

Next, we looked to where we would work. Essentially, where we would make our office. Nintendo’s Tokyo branch leader helped us out immensely by scouting a number of locations for us. We decided on Takadanobaba as the location provided easy access. Afterwards, so I wouldn’t be bound by the train schedule, I moved near the office. I’ve previously alluded to this in my column, but everything I did during this time was for the sake of creating the new Smash. From holing up in my room and drawing up design documents, to establishing Sora Ltd., moving closer to the office, and working until my body nearly caved, I did it all for Smash.

We designed the office ad-hoc, meaning we were planning the organization while we started work. Construction and setting up the computer systems had also started. It was extremely difficult for everyone to work, and it was a very hard work environment for everyone. However, thanks to everyone’s efforts the office was able to be finished.

During that time, I was adjusting the project plan presentation, and receiving the approval of  the original authors for the essential fighters. Without everyone’s hard work, we wouldn’t have been able to finish the plan.

And then, in October we finally open, Nintendo’s new office. A building we built for the sole purpose of making the new Smash Brothers game.
“We are really doing it…” I thought. There’s no way to express it, but only Nintendo could go through all this effort for one game. All of this expresses how big the expectations are for the project, so I feel that I can’t make a half-hearted game.

We’re in a very special position here, and I get the feeling this office will bring together all sorts of people, serving as the birthplace of a new team with the Game Arts staff at its core. The Smash staff and I give thanks every day to the creators of the original games and the fans who have supported them through the years. We have to pay proper respect to the source material.

However, I’m not hesitant at all. Needless to say, I look forward to it! With all this preparation, I would be lying if I said that development would be enjoyable. We want to add a lot strange things!! Because we are making a game, we have to be able to enjoy it ourselves!! Development has just begun, it will be awhile until it’s finished. I’m feeling very optimistic today.

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be translating additional Famitsu articles. Right now, I’m working on: “Sakurai: Video Game Store Worker”, which is an article about when Sakurai secretly took on a part-time work in a video game store.

Afterwards, there are quite a bit of articles I’d like to translate. However, I’m not sure what you guys are actually interested in. Some of these I may end up providing summaries and key translations for the sake of time/ effort.

Which one should I prioritize?

1. Sakurai’s Introduction Column
2. Leaving Hal
3. The Kirby Anime
4. Games he played in 2005
5. Solid Snake in Brawl
6. Schooling
7.  100 Questions
8. Brawl is on Sale
9. Kirby, the Character
10. Are Game Movies Necessary?
11. Flagship: Kirby
12. These Aren’t Games (About the Touch! Series)
13. Animal Crossing
14. Pokemon
15. Raise Your Own! Mushiking
16. Mother 3
17. Making Things for Your Job
18. Danger for Casuals Online
19. Creating Lots of Content
20. Pokemon
21. One Button Concept

There’s additional articles both from these books, and other collections that Sakurai has released. So far, I only 2/6 of the collections that have been released. 2 additional collections will be released in the near future. My priority may change once I purchase the other books.

Let me know in the comments, or send me a Tweet! Please?

If you like seeing pictures about Sakurai’s cat, Fukura, click here.

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  1. Nice work! I’m very interested in the “danger for casuals online” and the “one button concept” articles, but look forward to whatever you come out with next =)

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