One Button (Sakurai Famitsu Column)

Original Publish Date: May 2nd, 2003. Volume 3.

his 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. 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.

Comment from PushDustIn: If you enjoy these translations, please support Sakurai by buying his book. Out of respect, the original Japanese will not be posted. However, if you would like to check my translation you may request it by e-mailing me, or by messaging me on Twitter. Stay tune and subscribe!

One Button

From my current office, I can clearly see Mt. Fuji. Seeing the majestic beauty makes me feel a strong sense of completeness. Mt. Fuji isn’t all that bad. Hehehe. Best view in Japan. Please excuse me! Goodbye!

Anyway, today’s topic is single player games.

For the Kirby series, I wrote the original concept as a, “one button game”. Essentially, the player would use one button to play the game.

For beginners, I believe that games are extremely complex! Even with one controller, there are so many buttons. When the game says you have to handle all those inputs, beginners may feel overwhelmed. So because of that, I often thought for the first game, “wouldn’t it be great to make a game that only uses one button!”.  Unfortunately, the game industry does not have the leeway or the capability to permit the sale of such a game. So, with some resistance, I decided to add one button games as extras to the main game.

The first instance of that was the 1993 Famicon game, “Kirby’s Adventure”. At that time, I struggled with if it would be good to say it was a one button game. I wanted to make the product easy, but for a project plan having only that would be very weak. I had to think about it carefully.

There are a lot of things that you can accomplish with a one button game. With one button games you could implement, “timing”, “reflex”, “change” and “button mashing”. If you cut “button mashing” then you are left with three mini games.

Crane Fever
The player needs to have good timing in order to stop the crane, and catch the Kirby doll.

Quick Draw
When the player gets the signal, they need to press the button quickly, before their opponent, in order to shoot their gun.

Egg Catcher
Pressing the button will change Kirby’s mouth to open or close. The player needs to eat eggs, and avoid eating the bombs.

Looking at it now, there are aspects that aren’t fully fleshed out, but I think those games are still adequate.
No matter what year, there will always be new beginners coming in. I want to make games for these players. For course, I don’t think that a simple games equals a shallow experience either.

The main focus of the game that I’m currently making, “Kirby Air Ride (Temporary title)” is daringly a one button game! Such as the case with these mini games, I put my flesh and blood into this game.

Nowadays as a game designer myself, I am often saying, “this the era that we are losing sight of games”. I believe that before, players would play games that were based off a simple design. Therefore, players and aspiring game designers would be able to easily understand and appreciate the game. That’s how I personally learned. Without that, my ideas would be different!

However, games nowadays have too many components and make it difficult to see the game’s foundation. For future game designers, I think this could become a hindrance for them. However, there are many great people, so it’s very much a “could” situation.

Regardless, when you are lost in the project plan, or have trouble deciding something, I think it’s useful to trim the fat and go the simpler router. Break apart the components, and examine each piece individually. That is effective in any case.


Interviewer: One button games, huh?

Sakurai: I guess there were people who didn’t get the concept, so I figured I would explain it in great detail….did I do a good job?

Interviewer: It was very easy to understand!

Sakurai: The touch screen on Nintendo DS is a lot like a single button. Because of that, there has been an increase in simple games. Even though games have become more complicated, there have been creators and designers who are resisting that change.

Interviewer: A while back, there were even commercials on TV for simple to play games. Maybe they were inspired by this column (laughs). That’s probably not the case.

Sakurai: I’m not sure about that. There were talks about that back around 1992 and 1993. (laughs)

Interviewer: Is that so? Anyway, for this column you picked the “Kitty Cover” game!

Sakurai: The Kitty Cover game isn’t exactly a one button game, but I really like cats so it was an easy choice.

Interviewer: Speaking of which, do you own a cat? I often hear that you like cats.

Sakurai: The apartment that I’m living in now, does not allow them…

Interviewer: You can keep one in secret!

Sakurai: If I kept one in secret, wouldn’t the smell give it away? Maybe.

Interviewer: That’s too bad. You should find a new place!

Sakurai: I’ll think about it.


Previous translation:100 Questions from Fans
Game Store Staff: Masahiro Sakurai
I’m Making Brawl

Next translation: Additional Information on Brawl’s character selection
Snake in Brawl or I’m Quitting Hal

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  1. Man… I so wished I could read the book, but I do not know Japanese enough… Perhpas someday there will be translators willing to do entire books, which could make Masahiro Sakurai happier.

    1. We are working on translating a lot of the articles for the community!
      There’s a lot of great resources on the Web if you want to start studying Japanese.

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