“Abilities Unlike Any Other” – Sakurai’s Famitsu Column, Vol. 457

Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs and link to this translation. For additional information, please read this post. 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 Making the Video Games 2. 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

Hey there! Here’s a translation I threw together back when Sakurai first published his article on Robin and Lucina, reposted here for posterity. I’ve also included Sakurai’s own comments on the article from his latest book.
I’m currently hard at work translating some other really interesting content, so stay tuned!

Thoughts About Video Games, Vol. 457 – “Abilities Unlike Any Other”

We’ve just announced two new characters who will be joining the fray in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. One is Robin, the avatar from Fire Emblem: Awakening, and the other is Lucina, a swordswoman who plays an important role in the same title. I’ll skip over the details.

I suspect a lot of you will ask: “What? Not Chrom!?” Of course, Chrom is quite popular, being the protagonist of FE:A and all. However, I chose Robin and Lucina, and I will elaborate on my reasoning.

Robin appears in the game as a Tactician and functions much like a Mystic Knight (note: FF terminology, but equivalent to magic swordsman). I thought to utilize his all-around nature by assigning swordplay to his Smash attacks and magic tomes to his special attacks—that is, allow him to use magic.

His neutral special is thunder magic that grows stronger the larger you charge it. He uses fire magic for his side special, and wind magic for recovery as his up special. Although Robin doesn’t use dark magic in FE:A, I decided to assign it as his down special. It isn’t the first time I’ve given moves to a character that they don’t use in their respective game in order to capture certain aspects of the original title.

I also implemented the system used in FE:A, in which tomes break after overuse. Likewise, I included a similar system for the Levin Sword, which breaks after a certain number of uses. However, both the tomes and the Levin Sword will quickly regenerate after a set period of time.

Lucina uses the same techniques as Marth, a fighter with whom I’m sure most of you are already familiar. I even went so far as to make their strength, speed, and special attacks almost identical.

However, what sets Lucina apart is the fact that the strength of her attacks is uniform along the blade. Marth’s playstyle emulates the elegant swordplay of a fencer by dealing more damage when he strikes with the tip of his blade, but the damage Lucina deals is evened out. Thus, I think that Lucina will be much easier than Marth for novice players to play with.

I played all the way through FE:A and really wanted to include a character from that rich cast in Smash Bros. Naturally, I considered adding Chrom to the roster, but the decision wasn’t easy by any means.

At the end of the day, Chrom would just end up being another plain-old sword-wielder like Marth and Ike. Compared with other characters, he lacks any unique characteristics.

Conversely, when the idea of including Robin came to mind, conceiving the character was so easy that I immediately saw how it would work. From standards to specials, grabs to throws, all aspects of his moveset just fell into place. Not only did he possess characteristics unlike other fighters, but he also captured the essence of the Fire Emblem series. It was perfect!

In the end, if a game isn’t fun, then there’s no point. Of course, it would be really easy to make a game by churning out a ton of similar characters, but that’s not how I produce games.

Initially, I had considered including Lucina as one of Marth’s alternate costumes. After all, she has a close relationship with him in FE:A. In such cases, even if two characters’ names and voices differ, as long as they function the same way, I assign them as alternate costumes. The Wii Fit Trainers, Villagers, and Robins are examples of this setup.

However, even though Lucina shares her physical stats and techniques with Marth, the characteristics of their attacks differ. When two such similar characters function in an even slightly different manner, I give them a separate spot on the roster since that will affect battle records and whatnot. In that sense, you could say she was very lucky to join the fray!

Looking Back

Sakurai: “I had always wanted to include a Mage from the Fire Emblem series, and I feel like Robin turned out to be a really solid character.”

Given that players can alter Robin’s appearance in-game, wasn’t it difficult to implement the avatar as a playable character in Smash?

Sakurai: “Of course! [laughs] We had two different voice actors and everything. The thing about Fire Emblem characters is that they always end up a little different from how they were portrayed in their original titles. In Smash, we have to exaggerate and expand upon some aspects of the characters. If we manage to find the right angle, then the character practically develops itself. I feel taking those sorts of liberties is ultimately preferable to selecting characters based on popularity alone, only for those characters to fall flat.”

Speaking of “falling flat,” Chrom took quite a beating in that trailer. You were really giving him a hard time, huh?

Sakurai: “I suppose you could say that. [laughs] But the staff at Intelligent Systems absolutely loved it. They told me, ‘You really know to pick on Chrom!'”

Well, how about that. [laughs] I imagine the voice actor, Tomokazu Sugita, must have loved performing those lines.

Sakurai: “He really did! He was having a blast the whole time, even going so far as to throw in some fake crying. [laughs] He also did the voice for Takamaru, an Assist Trophy from the game The Mysterious Murasame Castle.

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