“Are The Characters Dancing?” Sakurai’s Famitsu column vol. 430– on Wii Fit Trainer, Megaman, Villager, and a little Chrom

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Think About the Video Games, vol. 430, June 27th, 2013

Are The Characters Dancing?

I am writing this manuscript now, after the first day of E3 has ended. The current time is 3AM. I am sleepy. My eyes are on the verge of closing…

Now, “Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS,” and likewise “for Wii U” was shown. As for new characters, the protagonist of Animal Crossing, Villager, the third-party character Megaman, and the unprecedented new fit fighter, “Wii Fit Trainer,” were revealed. They are all fun to work on and play as. Their uniqueness shines through.

From this, I was asked the following questions from many people. “I understand Megaman, but why were Villager and Wii Fit Trainer chosen?” They’re clearly not characters suited for battle. In fact, there was even a point where in the planning stages of the previous game, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl,” I removed the Villager, the protagonist of Animal Crossing, from consideration because he wasn’t suited for battle.  To be blunt, if I think I can do it then I can envision a concrete embodiment of the character, but if I cannot do that the character cannot be made.” This is a big factor. Of course getting permission and understanding from the original creators is necessary, but whether the image of the character in my head is dancing powerfully, or not. This is of the utmost importance. On the contrary, no matter how suited a character may be to fighting, if I cannot meaningfully distinguish them from other characters, or create fun unique characteristics of the characters, then that’s the end for them. I think there are probably many who have looked at the trailers on the official website or pictures and realized that both Villager and Wii Fit Trainer were not selected solely because they can show off their eccentricity. They each have their own individual fighting styles and strategies, and make the game more fun.

For Megaman, if I was just thinking about how he would fight, he probably would have ended up with standard punches and kicks. Megaman’s moveset in the “Marvel VS. Capcom” series is comprised of punches and kicks, so there would be no inconsistencies there as well. However, the unique trait of the Megaman series is that he uses the attacks of various bosses to fight. I am aiming to capture the “embodiment” of Megaman by incorporating a wealth of these different attacks into his character.

Megaman looks like his original NES-version self, compared to a potentially more sleek, updated design. He has blank facial expressions and can walk and fire his Mega Buster simultaneously. He also has unique jump animations, “launched” animations, sound effects, and a special KO animation. This is all done in an attempt to capture a concrete embodiment of the character. However, doing all that on top of making him fit visually and balancing him to be fun to play in “Smash” is important.  Rather than deciding his character by simply tracing/copying the original work, it’s necessary to solidify the foundation of his image. Not just Megaman, but Villager and Wii Fit Trainer require a lot of work as well. This is similar to previous fighters Fox (from Star Fox) and Captain Falcon (from F-ZERO), as they don’t have an action or fighting game to base their moveset off of, but I do aim to maintain their own uniqueness as well.

If I was making the game by myself that might be fine, but when working with a large number of people, having a unified vision is important. It wouldn’t be unusual at all for each of the individual developers to be thinking “My Megaman is like this!” and have their own interpretation and image of how Megaman should look and play. However, if the initial image and interpretation is clear, even if some minor discrepancies arise, it tends to resolve itself smoothly without any inconsistencies. So it was important to start with an image, an interpretation that dances, and is very appealing, and to be able to convey that clearly. But development on the game is far from over. I’ll keep working hard.

Looking Back

Sakurai: I’ll give you an example– Chrom. When I decided who to have as a representative from “Fire Emblem: Awakening,” I had thought up a moveset from Chrom, but no matter what he just ended up as this mix between Ike and Marth, and he didn’t come together very well. But when I thought of the “sword and sorcery/magic” concept with Robin, the character’s individuality showed very well.

Interviewer: It ended up being Robin and Lucina. Were you able to envision those two characters quickly?

Sakurai: Yes, I think so. Although people’s definition of “quickly” has some range. In particular, Wii Fit Trainer was especially easy to come up with,

Interviewer: Is it possible that rather than being easy, you were having fun designing her? (laughs)

Sakurai: Well, I started with yoga poses as moves (laughs).

Interviewer: I went to cover E3 in person as well, but I learned that Wii Fit Trainer was confirmed through famitsu.com. I remember yelling “what?” (laughs)

Sakurai: Nintendo had a closed-doors media-only event. And they announced “We have one final surprise.” And everyone was excited, but they showed Wii Fit. And the media people were all, “Oh, it’s just Wii Fit”…

Interviewer: Oh, I see what they were going for.

Sakurai: Then they pulled the camera, and Mario and Link were standing right there, and everyone screamed.

Interviewer: I feel like they were definitely targeting that sort of reaction (laughs).

Sakurai: The applause was tremendous. And then I showed up and did a small presentation to everyone. Waiting in hiding until then was tough.

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.

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