“The Little Pepper is Very Hot!” Sakurai Famitsu Column vol. 448

Special thanks to Soma for helping me get this translation finished!

The Little Pepper is Very Hot!
February 27th, 2014 vol 448


The arcade game Punch-Out!! has been in operation for 30 years. The copyright originates from 1983, the same year the Famicon was born. I was very shocked when I found this out. Little Mac has been drawn as wire-frame boxer, and [the game features] exaggerated enemy characters as if they were from cartoons from abroad. This was on a multi-screen device that resembled the Nintendo DS. Finally, it could produce synthesized speech. It’s not like other boxing games where you can recklessly punch away either, the player needs to think about the sequence of their punches logically The Famicon version of the game is more famous. I understand that. It is also a masterpiece. I never would have imagined that I personally would be able to work with the main character from such a game…Of course, I felt the same way with Mario, Pit, and Megaman. As a video game designer, I have probably have worked with the largest amount of popular video game characters in the world.

Little Mac was announced as the 5th newcomer for Super Smash Brothers for Nintendo 3DS/ Wii U.  As a boxer, only fight using his fists, so this does introduce some restrictions and liabilities to his movement and moveset. In addition, Little Mac is short. However, he has turned into a very enjoyable fighter.

For starters, Little Mac’s attacks, and his ability to break through enemies, are very strong.  He can close in on his opponent with a quick sprint, and he doesn’t flinch when hit with weak attacks while using his smash attacks. He can easily avoid projectiles, quickly turn the tables with his counter and then knockback the opponent with Little Mac’s heavy punch are of a megaton-class. Even more, Little Mac has a special system unique to him, the K.O. gauge!  It builds up with damage both dealt and received, and when it fills up completely, it unleashes the one-hit KO move, “KO Uppercut!”. When used properly, you can net massive KOs left and right. Little Mac must be feared!

This intense thrill is what defines Little Mac, but I’ve established a weakness for him: he’s very weak at aerial battles. His [aerial] attack power is weak, and his moves have a lot of lag when they land. His aerial movement gives off the impression that he’s leaving his flank open. Also, his double jump and recovery special move don’t give him a lot of height. Just getting thrown off near the ledge could be a fatal blow. He’s become a character that can rack up KOs, but can also get KO’d easily.

…because of this, you can probably imagine that Little Mac has an advantage on walk-off stages. I guess that’s true. However, walk-off stages without any sort of vertical differences do not exist.It’s always difficult balancing characters that have these kinds of extremes. When fighting as these sorts of characters, they tend to diverge into either winning constantly or losing constantly. When the settings and situations of the fight are set in stone, these characters can’t avoid breaking the balance of the game.

However, for me, “Does that character have unique abilities” and “Do [they] add to the game’s enjoyment in a positive way?” are the important questions. When you compare balance to these concerns, balancing becomes a small detail. What kind of game is “Smash Brothers” in the first place? Playing together with friends while laughing is the main component. I guess it can’t be helped.

In practice, over the course of many repeated games of Smash, Little Mac has become a character to be respected. Of course when you use him, but also when your opponent uses him you  should think of how to counter-attack. I think this adds a good spice to the game.

In addition to Little Mac, we are working on a variety of components.


Looking Back

Sakurai: You know what sansho is, of course.

Interviewer: He’s green too, isn’t he (laughs).

Sakurai: When I requested the pixel artwork from one of the designers for Little Mac’s newcomer page, we could never get it just right.. [Little Mac] turned into some strange old man.

Interviewer: Like, “who is this?” (laughs)

Sakurai: I explained, checked what the designer had finished and asked them to re-do it. After around 5-6 attempts it still wasn’t finished so I added my own pixel art.

Interviewer: From the man himself. (laughs). That’s a very interesting anecdote.

Sakurai: The pixel art for the first Punch Out!! is amazing. The fact that Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto drew them is also amazing.

Interviewer: He drew it himself?

Sakurai: I heard for wireframe Little Mac, he used big graph paper and drew it one by one.

Interviewer: That’s a lot of detail!
Sakurai: At that time and even today, when you look at it you can tell he did a great job with it.

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