Sakurai answers some (old) questions– about Brawl!

sakurai answers

These questions were part of a two-part article that was published shortly after Brawl’s release, in the magazine Nintendo Dream, featuring a bunch of reader questions, which Sakurai answered. It looks like it took place 4 months or so after Brawl’s release. I’ll leave links to the scans at the bottom. I’ve only taken the ones I think are really interesting– ones relating to character selection, differences between Melee and Brawl, etc.


Question: Why did Wolf become a playable fighter, and not Krystal?

Sakurai: Wolf was a character that barely made it in due to time constraints. He was added because there was high demand for his inclusion on places like “Smash Bros. Dojo!!”, and he’s a popular character. Of course, if he didn’t have that backing him, I don’t think I could have put him in. Among the characters with high popularity, I chose one who had a high possibility of becoming realized in the game, and as a result you could say Wolf was created.

Host: Does that mean even if you wanted to add more female characters, Krystal didn’t have a realistic chance of being physically implemented into the game?

Sakurai: For Krystal, we didn’t have any of the technical modeling knowledge that we had cultivated with Fox and Falco, so it was like making a brand-new character from scratch. And because of the limited amount of time we had, creating Krystal wasn’t realistically possible. On that point, with Wolf we already have some knowledge of how to model his character, and would require about 70% of the effort required to create a whole new character.

Host: I see. But we did get a lot of questions like, “Why wasn’t Krystal a playable character?”

Sakurai: It’s not that I don’t understand how that feels, but if you start saying that, it becomes “Why isn’t Waddle Dee playable?” or Dry Bones, or Baby Peach. There’d be no end to it.

Host: Well, that is true (laughs).

Sakurai: In the end, the three playable characters in this game from “Star Fox” are Fox and Falco, and on top of that, Wolf, because he was popular and easy to create. On the other hand, if it was a situation where it wasn’t easy to create this character, and we had to make him from scratch, “Star Fox” may not have had 3 representatives. So, please think of Wolf as a lucky inclusion.



Question: In “Subspace Emissary, why weren’t Wolf or Jigglypuff involved with the story?

Sakurai: Toon Link is also included in this, but these three characters were really on the brink of being cut. The characters that are strongly involved in the main plot had to be characters that were confirmed to be in the game from a fairly early stage. But this time, there were characters that were confirmed midway during development, and characters that weren’t. If we had a bit more time, it might have been 4-5 characters, and if we had less time, it might have been zero.



Question: Why is the game speed different from “Melee?”

Sakurai: I wanted to make it easier to play is number one, but another one of the reasons is because you use the Wii Remote to play.

Host: The Wii Remote.

Sakurai: Basically, you’re using a controller with a D-pad to play, and I figured that wouldn’t be able to withstand the speed of Melee.

Host: I see. You don’t have a control stick, after all.

Sakurai: Also, one of the things I felt when reflecting on Melee was that while a higher speed game is definitely exhilarating and fun,  it makes the gap between beginners and higher level players too large, and you can’t really enjoy carefree, leisurely aerial battles. On the contrary, you might say it makes the game rough, but it does shrink the breadth** of the game a little. So this time, I made the speed slower, but on that point I think it would best to think of “Brawl” and “Melee” separately, and enjoy them each in their own way.

TL Note: **Sakurai has used this phrase in other places, and generally in those cases he means more “the variety of ways you can play.”


Question: Why is it that L-cancelling*, which you could do in Melee, was removed in Brawl?

Sakurai: It’s the same reason as the reduction in game speed. First, doing all that on the Wii Remote would be close to impossible, and again it considerably increases the gap between beginners and high level players. But that method, of being able to do cancels with one button is fun on a game level, it’s something that when you pull it off just feels very good. (thinks a little) So, if I had to compare it to something, it would be like rethinking the existence of Mini-Turbo in Mario Kart, I think. It is something I already introduced into the world, so I did feel some resistance to removing it, but more than that I wanted a game where everyone could have fun, and I thought directing the game towards not being a tiring game would be more important, so this time I’ve taken it out.

*A technique where you cancel landing lag by pressing the shield button before you land.

TL Note: A literal translation of the Japanese term for L-cancelling would be “land cancel,” by the way.


Metaknight’s broken mask texture being used in the game.

Question: If there were any things that you were very reluctant to cut, please tell us

Sakurai: In the beginning, we had a system where swords would break, or equipment would be destroyed. After you lost your stock and respawned, your equipment would be repaired, but people who survived, so basically the better, more skilled players, would be at a disadvantage, and I wanted to include a system like that. This game is a game of accidents, so I wanted to include things that would change the situation around.

Host: Why didn’t you include it?

Sakurai: In the end, it came down to a lack of time. We’d even prepared models of broken swords. Other than that, Captain Falcon’s helmet had a crack in it, and you could even see his eye peek out from under it. It was actually very cool. It’s a shame it’s not in the game.

Host: That is a shame. But if you had the time, you would have tried to implement it, right?

Sakurai: Yes. We really are adding as many things as we possibly can, so cutting the things that barely don’t make the cut…it’s can’t be helped.


The Japanese cover to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Compared to the American cover, here the background is clearly a sky.
The Japanese cover to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Compared to the American cover, which just uses a dark blue background, here the background is clearly a sky.

Question: “Smash” had very strong fire imagery until now, but Brawl seems to focus more on the sky. Is it just me?

Sakurai: No, it’s not just you. This time, instead of focusing on “battle = to burn**,” I wanted to the game to focus on having an image of being able to fight freely, play freely, so I changed it up a little. Although in keeping with the previous theme, “Smash Dojo!!” initially had a fire motif as well. But I asked them “please make it a sky,” and so it changed.

Host: So you consciously changed the image to a sky.

Sakurai: Yes. But, thinking about it now, website that we were using as a sort of homepage for Melee used a sky, and in the planning stages used sky imagery as well.

Host: So it’s not related to the name of your company, Sora.***

Sakurai: Well, the same person made them both, so it just happened to end up going in the same direction.****

Together: (laughs)

TL Notes: **He uses the verb “to burn,” but in Japanese that has another meaning, which means “to get passionate about something,” or basically “to get fired up.”

***Sora means sky in Japanese.

****There’s not really a good way to translate this, but it is at least slightly funnier-sounding in the Japanese than this translation makes it sound.



Question: Mr. Sakurai, can you clear Boss Battles Mode on Intense?

Sakurai: I can. But I struggle a lot, and even when I do feel as if I got lucky.

Host: Even you have trouble (laughs). Well then, can you give us some tips on how to beat it?

Sakurai: Well, first, this is obvious, but you have to avoid taking damage at all costs. Not taking damage means that you have to be able to recognize each boss’s attacks. And I think that, for your character, having a perfect understanding of how to control them and what actions to do to succeed is necessary.

Host: Do you have any recommended characters for beating Boss Battles Mode?

Sakurai: I think it’s good to try it with a variety of different characters, but I don’t really recommend projectile-based characters. If you’re really confident in your use of projectiles, that’s different, but you have to slowly chip away at their health. On the other hand, a character I would recommend is Ike. My reason is that if you counter every attack that you can, you’ll be doing damage to your enemy, and you won’t be taking any. And the other character is Toon Link. I wrote this on “Smash Dojo!” as well, but I think that his down-aerial is surprisingly effective against two of the bosses that are considered to be relatively strong, Duon and Porky.

Host: So when you finally beat it, were you using Ike or Toon Link?

Sakurai: Umm. No,  I get the feeling that in the end it was actually Fox (laughs).

Everyone: (laughs)

Host: Are there any bosses that you have trouble with?

Sakurai: I’m not very good against Duon…and Porky, I think. Also, I don’t like Meta Ridley…there are a lot (laughs).

Together: (laughs)


Links to scans

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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  1. It’s amazing how some of this is pretty meaty stuff, yet has gone unnoticed by the Smash fanbase for over 7 years. Awesome work!

    Tink, Wolf, and Jigglypuff almost being cut was commonly speculated but it’s fascinating hearing it from Sakurai himself. Just goes to show that maybe the whole “original 12” aren’t as fallible as we think.

    1. We actually found some more interviews too. We are in the process of going through them and translating the important stuff first (as always).

      There’s so much stuff that has gone unnoticed for such a long time. It’s really a crime, but I’m glad we can fix the problem.

      EDIT: To be fair, Jigglypuff was almost cut in Melee too. I wonder what it’s priority was in Smash for 3DS/ Wii U…

  2. All that great insight into the smash development, thanks.

    So interesting to hear that a 30% of difference in development cost was the difference between life and death for Wolf.
    Perhaps he’ll come back as dlc for that same reason ?

    How fortunate that Jigglypuff was not removed, she has such a unique playstyle.

    And it’s shocking to hear him say that l cancelling fun on a game level, rather than feeling good when it is done successfully it feels like a chore that has to be done perfectly always and missing one feels terrible.
    Glad it didn’t come back in Smash 4.

    1. Yeah, it basically just adds complexity without adding any depth. It’s not like there’s any relevant reason NOT to l-cancel if you’re able to.

      1. You’re misunderstanding the depth present in an L-cancel– the decision isn’t whether or not you should L-cancel, but the decision is when– based on what your opponent does, your l-cancel timing will vary, and it isn’t really possible to do all L-cancels on reaction. Thus, l-cancelling is actually a mechanic that at a high level really rewards the player with situational awareness of what your opponent is going to do– after you commit to approaching with an aerial attack, your opponent can spot dodge, light shield, heavy shield, angle their shield, or get hit, all of which will have different l-cancel timings.

        You’re right that you shouldn’t ever not l-cancel, but you do need to commit to a decision to L-cancel at a certain time, and you’re never going to be able to L-cancel 100% of the time on reaction. You will have to use your awareness of situations and your opponent to L-cancel at a high rate, which makes it much more of a mental decision than the purely physical, reactive one that you’re making it out to be.

      2. Irrelevant.
        Why isn’t tech automatic then ? It’s not like there’s any reason not to tech when you can…
        Or actually, let’s put automatic juggles, because when you grab, you always want to get a 40% combo out of it so having to input the moves only adds complexity.
        (yes there is DI involved but you get my point)

        L-cancel separates the good players from the others. It rewards dedicated players for actually learning the game and working on their execution.
        Besides, it makes the game more fast-paced for those who want it, and gives your hands something to do at all times.
        Am i the only one enjoying a game challenging me with its speed ? Enabling me to have fun no matter how far i want to push my mastery of the mechanics ?

        Of course I’m not. L-cancel was a great feature in my opinion, even if it doesn’t provide choice. Which, it appears, it actually does.
        Not everything has to boil down to “meaningful choices”. These are great, but pure tech skill is important in a fighting game as well. Making the game “fun for everyone” isn’t removing every demanding feature.
        It’s actually what 64 and Melee did, making the game engaging for casual players while still giving the others opportunities to push their limits.

  3. While it’s interesting, I’m really glad the degradation mechanic didn’t end up being used. Not even due to gameplay mechanics; it just looks really odd to see the goofy Nintendo characters being all scratched, even when we’ve only seen it on Meta Knight and Falcon. Works fine with Little Mac, though.

    The stuff about fire vs. sky imagery is really neat, and the ‘fire vs. ice” aesthetic from this iteration feels kind of like an extension of that.

    1. While it’s true that the overall theme of Smash 4 seems to be a clash of diametric forces (red vs. blue,) I don’t believe that there was much if any “ice” imagery used. Fire is the primary thematic element used in Smash 4, and we see it everywhere from the burning Smash logo before trailers to the actual Smash logo on both games. If we are to extrapolate information from this quote, perhaps the red represents the competitive aspects Sakurai strove for in Melee, while the blue represents the freedom he sought to give players in Brawl. He has said on multiple occasions that he wanted to strike a balance between Brawl and Melee with this game, after all.

  4. I’m probably biased as heck but I really like hearing about Sakurai comparing Melee to Brawl, and the snippet of l-cancelling was extremely interesting. I didn’t know he actually hesitated removing it, even going so far as to say that when you pull it off it “just feels very good.”

    Thanks a lot for the translations as usual, guys.

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