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.
Today, Source Gaming proudly presents Sakurai’s interview from the Making of Fire Emblem: 25 Years of Development Secrets. The scans have been graciously provided by X Kan from Kantopia. If you are interested in learning more about Fire Emblem’s history and development, then Kantopia is the go-to website for it. For more information that has come from this book, check out this compilation post.
Source Gaming will be hosting a live reaction to the Smash Broadcast. Subscribe to us on Twitter and YouTube to stay up to date with information! We will begin an hour before the broadcast begins, and be joined by special guest Tamaki. After the broadcast, the Source Gaming team will begin SourceCast #6, live. Don’t miss it!
SutaMen, PushDustIn assisted with revising this translation.
TL Note: This post was updated with a more clear translation of one line at 1:20AM EST. My apologies! The line is Sakurai’s answer to: Interviewer: Was part of that done to differentiate him a bit more from Ike as well?
The whole story of how Fire Emblem characters appeared in Smash, and their direction
Interviewer: So, can you tell us the story about how Marth and Roy became playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee?
Sakurai: Well, I wanted to include Marth in the original Smash Bros. game, as a sword-wielding character. But for Smash 64, there were some features we barely finished in time, and the four hidden characters were created only on the premise of being able to reuse some movements and parts of the models of pre-existing characters, so in the end Marth couldn’t make it in.
Interviewer: As for the rationale behind wanting to add Marth, was it because you felt that out of Nintendo’s many franchises, Fire Emblem is one that should be included?
Sakurai: That is a big part of it, and in terms of character diversity I did want more variation in terms of sword-wielding characters. I thought in comparison to Link—who’s more of a strong, direct swordsman—someone with finesse, a swordsman who relied more on technique, would be a lot of fun. On top of that, when we narrowed the possibilities down to the popular franchises of the time, we felt some restrictions. So among the possibilities, Fire Emblem was a franchise boasting multiple popular titles, and I thought there was more than enough value in including a character from Fire Emblem. So, in the next installment, Super Smash Bros. Melee, I had decided to include Marth at the start. Then, while thinking about a potential clone character, Roy came up. His game was in development at the time, and so he was added.
Interviewer: And Roy was a character who appeared in Smash before he appeared in his own game, but was this a proposal on your end?
Sakurai: No, I wasn’t privy to any release dates or anything like that, so that was something that simply got decided during meetings. To tell you the truth, Binding Blade was scheduled to release before Melee (laughs).
Interviewer: It seems that due to a variety of factors, Binding Blade actually underwent a title revision as well. You can sort of tell from some conversations in this book, with Mr. Narihiro and Mr. Higuchi.
Sakurai: On that topic, Narihiro said in his interview that “Sakurai was angry,” but…I wasn’t that angry (laughs).
Interviewer: The direction the character was going in changed two or three times, and his outfit was also changed three times—or so I’ve heard.
Sakurai: When I first heard a description of Roy’s character, I felt he was a bit more energetic, had a bit more strength inside of him. So, in comparison to Marth, whose sword is stronger at the tip, I made Roy’s sword stronger near the hilt, which I felt made them feel very different. But I played Binding Blade, and he’s really not like that at all!
Sakurai: In terms of personality, he’s mostly the same as Marth. But in Melee, Roy is expressed as a very strong character because that’s how I envisioned him during the development phase. I just want to make it clear his representation in Melee is not because I didn’t understand his character (laughs).
Interviewer: But, because that impression is so strong, I feel like Roy’s image has an element of wildness, or mischievousness.
Sakurai: He has a sense of hidden power, I think. And, this time, when I was redesigning him for Smash for 3DS/ Wii U, I had him sometimes hold his sword with a reverse grip. I thought that would strengthen the image of him getting close to his opponent and hitting them with a lot of power. I used his Melee design as more of a suggestion, and remade many aspects.
Interviewer: Was part of that done to differentiate him a bit more from Ike as well?
Sakurai: If I had to say, I felt that if I was going to make Roy, I had to make him properly. If we’re going to have several characters all of the same type, then they’re not going to be clones, because we don’t need that overlap.
Interviewer: In Smash, a lot of Fire Emblem characters have “counter” moves. Is there a reason behind that?
Sakurai: That comes directly from the Fire Emblem games. In Fire Emblem, first you have your attack phase, and then the enemy attacks. That pattern repeats itself, so to express the nature of those battles, I gave them counter moves…although Robin doesn’t have one (laughs). Robin doesn’t seem like a counterattack-type character to me.
Interviewer: Robin is a character who’s more about ranged attacks anyway.
Sakurai: Moreover, I thought it would be more fun to include an attack that can absorb percentage, like Nosferatu. Of course, the initial tactician class can’t use Nosferatu. But Ike doesn’t use projectile attacks with Ragnell, either, so it’s all part of balancing the game. Knowing the source material and then making each of the fighters unique is how they ended up the way they are today.
Interviewer: I think that Smash characters are designed in a way that’s very conscious of the entire worldwide audience, but at first Fire Emblem wasn’t even a series that had been released outside of Japan. Were there some difficulties trying to include Marth, who hadn’t ever made an overseas appearance?
Sakurai: Yes, there were a few, but I was certain he would be a fun character, so I pushed hard for Marth. For Roy, I think there was some discussion and internal dispute. For example, their voices are both Japanese even in the international releases. That’s pretty rare, I think. Well, other than Pikachu.
Sakurai: During development, I also had meetings with NoA. We talked about removing Roy for the NA release, but in the end they said, “He’ll be fun, so let’s leave him as is.”
Interviewer: As a result, there are a lot of people who were first introduced to Fire Emblem through Smash. What do you think about the impact the game has had?
Sakurai: It’s a give-and-take relationship. It’s not limited to Fire Emblem; this happens with a lot of series. It’s less about one series helping the other, but more of a reciprocal relationship. It’s important to pin down what makes a game or character fun, but because every fan will interpret that differently, I think it’s important to really tread carefully and make sure there are as many good outcomes as possible.
Playable fighters in Smash are influenced by the “trends of the time”
Interviewer: In Smash for 3DS/ Wii U, there are far more Fire Emblem characters on the roster than in previous games. How did you go about the selection process for these characters?
Sakurai: It really depends on the situation. For example, Roy and Robin were included for completely different reasons. It also depends on luck, of course. Industry trends around the time when development begins is a pretty big factor. I started development on Smash for 3DS/ Wii U right after I’d wrapped up Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Fire Emblem Awakening was released one month after Uprising. So what’s popular around the time when I begin designing the game is important. Characters are almost never added after I’ve completed the project plan for Smash.
Interviewer: So once that project plan is set into motion, everything is already fixed.
Sakurai: If I had to offer up one exception from this time, it would be for Pokémon. We knew there was going to be a new release soon, so we left one spot open for a new Pokémon, and everything else continued according to plan. Adding or removing during the process directly impacts production costs and people’s workloads, so it’s not that easy to add or change things, and we take that into account.
Interviewer: That’s a separate topic from post-release add-on content (DLC), though.
Sakurai: We don’t think about adding in post-release content from the beginning. We want to provide as much as we can with the base game.
Interviewer: But that means Awakening’s release schedule was pretty fortuitous.
Sakurai: Yes, that was the case. For example, if Awakening was released six months later, Robin may not have made it in, and if it was six months early, they might not have even been considered.
Interviewer: Was Lucina in a similar situation?
Sakurai: Yes, that applies to Lucina as well. How much a character will please the players, how unique they are—there are a lot of factors that go into deciding a character’s inclusion. I don’t know whether Fire Emblem will have many more games in the future, but it’s not as if we have a stipulation that says “we have to include the protagonist of the next Fire Emblem game.” Moreover, we don’t even know if there’ll be another Smash game.
Interviewer: You do say that every time, though, so I do wonder if maybe it’ll just keep on going forever.
Sakurai: And I’ll become the Smash craftsman? (laughs)
Interviewer: Yes. After all, including the DLC, you’ve been involved with Smash since the beginning.
Sakurai: Well, DLC is coming to an end soon, too, y’know.
Interviewer: By the same token, I think there are a lot of people who want you to make a new original game.
Sakurai: It’s pretty difficult. If I keep making Smash, I get to work on interesting things like Ryu, but if I leave, I don’t know if the staff could do it by themselves.
Smash for development secrets: emotional moments with Roy’s VA, Jun Fukuyama
Interviewer: Is there anything you want to talk about regarding the development of Fire Emblem characters?
Sakurai: I have one story, about re-recording Roy’s lines for Smash for 3DS & Wii U. At the time of Melee’s recording, Jun Fukuyama wasn’t as famous as he is now, and it had only been about three years since his debut, I think. But he remembered that one- or two-hour recording session in amazing detail. Like knowing who the other voice actors were, for example. Actually, at the time, Roy’s name was “Ike.” It was eventually changed to “Roy” later, but he even remembered a minor detail like that.
Interviewer: Wow, that’s an interesting story.
Sakurai: That’s almost 14 or 15 years ago. But he remembered every detail, and he said it was a very fun recording session he remembered this whole time. Now he’s an incredibly popular voice actor, so he’s probably had a lot of memorable roles, but I was deeply moved the fact that he remembered this short, two-hour session after all this time.
Interviewer: Were there any differences in the recording between then and now?
Sakurai: His vocalization was slightly different. It’s been awhile, so higher-pitched sounds he could do back then are a bit harder for him now, so he did have some difficulty with that.
Interviewer: Midorikawa, who was the voice of Marth, wasn’t contacted after Brawl, so he thought Marth wasn’t going to be in the latest Smash.
Sakurai: The thing is, his lines in Melee were so great, I thought “there’s no topping this,” so I am sorry, but I didn’t think re-recording was necessary.
Interviewer: Midorikawa said that his voice was younger back then, so he wanted to try doing his lines again now, to voice lines that would befit his cooler visual look.
Sakurai: If there’s a next time, I’ll keep that in mind (laughs). I’m very grateful he keeps us in mind every time there’s a release.
Interviewer: As a closing topic, since this is the 25th anniversary of Fire Emblem, I was wondering if you had any words for fans of the series.
Sakurai: I was playing the first one when I started working, so that would mean it’s been a quarter-century since I joined the game industry. The amount of work is pretty harsh… Recently, my vision has been getting worse as well…anyhow, leaving that aside (laughs). But, being able to take these characters who first appeared so long ago, and to be able to keep using them and share them with the current generation is, in my opinion, a blessing and a really fun job. Fire Emblem is changing and evolving with entries like Awakening and Fates, and I’d love to keep an eye on this evolution now and in the future.
Interviewer: And about the future of Smash…?
Sakurai: Who knows…?
Interviewer: (laughs). Thank you very much for your time.