Soma was the translation lead. SutaMen and MaskedMan provided assistance.
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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 interview may not accurately reflect Nomura and Sakurai. It’s only for fan use.
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Images come from the translation.[TN] indicates a translation note.
The Story Behind Cloud’s New Challenger Illustration / Passion in Two Minutes
Interviewer: Your (Mr. Nomura’s) artwork featured Mario and Link, but was that because Mr. Sakurai gave you some sort of instruction?
Sakurai: No, for the new challenger illustrations, I let the illustrator draw whatever they want, including any other characters they choose to add.
Nomura: I thought if I let this opportunity pass me by, I might not have another chance to draw these characters, so I had a lot of fun with it. I’m the type of person where I don’t really worry about my workload; take on way too much, and end up overloaded later on. For the illustration I ended up extending the deadline until the limit. I really caused you a lot of trouble (chuckles).
Sakurai: Oh, it was no trouble (laughs).
Nomura: In my head, I had the image of Cloud and Link clashing swords from the very beginning, but I didn’t have anything else. So, I ended up agonizing over who to include while I was drawing. What I really wanted was to have a lot of characters on both sides, to convey the feel of a face-off, but Cloud was the only character on the Final Fantasy side, which was a problem (laughs). Normally I don’t draw multiple Clouds in one drawing, but just this once, I drew another Cloud in a different outfit.
Sakurai: Actually, you could have drawn characters that don’t appear in Smash.
Nomura: Is that so? I didn’t know about that rule. I really did agonize over who to include. Personally, I think that Donkey Kong came out really well, even though I was drawing him for the first time. And I like Kirby, so I needed to include him, although it was difficult to find a place for him.
Sakurai: He does stand out.
Nomura: I was thinking about what to do, looking at a bunch of references, and I saw an image of a “kick,” so I used that. I thought about making his expression more heroic, but I went with the expression that he generally has in-game instead.
Sakurai: That’s his original face anyway (laughs). Really, thank you so much. It was a very valuable, important opportunity for us as well.
Nomura: Actually, to provide some background, Super Mario 64 was the impetus for the creation of Kingdom Hearts, so being able to draw Mario made me very happy.
Sakurai: Oh, is that so? But really, when you take a step back and look at it, when you see all of these different characters in the same place, Smash is pretty crazy. I suppose that’s pretty ridiculous of me to say, though, given that I’m the creator (laughs).
Nomura: Whether it’s crazy or not, you’ve assembled quite a number of characters.
Sakurai: Honestly, when we revealed Solid Snake for Brawl, I thought, “There’s no way we’ll be able to stage a bigger surprise than this.” But, as a creator, you just keep making more while trying to surprise and delight your audience as much as possible.
Nomura: The element of surprise is very important.
Sakurai: Changing topics, were you the one who drew the storyboards for the summons in Final Fantasy VII?
Nomura: I was.
Sakurai: Way back, at the Tokyo Game Show, there was a panel called “Production Scene Sample” where the storyboards for Ifrit were on display. I remember seeing that and thinking there was an incredible amount of detail in the drawings.
Nomura: That was when I was young and passionate (laughs). Nowadays, I can’t do as much.
Sakurai: I thought, “The person who made this must be amazing,” and it made me feel like we were capable of doing so much more.
Nomura: At the time, the team and I didn’t know how much we could do if we chose to make the game in 3D since none of us had made a game in 3D before. So the entire team took up the challenge, full throttle. But looking back, seeing that whole cutscene play every time you use a summon is a bit annoying (laughs).
Sakurai: For the summons that appear in Smash, we carefully calculated how much of a two-minute game they would take up. Balancing the time taken up by these visual effects is very important.
Obsessions of Game Design / Inspirational childhood days
Interviewer: After working with each other for the first time, what were your impressions of each other’s work?
Sakurai: I didn’t personally see Mr. Nomura work with my own eyes, but I can take a guess from his storyboards and such. I don’t know if I’m getting the right impression, though (laughs).
Nomura: I get the impression Mr. Sakurai’s trying to invent something with every one of his games. In reading his Famitsu columns, I always thought, “He seems like a really serious person”—and that was actually spot-on.
Sakurai: I think it’s important to balance being “serious” and being “stupid,” so I think I do some pretty stupid things…
Nomura: If that’s the case, I must be extremely stupid (laughs).
Sakurai: I hear rumors you’re very scary, though.
Nomura: I get that a lot.
Sakurai: But, you’re not scary in actuality.
Nomura: I get that a lot too. People say, “You’re not like I thought you would be!” (laughs)
Sakurai: (laughs) This time, during Cloud’s development, I didn’t have any instructions like “he needs to be like this, he can’t be like this.” That saved us a lot of trouble.
Nomura: I’m also working hard on a project that handles many characters, so I try not to give orders like that. I’m always fighting against those restrictions.
Sakurai: I guess it must be really hard.
Interviewer: One thing you two have in common is that both of you tend to be involved in action-heavy games. Do you have any particular hangups or obsessions regarding such game design?
Nomura: For me, it’s “as long as it feels good, it’s fine.” To tell you the truth, I’m not very good at action games. I think it’s good to make games for people like me, where they can play without getting frustrated and have fun.
Sakurai: Well, if I had to list them, I could bring up 100 or 200 points, so…(laughs). For now, I’ll say “don’t forget about the beginners.” For the record, I’m actually relatively good at video games (laughs).
Interviewer: Another commonality is that you were both born in 1970.
Nomura: I was born in October.
Sakurai: And I was born in August.
Nomura: So you’re the older brother, then (laughs).
Sakurai: Yes (laughs). If you pull up a list of game designers born in 1970, there’s quite a few big names: Hideki Kamiya (Bayonetta), Fumito Ueda (ICO), Yoko Taro (NieR series), Jin Fujisawa and Yosuke Saito (Dragon Quest X), Chiyomaru Shikura (Steins;Gate), and the late Kenji Eno (D and others). Internationally, you have John Carmack, the father of FPS’s, as well. As a generation, a lot of us were directly impacted by the dawn of the PC and the home gaming console. For me personally, it was the year 1986, when games like The Legend of Zelda and Castlevania were released, and I experienced physically interactive games. They had a big impact on me. What about you, Mr. Nomura?
Nomura: At the time, my parents refused to buy me a gaming console, so I played a lot with a sugoroku [TN1] board my dad hand-made. Imitating him, I made my own board games… I think that was the beginning for me, in terms of making games.
Sakurai: You didn’t borrow a Game & Watch from your friends, or anything like that?
Nomura: My cousin had one, which I played on occasion. So I didn’t start buying games until I was an adult.
Sakurai: So you managed to survive until then (laughs).
Interviewer: Would you like to make another game together in the future, or do another collaboration?
Sakurai: It seems like it would be difficult to decide who would have what role, though.
Nomura: If we were to work together, I think I’d leave most everything up to Mr. Sakurai. By the way, do you know what you’re working on after Smash ends?
Sakurai: Things have just recently calmed down for me, so first I’m going to take a break and rest.
Nomura: Oh, and you have a cat, right? I actually have two myself.
Sakurai: Do you really? Then, our first collaboration might be to have our cats work together (laughs).
[TN1] Sugoroku is a board game you play with dice…basically like the Game of Life.
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