Why Sakurai Should Return to the Next Smash

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Today, we will be trying out a new format. This post will argue why Sakurai should return to the next Smash. Another post detailing why he shouldn’t will be posted shortly after. We are going to let you the readers decide which argument is more convincing. Please read BOTH sides before deciding the winner. The link to vote will be at the bottom of each post.  

The post is divided into subsections arguing one particular point. Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter, what you agree or disagree in this post!

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Proven Success with the Series:

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This one should be obvious but the Super Smash Bros series is one of Nintendo’s major IP and a huge success for the company. No game gets people hyped like Super Smash Bros, for better or worse, and it is all thanks to Sakurai. On five games he has been the only director, pouring his heart and soul into the series and the fruits of this labour have paid off. Smash would not be what it is today without Sakurai at the helm. 

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Just going to quote the following data from The Case for Smash NX. Data is from April 2016 so Wii U and 3DS should have higher sales now:

Game:

Smash 64 Melee: Brawl: 3DS: Wii U: 3DS + Wii U
Sold: 5 million* 7.09 million 12.93 million 7.92 million 4.61 million 11.40 million
Attach Rate: >15%* 32.6% 12.7% 13.9% 37.6% 26.6%

With every entry, Smash sells more and more. This isn’t a coincidence — Sakurai knows what fans want. Smash has sold so much that it won two years in a row for best selling Japanese game at the Japan Game Award. Sakurai has made Smash the successful series that it is today.

 

Sakurai is an Effective Smash Marketer:

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Smash has become a phenomenal due to Sakurai’s commitment to the series. With every game, the amount of sales increases for the series, and Sakurai has shown he understands Smash. Fans appreciate his daily updates (started during Brawl), and the build up to the last two Smash games have been incredible. Sakurai not only make games that are critically well received, and sell well — he’s an effective marketer for the series. In the Fire Emblem interview, he joked about being a Smash-craftsman. There’s no doubt in my mind he is. 

 

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With sites like the Smash Bros. Dojo!! for Brawl, the similar Japan-exclusive predecessors for the first game and Melee, as well as the daily Miiverse pictures for the collective 3DS and Wii U installment, Sakurai is open about his games’ features and development. He is aware that fans want news about the game without having to wait so long for them. Perhaps, those daily updates may have caused higher expectations than usual, but the constant flow of information definitely played a role in keeping the games constantly on people’s minds. Nobody knew when bigger news, such as character reveals, would happen, but they could do anytime, when people would least expect them. 

Cares for All Characters:

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Many people claim there is evidence of “Sakurai Bias”, but it can’t be further from the case. Kirby didn’t get multiple characters until Brawl, despite it’s popularity among Japanese gamers. With Smash for Wii U and 3DS, gamers yelled “Sakurai Bias” because of the number of Kid Icarus and Fire Emblem content in the game. However, Lucina and Dark Pit were both crafted out of alt costumes, and the game reuses content from Kid Icarus: Uprising in order to save development time. It’s not necessary that we would have gotten other content if the Kid Icarus content was chosen…we would have gotten less. See this column for more details. If Kirby were to get another fighter, it’d most certainly be Bandanna/Waddle Dee as he seems to be the next “mascot” of Kirby.

In addition, Sakurai needs to care for all the characters and series. He’s creating a crossover game with some of the most popular IPs to ever grace gaming. When writing about characters, he often sounds like a total fanboy. He has said that he sees Smash as an honor because he can work with so many famous characters:

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.

Sakurai has refuted this claim in his column, The Truth Isn’t That Simple. Well worth a read for anyone who believes in the mythical “Sakurai Bias”.

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Cares for the Small Details:

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Sakurai is obsessed with every detail in Smash. With the Subspace Emissary,  he acted out the sequences himself as he wanted to ensure the characters were represented accurately. With a crossover game that handles dozens of IPs these small details are super important. Animal Crossing and Metroid in the same game…a lot of things could go wrong. A lot of little things could set off a player’s brain with, “Hey! these things shouldn’t be together!” but it doesn’t. The characters feel united, and nothing sticks out like a sore thumb…even though it’d be relatively easy to do that. Sakurai unites all the worlds with expert craftsmanship. It’s truly a skill that I’m not sure a lot of directors possess. Aonuma has said to Sakurai,

To put it bluntly, if you aren’t involved with Smash, then I guess it’s the end of the series. Without your ability to integrate a variety of games, you skill, design sense and without your way of thinking, the team would fail. Simply put, there’s no one who can replace you. I believe that we would be forced to make a new Smash game without heart [without you].

Without Sakurai, Smash might just not feel like Smash

 

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Sakurai pays a lot of attention to detail, even for quite superficial things like a character’s taunt or sound effects being used in the same way as the games Smash takes content from. He has emphasized the importance of accurate character portrayal several times and willingly works with the characters’ original creators to ensure nothing feels wrong in the characterization and portrayal. Were I in Sakurai’s place and entrusted with someone else’s creations, I would do an effort to respect them as well, and I feel such is the case with Smash’s characters overall.

 

Is Well Respected by Other Creators:

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Sakurai has an outstanding relationship with a lot of the other creators. He was a dear friend to the late, and great Iwata, has received compliments from Aonuma, interviewed Horii and Masuda, Kojima, and Nomura. Speaking of Nomura, based on his comments, he essentially entrusted Sakurai with both deciding on a character, and designing it. Sakurai is well respected by other creators because they trust him. They have seen his work, and know he will treat their characters with love and respect. Sakurai might be one of the only ones who can pull from all these amazing IPs, and that’s because of his personal legacy as a designer and director. 

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The fact Sakurai is respected within the industry allows him to form a good relationship with other content creators, which goes with the above point about his attention to detail. I would say it is because of that kind of care that he earns the respect of other creators. He didn’t just make a successful crossover game: he ensures that, even though the characters come from different games, they look good next to each other in the same game and bound to the same game design. By having this reputation, other creators in turn know that Sakurai is someone that they can trust in regards to handling their own creations. People like Aonuma, Kojima, Nomura and Kamiya have all spoken positively about Sakurai’s handling of their characters. This is a good asset for a game like Smash. 

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Not every game has such a wide and varied cast of characters from every corner of gaming. Can you imagine every director getting to work with the likes of PAC-MAN, Ryu, and Mario? Sakurai has proven himself able to handle representing characters with ease and dexterity, highlighting their individual characteristics while maintaining game balance. Play Ryu, and he feels like a Street Fighter character, play as Cloud, and you imagine the high powered strikes of Final Fantasy. The creators of those previously mentioned characters know this, and trust Sakurai to handle their creations with all the care and respect that they themselves would give.

 

Knows Video Games Well:

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Sakurai has constantly proven that he knows video games extremely well. He has written over 500 entries into his column, Think About the Video Games and has published several collections. While we have mainly published his comments on Smash, he has also tackled other games such as Katamari Damacy and Ace Attorney. His knowledge about the video game industry is amazing. He continually impresses interviewers (and sometimes interviewees) with random, obscure factoids such as the similarities between Dragon Quest and Pokemon, or knowing which creators were born in what year. Once, he published a list of games he had played over the course of a year — it was over 100 entries long. Sakurai has extensive knowledge about video games and the video game industry as a whole — which makes him the perfect director for a crossover game like Smash

Sakurai Knows What Fans Want:

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Like him or hate him, Sakurai has a consistent record of appeasing fans with content that they didn’t know what they want. In his column celebration livestream, he compared himself to a cook in a restaurant serving customers, or a parent with a crying baby. A perfect example of this is Cloud. Cloud is a character that many fans did not seem to want. Indeed, in our Individual Character Poll, the Black Mage polled more favorably than Cloud. Sakurai can see through the circlejerking nature of Smash online community and deliver content that will satisfy fans in ways that many of us never thought was possible. 

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9 comments

  1. The biggest reason I can think of is the combination of Sakurai’s work ethic (obsessive personalities have their perks!) and his understanding of how to run an efficient development cycle. Do you want less content in Smash? Because booting Sakurai is how you get less content in Smash.

      1. and it won’t happen again, it’s clearly a one-time gimmick. The next Smash game is going to be on just the NS: a consoles exclusive like the others. Having to separate everything while keeping it even and trying to stay on top of limitations was too much of a pain from what I see. Yeah, and honestly… I do not want that gimmick back, ever. I hate how it took so much and held Smash back. Sakurai won’t, no he CAN’T use the split system garbage again.

  2. I wouldn’t mind Sakurai staying director for the next Smash, but it’s exactly not something I’m dying for. A big point in Sakurai’s favor over other possible directors is other creators respecting him, which gives him room to flex his creative muscles in a crossover with others’ characters. As an example of what happens when the respect is not there, I hear that SuperBot Entertainment got pushed around by other companies a lot when making PlayStation All-Stars.

    1. SuperBot Entertainment was spineless. They caved in to adding Evil Cole because of Sucker Punch, instead of standing their ground about the “no more than one character per franchise” rule they had.

  3. Smash Bros is important to many people for many reasons. Some people like the competitive aspect and focus on the mechanics of the game. Some play it for fun. I personally play this game for the match ups. “Who would win in a fight?” And that’s why I think Sakurai should return. When you look at how intimately and thoroughly Sakurai talks about not just the characters, but the development process behind their respective games, why he likes the games and why he doesn’t, the developers themselves, even down to their birth year, it’s very clear that Sakurai should be the one handling these characters.

    Then you look at the caliber of characters that he’s handpicked, and it becomes even more clear that Sakurai knows who the most influential characters are. That’s why we have Sonic, who in his day was Mario’s #1 rival. And Pac-Man, the king of retro/arcade games. That’s why we have Mega Man, one of the most popular side scrolling platformers on the NES, and a highly requested character, who Sakurai made it his top priority to represent the classic look above all others, and even chose the Mega Man 2 theme for the reveal trailer. That’s why he chose Ryu, one of the most iconic fighters of all time. Then we have Cloud, a highly recognizable non Nintendo character who you could argue is every bit as iconic as most of Nintendo’s all star lineup, and is pretty much the Michael Jordan of RPGs.

    Sakurai once said he wanted to make Smash the greatest character game in the world, and when you see the combination of AAA Nintendo characters alongside AAA third party/non Nintendo characters, it’s clear that he’s making good on that promise. I personally hope to see more non Nintendo characters fight along side Nintendo’s best because I believe Smash should be a game that celebrates not only Nintendo characters, but the best of the best characters that video games have to offer, and Sakurai is the most qualified to represent these characters at their prime. Here’s to hoping he returns, hopefully with Lara Croft next time 🙂

    1. Sonic was actually picked by a poll, and I would question Cloud’s popularity. He is popular, yes, but he just doesn’t have the recognition that Pac-Man, Sonic, and Mega Man have to the casual audience. Go around asking people on the street who Sonic is, and then ask them who Cloud Strife is.

  4. I’m glad SG decided to make a balanced argument for each side to avoid bias, but in my opinion its not even a question worth asking. Even if Sakurai were to resign as the director for future Smash titles, I don’t think Nintendo would choose to radically deviate from Smash in it’s current form or make any attempt to make Smash more competitive; considering the innovation we’re seeing in the current Smash 4 competitive scene I don’t see why anyone would even want to change it. I guess its easier for some people to take a “grass is greener” approach to directing but personally I feel the complaints on the ‘shouldn’t’ side don’t necessitate the need for Sakurai to step down. Nonetheless the same people who demonize Sakurai now will probably continue to do so regardless of how well respected he is in the industry.

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