This interview was printed in the official Melee strategy guide that was released in Japan. It’s a long interview—9 pages long—and has a tendency to switch topics in fairly haphazard ways. As a result, I’ll be posting this interview in parts. I don’t know the exact issue this interview comes from, but it’s from Nintendo Dream, and was printed around when Melee was released in Japan, which was November 21st, 2001.
Part 1: Not a single day’s rest in the 21st century
Interviewer: Congratulations on completing Super Smash Bros. Melee. Did you get to take a vacation?
Sakurai: No, not at all (laughs).
Interviewer: I heard that you hadn’t taken a single day off since New Year’s of this year.
Sakurai: Yes, that’s true. I was under house arrest…(laughs). Your view on life changes.
Interview: How so?
Sakurai: (seriously) The days that I got to take off last year felt like really profound memories…
HAL PR: It wasn’t just since New Years. Sakurai actually hasn’t taken a day off since November of last year.
Sakurai: No, I actually did take a small break for New Year’s. November of last year I had almost no time to take a break. I did take around two days off that month, but from New Year’s onwards I didn’t take a single day off.
Interviewer: Thank you so much for your effort. you were also working on the “Kirby” anime, as well as the“Smash Bros. Dojo!!” website.
Sakurai: Well, the people working on the anime are the animation staff, and for “Smash Bros. Dojo!!,” as long as I wrote the content we were able to make do.
Interviewer: Even then, it must have been tough. Were you ever able to take some time to stop thinking about Melee?
Sakurai: There are times when I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I was worried, stressing about it even in bed. I’d be lying on my side, thinking “No, that part isn’t done yet.”
Interviewer: But all that effort created a game that, as its title suggests, truly was “Deluxe.”*
*Note: Melee’s Japanese title was 大乱闘スマッシュブラザーズDX, Super Smash Bros. Deluxe.
Sakurai: I do feel like I’ve managed to live up to that title.
Interviewer: At Space World, when I was talking to one of Nintendo’s developers, they said “Melee is a game that only Mr. Sakurai, who knows all about different video games, could make.”
Sakurai: For people to say that, it truly is an honor.
Interviewer: It seems like, even from the perspective of some of the people that designed these Nintendo characters, there were some refreshing surprises, like “Oh, this is what this guy looks like from behind.”
Sakurai: For old games, you have to preserve aspects of the game even without any original primary source documents, and you have to understand a character’s personality and depict each one. Bowser’s shell originally didn’t have ridges, and Peach’s dress didn’t have frilly parts to it, either. However, there are some designs that are completely different from what I had depicted in my head. Thankfully I didn’t receive much criticism in the vein of “this is wrong”…although it’s possible that’ll come later, after release (laughs).
Interviewer: It looks like you had a lot of people come in and look over the game.
Sakurai: Yes, of course. However, the trophies were a lot more work than the playable characters.
Interview: Why is that?
Sakurai: Well, the number of trophies is high, and the way you oversee something depends on the person.
Interviewer: In that sense, could you say the number of people involved in development on this game was up there as well?
Sakurai: Given the nature of the game, there were quite a few people who worked on the game for a very short period of time and then left, coming in like a breeze and leaving just as quickly.
Interviewer: Compared to the Nintendo 64 version, how much did your development staff grow?
Sakurai: I wonder how much it was… Well, let’s check the credits (and so, he turns on the GameCube).
Interviewer: The credits this time around had a fun little minigame.
Sakurai: It really is silly, isn’t it (laughs).
Interviewer: With Melee, even when you think you’re done with the game, it’s great that you can still have fun with the extra parts. Like the Lottery, for example.
Sakurai: I don’t think it would be very fun to collect trophies in another game if the trophies were only from that game.
Interviewer: That’s true. And you already know what’s going to come out. But with Melee, there are lots of times when you get a trophy and you go, “What is this?!” (laughs)
Sakurai: We were able to add a bunch of things from other games precisely because of the kind of game Melee is, so I went a little overboard and included all sorts of things. (while using the controller) I think we’re about to see the credits roll.
Interviewer: How many people appeared in the credits?
Sakurai: I’ve never actually counted. I don’t think it would be more than 1.5 times the number of people on the N64 version…
Interviewer: You only added that many people? When you think about how big of a game Melee is, I thought you’d have added more people.
Sakurai: The previous game had a large staff as well, and the structure of the game hasn’t changed. However, if you add the people in the orchestra, I’m sure the number of people would get quite large.
Interviewer: (the credits screen shows up) Seeing this come up right after think you beat the game…you’re really making the most out of the credit sequence.
Sakurai: It’s so silly~ (laughs). But, they’re not explosions. We can’t have these distinguished people explode.
Interviewer: You say “explosions,” but I don’t think our readers will know what we’re talking about at all (laughs).
Sakurai: I think you just have to experience it for yourself…(the credits finish rolling) I think that was about 150 people.
Interviewer: Thank you very much. There were quite a few foreigners as well.
Sakurai: Some people worked on the game directly, and others were on the localization team. For the Trophy Gallery, we had NOA’s localization team change the Japanese into English. This Smash game is like a crop that can be harvested twice a year—it comes in both Japanese and English.
Interviewer: Are the contents of the American and Japanese versions the same? For the N64 version, the American version of the game had one extra image…
Sakurai: This time, there are some differences due to licensing. For example, in Japanese the Motion-sensor Bomb is from Perfect Dark. But in America, Perfect Dark has an age restriction (rating), so we couldn’t use it.
Interviewer: In America, if you were younger than 16 years of age you couldn’t buy Perfect Dark.
Sakurai: That’s right. And so we made them into two separate items.
Interviewer: In this game, you can play the Japanese release in English as well, but can you play the American release in Japanese?
Sakurai: You can.
Interviewer: That’s good.
Sakurai: It is a Japanese game, after all (laughs). As for the trophies, barring the problematic ones, all made it in as they were. So that means even trophies for games that were published only in Japan are in the American version exactly as they were in the Japanese version.
Interviewer: So for the Americans, they’ll get some trophies of characters they have no idea about (laughs).
Sakurai: That’s right. Like, “Who is *****?” (laughs). So, in those characters’ descriptions, it says “JAPAN ONLY.”
Interviewer: Conversely, are there any characters that only foreigners will understand?
Sakurai: No, that’s not the case. However, there are some designs that are only for the overseas version.