Since the reveal of Cloud has sent intense shockwaves throughout the Smash fanbase, I would like to take a moment to expand upon a point I make during the upcoming SourceCast (which will be posted later this week)—the point being, that Sakurai is an artist, not a businessman. I have seen a lot of comments complaining about Cloud’s inclusion because he is not tied to Nintendo. That is to say, Sakurai is “promoting” a rival company’s product. Promotion has never been a component of the Smash Bros. franchise. Instead, it’s best to look at Smash Bros. as a celebration of what gaming has to offer. There is only one case (Roy in Melee) and that’s part of the reason Sakurai was drawn to the fire swordsman in the first place. It was something that only Roy could be in Smash. I’ve said this before, and I would like to relate it to third parties and the franchise in general.
As I mentioned in The Future of Smash is Characters, Sakurai left HAL for two reasons. Firstly, he was unsatisfied with the current trend in video games (perhaps the expectations of sequels for video games) and secondly, because he wanted to work with a variety of content creators. This led him to create Sora Ltd. Sora, meaning “sky” in English, represents this “freedom” to Sakurai in many ways. He is a freelance employee not bound by the rules and regulations of the video game industry. He is allowed to paint his canvas however he may want, and he does so with every game he creates. Since leaving HAL, Sakurai has continually worked with other content creators or their franchises either directly or indirectly in all of the projects he has undertaken. It is worth noting that Brawl was the first Smash game Sakurai produced after leaving HAL—and also the advent of third-party characters in Smash. I don’t think this is a coincidence; rather, it represents Sakurai’s freedom as an artist. Of course, there were some third party characters planned in Melee, but Sakurai was trapped and due to ‘adult circumstances’ or timing, none of them came to fruition.
This is not to say that Smash is not about Nintendo. Smash obviously has its roots within the variety of Nintendo franchises and IPs rich with history. Sakurai is humbled by the opportunity to work with so many well respected IPs and characters through Smash. I have quoted it before in The Future of Smash is Characters, but I really feel the following quote best illustrates Sakurai’s approach to Smash:
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 worked with the largest amount of popular video game characters in the world.–The Little Pepper is Hot!
With the inclusion of third-party characters, Sakurai has the ability to reach out and work with a variety of other IPs and fanbases. He is able to add them to his canvas—that is, Smash. I honestly do not think it matters much where a character is from; it is more about who and why.
Cloud’s, Ryu’s, and Snake’s inclusions in Smash illustrate how, even without a strong connection to Nintendo at present, these revered characters and their respective franchises are indicative of the best that gaming has to offer. It doesn’t matter whether the FFVII remake comes to a Nintendo platform—just like it how it doesn’t matter that Ryu’s Street Fighter V or Snake’s Metal Gear Solid 4 are not coming to Nintendo consoles. Sakurai’s focus is not publicizing Nintendo consoles; it is celebrating gaming itself. We need to let go of the notion that Smash is a giant commercial, and appreciate it for the beautiful piece of art that it is.