Note: I’m not trying to call out Gamnesia or Nintendo Everything in this article, they didn’t do anything wrong. This is not a hit piece or anything like that.
So, a couple days ago Gamnesia posted this article, with the headline “Shigeru Miyamoto Wanted Sonic in Super Smash Bros. Melee, But it Was Too Late in Development.” The article isn’t very substantial, other than providing some context via linking to another one of their articles that was posted earlier– it mostly quotes another article, from Nintendo Everything, who transcribed the following quotes from the Sonic 25th Anniversary Panel at SXSW.
“So yes it is true. Back in the day I did go to Kyoto to visit Nintendo and wanted to have a meeting with Mr. Miyamoto and figure out could we make a game maybe with Mario and Sonic together. Although those original conversations happened about three years before the Olympics game came out, we weren’t able to really make a game that featured Sonic and Mario back from that original conversation, but because we had those conversations, it kind of kicked off future conversations with Nintendo which afterwards led to the Olympic game coming out.”
And then, after the host of the panel asked if Naka was responsible for Sonic appearing in Smash, his translator gave the follow answer:
“The original Sonic becoming a part of the Smash Bros. game was also part of that conversation. During the GameCube development for Smash Bros., he really wanted to get Sonic into that game, but it was just too late in the development process and couldn’t get it in for GameCube, but they did move forward and put Sonic in for the Wii version.” –Yuji Naka
Gamnesia’s contribution to this was as follows:
“During SEGA’s recent SXSW panel for the Sonic franchise’s 20th anniversary, Sonic lead programmer Yuji Naka revealed that Nintendo and SEGA were actually in talks to Mario/Sonic crossover game as early as 2004, but Shigeru Miyamoto actually reached out to the Sonic team much earlier than that. Later in the panel, Naka revealed that Shigeru Miyamoto “really wanted” to get Sonic into Super Smash Bros. Melee.”
A conclusion they reached from the two quotes above. The problem is that there’s a lot of faulty information here– and it’s not actually their fault, but from faulty translation. The first error is that there’s actually a subject change in between the first quote and the second that Naka’s translator doesn’t convey. It’s actually somewhat apparent from the fact the slight disjoint from “the original Sonic becoming a part of the Smash Bros. game was also part of that conversation.” If they’re talking about Melee, Melee was released in 2001– three years before this meeting between Miyamoto and Naka which eventually led to the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series. So Sonic being in Melee couldn’t have been part of that conversation– Melee had already been released. It’s possible he meant Brawl when he said “the Smash Bros. game,” but since he mentions the Gamecube directly after, that can’t be right. So what did Naka actually say?
“With Smash the conversation actually started near the beginning…was it the Gamecube one that Sonic showed up in? …the Wii? Actually, for the one before the Wii, for the one on the Gamecube, I’d actually talked to Sakurai at E3, saying “put Sonic in it,” but at the time it was too late, we couldn’t make it happen, so he got in starting with the Wii version…it was the Wii, right? Yes, that’s probably the one.”
Now things make more sense. There were two separate meetings, although one was really Naka just reaching out to Sakurai at E3– presumably E3 2001, judging by the timing– and then one that was probably a bit more formal, where Naka went to Nintendo’s Kyoto offices and talked Miyamoto. I actually don’t know why it was translated the way it was regarding “he really wanted to get Sonic into that game,” as that’s not what was said, Naka didn’t actually say anything regarding “his” intent. And again, the “he” wasn’t really Miyamoto, but was actually Sakurai (you can actually hear Naka say his name “Sakurai”).
And so to circle back to the beginning– we have an error in translation at the actual panel. This error is transcribed and quoted by one news site with a relatively neutral stance (“Yuji Naka on initial Mario & Sonic conversations with Nintendo, Sonic in Smash Bros.”), which is cited by another site with a stronger, less neutral headline (“Shigeru Miyamoto Wanted Sonic in Super Smash Bros. Melee, But it Was Too Late in Development”) and now we’ve reached the wrong conclusion entirely.
I want to point out that I’m not blaming any sites for this, as it is not their fault– the source itself was incorrect, and while some sources deserve scrutiny, I would normally consider a translator from an official panel at a convention to be fairly reliable. This isn’t a hit piece, I just wanted to talk about how errors can circulate pretty fast because of the nature of the video game news cycle these days, and hopefully correct the misinformation before it gets too widespread.
That being said, it’s not like this was a huge news story or anything– it’s actually a very minor one, frankly– but I just wanted to clear the air.