Hey guys. This post is part 1 in a series of eight translation posts from the music staff/developer roundtable with Sakurai that was posted on the Melee website. It’s pretty fascinating and honest, and features names some Nintendo fans may recognize. This post was translated by SUTAMEN, with help from Soma and Marie. Enjoy!
Last updated 18 January 2002
In “News Flash! Smash Bros. Dojo!”, we’ve introduced various elements of the Smash Bros. games. Graphics are obvious, and I’ve explained how some of the new systems in the game work, but ‘music’ hasn’t come up at all yet. Therefore, now that we’ve hit a point where some of the unlockable content has been featured, I conducted a roundtable with the sound team– this is that discussion. You might be able to get a more well-formed impression about this internal development team that doesn’t come out in the spotlight very often.
Transferred to HAL from Data East.
A proven talent who brings his experience working with orchestras. His most recent project was MOTHER 3, so this is his first release with HAL. He’s the only one working in Tokyo, the other three are in Yamanashi.
Started learning the electric organ at age 4, and became interested in creating music using computers, so he joined HAL. The unique chords he uses in his songs don’t really stand out, but they secretly stick with you. Likes chickens. A devoted, loving husband.
Mainly responsible for creating the sound effects in Melee. Likes the sound in old films and jidaigeki.*
Very knowledgeable about wind instruments, and likes fishing. Among the sound staff, this guy’s the life of the party.
TN*: Jidaigeki refers to Japanese period dramas.
Creator and director of Super Smash Bros. Has a wide range of interests, and works on everything from initial project plans to the Smash Bros. website. Putting his regular personality aside, he’s very strict when working. The only one out of these four who lives alone.*
Table of Contents
Sakai: This is going to be published on January 18, so is that going to be the last day of “News Flash! Smash Bros Dojo!”?
Sakurai: No, it’ll continue for a little longer.
Sakai: Oh, really? Last year on January 18, I came to Yamanashi for the first Melee meeting, so I was wondering if this would conclude things, exactly a year later.
Ikegami: Speaking of the Smash Dojo, I found Mr. Sakurai’s answer to the “What is Peach saying when she taunts?” question in the Smash 64 responses** to be questionable (laughs).
TN** Sakurai answered fan mail on the official Japanese sites for Smash 64 and Melee. One fan asked what Peach was saying when she taunted, to which Sakurai replied “Actually, Peach’s voice is the only voice that we asked NoA to record. So I think I know what she said, but if I’m wrong, that’ll be embarrassing…so I’m not going to say anything.” Even when you set the language to Japanese, Peach still says “Sweet!” when she taunts. All her victory poses have her speaking in English as well.
Sakurai: Yes, about that. I write my responses to those very quickly because I’m in a rush. I could have looked into it, but I just don’t have the time (laughs).
Sakai: That reminds me, among the answers, there was one that was something like, “This is pitiful, but I like hearing Peach’s voice when she gets KOed, so I KO her a lot.” Also, there was one response that said, “In this Smash game, I feel like there are a lot of Roland-ish sounds.” I was pretty impressed that they could pick that out.
Ando: Yeah, the Roland’s sound is pretty distinct.
The Roland’s sound: For Smash, the Roland SC-88 MIDI sound module is primarily used.
Sakai: But unless you can do a live comparison with a Yamaha or something, you can’t really tell them apart.
Ikegami: Hmmm, I can’t really hear a difference at all.
Sakurai: Yes, I agree. A normal person probably wouldn’t be able tell them apart.
Sakai: I think so too, but I was still surprised that some people could make that distinction.
Sakurai: People who use that machine can probably tell, “Ah, that sounds like a Roland.”
Ando: Since there are also people who use it as a hobby.
Ikegami: By the way, going back to earlier, what exactly does Peach say when she gets KOed?
Sakai: I’m not really sure. Please read what it says in the survey (laughs).
Sakurai: With that in mind, let’s proceed with the discussion!
Sakurai: At the start of the project, I was somewhat worried and dissatisfied with Mr. Andou’s first track. At first, the music only sounded like a “slightly better” version of a Smash 64 (abbreviated “64” below) track. Until this point, we had been making games on cartridges, so in a way it made sense that the music would feel the same too, but…
Ando: Yeah, at that time, I wasn’t sure what kind of sound we were aiming for.
Sakurai: Right. I’ve played a lot of games and seen a lot of things, so I thought, “Ok, we have to match this standard.”
Ando: For example, I was told that we were “using a recorded soundtrack this time, so we can use as many sounds as we want.” But that led me to wonder, “I’m glad to have this technology, but how should I use it?”
Sakurai: Right, it was like you were just thrown into the middle of the ocean.
Ikegami: I think that the biggest challenge was that we couldn’t understand what Mr. Sakurai was thinking. Then as we continued to talk with him, we gradually started to understand, “Oh, he wants to do this amazing thing.” It wasn’t until a while later that we realized the gravity of the situation. That’s why at the beginning there was something of a gap in our mutual understanding, I think.
Sakurai: Yep. I think that’s somewhat unavoidable, though. All of a sudden, we have the Gamecube, and I’m trying to explain, “Anything is possible,” “This is what the customers want,” “One year from now this is how things will be,” and I wanted to say, “That’s why we need to get to here now.” But I don’t think that’s easy to convey.
Ikegami: That’s why to me, it felt like we invested an awful lot of hours then.
Sakai: I actually feel the opposite way. The day I first met with Mr. Sakurai, he distinctly said, “Mr. Ando doesn’t understand.” And then you went into this really deep, philosophical analogy. Do you remember?
Sakurai: Only vaguely…
Sakai: Because of that, my first impression of Mr. Sakurai was like, “What’s this guy saying such deep things for?” I was quite surprised.
Ando: But see, if you’re confused and don’t understand something, and someone gives you this deep philosophical analogy… you still don’t understand (strained laugh).
Ikegami: Even when we were talking with Mr. Sakurai, we kept thinking, “Why is he saying this?” “Why is he dwelling so much on this?” and, “Isn’t it good enough already?”
At the start of the project, we and the other staff members couldn’t understand that our standards didn’t meet Mr. Sakurai’s standards, and we didn’t understand his love for Melee, his respect for the original creators of each and every character, and his sense of responsibility in using that cast.
Sakurai: If all of the staff remember what I said at the time, they should be able to look at the completed game and clearly understand, “Oh, so that’s what he was trying to say.”
Sakai: Yeah, I do get it now.
Ikegami: In the beginning, even when I tried to understand what Mr. Sakurai was saying or aiming to create, I couldn’t fully comprehend his vision, and so the music I created was off the mark. As a result, I started to think the problem was that I personally lacked something as a music creator, and that led to things not running smoothly, I think.
Sakurai: Well, I’m sure you understand now that that wasn’t the case (laughs).
A long time ago, a certain programmer told me, “I continued working without quite understanding what Sakurai was saying, but the entirety of the project became clear to me as it progressed, and when I was able to touch the game, I finally understood what I was doing.”
In a way it’s unavoidable because this almost always happens in any project.
Even if you make something excessively clear, it still won’t make a difference, so… As a matter of fact, my intention behind using an orchestra this time was to show the possibility that “we can go this far.”
This almost always happens in any project: It takes a lot of energy for the planner to explain the game details to the staff.
Ikegami: I didn’t understand what this game was supposed to look like when it was done, and I didn’t understand what was being asked of me. When I finally understood how serious we were about this and how important our work was, was when we started talking about using a live orchestra. What really made an impression on me was during the first meeting, Mr. Sakurai said, “We’re definitely doing this.” I was a little reluctant, but Sakurai said that if the company wouldn’t pay the orchestra’s fees, he would pay them out of his own pocket. Those few words said it all. I realized that there was going to be no way out of this (laughs). From there it was, “We’re going to do this, no matter what.”
Actually, my child was born right around this time. I thought I would do just about anything for that kid.** And just like you feel love for your own child, I realized during that meeting that I also felt a love towards the games I was making. I no longer felt conflicted. I was willing to do anything.
TN*: Because of the way Japanese works, there’s no way for us to tell how many kids he has. So it could be “my child,” it could be “one of my children.” Who knows.
Sakurai: Actually trying to make something — like the opening movie, for example — without the detailed expertise of how to make that thing can be very difficult. But we tried, because we thought that this game was worth it, that it was something with that much value. Simply fulfilling your duty involves a lot in and of itself. I finally realized this recently, but for me, half of my duty is bringing my energy to work. Normally, fulfilling our duty revolves around making something that people will pay for. Since the game would sell for 6800 yen a copy, we kept that in mind every single day as we worked. We had to make something worthy of that price.
In other words, as we worked, we kept in mind that what we were making had to be worth the price, or even exceed it. But I also have a responsibility to the other creators. Some of them have been making games since I was a child, so it’s for these people who have spent 20+ years raising these characters and [creating these] songs, or even the people who have been enjoying those characters as well. There were so many responsibilities and such high expectations placed on us, since this game features an awful lot of others people’s creations, that it made us feel we would have to try and do everything we could.
Of course, there are still some parts we weren’t satisfied with, and some things we simply could not do, but I still think we managed to fulfill our duty to an extent.
Even so, at 6,800 yen, compared to other games, Super Smash Bros. Melee is a bit of a bargain (laughs).
Sakai: A bit? I’d say it’s quite the bargain.
Ikegami: No, it’s a really good deal.
Sakai: Mr. Sakurai and I talked via email about the “damage” done to the consumer, having to pay 6800 yen for this. And I saw that on the Smash Bros. Dojo, some were saying that 6800 yen was a really good deal, while others asked for the price to be lower. So we had to remember: we’re asking people to pay 6800 yen for this. We kept that in mind as we worked.
Sakurai: People can have very different views of the same amount of money, especially among the younger crowd.
Ikegami: And that’s why Mr. Sakurai is the representative for the fans, more or less. He’s the director, but really…
Sakai: He’s the strictest fan of all.
Sakurai: Well, that’s exactly what directors should be. I think it’s really important to use my own tastes and preferences and make something that appeals to me. But, when I look at the work of the directors and producers of other companies, I realized that I lean more towards the player side than the director side, and I’ve started to believe that more and more as of late. All I could tell the team was, “Hey, go make a good game!” (laughs)
Ikegami: But then since Mr. Sakurai’s representing the fans, if he says he wants something or that something is fun, that means the fans want it too. I think that’s great.
Sakurai: Well, that isn’t always understood, though (forced smile).
After all, the director does what he wants, and that can get on the rest of the team’s nerves.
Thanks for reading part 1! Part 1 actually comprised 3 separate pages– the opening, the Introduction, and then At the Beginning of the Project. There are 8 more parts on the way, so stay tuned! Check out our GoFundMe to help Spazzy and Smashchu cover
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