Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs, link to this translation, and credit Source Gaming. The following is a selection from Famitsu. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect the opinions of Masahiro Sakurai. If you enjoyed this article, I would strongly encourage you to support Sakurai by buying his books.
Smash is Special – Part 1, Vol. 557
Originally published in Famitsu on June 21, 2018
On June 13th, we unveiled a ton of information about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I often doubt myself while working on the game, questioning whether we can really release it within the year. The first proposal was completed in December 2015, back while we were still working on DLC for the previous title. It wasn’t until later that I assembled a team and began development on this new title in earnest.
Many of you are likely already aware, but the concept for this entry is total inclusion: “Everyone is here!”
Every single fighter that has ever appeared in the series is back and better than ever, ready for you to take into the fray. Talk about a deal!
Being able to include every fighter is a real luxury, and–knowing that opportunity doesn’t knock twice–I seized the moment and twisted some arms to make this dream a reality. Thankfully, the folks at Nintendo agreed to help, despite the risks involved.
I’ll delve deeper into that topic in Part 2 of this article. This time, I’d like to discuss the overall concept of the project, as well as a few of its key elements.
We had a choice between completely overhauling the game systems and feel, or working off of what we had established in the last game. We ended up going with the latter. If we went with the former, we might have ended up with only a third of the fighters we have now. Had we gone down that route, surely some fans would have complained and said, “I preferred the way it was last time.” We’ll have to face that decision again someday, but I decided that now was not that time.
That said, I still increased the overall speed of the game, but only by an amount that wouldn’t be alienating to people unfamiliar with Smash. After all, we haven’t seen a huge influx of brand-new gamers like we did when the Wii was released, and the on-screen movement is much easier to follow on the Switch than it is on the Nintendo 3DS.
For example, the knockback speed has been increased. Even when launched a short distance, a character will fly off very quickly then suddenly slow down. Reducing the time while incapacitated has helped improve the flow of gameplay. I wanted to include this change in previous entries, but I gave up because it was so easy to lose track of your position, especially on the 3DS. I’ve also increased fighters’ initial jump speed, reduced aerial landing lag, and made a slew of other changes that will accelerate gameplay without making the game itself too “hardcore.”
I’ve also increased the amount of damage dealt in one-on-one matches because there are fewer opportunities to strike your opponent in comparison with free-for-alls. I think this should help improve the pace of two-player matches.
I’ve decided to limit the number of fighters initially available to the original Nintendo 64 roster. This will keep the process of unlocking new challengers fun and exciting, but I suppose it’s a bit of a hassle in comparison with other fighting games that allow all players to fight under the same conditions from the get-go.
Personally speaking, I find that, when I pick up a fighting game, I often put it down before I get around to playing all of the different characters. The more characters there are, the more that go untouched, and the less strategic things become, so it’s hard to say that simply adding more characters is a flawless idea. However, Smash is a character-based fighting game, and there are plenty of players out there eagerly awaiting the opportunity to play as their favorite character. I wrestled with this problem quite a bit while deciding whether to include everyone.
Take racing games, for example. Rather than allow players to use any car from the very beginning, I feel it’s more enjoyable from a gaming perspective to have players earn winnings from races and purchase new models that way. This type of game enables players to develop a strong attachment to the cars they acquire. I’ve included a similar process in Smash by which each unlockable fighter is obtained. Collecting every model in driving games is merely a dream for most players, but rest assured: I won’t be doing anything quite that difficult. I’ve come up with several methods for unlocking fighters, so it should be comparatively simple.
A few other remarks:
Players now select the stage before selecting their characters. This allows them to consider a fighter’s compatibility with the field of battle. If you set the rules so that the loser picks the next stage, this makes for a fairer competition.
All of the stages feature both Omega and Battlefield versions. Their respective size and shape are exactly the same for each stage, so players are free to duke it out to their favorite tunes in the environments they love.
The amount of stages, music, and items included is greater than ever before–but I suppose that goes without saying. All the stages and items have been remade from scratch and vastly improved.
I could go on, but it might be easier for you to simply watch the Smash presentation from E3. See you next time!
Smash is Special – Part 2, Vol. 558
Originally published in Famitsu on June 28, 2018
Last time, I talked about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Continuing that discussion, this time I’d like to talk a little bit about the game’s development process.
As with Smash for 3DS and Wii U, we contracted Bandai Namco to handle the development. I’ve relocated to their offices and commute there every day. The core team is comprised of staff from the previous projects, and a lot of new people were added, so the whole team is hard at work. It takes several hundred people to create such an enormous amount of content.
With the exception of HAL Laboratory continuing to work on Melee after Smash 64, the studio and team for each game has always been built from the ground up. This means that it usually takes a considerable amount of preparation time. This time, however, Bandai Namco is coming back, which is a huge advantage. This is one of the reasons we were able to bring back every single character.
I’ve been hearing a lot of different interpretations, so I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my own stance at this point in time.
Smash is one of Nintendo’s premiere titles. Even though Smash doesn’t put out a lot of merchandise besides amiibo, Smash supports a lot of other games, serving a sort of promotional role. In addition, since it’s a huge collaborative project, it exerts a large influence on other titles. So there’s always the possibility of another Smash game being released, and it’s possible there might be a Smash someday that I’m not involved in.
However, I think that “Everyone is here!” is something that won’t be repeated. Anything is possible, of course, so I can’t rule anything out entirely, but I still think this won’t happen again.
For starters, bringing back every fighter drastically increases the cost of development. Merely attempting to do this requires a lot of time, personnel, and money. Even something that looks like a simple port has a huge number of manhours behind it. Moreover, in the case of Smash, we can’t simply create whatever we want. I have to receive approval from the original creators of the characters, and I need to reflect their feedback. If this feedback differs from the direction we’ve taken with a character in Smash, then it’s our job to reconcile this disparity no matter how much time or energy it takes. Contractual agreements and other legal issues can also make development exceedingly difficult. In reality, it was quite a challenge to bring every fighter back, and I barely made it work. Frankly, it almost didn’t happen.
And yes, I know: from a fan’s perspective, more fighters joining the fray is a given. Regardless of what may happen during development, players assume that characters who appeared in the previous game will automatically come back.
Plus, there are so many incredible games out there nowadays. From a creator’s point of view, I often wonder how teams can create something so astounding! Yet these types of amazing games aren’t sold at a premium, but rather for roughly the same price as they always have. Even though there is a big difference between idealized expectations and reality, for us creators, we need to have the right conditions and the right opportunity to bring those dream-like goals to life.
If we kept the previous development team intact, we could build upon what we learned from the last title rather than starting from square one. If we developed for a single platform this time, we wouldn’t have to change the architecture between handheld and console. We already have all the assets from the last title, and the timing feels right. If the dream is to bring back every fighter, all we need to do is reach out and grab it. If now’s our chance, then we’ve got to take it! Sensing that this was the opportune moment, I went forth with the plan to bring everyone back.
But whose dream was it? Well, the fans’, of course. There are many Smash fans out there, and I have always tried to meet as many of their expectations as possible.
Every so often, people will tell me that I should work on other projects besides Smash. I interpret this to mean they have faith in my ability to create something fun and unique, and I appreciate it.
However, Nintendo is the one who decides to make Smash, and if they ask me to oversee its development, then I feel obligated to make it my top priority regardless of the consequences.
I’ve been tasked with directing this dreadfully expansive project. There are few jobs that will wear you out like this one. That said, working on Smash is far from a given.
If you were to ask if I felt stuck in a rut continuously working on the same series, I would have to disagree. It takes a lot of ingenuity to come up with a way to implement seemingly impossible characters into the game. There’s also a certain prestige that comes with handling content from so many beloved titles.
There are tons of new and interesting games out there, but Smash is truly unique. It’s different than simply spitting out a sequel. It’s a project that can only be made with the cooperation and consent of many different people. Smash is special.