Please note, this interview takes place before the Japanese release of Smash 4 Wii U.
FIRST BLACK HEADER:
This first part talks about how Sakurai has done interviews for Nintendo Dream in their 100 and 200th issues. The interviewer jokingly asks Sakurai if he will be interviewed for the 300th issue to which Sakurai says, “Only if I’m working on a game!”. Sakurai also talks about signing a ton of copies of Smash for 3DS on the day of the Japanese release (which happened to be the same day as PRESS START).
SECOND BLACK HEADER: A ton of content! Developing two versions at the same time!
This section is related to developing Smash for Wii U and Smash for 3DS simultaneously while providing a lot of content. In particular, how Smash for 3DS is the first portable Smash game (Sakurai wanted to create one for the DS).
Interviewer: I was surprised by how much content the 3DS version has.
Sakurai: Truthfully, I thought about having less characters in the 3DS version. But, I didn’t want there to be a superior version. On top of making each version satisfactory, we developed each version to have the same number of characters and play the same way. It was important to not have an inferior version.
Interviewer: What was the reason to delay the Wii U version?
Sakurai: I felt like it was a shame that the 3DS version was released first without the Wii U version. I thought that if there was only the portable version of Smash it wouldn’t satisfy the people who want to play Smash on a big screen, or host tournaments. Plus we had prepared the fighter intro movies. That being said, the game balance is essentially the same for both versions. I think that even though we had to remake the fighter models and the stages for both versions, the fact the game balance remains the same is a big positive.
Interviewer: I see. What version did you develop first?
Sakurai: Neither of them were developed first. We developed them at the same time. If we did one over the other, then we might have failed. It would have been difficult to finish a version, and then start the process all over again. I work as a freelance employee so once this game is finished I will leave Bandai Namco. If the games were developed separately, then they wouldn’t have been sold in the same time period. Because we developed the games at the same time, there is also cross-functionality between the Wii U and the 3DS version of the game. **I had this section explained to me by a native speaker. It’s not a direct translation.
Interviewer: What was the first thing you wrote in the project plan; what did you want to see?
Sakurai: The concept was individual and group play. The 3DS version would be targeted towards individual play. Everyone would have their own screen. The Wii U version would be geared towards group play as everyone shared a screen. Players would sit around the Wii U, but take the 3DS with them. Of course, you could only play the 3DS version. In the project plan, I wrote “like an isolated house and a stadium”. I didn’t think anyone wanted the basic foundation of Smash to be changed. We were very diligent in ensuring that [it still felt like Smash] while changing some things up since it was on a portable device.
THIRD BLACK HEADER: Customizing Characters the Way you Like
Customizing characters is a big feature this time around.
Sakurai: From the very beginning, customizing characters was going to have a deep connection to Smash Run and Smash Tour. The basis of the system was to allow fighters to perform differently. The customization system is essentially a mechanism that allows players to make small changes. It’s similar to Brawl’s sticker feature. I think it is important that this time you can add merits and demerits at the same time allowing players to really customize the fighters in the way they want.
Interviewer: When I looked at the customization in the 3DS version, I got dizzy when I began thinking about all the possibilities.
Sakurai: That’s foolish I think.
Sakurai: When I was making the game, I thought about the need to have a reward. I wanted a system that If you tried your best, you would get that reward. However, just getting stronger and stronger equipment doesn’t really fit with Smash Brothers. So, the customization system was made to change the fighter’s ability instead. If the fighters were like amiibos, and could be leveled up, then once reaching level 50, players would only fight with that characters. I didn’t want to put Smash Brothers in a direction of discouraging the use of other characters. Smash Brothers is a game where you try a variety of things.
FIRST BLACK HEADER: Choosing the future place of development
Interviewer: Can you give details on how Bandai Namco was chosen to work with you on this game?
Sakurai: When developing Kid Icarus Uprising, I brought in a variety of people to develop the game. From that experience, there were some issues, and things I wanted to improve. It took a lot of time and trouble as I had to interview people and work on matters related to personnel. It was difficult to collaborate as every person had different ways of doing things and experiences. So I asked Bandai Namco, who has produced games like Tekken in order to alleviate these issues. I feel that there is only one company in Japan that makes large scaled fighting games. It would be difficult [to produce Smash] at a different company.
Interviewer: Did the development process go smoothly?
Sakurai: It was like waiting to go to the toilet. But from your seat, the bathroom is pretty far (laughs).
Interviewer: Well go! Actuallly, you had some health issues. I heard that you can’t really move your right hand…
Sakurai: My carpal tunnel is not getting better. I work by moving a track ball with my left hand. Developing Smash is always difficult. I also get sick often. Now more than ever, I’m taking care of my health and did my best.
SECOND BLACK HEADER: At any rate, continuing work.
It’s taking a long time to translate this, and I might come back. However, here’s a summary of this section:
Briefly talking about the public debut, long working long hours.
Sakurai decided on the general outline of the game, but he had help with other project planners. He talks about how he would check the plan, change it slightly, then check it again, and change it slightly. Sakurai talks about how many models each characters has–not only for the Wii U and the 3DS but multiple models in each game to ensure the game runs properly. He mentions the higher quality models in the 3DS version that are used when the game is paused.
He then talks about how for 8 Player Smash, a lot of things were tweaked, some barely noticable. One change he mentions is the Wii Fit Trainer’s thumb is angled differently in their victory thumbs up pose for regular 4 player Smash and 8 player Smash (I confirmed this on my own game. It’s bothering me now.).