Reading the Smash 2 e-mails/ poll results, interviews with Sakurai, reflecting on the games, and looking over cut content I think I have an approximation on how Sakurai thinks. I have noticed that with the sole exception of Sheik (who was part of Zelda’s original moveset), every character choice in the Smash franchise is one of the the following:
1. They are a protagonist in the game.
2. They are a recurring character in the series.
3. They represent hardware or an era.
That’s it. No exception. More characters follow rule #1 than rule #2. For rule #3, they add one per game (Game and Watch, R.O.B, and Duck Hunt respectively).
I know some of you are about to say, “Hey! What about Lucina or Dark Pit?”. Those characters were originally costumes who were upgraded late into development. Therefore, these are exceptions as they were not planned.
By looking at the Smash 2 e-mails/ poll results and Sakurai’s thoughts, I believe he chooses characters based on the following criteria:
(All examples are based off the transition between 64 and Melee, but they apply to the series in general. I ordered them based on speculated importance to Sakurai.)
1. Characters already in the series. He tries not to cut characters between games. Everyone from Mario to Jigglypuff was added into Melee.
2. Characters that filled a role. In 64: the lack of women and baddies are recurring e-mails to Sakurai. Sakurai realized this was an issue. So Peach, Zelda filled the women quota. Bowser, Mewtwo for the villain role (
Dedede was also considered, but Sakurai didn’t want to add his own characters in Possibly false information). “Filling a role” can also be introducing a new series to the fighter lineup.
3. Characters that had huge amount of support or are highly recognizable by the general public.This is Bowser, Peach, Mewtwo.
4. Characters who were planned, but were scrapped/cut because of time constraints/ limitations. Bowser, Mewtwo for 64-> Melee
5. Characters that piqued Sakurai’s interest– but are obscure/ not heavily requested. Mr. Game and Watch, Ice Climbers, Dr. Mario, Zelda/Sheik, Ayumi Tachibani [considered], Takamaru (Considered?). Usually retro by nature. The e-mail that could have inspired Mr. Game and Watch will be on page 10 here (Need to translate it first).
6. Lastly, Clones if extra time: Ganondorf, Dr. Mario, Pichu.
Important to note: Ganondorf was much more popular in the Smash 2 poll than Zelda, but Zelda was prioritized, while Ganondorf was ‘extremely lucky to get in’ (Japanese Melee page). Ganondorf does fulfill criteria #3 and #4…but in the end it was #6 that got him in. It’s impossible to say whether or not he was on the Project Plan though.
As you can see, the more criteria they fill, the more likely they will be added into Smash.
What do you guys think? Let me know!