Shigesato Itoi’s Smash 64 Interview Highlights: [Smash 64 Development]

Edit: “Sakurai developed a prototype that was more playable so Miyamoto could clearly see the direction of the game”. Is better interpretation of the original text.

While researching additional information about Masahiro Sakurai’s wife, Michiko Sakurai, I found this interview done by Shigesato Itoi. Michiko’s maiden name is Takahashi, and she discusses Smash 64 on the fourth page. This interview has a lot of additional information that I have never seen before, so I figured I’d give a brief overall/ provide translations of some of it. I found a number of articles that should be translated for the community as they go into development stories and provide additional information about Sakurai’s design choices. However, it’s a large task for one person. I have gathered some people to help me, but we could always use more. I’m working on translating a huge piece on Brawl’s development, and a Famitsu article about when Sakurai secretly worked in a video game store for his own research. If you can understand Japanese, please contact me either on Twitter, or by e-mail:

I’ve also updated the Definitive Unused Fighter List to include the information about the cut racing mode.

Page 1 Highlights:

There’s a rumor that that Sakurai used to wear a bandana while working. Itoi was disappointed that he didn’t wear it to the interview.

The first draft of the game that eventually became Smash Brothers was finished October 1996. Iwata was the programmer, while Sakurai was in charge of animation and modelling.

The in-house nickname for Dragon King: The Fighting Game was “Pepsi-Man”.  “Dragon King” actually refers to the name of the town they were in: Ryuouchou, Yamanashi. The background is made up from a basin and Mt. Fuji, which can be seen from the Hal Laboratory office.

At the same time, Sakurai was planning an action-adventure game. He presented both to Nintendo in May 1997, but the action-adventure game never progressed.

Smash was originally planned for a Christmas release in 1998.

When looking at other popular fighting games, Sakurai realized that character’s personality strongly mattered. Therefore he eventually decided to ask Nintendo if he could use their characters.

Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus and Fox were originally chosen to be the four characters to present the idea to Miyamoto. Miyamoto initially refused. It was around the time that Hudson was given the okay to develop a Mario Party game. Iwata initially proposed the idea, but didn’t tell Sakurai that Miyamoto rejected the initial idea. Sakurai developed a prototype that was more playable so Miyamoto could clearly see the direction of the game.

During development Sakurai considered adding a brand new character to the series, and even thought about having unfamiliar characters too. However, he wanted to work on the most popular characters first in order to not betray those characters and fans.

The original creator of the characters were often consulted during development.

Page 2 is a discussion with the programmers.

Page 3 is a discussion with the animators.

Nothing too interesting/revolutionary as far as I can tell.

Page 4 Highlights:

Below, are quote from an interview that was conducted by Itoi (of Earthbound fame), Sakurai, Wakayama (Chief Designer), Hashikura (level designer) and Takahashi/Sakurai (Level designer, in charge of select screens)

Sakurai

Kirby’s Stage (Dream Land 64) was not changed from the original design in Dragon King: The Fighting Game. The arrangement of the platforms is exactly the same.
So because of that, this map is enjoyable under normal play.
On the other hand, Fox’s Stage (Sector Z) is very wide and it’s a little difficult to fight. The maps [are varied] so you can choose which ones you like and which ones you hate. We thought it was a good idea.

(桜井さん)
ゲームのシステムにそったマップのつくりをしている
カービィ面は、開発初期の「対戦格闘ゲーム竜王」の
ころから基本的なマップデザインが変わっていません。
足場の配置は全く同じです。
だからこの面は、普通に楽しめるようになってます。
いっぽうフォックス面では、
とても広いところで戦わなければいけなくなっています。
マップはひとによって好き嫌いがはっきりしてますね。
つくった我々としても、それでよかったと思っています。
ただ、ゲームにそった配置をしなきゃいけないというのは、
マップをつくるうえでは明らかな制約なので、
彼らの仕事はやりにくかったのではないでしょうか。

Sakurai
As far as Link’s Stage [Hyrule Castle], we received information from Nintendo but the video that we saw and actually playing the game is very different. On top of that, by the time Zelda 64 was released, some things were changed.
The castle was placed here, the mountains in the background moved over there. Whenever I see the stage, I want to fix those kinds of things. For example, this stage is set in the morning. However, the way that the sun rises in Zelda 64 is different. Even though these are minor details, whenever I saw Zelda I obsessed over it.

(桜井さん)
リンク面については、もちろん任天堂さんから
いろいろと情報をもらってはいたんですけれども、
ビデオで見るのとプレイするのとでは大違いでした。
で、ゼルダ64版が出てから、
いろいろなことがわかって。
お城はこうで、背景の山の位置はここにあったんだ、
ということがはっきりとしたんで、
それを見ながら、またちょっと作り直してもらって。
例えば、このステージは、時間設定が朝なんです。
でも、朝、太陽の昇る方角が、元のゼルダとは
違っていたんですね
細かいことなんですけれども、
ゼルダを見てからこだわって直しました。

Sakurai

“Metroid” is a game that unfolds inside a cave. However, in [Smash 64], even though the stage is a floating island [Planet Zebes], so we came up with the restriction of making the background as close as possible.
I think making this map was difficult.
In addition, we have “lava raising up”  which is a very aggressive stage hazard, so we had to balance the stage design using that. We arranged the platforms so it wouldn’t cause an uncomfortable feeling to the players, and so they could pass the troubled areas. It like fighting above a satellite’s orbit or on top of a star.
However, we figured it would best to try to capture Metroid’s atmosphere, so we ended up with this stage.

(桜井さん)
「メトロイド」というゲーム自体は、
洞窟のなかで繰り広げられる物語なんですね。
でもこのゲームは浮島が舞台ですから、
当然、背景が近くにあってはいけない、という制約も
生まれるのです。
マップのデザインは難しかったと思います。
また、この面では「下から酸が吹き荒れる」という
非常に攻撃的な仕掛けを設定してありまして、
そのあたりも面のバランスをふまえつつ、
しかも違和感なく地形などを配置していくのに
苦労していた箇所だと思います。
最初はぜんぜん違うマップだったんです。
衛星の軌道の上みたいな、星の上での戦いだったんです。
でも、もっと元のメトロイドの雰囲気に合っているほうが
いいという理由で、今の面になったわけです。

(Brief discussion on characters. Individual personality was chosen. Especially characters that had strong or weak points.

Takahashi:
When using Nintendo characters, you have to try to recreate them as much as possible. Of course, maps reflect the personality of their creator. A map created by me has my own take on it just as a map created by Hashikura does too. Of course, even if I pick something it has to have reasoning for the arrangement or for the general purpose. It’s necessary to line up with the game’s direction as dictated by the director, no matter what original game you are using. However, my hobby is drawing so sometimes I would draw for no reason. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little.

The first time I felt incredible pressure was when I was making the [Metal Mario] stage. That game sold a lot, and I was trying really hard not to make the hardcore fans of the series angry. I remade the stage a number of times as I kept messing up.

(高橋さん)
任天堂キャラクターを使って、
それにイメージを近づけようとしているけれども、
マップでもやっぱり、私の作ったマップには私の色の、
橋倉の作ったマップには橋倉の色があるんですね。
やはり自分の味を出すということ、アレンジっていうか、
解釈で作るからですよね
どんなオリジナルのゲームを作っていても、
ゲームを方向づけるディレクターの考えに合わせる必要が
ありますし、自分の趣味で描こうとしたら
理解されないような絵を描いちゃったりしますから。
ええ、極端にいうとそうなっちゃうんです(笑)。
私が最初にプレッシャーだったのはマリオ面ですね。
あれはやっぱり、元のゲームがすごい売れてて、
固定ファンもついていて、そのファンのひとたちに
怒られないようなものを作らなきゃいけない、
ということがあったから。
マリオをやっていたひとの持ってるイメージを
壊しちゃいけないっていうことを思っていたから、
マリオ面に関しては、何回も作り直しました。

Takahashi continue
I wanted to make [a stage] that showed the enjoyment of playing Mario. Through countless trial and error, I finally decided to make a stage that showed the enjoyment of an action game while resembling Mario.
For starters, I made a big dip in the platform in the bottom platform. I thought about putting in other elements from Mario. But if I put those in, then it wouldn’t highlight the special features of this game.
Adding a ceiling would make the level feel even more inspired from Mario, and even though it would just be one extra thing I felt like the stage would lose some of the enjoyment of “Smash”. So I removed the ceiling as much as possible.
You might think, “Is this Mario?” but my explanation is that it’s a Mario inspired stage, but I felt like it would better represent this game [Smash 64].
Once I proceed with this, it became fun.

(高橋さん、続けて)

この仕様でこの形にあったステージのなかで
マリオを遊んでるときの面白さみたいなものを出したい
いろいろと試行錯誤して、マリオらしく
ちょっとしたアクションが楽しめるようなものに
したいなと思っていたんです。
初めは下のほうに大きなブランコがついていたりとか、
マリオらしいものをいろいろ考えて置いてみたりしました。
でもそれを出すと、このゲームの特性が出なくなっちゃう。
上に天井があるのもマリオらしいんだけれども、
余分な仕掛けがひとつあるだけでも、
この「スマブラ」の目指した面白さが
逆に失われちゃうから、そういうのは極力取り払って。
どういうものが「マリオなのか」を考えたときに
自分の解釈した「マリオ」らしさが、このゲーム上で
表現されていればいいんだと気がついたんですね
自分の思ったもので行くと決めてからは楽になりました。

On the other hand, I really enjoyed making the classic Mario stage [Classic Mushroom Kingdom]. It wasn’t difficult to stay true to the source material at all with this stage.
I grew up with this “Super Mario”. When I was in elementary school, I played the game so much that I could clear it in 15 minutes. (laughs)
You can say that it’s the game that led me to the gaming industry, so for me it I had a lot of fun while making this stage. In the stage background, you can see a Buzzy Beetle. I added that on my own accord, so I don’t think I got approval from the director didn’t…I think.

反対に、旧マリオ面は作っててすごく楽しかった。
イメージを合わせなきゃいけない辛さというのは
この面では全くなかったんです。
私はこの「スーパーマリオ」で育った世代なんですよ。
このマリオに関しては15分でクリアできるくらいに
小学校のときにやり込みました(笑)。
ゲーム業界に入るきっかけになったと言えるくらい
私にとっては思い入れのあるゲームなんで、
とても楽しみながら作らせてもらいました。
この面の背景で「メット」がくるくる回っているのは
私が勝手に作っちゃったんですけど、
ディレクターにはOK出してもらえないかな、って思いながらも。

Sakurai:
No, it’s great! (laughs)

(桜井さん)
いや、これ最高(笑)。

(They talk about having the background limit to 150 polygons here)

Sakurai, while explaining the screen
For example, we tried drawing a picture when the characters were hit with electricity. Look here, it’s just like Time Bokan, where you can only see the skeleton.

(桜井さん、画面を説明しながら)
例えば、電気でしびれたときの絵を見てみましょうか。
ほら、「タイムボカン」みたいに、骨だけになってる絵が。
しびれてるのはどうやらフォックスらしい

Wakayama
(若山さん)
This is one thing that even the programmer said, “no” to (laughs).
これもプログラマーには「無駄だ」といわれたもののひとつですよね(笑)

Hashikura
We adjusted the color a number of times. We couldn’t decide on the final colors even after a number of adjustments. That’s because even with the same colors, it would appear slightly different on other monitors. So at the end, we decided to use the color of the monitor that Mr. Sakurai was using. It became the standard for which the other colors were based off. So please forgive me.

(橋倉さん、遠慮がちに)
色って、調整したらキリがないんですね。
いくらやっても、これっていう最終的な色というのは、
決まりがないですから。
同じ色でも、モニターによって見え方が微妙に違うわけで、
だから、最終的には桜井が使っているモニターの色を
目安にしようということになりました。
僕としても、それで勘弁してくれよ、ってことで。

Highlights from the 5th part of the interview. Sakurai also states that he made the Smash 64 website completely by himself in this interview. Original Japanese is included.

However, there were a lot of things that I couldn’t add.
For example, I added “Time attack” which had components like a racing game.
[The player] would clear the mode with each character, trying to aim for the best time.
When you cleared the mode with all 12 characters, [the css] would display the total time. (See below)

実現できなかったことも多いんですけれども。
例えば、「タイムアタック」を導入したことで レースゲームみたいな要素もあるから、
1人でやるひとはクリアタイムを極めるっていう遊び方とかお勧めします。
12キャラを全員クリアしたときには、それまでのトータルタイムが表示されるようになっていますから。

I lately thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a racing game”, but it won’t appear [in the game] (laughs), I made it myself.

I figured it would be easier to say, “Hey, my total time is 4 minutes” instead of saying “I cleared with Ness in 2 minutes, and Yoshi in 3 minutes”.

これって、かねがね「レースゲームにあればいいのになぁ」って思っていたものだったんですが、
どこも出さないので(笑)、自分でつくりました。
友だちに自慢するときにも「ネスが2分で、ヨッシーが3分で、」っていうよりは「おれ、今トータル4分だよ」って言ったほうがわかりやすいでしょ。

It’s probably the first time you have ever seen a credit roll like this. I think there’s over 80 names in the staff roll, but in reality over 30 people actually developed the game, of which 20 were part of the actual team. Besides those people, we included each character’s original creator, and special thanks.

Actually, I originally wanted to do something like, “Pirates of the Caribbean”*

Players would be run inside a tunnel while shining a light. Suddenly, when you looked up, someones name would float up.
Moreover, I thought the player could lock-on to the name, shoot at it and hit it. When they hit it, the name would break apart.

*Translation note: The Disney World ride, not the movie.

I really think that would be fun if we did that (laughs). However, the credits roll has a lot of remarkable individual’s names in it so destroying them was…(laughs)**. Right?

**Translation note: Sakurai doesn’t give a direct reason why he thought that destroying names was a bad idea. However, it can be assumed that he thought it would be a bad idea to blow up people’s names.

ええ、こういうスタッフロールの見せかたはたぶん初めてだと思うんですけれど。
スタッフロールに出てくるスタッフ名はぜんぶで80人くらいでしょうか。
実際の開発スタッフは多いときで30人くらいかな、プロパーでは20人ほどでした。
その他は各キャラクターのオリジナルにかかわった人々をスペシャルサンクスの意味で出しています。

これ、ほんとは「カリブの海賊」みたいな趣向にしたかったんですよ。
プレイヤーがトンネルの中をライトで照らしながらカタカタカタって走っていて、パッと上を見上げると、誰々っていうように名前が浮かび上がってる、っていう。
しかも、そこにロックオンできて、打てて、当たるとその名前が砕け散る、ということを考えていたんです。
これはほんとにやったら面白かったと思うんだけど(笑)スタッフロールにはすごい偉いひとの名前もあるわけで、それを打ち砕くっていうのはちょっと(笑)・・・、ね。

What about “Smash 2?”

Um.. Until the game was finished, there was a lot of resistance to the idea, and the original plan doesn’t include it, so at the present time, I don’t think I will make it into a series.

However, as the original creator, there are a lot of things that are leftover so I must put my tail between my legs. According to the “Smash” that is in my head, I’ve only completed about 60% of it.

Of course, making games that the players will enjoy is my top priority…so it there is a lot of request for a new “Smash” game, then I will probably make it.

When I was making this game, I was truly busy. It’s been several months since I’ve visited my parents in Tokyo. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen some of my friends that I used to play video games with all the time. One of those was a friend that I haven’t seen for ten or so years.

Right after “Smash” went on safe, I had that friend visit Yamanashi for some errands and to hand out. Right when he saw me, he said “Let me play the game that you made, ‘Smash’”. We started playing at my house around 8 PM and we kept playing. It was early morning and we were still playing. Finally, I said “I’m going to sleep” and went ahead to bed.

I woke up sometime in the afternoon and I heard a strange sound from the room that my friend was sleeping in. When I peeked in, I realized that he was still at it! (laughs). That was the first time that I thought, “I’m glad I made it”.

There’s a number of things that were dropped, and after development finished I regretted some things…but I feel like it was worth it. According to my friend, it’s good.

「スマブラ2」ですか?
うーん・・・。
完成までにいろいろな抵抗があった企画でもあるので、現時点ではおそらくシリーズ化はしないと思います。
ただ、企画者としてやり残したことはものすごく多くて、尾を引いてることも事実です。
この「スマブラ」は、僕の頭のなかで描いた完成型の60%ぐらい、でしょうか。やはりユーザーのみなさんが望むゲームを作っていくのがいちばんですから、「新しいスマブラ」を望むユーザーが多ければ、手がけることもあるかもしれませんね。

これを作っていたときはほんとうに忙しくて、東京の実家に何カ月も帰れなかったので、
いつも一緒に遊んでた昔からの友だち連中にもその間ぜんぜん会えなかったんですよ。
もう、十数年のつきあいという旧友なんですけど。

「スマブラ」が発売された直後に、
山梨まで用事作って遊びにきてくれたんですね。
で、さっそく、おまえが作った「スマブラ」をやらせてくれ、
ということになったんです。
ぼくの家で遊び始めたのが夜8時ころで、
それから延々とやり続けて、翌朝になってもまだやってて。
僕はさすがに途中で「もう寝ようよ」っていって,先に寝たんですけどね。

昼ごろになって起きたら、友だちが寝てる部屋からなんか音がしてて、覗いたらそいつまだやってた(笑)。
そんときにはじめてああ、作ってよかったなぁ、って思いましたね。
やり残したところもあったし、開発が終わってからも
いろいろと心残りなこともあったんだけど、
ほんと、報われたな。
友だちっていいものです。

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2 responses to “Shigesato Itoi’s Smash 64 Interview Highlights: [Smash 64 Development]

  1. Pingback: Thank Iwata for Smash | Source Gaming

  2. Pingback: Thank Iwata for Smash – Source Gaming

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