Hi everyone, Sutamen here with a translated Q&A session translated from 桜井正博ゲームについて思うことDX, released July 30th 2008. In this article, Sakurai answers fans’ questions about games, his personal preferences, and life in general. Read on to discover his game-making motto, how much sleep he gets, and what he would name his cat!
Thanks to PushDustIn for translation help and for bringing me onboard with this project.
100 Questions for Sakurai
Q1: What was the first game you ever played?
Sakurai: Hmm, I’ve forgotten. It might have been Pong, or something like that.
Q2: What was the first game you bought with money earned from working?
Sakurai: When I was a child, I would help my parents with things and receive allowances — does that count? It was probably the first Famicom console with Game and Watch.
Q3: If you could go inside the world of any video game, which would you want to visit?
Sakurai: Final Fantasy X. I’d be able to look anywhere and see beautiful scenery.
Q4: Where do you think the boundary line between heavy users and casual users is?
Sakurai: I don’t think there is such a line between users. I think it’s good to keep your target audience in mind, to a certain extent, but from a creator’s viewpoint, I don’t differentiate users like that.
Q5: What is your mental state like on the days when something you worked on first goes on sale?
Sakurai: A lot of times, I think about the parts that weren’t completely finished and I feel a bit heartbroken. However, I deeply thank the people who buy it.
Q6: When you go to game stores, do you wear a disguise?
Sakurai: Very rarely. (On Smash Bros.’ or other games’ release dates). But, the secret is out……
Q7: In Smash Bros., which characters do you use often? Also, which characters do you not use much?
Sakurai: I don’t really have any preference when I play. When picking who to play as, I just choose who I want to play as at that time.
Q8: I don’t think there is a particularly strong character in Smash Bros, but what do you think, Mr. Sakurai?
Sakurai: We try to create each character so that they have both strong points and weak points. Later on, we try to get a feel for how big those strengths and weaknesses are, based on fighting methods and data.
Q9: Which character is on your mind the most?
Sakurai: Considering how long I’ve been working with him, I think it has to be Kirby.
Q10: For Kirby’s cheeks, do you prefer the circles or the small dots?
Sakurai: I prefer the design with the slightly different-colored circles, if possible. If it’s black and white, then for convenience, it’s good to draw the small dots, so that they don’t stand out too much. Moreover, I personally think it’s not good if it looks like whiskers.
Q11: Are you still working on the Kirby series?
Sakurai: I am not.
Q12: In your job as a game creator, what moments make you go “Ah, thank goodness” the most?
Sakurai: I say that every month, but I’m especially relieved when customers enjoy a game.
Q13: It’s often said that “It’s good for people who want to work in the gaming industry to do various things while they’re young that aren’t related to games.” What sort of things did you do other than games?
Sakurai: I did a variety of things. Other than computer related things, I did a fair bit of flipbook animation, as well as making plastic models.
Q14: For college students who want to be game creators, are there any part-time jobs that you think would be helpful?
Sakurai: I recommend working in a game store. After all, it’s important to keep an eye on the kinds of people who buy what you create.
Q15: When planning a project, what kind of workflow helps you finish it?
Sakurai: I’ll talk about Meteos as an example. The concept of a falling puzzle game had already been proposed…
The risk of blocks piling up is the core of the “falling things” concept.
→Tension comes from blocks accumulating. Relief comes from them disappearing.
→Other than blocks disappearing, what options are there?
→I wonder if it’s OK for blocks to “launch upwards”.
→How would blocks be launched upwards??
→It might be interesting to ignite them.
…something like that. I chain issues and solutions in order to come up with ideas. When writing the project plan,it’s bounded by my thoughts. I don’t write for the sake of writing.
Q16: In the games you’ve designed, the ways in which you cleverly guide the player through the game’s mechanics can be seen everywhere. Did you ever study psychology?
Sakurai: No, I’ve never studied psychology. When thinking about things from the user’s perspective, I think it just happens naturally.
Q17: In one column, you named the game “Gotcha Force” as a hidden masterpiece. Are there any other hidden masterpieces you’d recommend?
Sakurai: There are a lot of them. I plan to occasionally introduce more of them in this column, so please look forward to it.
Q18: Are there things you want to make outside of the world of games, like movies or toys?
Sakurai: I’m open to all kinds of things people can enjoy, not just games. Nevertheless, there are much greater filmmakers out there, so I’ll stick to my area of expertise.
Q19: Which makes you happier: when a game is played so much that the disc surface becomes covered in scratches, or when a game is played carefully so that the disc doesn’t get a single scratch?
Sakurai: It depends on the situation, but I think it’s better to handle discs carefully. With normal usage, no matter how much you play, they shouldn’t get scratches or smudges.
Q20: What is your game-making motto?
Sakurai: See things from the player’s perspective. Don’t limit the possibilities of gameplay.
Q21: Mr. Sakurai, are you the type that naturally comes up with a lot of ideas? Or, are you the type that works out ideas under pressure?
Sakurai: Definitely the latter. I’ll continue to be an improviser.
Q22: At what kind of moments does inspiration strike you?
Sakurai: When an important deadline is impending… It makes me work harder.
Q23: Who do you think inspired you the most?
Sakurai: Nobody in particular comes to mind. On the contrary, I respect people who do great things, regardless of their field.
Q24: Who do you think inspired you the most in the games industry?
Sakurai: Same answer as above.
Q25: What item do you absolutely need for your work?
Sakurai: Definitely my computer! Sometimes I do work outside of the office.
Q26: Which other creators are you good friends with?
Sakurai: There are a lot, but I’m going to refrain from explicitly naming them. If I accidentally leave someone out, they might think “Hey, we’re friends, aren’t we!?” and take offense.
Q27: What do you think of Sekai Sandai Miyokawa and Okumura Kisuko?
Sakurai: I’ve been blessed to have such talented directors. I’m really fortunate. Truly.
Q28: Are there any fashions trends you want to take on before you die?
Sakurai: Not really.
Q29: Other than a character, what would you like to cosplay as?
Sakurai: Maybe a desert?
Q30: What are your current and long-term goals and aspirations?
Sakurai: My number one priority is finishing Super Smash Brothers Brawl and taking a break. But naturally, I have plans here and there.
Q31: Do you have any jinxes on you?
Sakurai: I don’t think so. When I think about it, there are endless amounts of jinxes, but I don’t think there’s a particular curse on me.
Q32: What kind of food gives you energy?
Sakurai: I like to put curry on naan, bite down on it with my molars, and eat to my heart’s content. But, I only do this when I have the restaurant to myself.
Q33: What are you good at cooking?
Sakurai: If I had to say, it would be fried rice… though lately I haven’t been cooking for myself.
Q34: Have you been to Shikoku? If not, are there places in Shikoku you would like to visit?
Sakurai: I certainly want to go to the Great Seto Bridge. I’ll go next time I have a good chance.
*TN: Shikoku is the smallest of the four main islands of Japan. It’s also not a popular tourist spot because it’s considered very rural.
Q35: What place do you want to visit before you die?
Sakurai: Excluding places where you need air, I’d like to visit space, where there is nothing. If possible, somewhere where there’s no gravity.
Q36: Are you a member of Club Nintendo?
Sakurai: I am not, because I receive a lot of the software as gifts.
Q37: What games have you bought on the Wii Virtual Console?
Sakurai: Though It may not be too useful, “Donkey Kong”, “Mario Brothers”, “Solomon’s Key”, “Kid Icarus”, “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past”, “Ninja Gaiden”, “Super Mario Brothers 2”, “Super Mario Brothers 3”, “Life Force”, “Dungeon Explorer”, “Moto Roader”, “Comix Zone”, “Ys I & II”, “Zanac”, “Glory of Heracles III”, “Fist of the North Star”, “Super Picross”, “The Adventure of Link”, etc.
Q38: In Monster Hunter, which weapon do you use the most?
Sakurai: I’ve used Long Swords the most, but I also often use Great Swords, Lances, and Dual Blades.
Q39: Which entries in the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series do you like?
Sakurai: Final Fantasy 3, and Dragon Quest 3. I remember those days.
Q40: When you were a student, what things are you glad you did? What things do you wish you had done?
Sakurai: I’m glad I played a lot of games. I wish I had dated more.
Q41: About how much sleep do you get every night?
Sakurai: If I’m busy, 3-4 hours. If I’m not, I get about 6 hours.
Q42: What are you into?
Sakurai: Games, first of all. I really want to play them, but these days the amount of time I can concentrate on playing them has decreased.
Q43: How often do you play analogue games ?
Sakurai: I don’t have any board games, or anything like that. I’ve played “Settlers of Catan” a little bit. Also, I once played Othello with Bose from Scha Dara Parr and lost because of one mistake.
Q44: How much do you read/watch manga and anime?
Sakurai: I don’t really do much of either, but I buy Weekly Morning (a manga magazine) every week. It’s like an exhibition of manga techniques, at least in my opinion.
Q45: How often do you use game-related sites and magazines?
Sakurai: I usually look through Weekly Famitsu and other game magazines I am sent. As for sites, I like Gametrailer[s].com. You can watch various videos there.
Q46: Are there any horror stories that you can tell us where something just barely worked out?
Sakurai: It’s regrettable! I have a lot of those stories.
Q47: Can you tell us about the worst prank that you did?
Sakurai: No way.There’s no statute of limitations for the worst prank.
Q48: Until now, what has made you laugh the most?
Sakurai: I laughed too much and unfortunately forgot what it was about…
Q49: Have you cried recently?
Sakurai: I’m sorry to say that I have not.
Q50: Has anything shocked you recently?
Sakurai: I was at an ATM depositing money in my bank account, and it wouldn’t accept coins.
Q51: Do you have any thoughts about birthdays?
Sakurai: I don’t really think about birthdays much. But, I think it’s good that once a year there’s a day for celebrating each person.
Q52: If you had a cat, what would you name it?
Sakurai: I think I would decide intuitively, based on my impressions of the cat. “Shirataki” is a strong contender.
Q53: Besides games, what are your other hobbies?
Sakurai: If I had to say, it would probably be driving.
Q54: What’s your go-to song for karaoke?
Sakurai: To be honest, I haven’t been to karaoke in probably 10 years…
Q55: Will you establish a fan club?
Sakurai: I’d welcome a fan club for the games that I’ve made. I think developers should generally stay in the background….
Q56: On Valentine’s Day, you get buried by the amount of chocolate fans send you, right?
Sakurai: On Valentine’s Day, I usually get obligation chocolates from the staff.
Q57: Would you be opposed to receiving help from a company like Johnny Associates?
Sakurai: Yes, very much so.
Q58: I’ve fallen in love with a game designer. I know it’ll never work out, but still… What should I do? By the way, their initials are “S. M.”
Sakurai: Ah, it’s Shinji Mikami, isn’t it? You should give it up. Huh? It’s not him? Then, possibly, Shigeru Miyamoto!?
Q59: From looking at pictures I think “Mr. Sakurai looks tall”, but what is your actual height?
Sakurai: 171cm (5 feet 6 inches), the average height for an adult male. My weight is also average.
Q60: What’s your visual acuity?
Sakurai: Over 1.5, but it hasn’t been measured recently. So, more than that.
Q61: Are you worried about going bald?
Sakurai: Yes, very, since I’m getting old. Keep growing! Keep growing!!
Q62: What is your fetish?
Sakurai: I guess the chest.
Q63: How do you ask a girl out?
Sakurai: You can’t overthink it. If you have the mentality of “Chasing and escaping” , then people can really see through that secret intention.
Q64: Mr. Sakurai, do you break girls’ hearts? Or do they break yours?
Sakurai: They break mine.
Q65: What are 3 of your strengths, and three of your weaknesses?
Sakurai: My three weaknesses are that I’m very timid, I find a lot of things bothersome, and I’m very fickle.
Q66: What is your secret for staying so great?
Sakurai: I’m not great, so I don’t know. I’ve gradually gotten older, with good feelings.
Q67: Mr. Sakurai, what are your bad habits?
Sakurai: I don’t think I have any, but they say that everyone has a peculiar habit.
Q68: If you had a signature fighting move, what would it be and when would you use it?
Sakurai: I would split up into multiple people, so I could get several times more work done. My staff really wants this, but it’s impossible.
Q69: What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought in your life?
Sakurai: Probably something related to my house….
Q70: If you won a million dollars from the lottery, what would you do?
Sakurai: First of all, I’d do the bridge pose. Yeah, thats all I can decide on right now.
Q71: About how much do you usually carry in your wallet?
Sakurai: Between 1,000 and 100,000 yen. Hey, why are you asking this?
Q72: Based on your age, you are from the Onyanko Club generation, right? Can you tell us what idol groups you liked?
Sakurai: I liked Onyanko Club, but I’m not really interested in the entertainment world.
Q73: Who do you like better, Iyo Matsumoto or Yu Hayami?
Sakurai: From appearance, I’d say Yu Hayami is more my type.
Q74: What TV shows do you like?
Sakurai: “Amazing Animals” and “See the World by Train”
Q75: It seems like you don’t drink alcohol. Do you find it boring?
Sakurai: I don’t see it as a problem, but maybe I’m missing out on some fun parts of life. Also, I seem to always get stuck with the bill.
Q76: Which kanji do you like, and why?
Sakurai: Can I say the kanji for sky here?
TN: The kanji for sky, “Sora” is the name of the company Sakurai established after leaving Hal.
Q77: What was your nickname growing up?
Sakurai: I didn’t really have a nickname. Honest.
Q78: When you’re late, what is your best excuse to get you through any kind of dilemma?
Sakurai: I say, “I made a mistake! I’m very sorry! It won’t happen again!” to apologize. In the end, I think that’s the best way of solving a problem.
Q79: If you had some clay in front of you right now, what would you make with it?
Sakurai: I would make a man striking an acrobatic kicking pose.
Q80: Can you eat an entire cake?
Sakurai: I’ve never thought about that. I’ll take on the challenge!
Q81: Do you have a favorite emoji?
Sakurai: ho ← looks like a cat from the side
Q82: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Sakurai: I immediately think about breakfast. Incidentally, there’s a 7-Eleven next to my apartment.
Q83: Do you believe in fortune telling?
Sakurai: I only believe in it when it’s convenient.
Q84: Do you ride the train?
Sakurai: I ride the train fairly often. I travel by car about 40% of the time, and by train about 60% of the time.
Q85: What is your dream car?
Sakurai: An Alfa Romeo. I’ve had my current car a while, so I’m thinking about buying a replacement soon.
Q86: Do you want to play “Beautiful character training”?
Sakurai: I’ve played it. I became able to read my poor writings a little bit, but that might have been my imagination.
Q87: For yakisoba, do you like Maruchan?
Sakurai: Do I dare say that I like Myojo Food brand better?
Q88: If you had one day off, what would you do? Games are prohibited — tell me your ideal schedule.
Sakurai: I’d go somewhere like a river beach. I’d enjoy staring off into the distance. I sometimes actually do this.
Q89: Which is your favorite Mobile Suit Gundam?
Sakurai: Probably DOM… I really like the eyes and the form. It’s a great design. A masterpiece.
Q90: Has your father ever hit you?
Sakurai: Many times.
Q91: Do you hate going to the dentist?
Sakurai: Keeping everyone’s mouths healthy is an important job, so I like the dentist!
Q92: What character do you think is super cute?
Sakurai: Nobody in particular right now. Sooner or later I think I’ll find one.
Q93: What soothes you the most?
Sakurai: Definitely my bed. Wrapping up tightly in the sheets and dozing off is the best.
Q94: Do you want a very muscular body?
Sakurai: Everything in moderation.
Q95: Do you forget about things often?
Sakurai: I try to empty my hands whenever possible, so I do lose things often.
Q96: Are you good about keeping things neat and tidy?
Sakurai: I’m really not. I always make the excuse that it’s better to mix my possessions.
Q97: What is your cell phone ringtone?
Sakurai: Right now it’s a steady “bururururu”. I used to use “jiriririri” on my old phone.
Q98: If the green light is running out, do you accelerate and go for it?
Sakurai: I was taught to step on the gas when the light is yellow.
Q99: Do you gamble?
Sakurai: No, I never gamble. Honestly, I’m not very good at it.
Q100: Has a game ever made you cry?
Sakurai: “Koneko to Issho”. I wonder why?
TN: He most likely means “Doko Demo Issho: Koneko mo Issho”, an adventure game from Sony Computer Entertainment for the Playstation. The game stars Toro, the popular cartoon cat, and was only released in Japan.