Looking Back on “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” Sakurai’s Famitsu column vol. 360 (some old stuff previously translated from 1UP, and some new stuff)
Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs and link to this translation. For additional information, please read this post. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect Masahiro Sakurai. The following is a selection from Masahiro Sakurai’s book: Think About Making the Video Games 2. If you enjoyed this article, I would strongly encourage you to support Sakurai by buying his books. If you have any questions about this article, please contact the administrator.
There are sections here that have already been translated by 1UP, in 2010 when the column was originally released. I’ll quote their translation, but I’ve added my own annotations and translation if I feel something is lacking explanation or is wrong. I’m doing this because I believe that their translation is mostly good and I’d like to avoid having two slightly different translations of the same thing. As this could become problematic when being used as a reference. However, I do want to explain and rectify mistakes that I believe they made.
If would like to read 1UP’s translation on its own first, click here.
There’s an additional retrospective section in addition to the original columns when they are collected in book format. They are located on the bottom of this post. Also, underlined segments have attached sidenotes from Sakurai which are translated as well. Asterisks and footnotes are my own commentary. Lines in red are areas where I feel the 1UP translation was mistaken or lacking in some other way, and my translation is written after the paragraph. There were two lines which they apparently didn’t translate in sections that were otherwise translated, so I added my own translation in blue text to avoid any sort of confusion.
A final note, it seems there was some confusion regarding these things:  , etc. Those are just footnotes, which aren’t natively supported by WordPress (I think. If they are I don’t know how to do them). Also, I would really recommend reading them, as I think they’ll add a lot to your understanding of the translation. I’m sorry that you have to scroll back and forth to do so (I really want to find a way to incorporate Grantland-style clickable sidenotes), but I don’t know how to do so unfortunately.
Think about the Video Games Vol. 360, December 9th, 2010
Looking Back on “Super Smash Bros. Melee”
The date I am writing this column on is November 21st, 2010. Releasing on November 21st may have been a semi-superstitious tradition for good luck in the past for Nintendo. Many great games have been released on this date.
Starting off, on the SNES, we have games such as “Super Mario World” and “F-ZERO.” “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” and “The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.” “Pokemon Silver/Gold,” “Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire,” “Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest,” and many others. For some reason, the Nintendo DS was released in North America on November 21st as well.
And then, “Super Smash Bros. Melee” was released for the Gamecube on this day, November 21st, 2001. The next day, the Playstation remake of “Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen” was released, resulting in an overlapping release.
Melee was the middle game in the series, following the original “Super Smash Bros.” (Nintendo 64) and preceding “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” (Wii)– the second son, you might say. It was the best selling game on the Gamecube, but also sold the least in the series*.
Best selling game on the Gamecube: At one point, apparently the attach rate for this game reached 70%.
* Sold the least in the series in Japan, where Smash 64 sold 1.97 million copies, compared to Melee’s 1.37 million, Brawl’s 2.54 million, Smash for 3DS’s 2.19 million copies, and Smash for Wii U’s 646,000 copies. Worldwide, Smash 64 sold around 5 million copies, Melee sold 7.09 million copies, Brawl sold 12.7 million copies, Smash for Wii U has sold 3.65 million copies, and Smash for 3DS has sold 6.75 million copies.
The 1UP translated segment starts here. I’ve taken their translation and just removed phrases like “wrote Sakurai,” “said Sakurai” so it reads more like a translation.
1UP: “On a personal level, Melee had an extremely grueling development cycle. Some of my other games did, too, but Melee sticks out far ahead of the pack in my mind. I worked on that game for 13 months straight, after all, without a single Sunday or holiday off that whole time. During parts of it, I was living a really destructive lifestyle — I’d work for over 40 hours in a row, then go back home to sleep for four.”
1UP: “I seriously felt like a man on a mission. With the original [Nintendo 64] Smash Bros., there was no guarantee the game would be well-received at all — I had my hands full just trying to make it into the completely new sort of fighting game I had in mind. With Melee, though, the previous game did well enough that Nintendo and the character designers knew what I wanted in advance. And I wanted a lot. It was the biggest project I had ever led up to that point, and I was bearing the burden of many historically important video game characters on my back. It was  the first game of mine on disc-based media, the first that used an orchestra for music, the first with ‘real’ polygon graphics. My staff was raring to go, and we plunged in full-tilt from the start. I pushed myself beyond any limit I could think of because I doubted I’d ever have this sheer amount of work in my hands ever again.”
1UP: “Melee is the sharpest game in the series. “It’s pretty speedy all around and asks a lot of your coordination  skills. Fans of the first Smash Bros. got into it quickly, and it just felt really good to play .”
Source Gaming: People who were used to playing the first Smash Bros. and could play it well enough, and it was a game that aimed to elicit the highest positive response from its players.
1UP: “However, I did have some reflections on how the game turned out. I had created Smash Bros. to be my response  to how hardcore-exclusive the fighting game genre had become over the years. But why did I target it so squarely toward people well-versed in videogames, then ? That’s why I tried to aim for more of a happy medium with Brawl’s play balance .”
1UP: “There are three Smash Bros. games out now, but even if I ever had a chance at another one, I doubt we’ll ever see one that’s as geared toward hardcore gamers as Melee was.”
1UP: “Melee fans who played deep into the game without any problems might have trouble understanding this, but Melee was just too difficult. If we want new people from this generation of gamers to come in, then we need it accessible, simple, and playable by anyone . You can’t let yourself get preoccupied with nothing but gameplay and balance details.”
Source Gaming: If new players from this generation of gamers are to come in, then we should try to make it accessible, simple, and playable by anyone.
1UP: “That’s where the core of the Smash Bros. concept lies, not on doggedly keeping the game the way it was before .”
Source Gaming: I don’t think making something close to its predecessor is a rule that must always be followed.
Note: It’s likely that this is a generic caption that Sakurai did not write himself.
Sakurai: I was making balance adjustments to “Kid Icarus: Uprising,” and stated that I was thinking about this subject, this stuff. There really are a lot of hardcore players that only enjoy the part tailored to their taste…And if the game changes, the plans for the game will change, and I think people don’t like to be denied in that way.
Interviewer: In the large-scale tournaments overseas, “Melee” is still played alongside “Smash for Wii U/3DS.”
Sakurai: If Smash had gone further down the path that Melee had , I don’t think it would be as popular as it is now. If your game isn’t popular, you can’t afford the cost of production…and if you end up cutting costs, you lose characters or game modes.
Interviewer: It’s quite the dilemma. If you did that, I feel you would never hear the end of complaints like “this character isn’t in the game, that character isn’t in the game…”
Sakurai: When you drop characters and game modes, you have to specialize and focus on the fighting aspect of the game. As a result, you end up lacking many components of the game. Consumers may find it difficult to envision this sort of future. I think the fact that Smash does not abandon new fans is something that has value even in the current landscape of video games.
1. 1UP neglected to translate this part, so it was added. I felt it wouldn’t make sense to have it added after the paragraph, so I inserted it in directly.
2. “Reflexes,” or “reaction speed” is a more accurate translation of the word 反射神経 than “coordination skills,” in my opinion. While having good reactions probably does mean you have decent coordination, he doesn’t actually write the word “coordination.”
3. The first part of the sentence is just slightly off in all respects. He doesn’t say “fans” but “players used to the game,” and he also never says that those players got into Melee quickly, just that they could “play it well enough.” “it just felt really good to play” is, in my opinion, a mistranslation. It’s on the right track but it’s not quite there. It’s missing the key verb in the original sentence, “狙った,” which means “to aim for, to target.” In addition, “手応え” doesn’t really mean “felt good to play,” although it is similar in feel. “手応え” has a definition that best translates to “a positive response or reaction elicited from something.” Sakurai says “最大の手応えの高さを狙ったものでした,” or “it was the game that aimed to elicit the greatest positive response from its players.” In this context, I’m referring to the response that players get from playing the game, not their general response or feedback to the game itself (the feeling of playing Melee versus the your personal opinion on the game as a whole). Also, 手応え is often associated with size, a “large 手応え,” but Sakurai writes uses “高さ,” or “height,” which is something I’ve honestly not seen before. The message he’s trying to convey is probably the same, as he includes the word “maximum” in there, but it’s still a very strange word choice.
4. His actual word choice is “antithesis.” The full sentence would be “Smash Bros. was supposed to be the antithesis to how hardcore-exclusive…”
5. This sentence is bold in the original column, but not in the 1UP translation, I added the emphasis, as it is our policy to follow the original formatting as closely as possible.
6. Sakurai elaborated a bit on what he thought about Brawl in an interview with EDGE magazine in October 2014. His exact words were: “we had to make sure that Brawl would also be fun for first-time players. We also had to make sure that everyone could use the controls, such as holding the Wii Remote sideways. As a result of these considerations, overall Brawl is rather tame game; this had its advantages, but it also took away some of the excitement.”
7. Sakurai doesn’t say it “needs” to be accessible, simple, and playable by anyone, the word need isn’t there and is too strong of a word for the tone he’s trying to convey. What he says is “…ものを目指したほうがいい.” “目指す” means “to aim at, to go for, to head for,” and ”ほうがいい” means “is better,” or contextually, “it’s better” (もの means thing, or “it” in this case). I feel that the 1UP translation is a much more forceful statement and isn’t in line with Sakurai’s generally non-combative tone.
8. The way Sakurai writes the final sentence is also a classic, unique-to-Japanese sort of sentence, where he explains his opinion but says it very ambiguously, trying as hard as possible not to commit strongly to any one side more than necessary, using noncommittal phrasing like “not always,” “I think,” and so on. I strongly believe that this tone should be preserved, which is why I think my translation is better compared to 1UP’s, which places Sakurai’s opinion in a much more forceful light. In addition, 1UP merges the final two sentences into one, even connecting it with a “not,” which isn’t present in the text. The final sentence introduces an idea that really wasn’t present until that sentence– the idea of not being shackled to the preceding game, which Sakurai never directly ties to “the Smash Bros. concept.”
9. Sakurai says “If “Smash” had escalated on the path of Melee,” which does work even in English, but feels a bit strange, and “gone further down the path” is the more common way to say it in English.
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