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Filed under: Super Smash Bros. Series

Melee Music Developer Roundtable: Sound Effects

sound effects

Sound Effects

Sakurai: Next, we’re talking about sound effects, but I left most of that to Mr. Ikegami, and didn’t give him that much direction. I’d never left someone else in charge until this project, but it worked out well, and I’m very confident in his abilities.

Sakai: Is the reason why you were given that much responsibility for this game because you did a lot of work on the last one?

Ikegami: Yes, that’s right.

Sakurai: When I hear the finished product, almost nothing feels wrong. He understood what I was going for, and he worked while putting a plan together in his head.

Ikegami: Woah, are these compliments? (laughs)

Sakai: I think it’s your experience and expertise working on games. Makes me realize I need to work on my own craft.  

Ikegami: But it wasn’t easy. Because we had to make completely new, original sound effects for Melee. There were some that were easy to create because they were things that I carried over from making the last game, but for the new sounds, I had to listen to Mr. Sakurai, and then create something off of that, which was challenging.

completely new, original sound effects for Melee: It was rare for a sound effect from Smash 64 to be used as is in Melee, so in the end it took a lot of effort.

Sakurai: When the player presses a button, you want them to go, “That feels great!” or, “That was fun!” Other than that, all I can do is describe the sound effect in words, like, “Here, make it go zubya!” or “Dobyaa!”

Ikegami: There was a good amount that we made just off of your onomatopoeia.

Sakurai: That’s how I’ve always done it, even back in the Game Boy days.

Ikegami: When you start to get the hang of it, you really understand what the onomatopoeia is supposed to be. Like, “This needs more of an accent,” or, “This needs a bit more of an aftertaste,” and so on.

Sakurai: How you attack the note, and how you end it is crucial.

attack the note, and how you end it: Put simply, how a note starts and ends. We prioritize a clear sound, and making the sound synchronize well with the action, to make moves feel satisfying.

Ikegami: It is important. I remember Mr. Sakurai was with me overseeing this one specific sound effect, and he told me, “The frames of motion and the sound don’t fit.” So when I looked into it, the sound effect was 2 frames too long. After that, I was very careful about things like that, and in the end I think we did a good job.

Sakai: Everyone really likes the Zelda transformation sound effect.


Ikegami: For that one, I didn’t have any direction from Mr. Sakurai. I was asked, “We have this animation for this transformation, but what do you want to do for the sound?” And I said, “For this, I have several options we could go with,” and I’d come up with several ideas, and then decide on one, that was kind of the pattern we went with.

Sakurai: Normally, I give directions for everything, and if it was someone who wouldn’t be able to do a good job I’d give directions for everything, but this time I was confident that he could handle it, so I left everything to him. It made my life a little bit easier.

Ikegami: I had a lot of fun with it. I got to come up with the notes for all of those sound effects. I was able to make the Zelda transformation sound effect because we did it this way.

Sakurai: Yeah, although it’s really best if every staff member can work like that. But usually it doesn’t work out that way. Often, people just try to emulate what they were told perfectly.

Ikegami: It’s hard work, but it’s fun.

Andou: In any case, I think if the creators are having fun, then the finished product will be good.

Sakai: I just realized this, but Mr. Ikegami has the added advantage of having played all of the original games that are in Smash.

Ikegami: Oh, I haven’t played all of them.

Sakai: Wait, I thought you said you played all of them?

Sakurai: He might not have played every single one, but he’s at least seen them all in action and has some understanding of them.

Ikegami: Yes, that is true.

Sakai: I’m going to change the subject back. I also opened up Zelda II and went to the “Temple” map and walked around. And things would come flying at me, right? And I thought, “Oh, I get it now. I’ll make a song inspired by yotsuya kaidan.*” And I ended up going in the complete opposite direction (laughs).

Yotsuya kaidan: a famous Japanese ghost story.


Rejected “yostuya kaidan” Temple theme

Sakurai: Oh, right. There was a song that felt like it was from yotsuya kaidan (laughs).

Ikegami: What really sticks out in your head after playing a game is something that depends on the person, so I had to ask Mr. Sakurai for help.

Sakai: Also, there’s a limit to how well you can communicate via email. When we talked on the phone, I understood what Mr. Sakurai wanted much more clearly.

Via email: Sakai was the only one working in Tokyo, so he mainly used email to talk with Sakurai.

Sakurai: And on the phone, you can also sing. For example, I could say, “The part that goes dun-dun-dun” and you would understand. Over email, I have to write “here, the part at x minutes and y seconds.”

Sakai: The thing is, when I think about how busy you are, it’s hard for me to call you (laughs).

how busy you are: At the time, Mr. Sakurai was working on so many things, he was extremely busy.

Ikegami: It was hard for me to even send emails saying, “Please add this sound effect!”

Sakurai: If other people did more work, then I would have more time. Actually, from now on, let’s do that.

Ikegami: Even asking, “What should we do about this part?” is really hard. I walk over to your desk, and you have this “don’t talk to me” aura emanating from you.

Sakurai: Ah, I’m sorry about that (laughs).

Ikegami: But having people trying to talk to you all the time is your job as the director, so you need to try to make it be less intimidating to try to talk to you.

Sakurai: I really do. When you’re making something on the scale of Melee, you should really have 3 or 4 directors, but we don’t…

Ikegami: Returning to the topic of sound effects, the number of them that we have is incredible. Including all of the minor ones, we have over 4000.

Everyone: 4000?!

Ikegami: By the way, we started making sound effects around April, after the orchestra was done recording.

Sakai: So, 4000 in six months! (laughs)

Ikegami: Because the characters can get bigger and smaller, that increases the number of necessary sound effects by a ton.

Sakurai: Because a playable character can be normal size, large, or small, on a basic level each characters requires three versions of each sound effect. But hearing the voices of characters get higher or lower is pure fun.