Note: These are notes and do not represent a full, accurate translation of Sakurai’s comments. Since we are short on time, we decided to provide everyone with the cliff notes from both Sakurai’s bi-weekly column, and an interview from Famitsu. Both were published on December 13th, 2018. Enjoy! If you want more news straight from the source, follow us on Twitter.
For Smash Ultimate, it was decided early on to have a substantial single player. However, they couldn’t increase the workload even more by introducing elements such as unique enemies or scrolling terrain.
Smash Ultimate is in a unique position because it has so many fighters, lots of IPs to draw from, loads of music and stages.
Battles meant to be short as the amount would be a lot. The idea to use the various titles and try to capture that character’s likeness in battle started the idea that would eventually snowball into Spirits mode.
Smash Ultimate project plan started right after Corrin and Bayonetta were released (Feb 2016).
Sakurai saw the Switch in early development.
The project plan stage there were plans for things that might differ between handheld and docked modes but the Switch screen was higher quality than Sakurai thought it would be and didn’t see a problem in having the game uniform across tabletop and docked modes.
In order to decide what Spirits were in the game, a team dedicated to the task was formed and researched various series. Players have a lot of love for the characters, so he felt he had to do them all justice. Spirits also allowed the team to collaborate with a lot of other franchises, which Sakurai sees as extremely valuable.
Sakurai’s advice for readers struggling with strong Spirits: level up your own Spirits to match the enemy’s power and then head into battle.
Inkling took quite a bit of work because of their ink mechanic. The team needed to decide how their ink would interact with every stage and every fighter, and what would happen when someone or something got splatted. Sakurai anticipated that Inklings would be more of a “support” character that shines in team battles.
Ridley’s concept was pure evil. Characters like Bowser and King K. Rool are also bad guys but they have more comedic elements too. Ridley was designed to be purely a scary villain–which is why its trailer was darker and more serious.
Simon and Richter were imaged as close to their game counterparts as possible. Tilt attacks were designed to be a similar length to the whip in Castlevania for the NES, with Smash attacks reaching even further. However, their extensive reach comes at the expense of speed, as their attacks leave them wide open if they miss. These characters have a long reach but require precise aim.
King K. Rool felt unique in that he’s a heavy with a counter and projectiles. Sakurai decided to give his belly super armor that cracks and ultimately shatters once it takes too much damage, leaving him wide open to attack.
Isabelle was designed as sort of a customized version of Villager–similar, but not an Echo Fighter. Echo Fighters have the same shape and structure as their original counterparts, but Villager and Isabelle are built completely differently. Some of their actions, like the Pocket, are very similar in order to maintain the Animal Crossing feel. Also, she’s cute, especially when she’s moving around.
Incineroar was the only character that wasn’t decided on in the project plan. A spot was left open for a new Pokemon character to be decided on later because of the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon.
Sakurai selected Piranha Plant because a game full of protagonists and major players isn’t terribly interesting. A lineup full of plain-old heroes is boring. Just like Mr. Game & Watch, R.O.B., and Duck Hunt, Piranha Plant brings something special and unique to the roster. He anticipates Piranha Plant to be a rather unconventional fighter.
The inspiration for World of Light came from a sequence toward the end of Brawl’s Subspace Emissary where all the characters vanish. Sakurai thought that it would be more impactful to start with a great disaster and send the player on a journey to return everything back to normal–and that’s how WoL was born.
The dialogue and movements were to represent traits of each of the characters. Marth is leader of an army so he estimates their capabilities for combat. Zelda’s line shows that there was a long battle that brought them to this point and that there’s no turning back now.
Sakurai also acknowledges the suspension of disbelief regarding Captain Falcon trying to drive away from the disaster since F-Zero cars are powered by the G-Diffuser System and propelled forward by the antigravity beams along the track. That said, he was seen driving on land in the Brawl demo, so this isn’t the first time this incontinuity has come up.
Sakurai doesn’t place too much stock in win-loss records or your win rate when it comes to online play. He figured that tracking your number of victories would be enough, and the tag system was born from that way of thinking.
Elite Smash will be limited to a small percentage of players–one in every handful of people–but they may reevaluate the scale of the system as netplay continues. Since a lot of players jumping into online right away are old hands at Smash, it might be easier to enter Elite Smash matches later on, but casual players probably don’t need to worry too much about that anyway. The main idea is to help prevent the really high-level players from being matched up with beginners.
Sakurai embraces the eports playstyle, but he wants to cater to both the people who play Smash competitively and the newcomers to the series. There is no “right” way to play, but he wants both the hardcore players and the casual players to enjoy themselves. The team has put a lot of effort into including a ton of items and special features, so he doesn’t want to limit the way people play or to focus too much on catering to a specific group of players.
Sakurai was impressed with the high level of play seen in pre-release tournaments. In particular, he was surprised that someone could pick up Richter and use him so effectively right away. He also prefers watching the way matches change and unfold with items on.
He was quite pleased with the way the stage morph feature turned out. It required a lot of work, but it makes things exciting and fun to watch.
Smash was once subtitled “Nintendo All-Stars,” but the game’s scope has expanded far beyond Nintendo. When asked how he defines Smash, Sakurai said that it essentially comes down to the way it feels to play the game. If it were to be reduced to nothing more than another 1-on-1 fighting game, then it would no longer be Smash.
Sakurai always prioritizes Smash when Nintendo asks him to make a new one, but he can’t say for sure that he’ll be doing it forever.
Interviewer: You probably don’t want to think about a sequel right now but…
Sakurai: Yeah…for now, I don’t need to think about one so I won’t, but… I think we’d be fine waiting about 10 years until the next one (laughs)
If the orders come in from Nintendo, Sakurai prioritizes Smash, but he doesn’t know for sure they will ask him to do this in the future. This time, the request came in to make a Smash for Switch. He is sure that when the next Nintendo hardware comes that a similar request will come, but he doesn’t know how he will top it. He states that “everyone is here” is a miracle, and will probably only happen this one time. Even though some players might start talking about a new Smash in a couple years, there’s no guarantee there will be another as Smash requires the cooperation of so many different parties and is far different than a simple sequel like in other series.
‘To everyone on staff and everyone who let us use their characters, I want to say thank you so much.’
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