De­vel­oper Sora Ltd For­mat 3DS, Wii U Re­lease Oc­to­ber (3DS), win­ter 2015 (Wii U)


Nin­tendo’s big first­party hit­ter this Christ­mas has been a long time com­ing: Sa­toru Iwata an­nounced the game at E3 2011. New ad­di­tions to the 15-yearold for­mula in­clude Ami­ibo fig­urine in­te­gra­tion and Mii fighters with cus­tomis­able movesets.

The fight­ing game has changed a lot since the re­lease of Su­per Smash Bros Brawl – games have be­come more in­tri­cate and more com­plex than ever be­fore. How has that af­fected your devel­op­ment of the Wii U ver­sion?

I my­self haven’t been con­scious of any great change in the fight­ing game genre since Brawl was re­leased. Al­though it is a genre in which things like strat­egy are ab­so­lutely fas­ci­nat­ing, I have known for some 20-odd years now that they are com­plex, exclusive games that tend to turn off peo­ple who would oth­er­wise be able to en­joy them.

Brawl was not uni­ver­sally adopted by tour­na­ment play­ers, some of whom felt it was im­bal­anced and went back to play­ing Melee. What have you done to en­sure that doesn’t hap­pen again?

I think the pop­u­lar­ity of Melee rested fun­da­men­tally on the game’s speed. The daz­zling ex­change of skills was the game’s most ex­hil­a­rat­ing as­pect and the rough edges in terms of the game’s bal­ance went mostly un­no­ticed. Even though the dy­namic range of the char­ac­ters was limited, the game some­how made its mark, even with hard­core fans of the genre.

Melee’s con­trols were, how­ever, quite com­pli­cated and very tir­ing if the player re­ally got into it in a se­ri­ous way. This made the game less ac­ces­si­ble for novice play­ers and it ba­si­cally ended up be­com­ing a Smash

Bros game for hard­core fight­ing fans. I per­son­ally re­gret that, be­cause I orig­i­nally in­tended the Smash Bros se­ries to be for play­ers who couldn’t han­dle such highly skilled games.

If tour­na­ment pop­u­lar­ity was the most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion, then I think we would cre­ate a Smash

Bros game that in­cluded a mul­ti­tude of fast moves with com­pli­cated con­trols. How­ever, I be­lieve this is ac­tu­ally the great­est short­com­ing of fight­ing games at present, and that is the rea­son why I don’t do it.

Games aimed at ca­sual users, such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit, rein­vig­o­rated the mar­ket and their suc­cess lay be­hind Wii’s pop­u­lar­ity, [so] 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 a rather tame game; this had its ad­van­tages, but it also took away some of the ex­cite­ment.

While there’s a lot of en­thu­si­asm for tour­na­ments on the one hand, there are also users who just give up on th­ese sorts of games be­cause they can’t han­dle the com­plex­ity and speed. While other fight­ing games con­tinue to work on hon­ing this tour­na­ment as­pect, I think that we need to move in a di­rec­tion in which there is more of a fo­cus on in­ex­pe­ri­enced gamers. Com­pa­nies that re­lease prod­ucts that tar­get a very vo­cal, vis­i­ble group of gamers tend to re­ceive good re­ac­tions and they may feel good about it, but I think that we have to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to the less vo­cal, not so vis­i­ble group of play­ers, or else games will just fade away.

There are so many other games out there which are geared to tour­na­ments. It is im­por­tant for us, how­ever, to main­tain the game’s sta­tus as a kind of ‘rough’ party game in which any­one can play with­out feel­ing too much pres­sure over win­ning or los­ing. We there­fore want to keep a nice bal­ance in which a wide va­ri­ety of events can oc­cur in the game, some of them quite out­ra­geous. With this, Smash Bros isn’t just a fight­ing game, it is an op­po­nent-based ac­tion game.

The most im­por­tant thing is that the games have breadth and depth, since we would like them to be pop­u­lar with both novices and hard­core gamers. We think that peo­ple who aren’t so good at turn­ing the ta­bles and com­ing back from be­hind can still get en­joy­ment out of the [new] game, even if they turn off items and Smash Balls.

Al­though the pace of the game had to be low­ered com­pared to Melee in or­der to achieve this bal­ance, we have man­aged to keep the dy­namism be­cause we didn’t have to gear to­wards novice play­ers like we did with Brawl. In fact, we recre­ated all char­ac­ters al­most from scratch. Also, I feel on a per­sonal level that this game is more in­ter­est­ing than the three pre­vi­ous games in the se­ries.

What have you done to en­sure Ami­ibo in­te­gra­tion – op­po­nents sum­mon­ing an­other fighter to as­sist them, for in­stance – doesn’t threaten that bal­ance?

Ami­ibo can’t be used on­line in With Any­one matches. Ami­ibo can be added to friend bat­tles or to lo­cal-play bat­tles, where you get to­gether with other peo­ple and fight based on rules that ev­ery­one un­der­stands and has agreed to. The gen­eral way to use Ami­ibo would be to have them fight each other, have two-on-two bat­tles between Ami­ibo and play­ers, or one-on-one du­els between a player and an Ami­ibo. Which­ever way you choose, vic­tory or de­feat will be de­ter­mined by how the Ami­ibo has been trained.

Fight­ing games are no­to­ri­ously un­wel­com­ing to new­com­ers. How have you catered for them in terms of me­chan­ics and tu­to­ri­als?

We have, of course, leaned to­wards


sim­pler con­trols. Smash Bros is also in­cred­i­bly di­verse if you play it se­ri­ously; the game­play will be com­pletely dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on which stage you play, even if the play­ers and the char­ac­ters are the same, and the ap­pear­ance of just one ran­dom item can change the flow of the game enor­mously.

Ob­vi­ously, this isn’t suit­able for tour­na­ments, where in­di­vid­u­als pit pre­cise skills against each other, be­cause you can’t com­pare re­sults based on a field or track whose size or dis­tance keep chang­ing ev­ery time you play. When it comes to board or card games, how­ever, ev­ery­one’s on a level play­ing field, even though the dice or cards may vary.

This fu­sion of skill and luck is what Smash Bros is all about. We want to leave the [tour­na­ment or skills fo­cus] to other ti­tles and strive for a game that doesn’t end up be­ing too one-sided as a re­sult of this lat­ter as­pect. Our aim is to cre­ate a game the player can en­joy and laugh about even if they lose.

We don’t want to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion, how­ever, in which play­ers at a begin­ner level sud­denly be­come the strong­est ei­ther; this type of hand­i­cap­ping is bet­ter suited to

Mario Kart. The best sce­nario would be that strong play­ers who han­dle the con­trols best can win the game, but luck also plays an im­por­tant role.

You’re mak­ing one of very few Wii U games we’ve seen re­cently that doesn’t make spe­cific use of the GamePad. Why is that?

Ba­si­cally, we did it out of ne­ces­sity. We had to pro­vide a level play­ing field… and we didn’t want the player with the GamePad to have an ad­van­tage, so our plan is to make it im­pos­si­ble to use the GamePad con­stantly dur­ing matches. That doesn’t mean, how­ever, that there aren’t GamePad-spe­cific con­trols.

Some fighters are gain­ing cus­tom spe­cial moves this time around, but th­ese won’t be avail­able With Any­one on­line to avoid nasty sur­prises

Robin and Lucina will be more familiar to western au­di­ences than FireEm­blem se­ries sta­ble­mates Roy and Marth were in the early 2000s. While Chrom was ru­moured, he is not a playable char­ac­ter


Smash­Bros may have a greater fo­cus on sea­soned play­ers, but that doesn’t mean it has lost any of its pen­chant for slap­stick

While Brawl (above) up­graded the se­ries’ vi­su­als, it courted a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence to Melee (top). The Wii U edi­tion is de­signed to be ac­ces­si­ble, but less off­puttingly so

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