SUPER SMASH BROS
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
“WE’VE MANAGED TO KEEP THE DYNAMISM BECAUSE WE DIDN’T HAVE TO GEAR TOWARDS NOVICES LIKE WITH BRAWL”
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
MASAHIRO SAKURAI GAME DIRECTOR, SORA LTD
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