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Sakurai talks about reasons for doing two versions of the new Super Smash Bros., thoughts on DLC, music selection and direction for the new game

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • June 27, 2013 at 10:12 a.m. PDT • Comments: 44
Sakurai talks about reasons for doing two versions of the new Super Smash Bros., thoughts on DLC, music selection and direction for the new game In an interview with French website Puissance Nintendo, Sakurai talks on a variety of subjects regarding the new Super Smash Bros. game. Thanks to a kind user over at NeoGAF, we have a translation of the interview which will follow below. Here's a snippet to get you started.
Puissance Nintendo: At E3 2011 Satoru Iwata surprised everyone by announcing that the next Smash Bros. game would come out on 3DS and Wii U. What will be the major differences between the two versions? Can we expect a few surprises, regarding for example connectivity?

Sakurai: While the development of Kid Icarus Uprising was coming to an end Satoru Iwata came to ask me to develop the next SSB and asked me if it should be developed on 3DS or Wii U. We arrived to the point where the series couldn't really evolve anymore and we wondered if going handheld was the solution. In the past we raised the number of characters and stages but it wasn't enough.

Around this time we could have chose to develop only a 3DS version, but we realized that there were several limitations. I'm talking about playing a game like SSB on a small screen. So even if it is complicated to develop two versions of the game at the same time, we decided to adapt the Smash Bros experience to the characteristics of both platforms.

If on the one hand the characters are the same on Wii U and 3DS, the stages will be on the other hand completely different. The 3DS stages are based on games released on handheld consoles while the Wii U stages will be based on games released on home video game console.
Hit the jump to hear what Sakurai has to say
PN: How did you organize the development of two versions of the same game? Is there a "lead platform" or are both platforms developed simultaneously, with a dedicated team for each versions?

Sakurai: The team is the same for both versions of the game, which are developed side by side. There's no "lead platform".

PN: In the E3 2013 Developer Direct you mentions the fact that characters on 3DS are circled in black in lines in order to distinguish them a small screen. What kind of technical limitations did you have face on 3DS? Did you have to reduce the number of items or special effects on screen?

Sakurai: We had to take several factors into considerations to produce a satisfying experience for both platforms.

On the 3DS version for instance, we had to look at characters' bodies proportion on home consoles and adapt them on 3DS to make the characters look more recognizable on a small screen. Same thing for the hands' deformation.

All of this serves to make the 3DS game a pleasant experience.

While Sakurai didn't have much to say regarding the connectivity between the two games as of yet, he did share some of his thoughts on DLC, something people seem to have assumed that he dislikes.

PN: Considering there are two versions of the game, players are expecting a form of connectivity between the two. Can you give us some examples of connectivity features? Monster Hunter Ultimate 3 allows save data transfer between its two versions, can we expect similar features in SSB?

Sakurai: The save data of the two games are completely separate, but there will be some degree of interaction, as it will be possible to transfer data relatives to the characters from one version to the other.

PN: In all your games, and especially in Kid Icarus Uprising and Smash Bros, the amount of game content is very important, with sometimes hundreds of hours of game. Why do you always put so much content in your games? Is it because you are not really fond of DLCs and instead prefer to have access to a complete game right away?

Sakurai: Oh it's not that I dislike DLCs, it's just that I don't really have time to think about it. I'm too busy working on the game and put as much content as I can. The goal is to give a full and interesting game to players.

I'm not opposed to DLCs on principle. I really liked the Fallout 3 DLCs for example.

Music is something that has been very celebrated in the Super Smash Bros. series, with Brawl carrying around 300 tracks from various popular Nintendo games, many of them re-recorded specifically for the game. Sakurai explains why he values the musical composers so much, and goes on to explain his detailed development process.

PN: Music always had an important role in SSB games, with great number of tunes, remixes and composers, why do you think that is?

Sakurai: I think it's a matter of respect. I have a lot of respect for all these characters and for how all these games affected people while playing them. I believe that music played an important role in these games and so to please the fans of these games and original series we have to recreate the same music so that it corresponds to their desires and expectations.

PN: In the past you said you want to work with the original composers. In your eyes why is it so important to work with them?

S: I've never really said that only some specific composer can work with some songs and not others. Instead I talk with the people who composed the original tracks of a game, like the composer for instance, and ask them how they want to contribute to the project. Usually we find an agreement and they compose special versions of their songs for SSB games.

PN: You take an active part in your games' playtesting, every nook and crannies: details, changes etc... You even playtest the multiplayer yourself. Why do you do that? Is it the only way for you to be sure that a game stays on the right path?

S: It's hard for me to find an easy answer to a question like this one about the nature of my work. I can explain it this way: developing a game is way harder than it looks like from the outside.

That's why I think the Director has to involve himself a lot and care about even the smallest details of his game, each gameplay elements. It's hard for me to conceive developing a game any other way.

Below, you'll find Sakurai's thoughts on implementing online in a better fashion for the new game, how the new game will cater to casual and competitive fans respectively, as well as how grueling the development of a game like this can be, or rather, how grueling you can make it by not delegating.

PN: In Famitsu magazine a few months ago you said regretted not being able to patch SSBB on Wii, especially the online mode. This is not case anymore on Wii U and 3DS where it is possible to modify a game after its release. What aspects of the new SSB game will be scrutinized in prevision of possible patches?

S: It's hard to tell right now but of course we always try to keep the best balance. Nevertheless I do not know yet if it will be easy to patch the games once they are released. For example, if you have a person playing a patched version of the game playing against a person without the patch problems may occur. We will have to do a lot of research about this.

That said I think patches are very important to keep the game balanced once it's out. As you already know players are very interested in knowing whether a character is considered strong or weak on the Internet.

And sometimes you have to see if those perceptions are correct or if people are just following the popular opinion. We really want each character to have their special abilities, with statistics balancing their strong points.

We want to put forward specific each characters' specific abilities but at the same time players have to ask themselves if they accept the Internet reputation of a character. It's something we have to take into account when we will create patches.

PN: With each new game in the series you added more stages, more characters, but Brawl felt less polished than its predecessors. For the new Smash are you going to change your approach by including less content but making sure the game is more polished? S: Until now I always considered that I was responsible for each and every aspects of every characters, the balance of the game, to the point where I created each different attacks separately for every characters. I'll share this work with other people this time around, to make sure a good balance can be found for this game.

In the past I was often overwhelmed and I'm trying to avoid that now. Of course working on a game like this one takes a huge amount of time, especially since we have to work on two different versions. Polishing and finding the right balance will take a lot of time. Of course I fully assume my role as a Director of those two games and test every aspects of them, but I also try to delegate some tasks. I try to focus on the things only I can take care of.

PN: Will the new SSB game players looking for a casual experience or the players looking for a competitive experience? Is this something you pay a lot of attention to when making the game?

S: If you consider that Melee is perfect for fighting game experts who are only interested in competitiveness and that Brawl is more suited for newcomers trying to discover the series... then maybe we have to find the middle ground for the new Smash Bros game?

I'm not talking about changing the game system, but rather to take into consideration the level of each players. Mario Kart is often described as the most accessible game for players of all levels. This series has several gameplay mechanics reducing the gap between the players.

But Smash Bros is a radically different series compared to Mario Kart, it has to find its own mechanics to offer a similar level of accessibility, offering a neutral ground for new players and experimented players alike. Nonetheless it is still a game requiring some experience to master it, we just want to make sure everyone's having fun with it.

And finally, keep on reading to hear some explanations on what the story mode will entail this time around, possible customization of characters, Mega Man's inclusion and various other tidbits.

PN: There was a big focus on Story with Brawl, notably with SSE, the very first "story mode" of the series. Is there anything similar with the new SSB?

S: Actually we are not planning to include a similar story mode this time around. As you already know SSB has a great number of different characters who all had their own cutscenes in Story mode. These were supposed to be rewards for players finishing this mode with every characters.

I think this is fun for players but at the same time all these cutscenes ended up on the internet. Players watched them online, which didn't correspond to our intent when we made them in the first place. That's why we won't do the same this time.

Nevertheless we will still present the new characters with intro cutscenes, as we already did with the Villager, Mega Man and Wii Fit Trainer. We have several collaboration to make these cutscenes at the moment.

PN: In the weeks preceding the release of Kid Icarus Uprising you released several animated cutscenes to the players, are you going to do the same with Smash?

S: As you've seen with WFT, which we revealed earlier this week, I like revealing characters with cutscenes before the game is released. But they have a cost so I can't promise.

PN: During the development of Brawl you were very open with the fans through the Dojo, where you revealed many a lot of information on the game. Are you going to do the same or are you going to keep some surprises for the release of the game? Many players felt like they knew everything about Brawl before it was even released...

S: We won't share as much info this time around. You'll have information on characters and pictures through the official website but not always detailed info like it was the case in the past.

PN:What level of customization will be present in the game? In the past players had access to a great many options, notably regarding items. Are you going to implement new ones, such as being able to switch off damages caused by stage hazards?

S:You will still be able to control the apparition of items, but you won't be able to turn off stage hazards. If we did that, you'd find yourself with PSASB!

PN: Will the new SSB have players created content, with a stage or character editor?

S: I'm sorry I can't talk about this for the moment

PN: Let's talk a bit about the new characters, Mega Man looks "normal" for the series, but the Villager and WFT who are pretty surprising choices, not so much. Why did you choose to include them in the game? Do you want to appeal to those games' players?

S: The first thing I want to say about those characters is that they're pretty fun to play with, and that I understand that people think that Mega Man is perfectly suite for the series.

But when we decide to include characters in the series we ask ourselves: "What can this character do that existing ones cannot?" and so I've spent a lot of time thinking about what Villager and WFT could do. I've realized that they were many interesting things to be done with these two characters.

PN: You receive a lot of requests for new characters, from fans and even developers. Do you take those requests into account or would you rather keep your vision of how the game should be pure, keeping the sought-after balance intact?

S: Actually I do take into account fans requests. But the phase where I gather this information is already over and we're currently adding content to the game. We always strive to put as much content as we can in our program.

PN: In conclusion, can you tell us what you prefer when developing SSB games? Something you love to take care of. What is the most complicated aspect?

S: I think it's by making the game system itself, by trying to create a neutral ground for players of different levels that I have the most fun. I want to make an interesting gameplay, making sure players never get bored requires a lot of efforts. As for what is the most complicated aspect of development... I'd say everything else!

Did the interview with Sakurai give you any new insight into the upcoming Super Smash Bros. game? Did it make you more or less excited, or are you indifferent? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Puissance Nintendo.

Massive thanks to Kurtofan over at NeoGAF for the translation.
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