With the reveal of a new Smash Brothers game via a Nintendo Direct that dropped so many details all at once, it seemed like many questions had already been answered. However, there were still some that fans were curious about.
Many of these questions weren’t along the lines of “Has this character gotten a change to this move,” or “What are the chances of seeing this character in the game,” as Nintendo is historically quite good at keeping secrets when they want them to stay kept. These were questions more along the lines of what the design philosophy was in designing the game from a casual versus competitive perspective, the thought process behind many of the mechanical changes, and so on.
Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of the Super Smash Bros. series, is not an easy man to track down. In addition to working practically all the time, he speaks very little English, so a translator would need to be present for any interview to take place. But thanks to some folks at Nintendo Everything, all the cards have aligned, and some new details on what’s what with the latest Smash Bros title have been revealed.
“The difference between this game and the past is that all the characters are in it. We really tried our best to make the impossible possible, to prevent situations where someone misses a certain character because they’ve been cut.”
Out of all the questions asked during the interview, there were a few that stuck out as especially interesting. In one, the interviewer asked how Sakurai approached the game’s speed, and Sakurai responded with an important distinction: It’s more about tempo than speed.
“When a fighter is launched, by increasing the launch speed to a certain extent, the fighter quickly then becomes controllable,” Sakurai explains. “By slightly reducing the time the fighter can’t be controlled, we are aiming for a well-paced gameplay experience.”
This is an important distinction to keep in mind. When many competitive players got their hands on the game, they believed that the increase in launch speed was a deliberate attempt by Sakurai and the developers to crack down on characters performing chained combo attacks on one another by catching their opponents mid-air with another strike.
This reveals that the change was much less of an attack on the competitive community, and much more of what Sakurai believed would be a general improvement to make the game more fast-paced and controllable.
It also falls right in line with what has been done with Final Smash attacks in the latest title, with many attacks that previously featured long, drawn-out transformation states being shortened to short, very powerful single moves that reduce the amount of time before the regular game resumes.
“We are aiming to make improvements here and there, like reconsidering buttons, allowing short hop attacks by pressing buttons simultaneously, etc to make the controls easier, but at the same time keep a good tempo.”
Another question about the design philosophy behind making short hop attack a button input rather than a series of timely commands resulted in a reply that many were expecting, but one that was still interesting to hear Sakurai say for himself.
According to the famous developer, “the best competition happens after everybody can properly control the character”. This statement holds true to many other forms of competition as well – for example, what’s the point in playing baseball against a person who does’t know the proper form for throwing the ball? Sure, you can win a lot, but your victories won’t actually mean anything in terms of your own skill unless you face them on an equal playing field. Smash Ultimate aims to do the same thing with Smash titles: To make those mechanical barriers that basically equate to the ball-throwing of video games as simple as possible.
Many competitive fans care dearly about the state of the Smash Bros titles. Since the titles are things they care about, they sometimes assume that any actions to make the game less of a fast-paced, competitive experience are direct attacks on them and on the game’s competitive nature as a whole. That’s one of the reasons interviews like these are important. The developers at Nintendo don’t want the competitive community to stop being competitive – in fact, they want quite the opposite. Their work with Ultimate is to break down the barriers to entering the competitive scene. In the end, that will end up expanding the community rather than destroying it.
Featured Image Via Flickr / AntMan3001