Masahiro Sakurai on the future of Smash: ‘I’ve done too much myself’
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally complete. After launching in 2018 with a roster that featured every character from the long history of the series, it has since been steadily updated with new fighters, culminating in the addition of Sora from Kingdom Hearts in October. The last major update of the game came on December 1st.
Three years and countless charming video presentations later, series creator Masahiro Sakurai — a notorious workaholic – seems to be finally taking it easy. “I now have more free time than I’ve probably ever had since I started game development,” he says The edge via email. That career is closely intertwined with crush, a series that he not only led, but was also a major developer for over two decades. “I don’t regret because Super Smash Bros. is like no other,” he says of his time working on the series.
With development on Ultimate Finally, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of the franchise – and especially whether Sakurai would still be involved. I had the chance to ask the director a few questions via email, and we talked about working on new fighters, taking time off and where Smash Bros. goes from here.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
When the game was first announced at E3 2018, you told me how daunting was the prospect of making such a large selection?. How did post-launch development and the addition of all these new fighters relate to that initial development process?
You may have noticed, but DLC fighters are generally made more unique compared to standard fighters on the list. Some sort of new in-game system has been implemented, their Final Smash is accompanied by a visual sequence, they have a relatively extensive stage lineup and guests, and their combat tactics and in-game systems clearly set them apart from other existing fighters.
Fans pay extra for these extra characters, so we tell ourselves to strive and do our best to deliver content that is more than worthwhile. Given that adding one piece of DLC fighter and its associated stages, music and other content proved to be more challenging than adding one piece of content in the base game.
Now that it’s done, how does the final product compare to what you originally envisioned for the game? Are there elements that you are particularly proud of?
We envision the final product and strive for it as we work on the game, so where we have ended up is certainly not far from that initial vision. Still, I feel there are still some shortcomings, which I took as lessons learned. I feel like the idea of ’being proud of’ differs between Japanese and English, but I don’t want to brag about what we’ve accomplished with this project.
Was it hard to finally give up the game after working for so long? What was it like when you realized the work was done?
I knew that as long as we continued to work diligently, it would one day come to an end. This was a large scale project that took many years to complete, but even for a project like this we still put the same amount of effort into each step as we do with any other project.
Have you managed to take time off since Sora launched? What does a break look like to you (except horseback riding)?
Usually I like to travel. I now have more free time than I’ve probably ever had since I started game development, so I occasionally go on short trips, overnight stays, or just a day out. My itinerary is fairly full, as I like to stop here and there. It is also fortunate that the COVID-19 situation in Japan has improved.
Do you ever regret not working on projects outside the smash In recent years?
I sometimes look back and think there might have been other opportunities if I hadn’t worked Super Smash Bros. I don’t regret it though because Super Smash Bros. is like no other, and this was an opportunity I couldn’t have gotten on any other project.
What would convince you to come back to make another one? smash? Do you think your role would be different or smaller if you returned?
I think we’ve reached the limit, at least in terms of content and fighters. In short, if I had the chance to work on someone else Super Smash Bros. game, that means we would have to narrow the roster, but we have to think about whether fans would be happy about that.
I also did too much of the work myself, so I should fix that too. Current Super Smash Bros. poured too much of my personality into it. In order for a long-lasting series to continue to thrive today, we need to think about eliminating the series’ reliance on just one person’s vision.
Of course, this is the way it is now because we hadn’t been able to split the vision across multiple people before. This would be a challenge for the future and something to be discussed with Nintendo, if there is a next installment in the Super Smash Bros. series.