Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai appeared on the launch livestream for Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition today, and he and Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii discussed how Hero got into Smash Bros., and more.
Here are the highlights:
- It all started with Sakurai and Nintendo saying that they had a proposal, which turned out to be asking if they could add Hero to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The proposal itself was very detailed, and Sakurai and Nintendo spoke very passionately, saying “We want to use Hero.” There was some discussion about whether a monster could be better, but in the end they agreed upon it.
- From Sakurai’s side, he says that requests to add in a Dragon Quest representative have been around for a long time, but he felt it wasn’t possible. However, Nintendo approached Sakurai, saying it might be possible, and so he ended up doing the presentation proposal with the intent of working with Dragon Quest, although what from Dragon Quest would be worked out later on. If he was told ‘no’ to Hero and ‘yes’ to Slime or something like that, he’d do it, but Sakurai felt Hero was the best option. That said, he did know that there would be many hurdles to working on Hero.
- For example, Hero hasn’t been seen fighting other characters before. And they haven’t gotten voiced before too. Sakurai was quite convinced that he’d be rejected really quickly, but the agreement came surprisingly quickly. According to the Square Enix side, it was partially because of Sakurai’s passion, and partially because the ‘best of’ element in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was quite similar to that of Dragon Quest XI S, which brings together many elements from across the series.
- From Yuji Horii’s point of view, while before there was a resistance towards seeing Hero fighting other characters and other Heroes, it’s slowly become less strict, seeing as there is the smartphone game Dragon Quest Rivals, and such. With Smash Bros. being such a popular series as well, Horii wanted Hero to join.
- Sakurai acknowledges that there are people who hate characters like Hero who add in random elements. However, in the first place, Super Smash Bros. is an unpredictable game where you have fun and move onto the next game anyways.
- One particular spell Sakurai had trouble with was differentiating the Frizz line of spells (neutral B) and Sizz/Sizzle (via Command Select). He had to look up how the spell functioned in the original games, and how Frizz would float out to hit the enemy, while Sizz would fly quickly and sear the enemy when it hit the enemy.
- Making the Yggdrasil’s Altar was indeed very troubling, to the point Sakurai thought of giving it up. Some other alternatives included the volcano. In the end, they decided upon the altar as it would show the world tree that symbolizes Dragon Quest XI. The world map as seen in the stage references the world map in the PlayStation 4 version, but otherwise is made entirely from scratch.
- Originally, there were only two Heroes set to join Smash Ultimate, being Erdrick and Eleven. But Horii later said it would be fine to have four Heroes join. According to Sakurai, he was ready to make eight different Heroes, but that wasn’t a realistic option.
- After Erdrick and Eleven, the hero of Dragon Quest VIII was decided as he was popular overseas. However, popularity wasn’t the only factor, as then the hero of Dragon Quest V would be included. But that Hero wasn’t known for using swords, but rather staffs. In the end, it came down to either the hero of Dragon Quest I or Dragon Quest IV, but as there wasn’t a unified image for Dragon Quest I’s main character across media, IV was decided upon.
Q & A part
- The two directors were asked about what sort of job being a game designer is. For Sakurai, he feels it’s all about bringing together that sort of “fun” which is usually intangible and subjective into a product. For Horii, it’s something from a more practical angle, as in game designer = game creator.
- Regarding the good or fun points of being a game designer in terms of the work itself, Sakurai finds it nice when he’s working on something alone, as he’s usually in the director role and talking to people. Instead, it’s more fun or interesting for him when he’s working on inputting data and the like, especially the moment there are successful results. For Horii, as an RPG creator he loves the part where he’s setting the stats and characteristics of battles.
- Are there any secret techniques to coming up with ideas? No, according to Sakurai. He’s the type to work under pressure, and he approaches his work not in an imaginative approach (like coming up with imaginary movesets beforehand) but rather, thinking more task-like such as, “Okay, what should be the moves, which also manage to have Dragon Quest characteristics?” For Horii, he’s the type to get a lot of inspiration from other media, which transform into other ideas for his works.
- Sakurai is instead the type to get inspiration by playing many games, such as Dragon Quest Walk, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Borderlands 3 for recent examples. How does he fit in so much game time? He plays games while doing other things like watching Netflix, or gaming while riding the aerobic bike.
- Are there any rules or policies they set for themselves as game creators? For Sakurai, while it’s quite an obvious one, it’s to think of what the players want. However, player opinions vary a lot. Overall, he tries to go for a wide range of players, but still keeping a certain amount of depth. For Horii, while it’s something similar, it also has to be fun to play for himself.
- How does Sakurai keep his work life and private life separate? The answer according to Sakurai is that he doesn’t think too much about it. It’s not that he thinks they are the one and the same for him, though. Sakurai has other hobbies like going driving, although he doesn’t want to make a driving game. For Horii, he’s more relaxed, until meetings where he sort of shifts into working mode.
- The two directors were finally asked if there is anything they’d like advice on from each other. Sakurai went first, and asked about a certain dilemma that’s bothering him. When making a game like Dragon Quest XI that has such a large volume of content, how do you outdo it or go one step beyond for the next game? According to Horii, it’s not really a dilemma, as he doesn’t worry too much about outdoing each game in content, but it’s when he adds in all the ideas, the game just ends up really large in scale. So he just focuses on adding in the ideas he has.
- For Sakurai, he’s uncertain what to do next if there is a next game in the series. He’s making the current one with the mindset that this is the last one, and he thinks that it might be impossible to top this one, both cost-wise and expectations-wise.
- Horii had a more lighthearted question for Sakurai: Usually Sakurai is seen as a very reserved person, but does he ever take off that mask of stoicness, and what does he find fun? Sakurai laughed and said yes, he does, both privately and in his work. For example, in Kid Icarus Uprising, Pit and Palutena are always trading jokes, and that was all written by him as well. “I’m not that serious of a person!”, said Sakurai.
- Of course, as a game director, he puts on a stoic mask, and might say harsh things to his staff, but Sakurai thinks that if people were actually that serious, they wouldn’t be able to make fun games. He does acknowledge he has some trouble showing off that fun side of him though, and even demonstrated a big “Yatta!” on the stream.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available on Nintendo Switch. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition just released in Japan today for Nintendo Switch, and will release tomorrow in the West.