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Super Smash Bros. Director On Finding The Balance Between Fun And Complexity


This month’s issue of the U.K.’s Edge magazine contains interviews with various development staff working on Nintendo games, and one of the interviews is with Super Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai. During his interview, Sakurai was asked to comment on the differences between Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, and how the Gamecube game is more popular with tournament players. (Thanks, Nintendo Everything)


Sakurai replies, “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. ”


Sakurai goes on to say that Melee’s controls were rather complicated, and that this is one of his regrets regarding the game, as it ended up being a “Smash Bros. game for hardcore fighting fans,” and that isn’t the goal of the series at all. In fact, Sakurai says, he feels that complicated controls are the greatest shortcoming of fighting games in general, and this is why he feels the need to avoid them.


“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,” Sakurai explains. This is a sentiment that is often voiced by many other designers that work internally at Nintendo as well.


Instead, Sakurai says, the goal of Smash to be an “opponent-based action game” where a wide variety of events can occur, some of them “quite outrageous”.


“The most important thing is that the game have breadth and depth, since we would like them to be popular with both novices and hardcore gamers,” he shares. “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.”

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.