Sakurai Discusses Namco Bandai and Super Smash Bros.

Masahiro Sakurai

The development of Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS has wrapped for now, and the director, Masahiro Sakurai, is at peace. Barring the upcoming Miiverse stage, playable fighter Mewtwo, and a Tournament mode, the heavy lifting is done with. Speaking with Japanese magazine Nintendo Dream, Mr. Sakurai talked at length about his partnership with developer Namco Bandai Inc., and some other odd stories from the two-year development cycle.

You may remember that Sakurai began production on the new Smash Bros. back in May 2012, after the 3DS game Kid Icarus: Uprising wrapped. Now, we know precisely why he approached Namco Bandai to contract for the next Smash Bros. Turns out, he needed a studio with the proper manpower to make his next games a reality. “When we created Kid Icarus 3DS we assembled people from several places, but we experienced problems and had some regrets with that,” he said, inferring that Project Sora was not enough to produce Uprising on the right scale/budget. “I had to do interviews and other HR-duties, which amounts to a lot of time and work. Obviously, everyone has different levels of experience and different ways of working, so bringing everything together was difficult.”

“To solve this problem we thought it would be better to have one single company work for us, so we choose to work with Bandai Namco Games who produce Tekken and other games. When thinking about a Japanese company that can make a large-scale fighting-game, there was only this one company. It would be quite difficult for other companies I think.”

Mr. Sakurai also revealed that any new characters introduced to a Nintendo game does not, in fact, give him inspiration for Smash Bros. representation. In fact, the thought of it gives him the willies.

“I’m always thinking that doing Smash Bros. again will be impossible. Impossible, impossible…is what I always think, but I ended up making it again (laughs). But once I decide to do it, I’m very fast about creating moves and such. For example Greninja, even before his name was decided I received several illustrations. I took them home in the evening and around midnight I had already done all his actions, normal moves, special moves and pose-pictures and sent them around asking “What do you think?'”

Even more surprising is that when production officially began in May 2012, the roster was already decided. That included characters from unreleased games, like the aforementioned Greninja. Through the process, low-priority characters would slowly be excised from the roster. Bowser Jr. was one such risk.

“Each and every character has fans, we wanted to drop as few as possible. About the order of which character has priority, the characters that don’t have a new title coming up have an overwhelming disadvantage…even characters that we ended up including could have been left out if development had progressed differently. But even if 1 former character is left out, for the fans this is a huge thing. On our side, we are re-creating characters from the previous title, and keep on adding more, so the word “reduce” is not appropriate. There are cases where we simply couldn’t make it in the end, but on the whole we did a good job I think and the people at Bandai Namco Games did a great job. We had discussions on giving up on something many many times, Bowser Jr. was on the brink of being cut but the staff said “We’ll do our best!” and we made it.”

The hardest part about developing Smash Bros.? Mr. Sakurai had to relent from bathroom usage. In his words, “I learned how to hold it in and not go to the toilet. It was quite far away from my seat (laughs).”

Wouldn’t you love to hear more stories from the madness Mr. Sakurai endured developing two versions of Super Smash Bros.? Let us know in the comments.

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Editor-in-Chief (Former)

A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.