Smashing the Definition of Smash Bros.

Smash Bros. series director Masahiro Sakurai weighs in on the state of the fighting game genre and offers a few hints about the next two games.

Smash Bros. fans got their first peek at the next two entries in this series during this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. The first trailer for the games was shown during a Nintendo Direct broadcast, revealing a familiar art style for the two games, as well as the return of Mario, Bowser, Link, Samus, Fox, Kirby, Pit, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong. Newcomers Mega Man, Villager from Animal Crossing, and WiiFit Trainer were also shown.

Last year, it was announced that Namco Bandai Games and Smash Bros. developer Sora Ltd. would be collaborating on the Wii U and 3DS entries in this series. At E3 2013, I got the chance to talk with Smash Bros. series director Masahiro Sakurai about development on these two new games, and what he thinks the fighting genre needs to continue thriving.

Back in 2011, in an Iwata Asks column reported on by Andriasang, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and Sakurai revealed that the Wii U and 3DS versions of the next Smash Bros. would be connected in some way. When pressed for specifics at this year's E3, Sakurai noted that players would be able to customize and transfer characters between the two versions, and said that the development team was committed to keeping the roster similarly balanced between both versions.

"I like to think of Smash Bros. as a game with lots of interesting accidents. For example, you might have a terrain change that signals incoming damage from a hazard. Those sorts of things are fun to anticipate and react to while fighting."
However, exactly what you can customize remains a mystery. I inferred a sort of Pokemon Stadium situation, where you level up your characters in the handheld version before transferring them to the console version to battle. When presented with this idea, Sakurai considered it for a moment before stating, "Perhaps the best way to think of it is: it's not the strength of the attacks that change--their power--but the directionality of those attacks will change with customization." Read into that what you will.

While the director's plans for character customization remain a mystery, his thoughts on tripping--the bane of Super Smash Bros. Brawl players everywhere--were clear. "I think we're going in a direction where we're not going to include [tripping] this time around," he stated. Tripping, a seemingly random mechanic that causes fighters to slip and fall during battle, introduced an element of randomness into each fight. But while tripping is out, randomness is something Sakurai feels is still an important part of the Smash Bros. series.

"When you boil things down to pure competition, it's not always the most engaging experience. For example, think about the 50-meter dash. This is something that really comes down to speed. You see a lot of people progressing in a linear direction, and the person who is fastest in the beginning is quite often going to be the winner. It's predictable--and while it is pure competition, it's not necessarily engaging in the same way as events with unpredictability. As developers, we have to think about all of these circumstances when designing fighting games."

According to Sakurai, a little unpredictability not only makes fighting games more exciting, but also makes Smash Bros. less intimidating for newcomers. If you consider the entire fighting game genre, most games are designed to have the highly technical, complex style enthusiasts expect. And while this leads to some wonderfully deep games, it also tosses up a tall barrier to entry for anyone not already familiar with the genre. With a lot of hard work, this hurdle can be overcome--but it's still a hurdle too tall for the average player.

"When I began working on the first Smash Bros., there was a great focus on [highly-technical] fighting games, and that's something we've seen branch off into sort of a niche direction. Now, those types of fighting games have a very high barrier to entry for new players, while Smash was always meant to appeal to lots of people from different gaming communities. When you look at fighting game forums, you'll see a preference for Melee, and yet, I think there are lots of people in the silent majority who don't post online who prefer Brawl. Ever since I started working on the Kirby series, I've always thought about the needs of the less vocal, beginning players of games."

"I would say that the speed of gameplay [in the next Smash Bros.] is going to be a little bit less than Melee, but a little bit more than Brawl."
Considering the needs of this silent majority, and finding ways of lowering the barrier to entry, is something Sakurai feels the entire fighting game genre will need to address in the near future. "One of the best ways to look at the fighting game genre is thinking about this pinnacle--this peak--we've built up to where these games have become more of a hobbyist [genre]. I think that trend might be reaching an end." Microsoft, Namco Bandai, and Tecmo Koei are all trying to lower the barrier by offering free-to-play alternatives alongside full versions of their fighters.

However, this might be just the tip of the iceberg. Growing the fighting game genre could mean changing the way we think about fighting games altogether. "I think the idea of the fighting game genre can be somewhat limiting. People have defined in their own minds what constitutes a fighting game, and that can be such a specific set of characteristics that when other people are viewing a game from the outside and they learn it's a fighting game, they may predetermine it's not for them simply because of what they expect from it as a fighting game."

"When planning the development of a new game, I always take a lot of care to discuss the concept and try to define it as best I can. For example, I like to think of Smash as a four-player battle royal action game. You'll notice that's a lot longer than saying it's a fighting game, because 'fighting game' is a completely different label. You can talk about a fighting game or an action game or a racing game, but as soon as you define your game specifically in those terms, you start limiting your creative range because you're thinking of the limitations of that genre. Perhaps the best thing we can do now is start with a concept rather than a genre. If we can do that, perhaps we can grow the whole idea a little bit."

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Discussion

420 comments
Wogrim
Wogrim

So basically they don't want to make a competitive game because they don't want noobs to get stomped by their friend and not buy it?

inso-maniac
inso-maniac

brawl was terrible this looks the same he says its "slightly faster"

ArcoJawa
ArcoJawa

All Foxs and no items makes Smash a dull boy.

TMoney999
TMoney999

Never played this this game but i want it!!!

Aletunda
Aletunda

Rayman should definitely be a playable character, but the most important thing for me is to get rid of clone characters, keep the characters in there (e.g. falco, wolf, luigi, ganondorf) but give them their own moves, makes those characers unique, not just a rehash and change in speed and attack power, also remove the whole tiers thing. its crap, create more of a balance

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

yeah dude rayman, bomberman, King K. Rool or Captain...maybe Gray Fox and Leon or Chris or Jill from RE series...Toon Ganandorf...would be nice if Banjo and Kazooie were in it but noooo....I play the crap out of Melee and Brawl by myself or with others....not so much the first one on my N64 because I believe it's better with a gamecube controller...

SirSpoon84
SirSpoon84

heck yea, im gonna be villager! gonna use my golden net to annoy anyone who moves next to my house

9tailjeza
9tailjeza

i tend to find that the randomness of smash bros actually favours experienced players when against new players.

while they're wondering how to pick up the boxing bag, i'm attacking the sparkly smash ball. they may waste time eating fruits while i pick up the super powerful assist trophy. on nexus when the screen starts shaking you have to rush into the capsule. on the bridge of eldin, if you are near the barrel, it will kill you. when experienced players are playing against each other, the randomness can suddenly - and unfairly - tip the game in favour of one player for no reason.

i don't want to play a game where a lesser player can beat a better player. but i do want to play a game that doesn't give a huge disadvantage to players who don't spend hours memorising combo chains.

Mafia217
Mafia217

No more tripping? Oh god yes!!!

Lionheart199020
Lionheart199020

I'll be sad if Snake doesn't make a return. He's one of my favorite characters in terms of technicality. I love the amount of creativity and strategy his move set draws out of me. Hopefully they can bring another character to the game that has a similar move set, though I'm not sure who that could be...

Plataea
Plataea

He makes an excellent point in this article.  The fighting game genre in general is creatively stifled.  While small changes and innovations are introduced over time, the basic framework and ideas never change.  Most fighting games are really just variations on the same theme.  I would love to see some fundamental changes in the genre.

vexxouds
vexxouds

Can we get a Super Smash Bros all-stars with every charter they ever put in the past Super Smash Bros games plus some new ones? 

lowkey254
lowkey254

The "O" in Bros. reminds me of the Fantastic Four symbol.

natethegreat235
natethegreat235

Travis touchdown anyone? If they let snake into the last one, Travis isn't "too mature".

salvucci91
salvucci91

The things I'd do to see Geno in Smash Bros.

Madtownbadger
Madtownbadger

I wonder if Nintendo would ever look into purchasable dlc characters/stages in the future. Honestly I wouldn't mind dropping 10 bucks down the road on a pack of characters if that would speed up the process of getting this released.

bolton23
bolton23

i completely understand sakurai's way of thinking, but i still think there's room to throw the competitive scene a bone. smash is just such a huge deal already, it's almost guaranteed that anyone with a wii u is going to buy it. under these circumstances, you could say the same that the competitive scene doesn't need to be catered to at all, but still, i'd like to think that sakurai could do better in pleasing the competitive scene while keeping the way casuals see the game the same.

it really isn't hard to level up in fighting games. eventually you fight someone really strong and you're wondering how you could do the same. a quick google search and soon you're regularly visiting shoryuken.com or testyourmight.com for some tips and tricks, it really isn't hard. probably the only hard thing about it is buying your first joystick, but even then, games like injustice and smash bros. have no such requirement, and can therefore to everyone be very easy to jump into. smash is still going to be played at parties whether you cater to competitive or not, so to that end, i see no reason to completely neglect, while a niche part of the community, still a part of the community IMO has some meaning.

YouEnjoyMyFluff
YouEnjoyMyFluff

ROSTER:

Mew

Skull Skid

Omni Link

Krystal

Sonic

Ridley 

King K. Rool

Dixie Kong

Tails

Big Boss

Sora

Yoda



LoganWesker
LoganWesker

just wanna put this out there:

super smash bros 2 was a POS idc what anyone says or how many tournaments you've played..overrated turd of a game stuffed with generic clones.

3 was a step in the right direction but 1 is still by far the best with the most complete & balanced, or rather, unbalanced, controls. 

Immortalsaiyan
Immortalsaiyan

Sucks that I strongly disagree with Sakurai on his direction for the series but at least he is trying. Even melee is easy for new players to get into and enjoy, which being a very complex game for those who seek it. Brawl only served one audience, admittedly the far bigger one but also less dedicated crowd. 


AbsoluteSorrow
AbsoluteSorrow

Roster Ideas:
Nightmare
Seigfried
Lucario
Zoroark
Pokemon Trainer- Froakie, fennekin second stage, and chespin final stage OR Snivy, Dewott, and Emboar
Vaati/Veran
Groose/Tingle
Skull Kid
Majora's Mask Link
Dark Link
Midna
Paula (earthbound)
Roy ( Fire Emblem )
Eirkia
Ephraim
(I really hate to say this but...) Starfy
Isaac/Garret/Ivan/Mia ( Golden Sun )
Luigi's Manson Luigi/ Dr. E. Gadd
Bowser JR
Flint & Boney
Louie ( Pikmin )
Tiny/Dixie Kong
Chozo
Black Shadow ( F-Zero )
Toad
Bayonetta


YouEnjoyMyFluff
YouEnjoyMyFluff

this game looks like it's off to a bad start.  that being said, here are some character ideas:


Ridley

Crash 

sonic

tails

dixie kong

king k rool

Gannondorf (all new move set)

Cloud Strife (would be cool but won't happen)

Rayman 

Bad guy from the new Zelda


VVking
VVking

@Wogrim Some of the greatest strategy games of all time (i don't mean just video games) has random stuff in it (throwing a dice to determine strenght of attack, for example). Howerver it doesn't mean it's less competative or less deep, it means opposite. It means that players always has to take care and play less agresive and that they always have to have in mind 'what if my move doesn't succeed?' Randomness always adds tension AND competativenes to the games. That way, defeat feels more frustrating and victory feels more rewarding.

Impaler722
Impaler722

@Wogrim If anything, it is going to be more competitive because you can play online for reals this time.

Aletunda
Aletunda

sora would be cool too and tingle needs to be playable also KOOLOOLIMPA!

BIOJECT
BIOJECT

@9tailjeza "when experienced players are playing against each other, the randomness can suddenly - and unfairly - tip the game in favour of one player for no reason."

So let me get this straight. If a professional golfer is playing in a tournament and he loses because the wind picks up just as he hits the ball causing it to fly off course. He loses the tournament to a player who might not be as good as him. That's unfair? The randomness is what makes the game fun. I would argue that the better player is capable of adapting to random situations. They might still lose, but overall they should win.

People like you are why Smash Tournaments are lame. No items, Final Destination, Fox only. The game loses its soul when you start cutting away everything because you don't like the randomness.

Now I will agree with you on one thing. The Smash balls in the Brawl were frustratingly stupid and overpowered. Worse yet they could never be turned off. I never minded the tripping because it was never a major crutch. But when somebody picked up a good Smash ball, I felt like it was incredibly unfair. A good patch could have balanced them a bit, but of course the game was unpatchable without hacking the console.

Xyllix
Xyllix

@vexxouds Cool concept, but that could only happen in like the next generations from now.

Rafa16
Rafa16

@salvucci91 I would love to see him. Every time my friends and I start talking about characters we would love to see on the next SSB Geno and Little Mac always come on top. And even thou I know its a long shot, I would like to see Sora from Kingdom Hearts since KH has two DS games.

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

@YouEnjoyMyFluff all except Ridley he's too big....then they'd have to add in like a different gameplay element for say a new class of larger characters....master hand and crazy hand

Xyllix
Xyllix

@YouEnjoyMyFluff Only ones on the list that are actually remotely possible; are  Mew, Sonic and Dixie

Mugzippit
Mugzippit

@AbsoluteSorrow Bayonetta sounds pretty reasonable... She could take Snake's spot as a 3rd party character...

Xyllix
Xyllix

@YouEnjoyMyFluff  

Never.

Never.

Probably won't come back

Wouldn't make sense

Possibility

No

Probably not

Will definitely not happen

No

Possibility 

Mist3rDragon
Mist3rDragon

@YouEnjoyMyFluff 

Probably not, even if it would be cool.

I don't see it

I hope so

No, god no, even Shadow over Tails

NEVER!

Okay.

Don't you mean, Ganondorf?

Cloud's never been on Nintendo

Not after what happened with Rayman Legends

Maybe

slothboyadvance
slothboyadvance

@BIOJECT The randomness does make Smash fun to an extent, but the competitive nature of the gameplay is what keeps people coming back (hence the fact Melee is still played at tourneys).  Maybe no items on Final Destination doesn't sound "fun" to you, but that's a relative term.  I love playing one on one with no items on Final D as it's more representative of your own skills rather than dumb luck.  So I would have to completely disagree with the idea that turning off items takes away the "soul" of the game, as the "soul" of any fighting game should be the balance of the fighting itself with the items as an afterthought for it's downright impossible to balance items.

Also, you CAN turn Smash Balls off on the item menu.  What you can't turn off is random tripping, and that's f****** lame.

koolkid4327
koolkid4327

@hplessrmantic @Lionheart199020 
But Konami was practically begging Sakurai to include Snake, all the way back in Melee! They have to give a small percentage to the company for simply having their character in, yes, but the company would have to show interest in wanting their character in Smash first; so it's not as if they're actually paying them a sum of money to have them in the game. If he could, I'm sure Sakurai would rather put up all of Nintendo's characters and everything up on the front line; but he knows people want third party characters. Because of the percentage thing, they'll probably stick to 2, maybe 3 third party characters. I'm not even sure if they'll keep Sonic D:

DicedPineapples
DicedPineapples

@Xyllix @scoobdog02 Putting her in this game could allow room to distinguish the two. I'm sure many softcore fans probably thought that Wario was just an evil Mario clone, but putting him in brawl put a real barrier between the two, and allowed them both to shine as separate characters. I think if they put a bit of her personality into her own unique move set, it would be a great addition :)

OldDirtyCR
OldDirtyCR

@montblanc512 @Xyllix @vexxouds Yep and tons of those characters are basically clones and the majority are useless and unbalanced. There's a reason competitive fighting games don't have 200 characters.

Mist3rDragon
Mist3rDragon

@hplessrmantic @Mist3rDragon @YouEnjoyMyFluff Cloud hasn't (except in Kingdom hearts maybe, I'm not sure) because FF7 was a PS1 game. If they were to put a Final Fantasy character on SSB, I'd rather it was a character from an earlier game, one that originally was on NES or SNES.