Sakurai doesn’t know how to truly retire. He’s now a Youtuber discussing the origins of Super Smash Bros.
Masahiro Sakurai has been enjoying his life as a YouTuber, sharing behind-the-scenes footage, information, and advice about being a game developer. One of his most iconic games is Super Smash Bros, which he finally dived into in his latest video.
Sakurai's English YouTube channel, titled Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games, currently has 492K subscribers. He has shared insight into the Wii's motion-based game, the Kirby series, and what it takes to create an exciting game. His recent video is about Super Smash Bros.
What is Dragon King: The Fighting Game?
Sakurai decided to open up about the origins of Super Smash Bros., including how he came up with his unique take on a fighting game and what the early concept looked like.
When Kirby Super Star wrapped up in 1996, Sakurai and his team wanted to figure out more ideas for the Nintendo 64. He started looking into his background CG software and proposed two games, including a four-player free-for-all fighting game "with no health bars."
A prototype was made, including design, graphics, modeling, and animation. It was called Dragon King: The Fighting Game. While it looked simple, the game showed the unique stage concept and platforms as well as exploring how they'd move around the map. Instead of a health bar, the game also had rising percentages as players were hit.
The prototype was met with "high praise" from Nintendo.
Sakurai's team was quite busy with other games and eventually decided to start working on the seemingly simple four-player fighting game.
So how did Sakurai come up with such a unique take on the fighting game genre? He mentioned that Smash is often seen as the "antithesis" to fighting games, a genre that Sakurai loves. He wanted to build on the concept of combos, which had started taking over arcades.
Allowing players to move more freely around the map would ensure there was still plenty of strategy instead of a back-and-forth combo-fest. He also experimented with the percentages so a combo wouldn't automatically deplete someone's health bar.
Super Smash Bros. was also a way to utilize the joystick in a new way. While many games focused on the analog stick's ability to move in all directions, Sakurai was more interested in the input. He wanted players to test how quickly or precisely they could move the analog stick, whether it was to hit an opponent or dodge an attack.
"In the end, we convinced Nintendo to let us borrow their most popular characters," Sakurai said.
But Nintendo's marketing team didn't like the idea of Nintendo characters beating each other up. It was also hard to break people's preconceived notions on what a fighting game should be. Luckily, the game started to grow in popularity quite rapidly.
Super Smash Bros. has now cemented itself as one of the most popular fighting games in the world. Despite protests from Nintendo, it has also become a major esport.