I don’t exactly browse the Switch News channels often, but sometimes when I start up my system I’m glad to see they’re there. This time around it was because I spotted a notification on an interview with Masahiro Sakurai, fielding some questions on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. While some of it may be familiar for anyone who’s kept up with his Famitsu columns or every bit of Smash news that comes along, they’re still definitely worth a read through.
Each of the five sections sees him tackling a different topic, with the first giving him another chance to discuss the philosophy behind every character coming back. He also touches on why he feels it’s important to say the game’s ‘tempo’ is increased rather than ‘speed’. It seems an internal goal was to eliminate as much player down time as possible, explaining why you can be back in control of your fighters much quicker after being launched.
The second re-emphasizes why items are and will be a feature in Smash, but also recognizes that people can and do turn them off. The bulk of it though goes into Inkling and Ridley as fighters. Sakurai feels they both operate differently in 1-on-1 matches versus free for alls.
Citing the Inkling’s ink feature, in a head to head fight there’s only ever one inked up target so you don’t really think about it. But in a group, you might target players who you’ve managed to cover. With Ridley, it’s instead that some of his attacks (particularly his Down-B) can’t hit all that reliably with only one target but can suddenly become the perfect surprise the more characters there are.
Third, the slow and zoom effect of heavier attacks gets touched on. It’s meant mostly for one-on-one fights but Sakurai mentions how he felt there was some potential for fun in managing yourself off camera during a zoom, so he left it in free for alls for certain attacks, such as Final Smashes.
He clarifies that there are two zooms: Special Zoom and Finish Zoom. Special occurs as we saw in the presentation, with a Falcon Punch being a great example. Special instead is tied to the match itself, like sending an enemy flying when they’re on their last stock. He also felt it serves to balance out how in the past the fighters could seem small due to the zoomed out camera.
Also in this part he goes into why your dodges eventually slow down after repeated use. Rather than allow for evasive gameplay where a player could theoretically avoid fighting, he wants things to remain more active. He’d like to add more penalties like this, but also notes that could potentially hurt the game more than help it.
The fourth details the new short hop attack input and Sakurai’s philosophy towards inputs in general. He would rather have a game that nearly anyone could play and enjoy rather than one with a high skill ceiling, keeping the means with which attacks are performed simple. This still allows players to develop skills and use the tools, but never at the expense of the entire audience. He draws a comparison to Mario Kart, saying he’d never want Smash to be that simplistic and casual, but wants to still be a game that’s easy on the hands.
Finally in part five he discusses the choice to adjust damage based on the number of players. It ties back into the desire to up the tempo and make the matches quicker, as he felt competitive play was a bit slower than he’d like. But doing more damage in one-on-one fights (along with the other noted changes) he hopes to remedy this.
He also discusses giving the characters flavor and personality via the taunts and idle animations. He wants their identities to shine through just as much as the gameplay, and by giving players that ability to taunt it lets them emphasize their character. When asked about a favorite, he didn’t have a clear answer but did single out Ridley’s taunt where he stands upright, showing his big time, four meter height.
There’s more details to glean, so I definitely suggest looking it all over yourself on your Switch if you’re at all interested in Smash from a design standpoint. If you’re the type that’d rather figure it out on your own, you can instead keep your eyes locked on that December 7th release.