Friday, February 1, 2008

Iwata Asks, I Froth

For the past eight months or so, has been generating a diabetes-inducing level of hype for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the just-released-in-Japan sequel to 2001's Super Smash Bros. Melee.

What is there to say about Melee, at this point? It was the Nintendo Gamecube's best selling game, and people are still playing it, casually and seriously, seven years after its release. An exceptional record, to be sure.

I remember thinking it was a wonderful game in 2001, and my appreciation for the game's wide appeal and surprisingly deep play mechanics has diminished only slightly over the past seven years.

Reading the daily updates at, however, put me in a strange state of malaise. Brawl looked like Melee but with more stuff. More characters, mostly boring. More doodads to thoughtlessly collect! More music from more musicians! More modes, including (seemingly crippled) online play and a level editor!

It was this last point that made me begin to think that, more likely than not, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was probably going to be ridiculously great. And yet, strangely, my apathy persisted until this previous Wednesday, when the game saw release in Japan (it doesn't come out in North America until March 9).

Spearheading the game's release was a remarkably interesting PR interview between Satoru Iwata, the current president of Nintendo, and Masahiro Sakurai, the lead director of both Smash Bros. Brawl and its two prequels.

The interview reveals the spur-of-the-moment nature of the game's development, including the surprising fact that, if Iwata hadn't mentioned the possibility of a new Smash Bros. during his speech at E3 in 2005, the game would probably never have been made.
Actually, I was a freelance game developer at the time and had planned to use E3 as a means to gather information on the newest hardware and software and figure out what I would work on next. And then I met up with [Iwata]. I had some other job requests already and had a hard time making up my mind. In the end though, I decided there were no other jobs with the potential that I could get people to be as happy as the Smash Bros. project. After all, it was already clear that lots of people were looking forward to it. So, I decided to accept the project. Or, accepted that I had no choice but to take it.
What's especially interesting to me about this is that Sakurai left Nintendo in 2003 because he was tired of developing sequels and rehashes (see sidebar). Was Sakurai developing this game begrudgingly? Even if he was, some of the information from later in the interview sounded too potentially insane to dismiss:
Let’s talk about music next. The music for the previous Smash Bros. titles was truly amazing, but the music for Smash Bros. Brawl is something else entirely.

You think we went overboard?

Maybe just a bit. (laughs)

Actually, the department that handles contracts and copyrights said this game has thirty games worth of music.

Wow. Sorry for getting so carried away. (laughs)
I know how Sakurai feels, since I intended this blog entry to be about, I dunno, a third of the size that it is now. Let's wrap this one up with a couple of youtube videos - what really sold me on the game, in the end, were the implications of the stage editor.

Next time: A shorter entry!


nabbercow said...

Great post dude. I didn't think it was too long, but boy is that interview long. Very interesting though; I look forward to crushing you at this game ASAP.

Matt Brown said...

I don't have a Wii yet, but I look forward to checking this out on my girlfriend's. Great post! I'm now more excited to play this game and it's not out yet...thanks.

Lee said...

I can see buying this eventually. I guess when you know the game's probably going to be played for years to come, you want to pack in enough stuff to give it those legs.

I wonder what game-breaking features will be discovered that becomes required for high-level play while being totally unknown by most players...