Masahiro Sakurai on Sora in Smash, Disney, Making DLC, Future Games

Translation of the penultimate Famitsu magazine column from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai.

October 20, 2021

This week’s Famitsu magazine included a new column by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai, focusing on the development of Sora as the final DLC character. He also explained the negotiations with Disney and Square Enix, and his impressions after 3 years of DLC making. Lastly, Sakurai shared his worries regarding his future games’ development.

Weekly Famitsu Magazine November 4, 2021 Issue (released on October 21, 2021) included a new column from Masahiro Sakurai. In May 2021, the director announced he would be ending his bi-weekly column in Famitsu magazine, after 18 years.

However, he is now back for two more columns. This is the penultimate one, focusing on the development and addition of Sora in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

As usual, leaks have emerged before the release of Famitsu magazine. With an extremely summarized version of Sakurai’s comments. However, the magazine is officially available now. We have below a full translation of the column.

  • MORE – More of Masahiro Sakurai’s columns and comments in Famitsu magazine

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate | The Last Key Trailer

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate | The Last Key Trailer

Masahiro Sakurai on Disney talks, why Sora got in Smash

Masahiro Sakurai: “By the time you’re reading this, the final DLC fighter in Smash Ultimate, Sora from Kingdom Hearts, must have been released. The reactions after his announcement were really incredible. For a detailed breakdown of Sora, be sure to check out the Mr Sakurai Presents – Battling with Sora – announcement video.”

“I also mentioned it during the video, but Sora was the most wanted fighter by fans. He got the first position in a poll we did for the previous game. Other characters such as Banjo & Kazooie were also quite highly ranked.”

Next, Sakurai explained how Sora in Smash was made possible in the first place. It was a pure coincidence.

Masahiro Sakurai: “I think you can imagine that implementing Sora was incredibly difficult. The same could be said for every fighter so far, but the barrier we had to leap over for Sora was particularly higher. Even if many fans asked for Sora, I thought it’d be impossible to add him. I’m sure some of the staff in charge of external negotiations for new Smash characters thought the same as well.”

“However, a certain opportunity arose. One day, at a certain award show, I ended up coincidentally meeting one of Disney’s representatives. And they said they were totally okay with Sora getting in Smash. Of course, it wasn’t fully decided then, and even if the representative was really on board with the idea, it could get declined later on.”

Masahiro Sakurai: “After that, long and carefully planned out negotiations between Nintendo, Square Enix, and Disney began. And thanks to that, the addition of Sora in Super Smash Bros Ultimate was finally decided.”

The development of Sora supervised by Disney and Square Enix

Next, Sakurai shared some tidbits on the development of Sora, and how difficult it was.

Masahiro Sakurai: “There are 6 characters in Fighters Pass Vol 2. However, we initially only planned for 5 characters just like Vol 1. We had to decide pretty early which character to include, and we did, except for Sora who was confirmed pretty late. But we definitely had to add him.”

Whatever we did with Sora, we needed the approval of both Disney and Square Enix. We had to develop the character while following various rules. With that said, the first character model’s quality made by the Smash team was incredibly good. And they’re overall used to working on difficult characters by now, so everything went better than expected. With no problems encountered. I can’t say it was easy though.”

Using the original Kingdom Hearts games as a base, we reproduced the way Sora moves and fights. Emphasizing things like his late timing combo when attacking in mid-air. The way Sora feels is very faithful to the original games and I hope you’ll like it.”

Masahiro Sakurai: “We took too much time to release all DLC characters”

Lastly, Sakurai shared his final thoughts now that the DLCs for Super Smash Bros Ultimate are over. He most notably explained he’s worried about taking too long to make games.

Masahiro Sakurai: “Looking back, it’s already been three years since the game’s release. Even taking into account that we’ve made 11, vastly different DLC characters, I personally think it took us too much time to release them all.”

“Of course, we were working with a smaller-scaled team compared to when developing the game itself. And we didn’t slack off. There’s also how the Covid-19 pandemic slowed us down. But at the end of the day, releasing these 11 characters took us almost as much time as the time we spent making the game itself.”

If I need so much time to finish just a single game, it makes me anxious for the future, thinking I’ll only be able to make a few more games. With that said, I’m definitely satisfied I was able to deliver this small celebration of the game industry. In many ways, making Smash Ultimate wasn’t like making any other game. I would like to thank again all concerned parties who lent us their games and characters. This is where this long column ends, and the next one will be my last!!”

Famitsu Magazine releasing on November 4 will include the final column from Masahiro Sakurai. I will try translating it as well so be sure to follow DualShockers. You can always reach me on Twitter to chat about Japanese games as well @A_iyane07.

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Iyane Agossah

Living near Paris, Iyane (He/Him) is the head of Japanese content at DualShockers. He speaks Japanese, has been watching anime for over 25 years, and plays Genshin Impact mainly for its story. You can reach him on Twitter at @A_iyane07.

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