Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Director Details How Third-Party Character Inclusion is Discussed

Masahiro Sakurai of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate discussed in an interview the extent to which he must discuss character inclusion with other companies.

By Chris Compendio

December 10, 2018

Nintendo and Atlas sent shockwaves through the known universe during The Game Awards, with a surprise announcement that Joker from Persona 5 would be a downloadable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. With any sort of precedent for who can get in the game utterly destroyed, game director and man-who-works-too-many-hours Masahiro Sakurai detailed what behind-the-scenes discussions with third-party company creators and bureaucrats sound like.

Speaking to EDGE, Sakurai was able to offer the following:

“There are cases where I will meet with the original creators myself once or twice, but in general communication is carried out through Nintendo. In addition, it wouldn’t necessarily be the original creator I would meet – rather like how I was directly involved with the Kirby series, but don’t know about other projects now. We’ve made various changes so that both cartoonish and realistic characters can appear on the same screen together with it seeming natural, and the characters still looking cool. Character movements are also developed with a Smash Bros. style first. The end result from this is then passed on for review by the other companies, so they can point out any problems for us to fix. Though there might be differences in what is regarded as acceptable in terms of Smash Bros. and in terms of the original series, in the end we try to find something that both sides will be happy with. What I’ve always thought throughout my time working on this series is that if what I make is of good quality, more people will support it. I can feel the expectations coming from both inside and outside the company that Smash Bros. Ultimate will be able to do it right.”

These negotiations never seem to be a one and done, “here’s our character and everything that comes with it” deal. Instead, these third-party developers are actively involved with their property and how it is depicted within the world of Smash Bros. I’ve always been appreciated by the work done to make characters from different franchises look like they belong together—on the inverse side, you have PlayStation All-Stars, where Nathan Drake and Parappa the Rapper looks like the strangest sight.

You have to wonder if these discussions are the reason why Cloud and the Final Fantasy series has such poor representation in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. With only two songs and nearly no Spirits from the series, it seems like Square Enix seems to have a tighter grip on their property than the likes of Konami and Capcom.

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The inclusion of Joker still boggles the mind, and as Persona 5 only came to PlayStation 4, it seems that just about any video game character that had a game on a Nintendo console at some point is fair game, especially as Reggie Fils-Aime told IGN that Joker is “emblematic” of what to expect from the DLC. As Fils-Aime tells them:

“Mr. Sakurai, he’s not only a student of Nintendo franchises, and obviously he’s had his hand in a few, but he’s a student of video games from a total perspective. And so he’s been the driver in really thinking about what type of character coming into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would bring just a whole different level of fun and enjoyment for the player. That’s been the approach. That’s the thinking.”

My mind immediately jumped to Sora from the Kingdom Hearts series, as multiple side stories came out on Nintendo portables, and Kingdom Hearts III is almost here. But if these bureaucratic discussions that Sakurai describes go awry when Square Enix is involved, I probably won’t hold my breath.

You can play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch right this instant. Be sure to check out our tips on how to unlock all of the characters, along with a feature on the legacy of the series.

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Chris Compendio

Chris is a writer currently based in the Philadelphia area. They are currently writing for film website Flixist, podcasting for Marvel News Desk, and were an editorial intern for Paste Magazine's gaming section. They graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a creative writing major.

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