Sakurai says he will not balance Smash around the vocal minority


In a recent interview with Game Informer, Super Smash Bros. series producer Masahiro Sakurai answered some interesting questions regarding the future of Super Smash Bros. on Wii U. One of the first questions asked was whether or not feedback gained from releasing the Nintendo 3DS version of the game early affected the Wii U version before it was released. Sakurai says that while some input from players was used to make adjustments to the Wii U version, he’ll never patch the game for balance based on what hardcore fans want if it destroys the fun aspect of the game.

Being able to patch the game this time around allows us to adjust the balance anytime we want. However, if we took the balance feedback we pick up from online stats and certain hardcore fans at face value, that could make the game less fun and/or destroy the balance. We attempt to maintain a wide dynamic range with the balance, so I feel like we need to watch that we don’t over-adjust in a negative direction, like cutting down abilities or trying to have all characters playable on an equal basis. Having everything be totally fair would boost the competitive aspect, but runs the chance of it no longer being about playing a game. Mediocrity would be the worst thing for this.

Many competitive Smash players have been debating whether or not balance changes from the community would be incorporated into Smash for Wii U, since Nintendo now has the ability to patch the game so easily. It’s nice to see Sakurai acknowledge feedback can be useful, but that balancing solely around competitive play could ruin the game for a lot of people.

Sakurai also addresses what many people consider clone characters, such as Lucina and Dr. Mario and why they’re included in the game as totally separate fighters. His explanation makes sense as despite being nearly the same character, their moveset does offer subtle differences.

In the beginning, I didn’t plan to make any of them as separate character variations (clones), but rather as color variations like Alph or Little Mac. This was even if we were going to use different voices for them. However, any character that gained some uniqueness through their balancing needed to be separated so their results and statistics could be counted properly. It wouldn’t have been fair to have the results counted together even though their strengths differ between the variations.

Lucina was the first to be split off; this is because we made Marth’s moves more standard so he could be easy to handle by novice players.

Dr. Mario already had a clear uniqueness, so by letting this character throw the fireball in his Dr. Mario costume or by cutting out his clear uniqueness that was established in Super Smash Bros. Melee, we could anger fans. So we added uniqueness to him with a stat-boost mechanic and split him off as a separate character.

Dark Pit has exactly the same stats as Pit, so I first planned to handle him as a color variation. However, it would have made for a very strange setting for Black Pit to be using the Three Sacred Treasures, so we gave him a staff. One of the designers had also made the Electroshock Arm, so this was also another reason to make him a separate playable character.

In the end, what was needed for each of these changes was to reduce the work required to balance the game. Hence all these characters were adjusted relative to their clone.

Now with Super Smash Bros. firmly in the hands of fans on both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Sakurai says he’s committed to making sure online play for the games continues to be a rewarding experience for players. Sakurai received a lot of flak for what was perceived as too many clones in this iteration of Super Smash Bros., so it’s nice to see why he believes several of these characters deserved their own off-shoot compared to previous releases in the series.

Do you agree with his decision?