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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Summary of Masahiro Sakurai's Katsuhiro Harada's Bar Appearances

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Almost two hours of footage condensed into digestible written summaries!

Did you that Tekken producer Katsuhro Harada has a talk show (a YouTube channel) called Harada's Bar? Well, he only opened it about six months ago (March 2021) and the numbers of watchers are in the mere thousands... Well, until Super Smash Bros. series director Masahiro Sakurai first came on the show in August. Those four episodes are in the tens and hundreds of thousands in views. Probably shows who is more popular...

Anyway, the timing is nice because Kazuya Mishima (of Tekken) has been making an interesting impact on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as downloadable content, and Harada and Sakurai are friends (Sakurai even came to Harada's wedding reception—though so did everyone else). Over several episodes (because why just have one episode?) they discussed many topics. To do you a favour, I watched them all and summarised them with my thoughts. Of course, what I find interesting and notable likely differs from you, so I've also embedded the episodes as well so you can judge for yourself. The episodes are voiced in Japanese but contain English open captions.

Part 1: August 14, 2021—Masahiro Sakurai joins the battle



Note: This was actually filmed July 30. It's implied that all four episodes were filmed on the same day, though I wonder what implications that means for the food serving.

They immediately open up saying that Masahiro Sakurai often declines interviews and media appearances, especially in conjunction with other gaming developers or publishers, because people might get the impression that if he would appear with a certain franchise's developer, the fanbase would think that the franchise would be getting a new character into Super Smash Bros.

Related to that, Harada says that—especially in America—it's therefore become important for developers to cultivate their own personal brand and image and share things directly with the audience—such as Sakurai's (low-budget) livestreams where he talks about the new downloadable content.

Each character's (and I'm sure this applies to Nintendo first-party characters too) rights-holder has their own strictness over how a certain character can be presented in the crossover fighting game. Harada thinks that BANDAI NAMCO was pretty permissive with Kazuya (Sakurai has differing view), but (and this wasn't mentioned in the episode but is my interpretation) they must have been very strict with PAC-MAN, especially in Super Smash Bros. For Wii U with how little colour variations and expressions he got. (PAC-MAN always had to smile, even when getting hit.)

On a completely separate topic, Masahiro Sakurai feels sick after drinking just half a glass of mineral or tap water, and it doesn't have to do with how purified it is. Sakurai believes water has a taste and his body doesn't appreciate it, so he drinks Coca-Cola Zero, to the point that Nintendo specifically prepares Coca-Cola Zero for Sakurai when he has to do presentations. (The number one ingredient in Coca-Cola Zero is carbonated water... I wonder if Sakurai feels sick if he drinks it long after a can has been opened.) Meanwhile, Harada's image, even within BANDAI NAMCO, is that he's a big tequila drinker.

Harada apparently gossips about Sakurai to many people, and everyone seems to agree that Sakurai is a rare kind of gaming industry figure in that the fans and other people in the industry have a similar view of him (as opposed to industry insiders having a different view of someone than the general public). One of those traits is the idea that Sakurai personally decides on every aspect of Super Smash Bros., like a scary tyrant who is big into perfectionism. But Sakurai has also cultivated a “mysterious guy” persona.

Harada asked Sakurai if he has any... other game developers he gets along with. Sakurai avoided answering the question directly (probably because of the aforementioned fan idea that Sakurai's friends will all get Super Smash Bros. characters), but he name-dropped Kazutaka Kodaka of Danganronpa, Yoko Taro of Nier, Hideki Kamiya of PlatinumGames, and Keiichiro Toyama of Silent Hill as game developers he attended an online gathering with. But he doesn't talk with them all the time. Then they were talking about how people overseas meme them on Twitter (Harada apparently collects memes). Sakurai wishes he had Harada's “DON'T ASK ME FOR SHIT” shirt.


Masahiro Sakurai Smash Bros Katsuhiro Harada Tekken picture together bar pic photo
What if THIS is the picture that comes up when you search for a photo of both Masahiro Sakurai and Katsuhiro Harada?


Sakurai wants people to stop using his image for memes to say things that he isn't actually saying. He doesn't want people to appeal to Sakurai's authority to be making their own point.

Then there was an abrupt subject change where Harada asked Sakurai, because he's so mysterious, can Sakurai see ghosts? ...Masahiro Sakurai cannot see ghosts. But Sakurai believes that spirits are out there (even if he can't see them). He was philosophising about the differences between the living and the dead. Sakurai then said that horror games and movies don't scare him. APPARENTLY, when Sakurai sees a bunch of cockroaches swarming a human's face, he doesn't think about how gross or scary that is, but he literally thinks, “The modeler who made it must have spent a few months on this.” That's the most weird thing Sakurai expressed in this whole episode.

Harada then asked if Sakurai has ever been excited before, to which Sakurai answered yes, and then was wondering if Harada thought (I guess based on not being scared) that Sakurai doesn't have emotions. While Sakurai doesn't feel fear, he does feel joy and he does feel sadness. But Sakurai doesn't get SUPER excited.

Since this is Harada's Bar, they (called the Tiger Eats team) then served food: Taketora-style Takoyaki (wheat balls with octopus inside and sauce on the outside) and mayonnaise-covered shrimp. Sakurai liked the food. Apparently, people who are into Japanese culture all know what takoyaki is. They then gave Sakurai a birthday cake, because his birthday takes place on August 3. He turned 51, and he doesn't believe he's young enough to celebrate birthdays.


Part 2: August 21, 2021—Let's talk retirement




There's... no transition from how Episode 1 ended with the birthday celebration to the start of Episode 2. Harada just wants to know Sakurai's non-game hobbies. But apparently Sakurai is really big into “just driving.” Prior to the Chinese Communist Party Virus, he'd just drive around the Tokyo local roads due to lack of mountain passes and not stop anywhere. Sometimes he'd stop at a hot spring, which, in my view, may explain Kid Icarus: Uprising's special attention given to hot springs. Sakurai used to have a Lexus but now an S-Class brand-new 2021 Mercedes, so he's into expensive sports cars. He's obviously not struggling financially. They spent some extensive amounts of time talking about new-fangled car technologies that I didn't follow, as someone who isn't a car person. Sakurai isn't a car person either. He likes the driving and how it feels. Not the car ownership aspect itself.

After over ten minutes of talking about cars and driving, Harada's Bar served food: Another Taketora-style Takoyaki (with onion and salt sauce)—which they think looks like Kirby.

Harada prodded Sakurai to confess that he doesn't—or “can't”—drink, much like myself. You know, on top of not drinking water. Even having treats with embedded alcohol like sponge cake and he'll get dizzy and knocked out. Sakurai can go out in social drinking settings, and when eating sufficiently-heated sake. (Flashbacks to case 4 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney–Spirit of Justice).

Harada and Sakurai both dislike cilantro. But Sakurai isn't afraid of heights, and he in fact lives in a high rise. To contrast, Harada is getting more afraid of high places the older he gets. Not even earthquakes can shake Sakurai here.

Back in the pre-pandemic days in 2012 or 2013 in the BANDAI NAMCO office, Sakurai was wearing face masks (even in the summer) due to having a dust allergy. Sakurai thought he was in disguise with the mask on (because the development of Super Smash Bros. For Wii U/3DS was a secret to many BANDAI NAMCO employees), but I guess everyone knew it was Sakurai anyway. Probably because he was the only-ish guy in a mask.

Both Sakurai and Harada don't like that nowadays it takes four to five years to make a big game, compared to the one year back in the old days. Sakurai has thought quite a bit about retirement. He thinks the game industry often thinks about retiring at 60 (if you're 50, you think you have 10 years left—obviously Shigeru Miyamoto doesn't agree). But Sakurai believes, due to longer life expectancy, you should keep working after 60 if you like what you're doing and people (or market forces) want you to do it. Sakurai has felt a lot of times that he's wanted to quit game development, since games are a lot more fun to play than to make. The hyper-competitive game industry is so stressing it might also cut your lifespan. Sakurai implied that he'll keep working on games as long as there's a want for it. Sakurai wants to be the best he can at his job.


Masahiro Sakurai not the genius type Harada's Bar quote
Harada claims that the word “genius” comes up when you search-engine for Masahiro Sakurai,
while “die” comes up when you search Katsuhiro Harada.
However, Masahiro Sakurai does not consider himself to be the genius type of person.


A genius type has intuition and can sense things without thinking. Sakurai needs to think deeply about things—I wonder what Sakurai's Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is. But Harada does think Sakurai is a genius, very talented, and admirable.

Part 3: August 28, 2021—Why do you make games?




Katsuhiro Harada opens up this episode saying he's always wanted to play games for a living, so the games he makes are the kind of games he'd like to play—he even made “game books” for him and his friends to go through. Masahiro Sakurai is the same way. But you can make any kind of game as long as you understand what makes them fun—even puzzle games which Sakurai isn't good at. He still made Meteos. Meanwhile, Harada made never making a puzzle game a condition of his employment, and he also isn't good with text adventure games and falls asleep during them. ...So I guess he wouldn't like Ace Attorney. Sakurai must be great at them, because he pointed out the contradiction between Harada making game books but finding text adventure games to be a bore. Sakurai thought if Harada could work out the contradiction there, Harada might find a really good insight. Harada thought that was really sharp of Sakurai.

The show then went into a reader-based question and answer format, with many people concerned about Masahiro Sakurai's health. (You may remember stories about things like Sakurai getting a three-day holiday vacation, two of those days being on a weekend, and then he has to get IV drips every morning.) While his shoulder was... having troubles with calcific tendinitis, that was years ago. Harada's wife has the same condition right now.


Masahiro Sakurai says he is okay good health
“Is Sakurai-san okay?” was the most common question Harada received.


On a lighter note, Sakurai likes both coffee and tea, and wide-brimmed hunting caps to fit his 62 centrimetre head because normal hats don't fit.

Masahiro Sakurai wearing wide brimmed detective hat look like manga character Katsuhiro Harada bar
While Masahiro Sakurai wearing the wide-brimmed hat makes him look like a manga character,
it was noted that Katsuhiro Harada wearing one of those makes him look like a thief.


Masahiro Sakurai deals with stress by exercising, such as with an exercise bike and by lifting up 18 kilogram weights (40 pounds) per hand. He watches TV and plays videogames while exercise biking, but he doesn't want to upload footage of him doing that. I mean, I wouldn't want to upload footage of me playing Ring Fit Adventure, but I do publish write-ups of that on KoopaTV. (I... really should get back to that soon.)

To answer the episode name's question, Masahiro Sakurai makes games to make customers happy. He wants to do things player-first.

Masahiro Sakurai and Harada sleep for about six hours a night (well, Harada says four hours). Sakurai sleeps from 02:30 to 08:30. Despite these minuscule hours, Harada pointed out to Sakurai what many people have observed—Masahiro Sakurai keeps looking like he gets younger over time. How does he do it? Sakurai's secret is to avoid sun exposure. (Well, I already avoid going outside, so...)

Harada's first impression of Sakurai, which was from the media, is that he's an unusual, professional mountain monk. Sakurai's first impression of Harada came from the media, which is that he's a passionate analyst who is passionate about talking to customers, and Harada writes long messages because he's passionate... without double-checking his writing. (Which I may or may not do with KoopaTV articles.)

Sakurai wishes he could develop games by just thinking with his brain, which would eliminate a lot of the complexity of game development. (There's a complexity that they didn't spell out, but there's always been a problem of developing three-dimensional assets on a two-dimensional screen.)

Someone had asked Sakurai and Harada the difference between a game director (like Sakurai is) versus a game producer (like Harada is). According to Sakurai, a director is someone who thinks about all of a videogame's content and instructs the staff. The producer manages the money and resources, but doesn't order what the game's direction should be. Sakurai thought that directors take care of things like how and what a game's assets should be, but some producers in other projects or companies often do what a director does. Harada, as a producer, is one of those, taking care of Tekken's models and music.

Sakurai was unable to answer what his dream is, and he didn't know what he wanted to do as a child. Harada thought about being a fireman or a scientist.

Eventually, the Tiger Eats food team delivered Taketora-style Takoyaki with sea-bream salt. It met Sakurai's expectations. While eating, someone wanted to know where the game industry was going to go next and its future. Sakurai more or less said it's wherever game companies want it to go. ...Which basically means he doesn't have an answer. But he does see that the industry will only be more and more crowded. Sakurai then brought up Kid Icarus: Uprising as a third-person shooter game (using Kid Icarus as the IP came later) that would be more unique on the 3DS and stand out from the glut of “Touch! Generation” games like Brain Age. He wanted to go against the trend to fill demands in the market that weren't being filled.

Lastly, Sakurai prefers pancakes over waffles. ...I, of course, disagree with that assessment.


Part 4: September 4, 2021—Sakurai & Harada Bonus Talk




This last episode, which is only a little over 11 minutes long instead of being closer to half an hour, is apparently just topics that couldn't fit into the other episodes. Sakurai was born in Tokyo region. Specifically the city of Hino, but he grew up in Musashimurayama. Both are on the west side. He had to live in Yamanashi when he worked at HAL Laboratory, which has more extreme temperatures than Tokyo (both cold and hot). It was more of a countryside.

Harada was then talking about how overseas fans analysed Sakurai's house, which was the featured setting in various Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC presentations, like Pyra & Mythra's. Sakurai thought that people find other people's homes interesting (which is sort of the whole point of the multiplayer parts of games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons), but he wasn't aware that Americans pore over every detail of his home decor. Apparently Sakurai and Harada haven't exchanged personal contact information with one another yet.

Harada loves Russian fighting planes and he finds Russia to be interesting, so he likes Ace Combat. He compared the mysterious nature of Russia and the Soviet Union to the mysterious nature of Masahiro Sakurai. He thinks Sakurai has 100 or 200 mysterious veils, and he might have only removed one veil over the course of these episodes. He thinks mysterious and interesting are synonyms. Harada wants to go driving with game industry people outside of the bar... I guess he wants to have a sort of Jerry Seinfeld-like Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but a videogame industry developers in cars getting... I dunno, probably more Takoyaki.


Masahiro Sakurai Katsuhiro Harada autographed card Tekken Kirby
...The only double name autograph card? You sure?
...Well, it's nice either way.


And that wrapped up the Sakurai arc of Harada's Bar! Harada's Bar will continue every Saturday with other guests... or Harada trying to figure out who the next guest should be.


Ludwig could've done a series of live reaction logs to this (especially since it WAS originally live-streamed) but he didn't... because... who knows. Did you learn something you didn't know before about Sakurai and/or Harada? ...Was it an interesting something? KoopaTV has zero plans to continue covering the contents of the Harada's Bar episodes.

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