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Friday, May 19, 2023

Single-Player Mode and Online Support: The Super Smash Bros. Brawl Game Concept

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I commentate about Masahiro Sakurai's look-back on Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

If Masahiro Sakurai declined Satoru Iwata bullying him into directing a Super Smash Bros. title for the Wii, Nintendo would have just ported Super Smash Bros. Melee and give it online play. Hm, perhaps that would've been a better outcome. In any case, since Masahiro Sakurai felt compelled to agree to Iwata's request, he made a new game, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and so, we now get to learn the game concepts behind Super Smash Bros. Brawl per Sakurai's YouTube channel:

Twice in the video, Sakurai says he has stories to explain for another time (the job offer and the team composition, as well as how Super Smash Bros. might've been discontinued), so this shouldn't be the last we hear about Super Smash Bros. Brawl's development from Sakurai. Still, he described two of three things people mostly associate with Super Smash Bros. Brawl: It's the game with the most extensive single-player mode (Adventure Mode: Subspace Emissary) as well as the first Super Smash Bros. title with online multiplayer. The last thing people associate with the game is its very floaty and slow gameplay, which Sakurai also touches on. Let's talk about those things in the order the video does.

Masahiro Sakurai personally doesn't believe that Super Smash Bros. and online play don't fit well together, though his personal opinion is superceded by Nintendo's wishes. He believes that local multiplayer with your friends is where the game truly shines, and that online competition can bully people and you'll lose confidence in yourself. Personally, I've had my own confidence shattered playing local multiplayer, but I've also shattered other people's confidence locally. I've also made many friends playing online (even against Nintendo's wishes), or have played online with friends I already know. Sakurai expressed the technical difficulties (especially in 2006–2008) of enabling a quality online experience with a game as intense as a fighting game, but he had to try his best because Nintendo asked him to. ...Of course, we all know that Super Smash Bros. Brawl's online wasn't... great.

I've actually already written quite a bit about my opinions on Super Smash Bros. Brawl ten years ago, and my opinion has only soured even more since then. I wrote a whole thing about how online mode was a mess, and that Subspace Emissary's level design is not at all good as a 2D platformer because it doesn't take its playable characters’ different attributes into account, even after adjusting characters’ attributes specifically for Subspace Emissary. Which is a shame, because Sakurai has proven himself good at creating thoughtful 2D platforming experiences. (I actually tried to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl to prepare for writing today's article, but my Wii crashes whenever I try to play in Versus mode. Instead, I played Subspace Emissary, and it was very unsatisfying. ...I also tripped several times in that.) In the video, Sakurai described that making Subspace Emissary satisfying in terms of gameplay to be “challenging.” Strangely, Sakurai described Subspace Emissary as having “an engaging story”, which wasn't quite what people playing it at the time believed. He stated that he wanted to make sure every character had their time in the spotlight, but I suppose he didn't have the resources and budget to be able to actually do that.

Oh, I guess the fourth notable thing about Super Smash Bros. Brawl was that Final Smashes were introduced in this title. Plus, it was the predecessor to its sequels going crazy with third-parties (as opposed to being just a Nintendo crossover), though Sakurai notes that, from his position at Sora Ltd. as a freelancer, working with Konami or SEGA is pretty much the same experience as working with any Nintendo first or second-party developer.

The game is also packed with content, including an all-star team of musicians and music customisation. (Even if the Sound Test was occasionally wrong.) Sakurai didn't mention these, but Super Smash Bros. Brawl added highly appreciated features to the series such as customisable controls, Stage Builder, and Replays. ...And Coin Launcher existed and... has nice music, I guess.

Finally, the gameplay. Masahiro Sakurai acknowledged Super Smash Bros. Melee's fast-paced gameplay in this video, since he didn't discuss that at all in Super Smash Bros. Melee's own Game Concepts video, which is why I loathed that video. He said the pacing made Super Smash Bros. Melee quite difficult to master, which is true. That's desirable to competitors (except those that got tendinitis, like Hax$), but Sakurai saw it as intimidating to new players. (Which should remind you of what he said earlier about how online play can be scary and demoralising.)

Sakurai making Super Smash Bros. Brawl slower and more floaty was a conscious design decision to match the casual audience of the Nintendo Wii, as well as making Super Smash Bros. Brawl able to be playable on a sideways Wii Remote controller. (Reminder that Sakurai was a big believer in the GameCube controller, as opposed to Shigeru Miyamoto's belief that the Wii Remote was the future of game controllers.) In addition, if the controls were too demanding, that would strain the online connections with frame skips. That's less of a problem today, but I guess network technology wasn't as good back then as it is now. Sakurai also shared the damning information that Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the first time the series had dedicated playtesters during development. Brawl had four casual people testing it, which means the first two games had zero dedicated people. That should explain a LOT, like the total lack of balance in the character rosters. By the time we got to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there was a much more significant playtesting regime, and that's probably why that is the most balanced Super Smash Bros. game. Brawl has Ganondorf and Meta Knight co-exist. ...Well, you could also say it has Meta Knight and the entire rest of the roster co-exist.

Masahiro Sakurai game concepts Super Smash Bros. Brawl casual fighting game Tabuu boss fight
By the way, Masahiro Sakurai fundamentally described the Super Smash Bros. series as a fighting game, as opposed to a party game.

Ludwig was pleased with the level of information that Masahiro Sakurai provided in the video, though displeased with Sakurai's assessments. However, Sakurai did provide a “I tried my best given the circumstances Nintendo forced onto me” attitude throughout the video, as opposed to trying to convince us “This was a good idea.” The only thing missing is for Sakurai to reveal why he thought tripping was a good mechanic to add. KoopaTV is likely to end before Sakurai discusses the game concepts behind Kid Icarus: Uprising, but Ludwig will of course watch that video, as he watches every Sakurai video, and he'll certainly have thoughts on it. He just won't get to share them to the public.

The last Game Concepts video Ludwig wrote about was for Kirby Air Ride.
The last time Ludwig wrote an article about a Masahiro Sakurai video was earlier in 2023 when Sakurai had a Grab Bag about competing with the past.


  1. I think I am jaded enough with the Smash Bros series to never purchase another Smash Bros game again.

    1. Even if the next one reduces the roster to conveniently exclude characters you don't like?

  2. Replies
    1. A horse is a horse of course! It don’t rhyme with soap…but it does rhyme!

    2. I just don't know wot prompted the Mr. Ed.

    3. I was thinking of other rhymes, haven't heard of Mr. Ed in a long time. I wonder if the children of today know who that is, it should be mandatory to teach it in every history class. Even the ones out of the USA.

    4. I have no idea who that is myself.

    5. He is a talking horse and a hero, that is all


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