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Need for a Story

Iwata
So, can you tell me about the Adventure Mode’s…actually, please tell me the title of the Adventure Mode.

Sakurai
Sure. The Adventure Mode is called The Subspace Emissary.

Iwata
Can you tell me more about the development process for The Subspace Emissary?

Sakurai
Well, first of all, the number of players that wanted a storyline in Smash Bros. Melee was not few. Generally speaking, this is a feature you won’t find in the games I design, but players were looking for more from the storyline. Because Smash Bros. brings together so many different characters though, developing a conventional storyline was going to be impossible.

Iwata
Each character comes from their own world, and there’s no end to their different restrictions and limitations.

Sakurai
Right. Not only do they come from their own worlds, but an even more basic problem was the fact that it felt really strange to put someone like Mario and Link together in the same frame.

Iwata
Ah, I see.

Sakurai
The feel of the characters are different and, more importantly, it felt wrong to put characters with different head to body ratios side-by-side. It’s not so bad in a high action environment like the Brawl where everyone is moving all at once, but when I was writing the project plan document, I didn’t think it would be possible to make them look good together in a serious movie sequence.

Iwata
So you thought about giving up the idea.

Sakurai
Right.

Iwata
But then you decided to bring in a storyline.

Sakurai
Right. The impetus for my decision was the side-scrolling mode in Smash Bros. Melee and I had been thinking about improving this feature from the beginning of planning. Then, while thinking about how I might make the side-scrolling mode more interesting for our players, I decided it was absolutely necessary to incorporate a sense of suspense to urge players on.

Iwata
Because the suspense of what happens next is what drives players most when playing a side-scrolling action game.

Sakurai
Right. With older games, players were thrown into the game without any particular objective. With games nowadays though, you just can’t do that, leading me to the conclusion that we couldn’t have a game without a storyline. With Smash Bros., however, there are way too many characters and the game is made without a main character. Therefore, I had a really hard time figuring out how we might establish a storyline.

Iwata
I see.

Sakurai
At that point, I decided to ask Kazushige Nojima-san to help us since he had composed the scenarios for titles like Final Fantasy VII.

Iwata
Wow, asking the person who crafted scenarios for Final Fantasy to write one for Smash Bros. is a pretty big deal.

Sakurai
I know! (laughs) I didn’t ask him to write everything from scratch though. I explained the world of Smash Bros. and its characters and then asked for his help. The first storyline he came up with, however, wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

Iwata
It was different than what you had envisioned.

Sakurai
Right. It wasn’t bad at all and had its own appeal, but it was a bit different than what I had envisioned it would be. It went something like this…"Some of the characters are on a bus on the way to the stadium. Samus is there. Donkey Kong is there and Snake is watching the bus from afar." It was like that. (laughs) I had envisioned a more serious tone for the story. Something with some misfortunelike a single character escaping total annihilation of his squadron and then fighting back while rounding up his allies. Ultimately, we worked together and successfully organized our ideas into the storyline for The Subspace Emissary.

Iwata
In other words, you came up with a storyline that neither of you could have produced on your own.

Sakurai
Right. That’s something you might say about this entire game. This project is the result of people coming together and talents colliding. If we took one person and replaced them with another, the project would have definitely been different. That’s another reason the project was only possible this time around.