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Here’s how hard it was to bring Sora to Smash Bros., according to Sakurai

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s game director on working with Disney

Sora and Duck Hunt in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Image: Nintendo
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Sora is the latest and final addition to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s massive roster, and he may have been the hardest character to secure for the series. Masahiro Sakurai, the game director for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, wrote a column for Famitsu, the Japanese magazine, about the difficulty of including Sora in Smash. PushDustln and Kody NOKOLO on Twitter joined up to translate the article for English-speaking fans, and offered details in two threads.

Unlike other high-ranking poll fighters (like Banjo & Kazooie) Sora was much harder to acquire — at one point Sakurai thought that Sora would be “highly unlikely” to get. But at an award venue (PushDustln didn’t call out a specific one, so it’s likely Sakurai didn’t specify), Sakurai bumped into a Disney representative who seemed excited about Sora joining. Despite that fortunate meeting, it still took some long discussions to get Sora into Smash. In fact, Fighter Pass 2 was only supposed to come with five fighters, and Sora was added on to make it six.

Even after all the studios reached an agreement, Sora wasn’t an easy character to implement. Sakurai’s team had to seek approval through two supervisors: Square Enix and Disney. The studios imposed a lot of guidelines, and Sakurai joked about how difficult it was to please everyone.

Outside of Sora, Sakurai spoke about the length and difficulty of developing the DLC packs’ 11 fighters. After the team was paired down post-launch, and also due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sakurai spent the same amount of time building the DLC as he did developing the full title. It’s been three years since Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release, and it’s only now complete with Sora’s launch.

Finally, Sakura said he will only work on “a few more games,” and considering how long the development took on the DLC, he’s “worried about the future.” It’s unclear if Sakurai plans to work on another Smash Bros. game before his assumed retirement. He finished his blog saying that his bi-weekly Famitsu column is also ending. The director feels that Smash Ultimate was a “celebration of gaming,” and seemed pleased that so many developers from different studios could come together and make it happen.

If you’re interested in reading the full column, the two translators said they will publish a complete translation in two weeks.

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