Sakurai: Fraud Designer?

You’ve said that Sakurai doesn’t know anything about game design, but you’ve advocated the theory that Melee wasn’t a “happy accident”. Do you think Sakurai is capable but misguided or simply has his head up his ass, or do you think Melee was an ‘intentional fluke’? Or do you think there were other people behind Melee’s success, but Sakurai gets all the credit becaues of the industry’s obsession with celebrities? That actually happens way to much, a game’s successes get dumped onto a single dev or a handful of individuals, sometimes underservingly so.

You’re right, there is a bit of a contradiction there. I think that the game systems that existed in melee were really complex, enabling the game to function as it does. I think those systems were put in there intentionally. I don’t think they entirely thought out what would be possible as a result of them, like wavedashing, SHFFLing.

I thought they knew the simple rule that you should never let shield stun go higher than landing lag, then Smash 4 proved me wrong in their last patch. Like, it might be that everything I thought they did intentionally correctly was just luck, but I have no real idea.

They chose to have characters whose double jump animations would dip them low, and thereby enable double jump cancels. They chose to have L canceling, like literally at all. They chose to have air dodges that moved people, chose to have shields cancelable with jump, chose to allow you to buffer rolls, chose to allow the initial dash animation to be canceled by going the opposite way, and the run to be cancelable by crouching, chose to have crouching shave off percentage, chose to have SDI like literally at all, chose to have characters get oriented forwards when hit, chose to have hitboxes that can hit forward and reverse, chose to have some that change angle based on percentage, chose to have only a narrow range of attacks be meteor cancelable, and chose to have some moves hit at angles that can’t be meteor canceled (even adjusted Marth’s spike in PAL, but not falco’s), chose to allow shields to be variable density and tilted, chose to allow fast falling, to allow fox/falco to jump out of shine, to allow jumpsquat to cancel into grab, up smash, up B, to allow you to catch items in the air, to have ground momentum carry over into air momentum and vice versa. These are all intentional decisions, and many of them are extremely slight or would go unnoticed by most players.

Look at all the differences between Marth in melee versus smash 4. Marth is an extremely simple character design, yet they altered it in bringing it over to Smash 4 in ways that limited his ability to make moves work together and stripped some moves of their alternate uses, like side b’s use as an air stall.

The other thing is, Sakurai did have help. Hal Laboratories worked on Smash up to melee, but not past it. When they left, the games got bad. Also, Satoru Iwata stepped in to help debug Melee right before release, and he was a legendary programmer. That and his post-brawl interview communicates that he tried his damn hardest on Melee and it was “The sharpest”, but I think he changed his mind after that one, it was “too hard”.

Who knows?

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