Amidst all the hype of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the hard-working and enigmatic lead designer of the Smash series, Masahiro Sakurai, once again took center stage at E3. A full twenty-five of Nintendo’s forty-five minute E3 digital press conference was dedicated exclusively to Sakurai and Smash Bros. Ultimate, then Sakurai joined Bill Trinen and others for the Nintendo Treehouse showcase of the newest Smash installment.
This newest Smash installment, however, may be Sakurai’s last. When discussing the game after its reveal during the Nintendo Direct E3 presentation, Sakurai said the following:
“The Smash series may continue in the future, but I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to pull this off, so I really hope you’ll enjoy this iteration of the game.”
It’s difficult what Sakurai meant by “pull this off,” with regards to Smash Bros. Ultimate. There is a chance that Sakurai is talking about being able to replicate the sheer size of this game. As of right now, there are 65 fighters and over 80 stages in Smash Bros. Ultimate, many of these characters coming from third parties that require Nintendo to work with many different companies on top of everything else in order to bring all these characters into the game.
It could also be very possible that this is the last game where Sakurai will act as the franchise’s director. Sakurai, 47, has now spent nearly 20 years developing Smash titles. Sakurai’s tumultuous relationship with the Smash series is also very public knowledge. Super Smash Bros. Melee only had a 13-month development cycle; in an interview with Famitsu, Sakurai described the timetable as “destructive” to his lifestyle. During 2005’s E3 conference, Nintendo famously announced Super Smash Bros. Brawl without even telling Sakurai, asking him to direct the game after the fact. Even after the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, Sakurai let slip the fact that the Smash games were created “with the thought that there wouldn’t be any more sequels.”
There’s no denying that Masahiro Sakurai is incredibly hardworking, and is, to his core, a perfectionist. In a way, Smash Bros. Ultimate is probably the ideal sendoff for Sakurai. This game is the definitive version of Smash Bros.; it is the culmination of all of Sakurai’s years of hard work. Every character and every stage is going to be featured in this massive game. He even managed to somehow make Ridley, one of the most highly requested Smash characters among fans, a viable character in the game.
If Nintendo decides to continue the Smash series beyond Ultimate, I personally hope they continue without Masahiro Sakurai. Smash Bros. Ultimate is Sakurai’s magnum opus for the Smash series; he’s more than earned the right to retire at this point.