Below is a detailed summary from the recently held Super Smash Bros. roundtable, presented by Masahiro Sakurai, as we highlight the most important details and question answers.
Once Masahiro Sakurai took to the stage to begin the roundtable, it didn't take long for him to drop the biggest news of the evening: a stylish video confirmed that everyone's favourite pellet-munching hero, Pac-Man, would be joining the roster for Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and 3DS. Pac-Man has gone through quite a few makeovers over the years, and Sakurai clarified that for his Smash appearance, Pac will be modelled off of his Pac-Land form, with the classic pizza-with-missing-piece silhouette used in certain moves and attacks. The reveal was followed by an iconic lineup of Pac-Man, Mega Man, Mario, and Sonic standing side-by-side, a cross-company A-team of opponents and “miracle” of video games made possible by Smash Bros, Sakurai said.
After introducing Pac-Man to the fray, Sakurai challenged a few (un)fortunate Nintendo Treehouse employees to a battle using those four iconic characters – with Sakurai controlling Pac-Man, of course. Pac's attacks included plenty of loving nods to Namco's mascot's career, from retro-inspired fruit bombs and Inky and Pinky assists to a pellet-fuelled munch mode – all of which helped propel Sakurai to a hard-earned victory.
The roundtable then shifted to a focus on new features in the latest Smash; first up was the ability to customize fighters. Sakurai explained how in previous Smash games, each character had four standard Smash attacks – standard, side, up, and down. Now, players can choose three different variations of each of those four. For Mario's standard Smash attack, for example, you could pick either his garden-variety fireball, a fast but straight-shooting lighter fireball, or a larger ball of fire that moves slowly but hits multiple times. These customized characters won't be available to play with in “With Anyone” mode, but you can use them all you'd like in “With Friends”.
More customization can be found in the new equipment feature, which lets characters don different items to change up their strengths or weaknesses. As with the customizable movesets, items are designed to be balanced in every way, so that one outfitted fighter simply plays differently, rather than significantly better or worse, than another. Gloves that raise your attack also leave you more vulnerable to launching, for instance, while boots which let you move faster also lower your attack. And as a further balancing act, the lighter a character is, the fewer items they'll be able to carry, because – as Sakurai put it – 'there are other advantages to being speedy'.
Sakurai then talked at length about the new Mii Fighters introduced in the Digital Event earlier in the day. You'll be able to choose from three different attack types when outfitting your Mii for battle: a swordfighter, a gunner, or a brawler. Each configuration has twelve different Smash attacks to choose from, as well as plenty of different costumes and clothing; whether you envision your Mii as a Victorian pugilist or an intergalactic beamsword champ, you'll be well catered for. Sakurai showed off a dagger-wielding Elijah Wood and a body-ready Reggie as examples of the characters you'll be able to create, though to avoid any 'bullying issues' customized Mii Fighters won't be available for use in “With Anyone” mode – you can, however, play with and trade them in “With Friends”.
The next portion of the roundtable saw Nintendo's newly announced Amiibo figure line brought onto the stage, as Sakurai outlined how the NFC-enhanced figures will be integrated into the Smash Bros. experience. Interestingly, when brought into the game (via the GamePad's NFC reader), the figures function not as playable characters but instead as “FP” – Figure Players, ala Computer Players – computer-controlled opponents which level up and get stronger the more you fight. Figure-powered FPs can go well beyond the difficulty of a Level 9 CP, can be raised all the way to Level 50 – “a fairly quick process”, according to Sakurai – and even learn to anticipate and react to the play styles of their human opponents. Sakurai said he hoped people would use them in Team Battles and start to think of them as their partners, a feeling perhaps reinforced by his observation that “Since it will be difficult to collect them all, just focus on the characters you really like”.
After the figures, Sakurai led a demonstration of the 3DS-verison-exclusive Smash Run. In this 5-minute timed mode, you and three computer-controlled characters will explore a randomly-generated side-scrolling field, trying to collect as many of the stat-increasing power-ups scattered around the level as possible to boost your Attack, Jump, Speed, Defense, Arms, and Special abilities. Your character – Sakurai chose Donkey Kong for this run-through – starts out noticeably weak, but the power-ups add up; by the five-minute mark Nintendo's stereotypically sluggish ape had blossomed into a surprisingly speedy powerhouse, and Sakurai remarked that he'd “never think of Donkey Kong as slow again”. The mode doesn't end when the countdown stops, however; afterwards, you'll face off in a four-player challenge with your newly powered-up characters. In the roundtable demonstration the end-game was a familiar round of free-for-all Smash, though Sakurai said there were other challenges as well, including races and item-throwing competitions. This variety alludes to the fact that every type of power-up is important – you might be able to win a brawl with a slow-moving juggernaut, but you certainly couldn't win a race!
Finally, the roundtable concluded with questions from the audience. Highlights of Sakurai's answers included insight into the balancing process (which involves a team of twelve dedicated staff members and a “sweet spot” between appealing to core fans and new players), remarks on his menu design philosophy (keep important items big and iconic, front and centre), the fact that all characters (even Pac-Man) had been decided on at the very beginning of development, and a supremely diplomatic response to a competitive player who cheekily asked to have a hand in balancing the game if he could beat Sakurai in a one-on-one contest (“Sadly, our staff roll is already very large; it would be very difficult to include another name”).