If you didn’t know Super Smash Bros creator Masahiro Sakurai now has a YouTube channel where he divulges secrets from his history as a video game developer, now you do know. And his latest video is the most revealing one yet, detailing how Smash Bros got started and what it originally looked like. Turns out the use of Nintendo characters wasn’t part of it until late in development!
To be fair, we’ve known about the “stick figures” prototype for several years, but only had minimal information and one blurry screenshot. Thanks to Sakurai, we now have sharp video footage of what was then called “Dragon King” — or at least as sharp as a native N64 video signal can get.
As Sakurai explains, he started development on what would become Smash Bros around 1996, as soon as his team completed work on Kirby Super Star. It was one of two ideas he had, the other being about a robot that had to sneak through a facility by hacking cameras. Prototypes were made for both, but both were initially turned down.
Why? Because Sakurai had to accept the fact that Nintendo had to make room for games like Mother 3, the N64 version of Kirby Air Ride, and several other games that never got far enough to be publicly revealed. Was there no hope? Well, if all those games went down the tubes, he night be given a shot!
Nintendo had a hole in their development schedule at that point and needed to fill it quickly. They agreed to give Sakurai’s prototypes a second look, but Sakurai suggested only the fighting game be developed, as the robot game would take at least two years to refine.
There were several issues Sakurai had with the direction the fighting game genre was going (it’s detailed in the video), and one of them was the fact that players have to get introduced to a dozen new characters at the same time. So he proposed using pre-existing Nintendo characters, and got approval. The original Super Smash Bros went on sale in Japan in the spring of 1999, and would take over the world thereafter.