It’s confirmed: The big-shoed hero himself, Kingdom Hearts’ Sora, is the 82nd and final combatant to round out Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s overflowing roster. Whew, that’s that. Now only one thing remains: It’s time for creator and game director Masahiro Sakurai to take a damn break.
It’s no secret Sakurai-san works himself to the bone. He’s penned a weekly Famitsu column for at least 18 years. He’s served as the main brain behind Super Smash Bros. since the series’ 1999 introduction. He was even diagnosed with calcific tendonitis in his right shoulder in October 2012, during Smash Ultimate’s development, a condition he told Tekken director and producer Katsuhiro Harada was caused by his work schedule. (In an August 2021 episode of Harada’s Bar, Sakurai-san said he’s “ok” now.)
And through all this, Sakurai-san has also had a hand in directing several other Nintendo games, including 2002’s Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and 2012’s Kid Icarus: Uprising. That’s to say, he’s probably very tired. I mean, I would be if I had been directing video games for 30 years now.
With as much clout as he’s got, being such a recognisable name in not just Japanese game development but game development writ large, it’s imperative Sakurai-san take a load off. Yet, he comes in, reportedly does all of his work, and handles other tasks because he said it’s “faster” that way.
This is overwork. Whether manual labour or not, work is work. Shouldering the burden of development simply because it’s “more accurate” is no excuse to put work above health, especially when health can (and often does) impede work. No one person should have to suffer through physical pain for work, as Sakurai-san has done while playtesting Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. He even admitted in a 2015 Famitsu piece that his “arm would give out in 10 minutes” if he button mashed. None of that sounds conducive to a productive, let alone healthy, work environment.
So yes, Masahiro Sakurai should absolutely, 100% take a goddamn break. But so too should the rest of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s developers at Bandai Namco Studios and Sora Ltd. Sakurai and Co have been adding more and more content to the game for going on three years now. There have been two Fighters Passes, totaling 11 additional characters, all (mostly) surprises. And baked in the DLC packs are Mii costumes and stages and music and a whole host of cool shit. This game is pretty stuffed.
So now that, at long last, the final combatant is joining the fray on October 18, it’s high time Sakurai and Co ride off into the sunset. Or, at the very least, take a long-arse nap. I know I would if I were on that development team.