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Smash director Sakurai reveals early prototype footage

Behold, Smash Bros. before it was Smash Bros.!

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

October 21, 2022

2 Min Read
Cover art for Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai has revealed prototype footage of the original game on his YouTube channel. Or rather, he revealed prototype footage of HAL Laboratory's Dragon King: The Fighting Game, the game that would come to serve as the foundation for Nintendo's crossover fighter. 

Sakurai created a YouTube channel earlier in the summer to pull back the curtain on game development. He stated at the time that he'd been permitted by Nintendo to share some development builds, and this build is certainly worth a look for fans of the fighting franchise. 

While Dragon King has been previously reported on in the past, this is the first time an actual look at the title has been shown. Even though only basic moves are shown, it's easy to see the DNA of what would become Super Smash Bros. in the footage. Simplicity was his primary objective for the game, as he felt that other fighting games (like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter) could be alienating. 

While both Dragon King and Sakurai's other prototype about an RC robot hacking security cameras were given "high praise" from Nintendo, according to Sakurai, he chose to go with the fighting game since it would take less time to complete.  For both prototypes, he worked on design, graphics, and animation, while programming duties went to the late Satoru Iwata. 

Later in the video, Sakurai goes into the process of bringing in Nintendo's characters, which he said came late into development. Similar to how he wanted to make a simplistic fighting game for anyone to enjoy, he realized that it may be difficult for players of console fighting games to find a main character (out of potentially multiple) to care about.

"I didn't want to throw players into a roster full of characters nobody had ever seen," explained Sakurai. "In the end, we convinced Nintendo to let us borrow their most popular characters." Hurdles remained, namely convincing the publisher's sales team that players would want to see its characters beat each other up. 

From there, the rest is history: Super Smash Bros. released for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. Over the years, Nintendo has released multiple sequels of critical and commercial acclaim, and the series is one of the biggest franchises of the fighting game genre. 

"Everything turned out alright. [...] I'm truly grateful to all of you who stood by us back then." 

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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