Super Smash Bros. Ultimate director Masahiro Sakurai took some time today to detail Terry Bogard's debut in the arena. The presentation was over 40 minutes long, and for good reason: Sakurai took the opportunity to school us on the history of Terry and the SNK lineage he hails from, in what ended up being a very entertaining stream.
It's no surprise that Sakurai wanted to take the opportunity of Terry's Smash Bros. debut to talk a little King of Fighters. The series had a pretty big influence on Sakurai's design mindset, as he told The Guardian last year:
"So I was playing King of Fighters once–and the way arcades are set up in Japan, you can't really see the person you're playing against, because you're on opposite sides of the cabinet," Sakurai told The Guardian. "I was feeling pleased with myself because I was winning, and it turned out to be a total beginner with their partner, just trying to have fun, and I thought, 'Oh no, I shouldn't have beaten them so badly. Now they're going to feel like they never want to play it again!' It's important to think about the beginner crowd."
Over the course of the presentation, Sakurai spared no time in fully exploring the history of SNK: from the Neo Geo, its Switch-like cousin the Neo Geo X, to SNK's arcade history. As he noted, some Western players might not have taken notice of SNK because Fatal Fury was growing in popularity at the same time as Street Fighter 2.
Sakurai rectified that, talking all about the series' various spin-offs, from the initial Fatal Fury to The King of Fighters and Garou: Mark of the Wolves, at one point even giving recommendations for those looking to get into the series.
"If you play any Fatal Fury game, make it Fatal Fury special," Sakurai says. He then says The King of Fighters '95 is a good starting place, though he acknowledges the strategic elements brought forward in The King of Fighters '98.
Smash fans: NO WAY SAKURAI CAN TALK ABOUT TERRY AND SNK FOR 45 MINUTES.- Miraculous Maku (Donald Duck takeover) (@RedMakuzawa) November 6, 2019
Sakurai: You wanna bet? pic.twitter.com/x8YGg2pNYo
One of the best parts of the presentation, and the most discussed on social media, is his response to Mai Shiranui's absence among the cameos present in the new King of Fighters stage. While Yuri, Iori, Geese, Ryo, and even Rock make an apperance, SNK's infamous ninja is noticeably absent. Sakurai's response: "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is for good boys and girls of many different ages, so we decided not to feature her. Please forgive us."
It looks like despite Mai getting snubbed out of her Smash appearance (though she already got a spot on a Nintendo console with SNK Heroines anyways), SNK is happy to cooperate with Nintendo for Terry's Super Smash Bros. appearance. Sakurai says that when compiling a list of music the team wanted to add to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, they went to SNK with a list of 50 songs, assuming there would be some cuts. Instead, they got an "okay," and now 50 songs are being added in today's update. It's a noticeable difference from, say, the dearth of Final Fantasy music in the game.
Sakurai working with Square Enix vs Sakurai working with SNK pic.twitter.com/HJ8DMzzoMG- Nibel (@Nibellion) November 6, 2019
Terry, like Ryu and Ken, also has moves activated by certain joy-stick motions, similar to the way he plays in The King of Fighters. While stick moves like that are usually not included in Super Smash Bros., it's a nice homage to Terry's fighting game roots, though it left a few players comically befuddled by the notation and jargon Sakurai was using to describe a Smash fighter. Quarter-circles! Half-circles! Maybe it's time to add Geese Howard's pretzel motions too?
Sakurai teaching everyone about inputs and cancels: pic.twitter.com/9dGajkbSFY- InquisitiveRavenclaw (@InquisitiveRav) November 6, 2019
It was a smart, touching tribute to a series clearly near and dear to Sakurai's heart, and to a piece of fighting game history that can feel overlooked compared to other titans. There's been a wave of SNK nostalgia in the last year or so, from the Neo Geo Arcade Stick Pro and its library of classic fighting games to the well-crafted SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. Today's run-time might have seemed excessive compared to other presentations, especially with no new fighter announcement, but for the fighting game heads watching it was a fun, light-hearted trip down memory lane with someone who knows and cares about their KoF.