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Smash Bros. Ultimate Development History
According to Masahiro Sakurai's famitsu column, at the start of development (which was around December of 2015) he had to decide whether or not to build Super Smash Bros. Ultimate off of the previous entry's engine and mechanics or create a new engine from nothing. He chose the former as building everything from scratch would cause a drastic cut in the game's roster. Building off the previous game's mechanics also allowed for focus to be put on other aspects of the game.

"First, I was faced with a decision: create a completely new game system, or build off of pre-existing ones. I went with the latter; had I not, we might have ended up with only a third of the fighters we have now. Some people might still end up preferring an earlier title, but I decided to put that thought aside for later and focus on the more important tasks at hand."

Full Famitsu Column

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