The Evo Lineup Cometh Again

The first-ever Evo Japan delayed the announcement of the main Evo World Championship tournament series lineup by about two weeks. That didn’t stop it from being any less exciting, or in some cases, controversial.


Primed for the first weekend of August, Evo 2018 had its official lineup unveiled by the tandem of Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar and Mark “MarkMan” Julio back on February 6th. This year features a blend of the usual suspects and some new challengers, which includes:

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition
Tekken 7
Injustice 2
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
Dragon Ball FighterZ

The majority of this lineup has been featured at Evos past, so most of it will be familiar to many. Street Fighter has been one of the defining fixtures of the tournament series since its early days as Battle by the Bay, so there was no way it wouldn’t show up. Also, with the Arcade Edition update of Street Fighter V coming out at the beginning of this year, there’s no way it wasn’t going to be closing out Evo.

Injustice 2 made its way to the Evo roster just last year, so it’s still relatively recent. But a bevy of balance updates and all-new downloadable fighters, including the likes of Dark Horse Comics’ Hellboy and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, should shake up the metagame substantially. Of course, there’s a good chance we’ll see Dominique “SonicFox” McClean of Echo Fox somewhere in the finals again, but let’s not get into bold predictions just yet.

Guilty Gear Xrd and Tekken 7 have been a part of the main Evo lineup since 2015, and yearly updates to both have changed the experience each year. With a total roster rebalancing coming to Rev2 next month, and Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis Caelum coming to Tekken 7 at some point in the Spring following the game’s most recent addition, The King of Fighters’ Geese Howard, that shouldn’t change this year.

Finally on the returning titles, both Smash Bros. in the main lineup is still a polarizing point of contention, as I’ve made clear before. In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s initial year, I could understand having Melee on the main lineup. However, now that the game has proven to stand well-enough on its own in regards to entrants and viewership, that should no longer be the case. Just last year, the Smash Bros. U finals featured a thrilling grand final set between current champion Saleem “Salem” Young and recently-retired Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, a complete ten-game run where Young ultimately prevailed. Contrast that to Melee’s four-game grand final where Adam “Armada” Lindgren handily beat Joseph “Mang0” Marquez, and it paints a pretty clear picture as to which was more exciting.


The only two brand-new additions to Evo this year are Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. FighterZ making the cut doesn’t come across as a major shock, given Dragon Ball’s immense global popularity and the excitement surrounding the actual game going back to its initial E3 announcement. With how well recent FighterZ tournaments have gone, and more characters on the way in the coming months, it should make for an excellent watch.

That just leaves Cross Tag Battle as the only real surprise of the lineup, though I use the term “surprise” a bit loosely. While I’m overall glad it’s part of the main lineup, there’s something about its inclusion that hasn’t quite sat well with me. I mentioned back in my blog about the game’s controversial DLC plans that there was a sneaking suspicion of internal pressure to get the game out by Evo season. With this news, there could very well be a ring of truth to it. It’s not a bad thing, but if Evo was the reason for ASW’s release plans being what they are, it’s not exactly a good look, either. In short, it’s complicated.


One quick note: In addition to Street Fighter V: AE, traditionally the game to close out Evo, the other Sunday titles for this year include Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2, Dragon Ball FighterZTekken 7, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. While it’s a strong lineup, I’m torn on Melee’s inclusion.

I see what the Evo staff might be trying to do: The plan, provided both games find themselves on the main Evo lineup in the future, seems to be that Melee and Smash Bros. U will rotate Evo Sunday duties year to year. Still, I don’t see why the staff didn’t opt to ride the hot hand and give Smash Bros. U another go-round on Evo Sunday, given how phenomenal the game’s finals were last year. There’s more I could go into, but I’ll save that for a potential later entry.


By this point, you might be wondering: “Where’s Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite?”

For the first time since its introduction at Battle by the Bay 2000, the Marvel vs. Capcom series will not be on the main docket. Naturally, this has become the biggest story of the whole reveal show, yet there hasn’t been a concrete answer as to why. Cuellar said that player support for Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite “fizzled,” which is a rubbish statement when you consider the fact that entry numbers for the game have landed within the top five of every single major tournament it’s been in since launch.

However, tournament turnouts only tell half the story. The other half, to be blunt, is the fact that Infinite tanked. While many agree that the gameplay lives up to the series’ pedigree, they also mention that everything else does not. Between dull visuals, a roster with a handful of issues (leaning too heavily on the previous entry and banking on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success being chief among them), sparse single-player content, and questionable PR management in the months leading up to the game, the game has not been all that well-received, and is likely the reason why Infinite will be regulated to a side tournament at best.

While it’s not unreasonable to think that Marvel told Capcom to not lobby for the game in the main lineup as Julio suggested, I think there’s another possibility to consider. Perhaps Capcom realizes that they dropped the ball on Infinite, and are working behind the scenes to do something to improve it. Wishful thinking, to be sure, but I like to keep all possibilities on the table.


All things considered, I’m willing to say that this year’s Evo lineup is looking to be one of the stronger ones, even without the presence of Marvel vs. Capcom on the main roster. Granted, I do think it’s a bit heavy on the anime fighters, with three as opposed to two like they tend to carry. Otherwise, Evo 2018 should be an interesting experience. All that’s left to do now is count down the months and get ready for the next battle.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

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Quick Hits: Free-LC

Things might be turning around for our friends at Arc System Works.

Last night’s unveiling of the Evo 2018 games lineup didn’t have a whole lot of surprises; most figured that Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition would be there, as well as the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ and Super Smash Bros. Melee. But there was one reveal that caught many, present company included, very much off-guard.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, a game that found itself waist-deep in controversy with dodgy DLC plans a month ago, was announced as a part of the official Evo 2018 lineup. But in addition to that, Arc System Works announced that RWBY’s Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long were both going to be free downloadable content for everyone.

While it doesn’t answer people’s questions about details like the pricing for both the base game and downloadable character packs, this is very much a step in the right direction. RWBY‘s main quartet making their fighting game debut is arguably one of the larger draws of Cross Tag Battle, and the fact that half the team would be DLC didn’t sit well with many. It’s hard to tell whether or not this was Arc System Works’ plan all along, but regardless, it’s a solid move that should bring back anyone turned away by the initial DLC announcement.

Hopefully, Arc System Works will be just as smart about everything else going forward.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Cross Tag Controversy

Remember how excited I was for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle a few months back? Let’s just say things have changed a bit.


During this blog’s Holiday downtime, Arc System Works plugged along with announcing new characters for their team-based fighter, a four-franchise showcase following what is arguably their tentpole fighting game for 2018, Dragon Ball FighterZ. But while both games received positive press throughout the second half of 2017, Cross Tag Battle’s general perception went into a tailspin at the turn of the year.

Arc System Works’ Fighting Game Awards earlier in January presented a handful of new information on Cross Tag Battle, including official release dates. The game will release on May 31st in Japan, and June 5th everywhere else, meaning it will be coming out barely a year after its initial announcement at the Evo World Fighting Game Championship last July. A surprise, to be sure, but it didn’t seem bad…at least, until fans heard the next bit of news.

(Screencap courtesy of Arc System Works’ January trailer for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle)

The game’s roster will clock in at 40 characters from across the BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY universes. However, only the characters revealed between Evo and the ASW Fighting Game Awards will be available from the start, and since 20 characters had been unveiled in that period, it effectively means that the game will release with half a roster. The other half will be downloadable content, divvied up into six packs of three characters apiece, and two standalone characters.

What’s more, it was announced that Blake Belladonna of RWBY would be among those 20 DLC characters, presumably one of the two standalones. That revelation has lead to assumptions that Yang Xiao Long from the same series would be the other standalone DLC character, and that in turn indicates that Cross Tag Battle’s launch roster will only feature RWBY’s other two heroines, Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee.

Needless to say, backlash came in hot and heavy once word started making the rounds.


Really, what needs to be said that already hasn’t been? Of all the things Arc System Works could have done with Cross Tag Battle, paywalling half of its roster is the most boneheaded decision they could have made. Splitting up Team RWBY at the same time is just as short-sighted, and it’s an especially bad sting in the tail for any RWBY fans that might’ve been looking forward to this game on the premise that the series was getting a moment in the fighting game limelight for the first time.

Yes, there’s additional money to be made, and I understand wanting the game to have legs beyond its initial release. I also get that the RWBY characters take a little extra investment since they’re the only characters being created for this game from the ground-up. At the same time, however, this isn’t the way to go about turning a profit or extending the game’s lifespan. And as someone who was genuinely looking forward to this title, it’s disappointing. Arc System Works always seemed to be one of the smarter fighting game developers compared to the likes of Capcom, so to see them go down this road hurts.

Thankfully, details have come out recently to clear up the controversy. Director Toshimichi Mori has gone on record saying that the base game and downloadable content together would not total out to be that much more than a standard game, which is usually around $60 before any sales taxes kick in. DLC would also cost less than what it would normally, and if there’s enough positive reception on release, Cross Tag Battle may get additional updates beyond the initial DLC.

Arc System Works also mentioned on their official Twitter account that they have heard the outcry from fans, and as of this writing, will present something “very soon.”


Given the nature of this situation, there are a few potential scenarios that could play out. The first is that Arc System Works simply announces the official price points for both the base game and DLC, with the former being around $40 and the latter around $20 in total. Those prices wouldn’t be that bad in the long run, since, again, it would altogether cost about as much as a modern-day game would. While it still doesn’t fix the issue of having half the game’s cast locked behind a paywall, at least people would not be paying an arm and a leg for a complete roster.

Alternatively, Arc System Works could make substantial changes to their DLC plans. In this case, Arc System Works would delay the game’s releases by a month or two, and use the extra time to put Blake, Yang, and characters from two of the six DLC packs onto the main roster.

Personally, I’d argue the second scenario would work best. While it’s not a huge increase, 28 characters is a solid base to begin with for a tag fighter, and Arc System Works would still be able to add to the roster with the dozen DLC characters they have left. Plus, having all of Team RWBY will be sure to sway RWBY fans into purchasing the game early; whether or not they buy the DLC that comes afterward depends on whether or not the BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena and Under Night characters provide a knock-on effect.

With that being said, however, it’s more likely that Arc System Works will simply announce that the game and the DLC will be sold at lower price points than normal. It feels like this game is being made on a smaller budget than Dragon Ball FighterZ was, and a delay to implement more characters might not justify whatever is left. And while this is dipping more into tin foil hat territory, there could be internal pressure to get this game out as soon as possible to be in the running for this year’s Evo lineup, which is taking place in early August as opposed to the usual middle of July timeframe. It’s not like Arc System Works doesn’t already has a spot at Evo all but assured with Dragon Ball FighterZ’s staggering success, but that’s neither here nor there.


Regardless, Arc System Works needs to be smart about how they address their DLC plans. They already assured fans that they are aware of the backlash, which is a good start. Now it’s on them to prove to fans that they actually listened. And I hope that they have, because as a long-time BlazBlue fan and a more-recent RWBY fan, I want this game to succeed.

Whether or not they do rests squarely on what they do next.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

The Switch-List

The success of the Nintendo Switch has been mentioned many times over the course of this year, thanks in large part to a stellar Year One library of games. So, instead of focusing on that, let’s talk about five potential Switch titles I want to see.


What began with a smaller lineup headlined by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild way back in March has now grown to include just about anything you can think of. From Nintendo’s own brand names both old and new, to big-name third parties, and even smalltime indie developers, the Switch has something for everyone. Moreso, 2018 proves to be just as bountiful for the Switch, with games like Kirby Star Allies, a Yoshi’s Woolly World sequel, and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle primed for release.

Yet, while the Switch’s ever-growing library is a boon for many, the Big N especially, it can also get people wondering what else could make its mark there. Visions of franchises with games tailor-made for the hybrid’s capabilities are bound to tingle the nerve endings of many. There are bound to be plenty of wishlists for what people want to see in the Switch’s second year and beyond.

Present company included, of course.


For full disclosure, I’m going into this with very few “ground rules” to go off of, chief among them being that this is in no set order of most-wanted to least-wanted. Obviously, what I want to see needs to be plausible for Nintendo, meaning there needs to be realistic argument for a game’s chances at showing up on the system. That means nothing like ports of Horizon Zero Dawn or Cuphead will show up here, though those would certainly be sweet additions.

Also, I’ll be trying to shy away from what I like to call “gimmie picks,” or choices that are considered common among Nintendo enthusiasts, which means you won’t be seeing things like Animal Crossing or Super Smash Bros. on this list.

Other than all of that, just keep in mind that this is all personal opinion. With that out of the way, let’s get down to it.


Image result for Diddy Kong Racing
(Image courtesy of Nintendo Life)

Diddy Kong Racing
While a new Donkey Kong Country title following in the footsteps of Tropical Freeze is likely in the cards, I’d personally love to see Retro Studios revive another branch of the Country that hasn’t been touched for almost 20 years. Diddy Kong Racing was a kart racer ahead of its time when it launched on the Nintendo 64; in addition to a story mode, the game gave players three different vehicles to work with, and racetracks that took advantage of their capabilities. The framework for a DKR reboot is there, so it all comes down to Nintendo (and hopefully Retro Studios) ticking the right boxes. One thing they could do is make the gameplay more dynamic by introducing the ability to transform vehicles on the fly and adapt to changes in the course. Throw in a variety of environments and maybe a new soundtrack by original DKR composer David Wise, and we might have a challenger to Mario Kart’s throne on our hands.



(Image courtesy of Nintendo Life)

Kid Icarus
Once a prominent resident of Nintendo’s Island of Misfit Franchises, the Kid Icarus series found new life between a playable appearance by protagonist Pit in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the series’ first entry in over a quarter of a century four years later. Kid Icarus Uprising was released on the Nintendo 3DS to glowing reviews, with the only hang-up for most people being an awkward control scheme. Otherwise, the game’s gorgeous visuals, chaotic gameplay, whip-smart humor and excellent voicework made it a 3DS hallmark. While producer Masahiro Sakurai said that a sequel wasn’t likely, giving this game the high-def treatment would be the next best thing, alleviating the control issues many had before and introducing the series to people who may not have played it. Or, alternatively, Nintendo could hand the series’ reines over to a new director and try a new angle, such as a run-and-gun platformer similar to Gunstar Heroes or the aformentioned Cuphead.


Image result for Mario & Luigi Logo

(Image courtesy of the Mario & Luigi Wiki)

Mario & Luigi
The thought of a new Mario RPG on the Switch is sure to bring up discussion over how Nintendo should approach it, and there’s bound to be a number of people who want Paper Mario to go back to its turn-based roots. While that would be nice, I would personally be all for a new Mario & Luigi RPG. Reason being, not only are those games fun and exciting to play, but they’re also some of the funniest games in the Super Mario series. Of course, the only question from there would be what exactly Nintendo should do next; from its humble beginnings in Superstar Saga, the series has seen the brothers jump back and forth through time, explored the innards of their perennial nemesis Bowser, walk through dreamscapes, and even team up with Mario’s paper counterpart. There’s still plenty that hasn’t been introduced in the Mario & Luigi series as of yet, such as Rosalina from the Galaxy games or the cast of Donkey Kong Country, so it can’t be that difficult to find a new angle to play off of.


Image result for Panel de Pon

(Image courtesy of Nintendo Wiki)

Panel de Pon
Nintendo’s been willing to take a chance on new franchises like Splatoon and ARMS, and the payoff for both has been excellent. So why not take the same chances and try to not just revive an older franchise, but bring one to the west? Panel de Pon is a fairly obscure puzzle game that was given a Yoshi’s Island reskin and turned into Tetris Attack over in the States. It’s an interesting kind of puzzle game where you clear out stacks of blocks rather than guiding them to where they should go like in Tetris or Puyo Puyo.  A game like Panel de Pon would make for some healthy competition with the current king of Switch puzzlers, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and with how speedrun friendly games like Super Mario Odyssey have been, Nintendo could make this a perfect game for races. With an overhaul to the game’s cutesy artstyle and maybe a gameplay tweak here and there, Panel de Pon could be a hit in the west in Nintendo wants to take a gamble on it.


Image result for Star Fox

(Image courtesy of Engadget)

Star Fox
Much like Fire Emblem, Star Fox has the potential to be an essential part of Nintendo’s higher-tier IPs. The issue is that the Big N doesn’t seem to know what to do with it; the franchise has been in a constant state of flux, rebooting itself every few generations with a few games along the way. As annoying as it might sound to some, I do think that one more reboot of Star Fox on the Switch could be what the series needs. However, the big difference is that this time, Nintendo shouldn’t follow the blueprints laid out by the original SNES title; keep the essential elements of the series, certainly, and Nintendo could even pull from other games in the series like Star Fox 2, which has received overall decent marks thanks to its SNES Classic release. But in general, Nintendo should make it discernible enough for it to stand on its own.  Whether they ask Platinum Games to try again, or even call on another developer like Treasure Games, having a solid Star Fox game on the Switch could be the start of something beautiful.


Will Nintendo answer all of these wishes? Realistically, no, but it never hurts to dream. There are other third party games I’d like to see make it to the Switch, but this piece has gone on long enough, so I’ll wrap it here and perhaps make a Part 2 later on. But I leave you with something that’s been said multiple times before, but bears a reminder: Nintendo has been on a massive tear this year, and if they keep playing their cards right, regardless of what comes out, Year Two is going to be just as amazing.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Can’t Escape From Switching Fate

(Video courtesy of Arc System Works’ official YouTube page)

One of the most pleasant surprises to come out of last July’s Evo World Championships was the announcement of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Hot off the heels of Central Fiction’s Top 8 finals, Arc System Works revealed that BlazBlue would be stepping into the world of crossover fighters for the first time. It was revealed that the series would be teaming up with characters from two other Arc System Works properties, Persona 4 Arena and Under Night In-Birth.

But to the surprise of many, ASW pulled out one last surprise that day: Rooster Teeth’s animated web series RWBY would be making its fighting game debut here, which meant Cross Tag Battle would be an unprecedented four-way crossover. On an afternoon full of tournament upsets and surprise reveals, this game stood as one of the best of the latter.


Following its July unveiling, ASW has been slowly snowballing momentum with new info. Three more characters were announced in September, and a playable demo was at New York Comic-Con earlier this month.

(Video courtesy of Arc System Works’ official YouTube page)

The real juicy news, however, came the week after Comic-Con. At Rooster Teeth’s inaugural RTX London event, Arc System Works revealed the systems the game would be featured on when it launches next year. These include Sony’s Playstation 4, Steam, and most-notably, the Nintendo Switch.

So. Show of hands: Who saw that coming?

Nintendo has already been having a monster year with the success of the Switch. 2017 has seen an embarrassment of great titles for the system, and there are even more on the way between the rest of this year and all of 2018. This now includes Cross Tag Battle, a title that most would’ve expected to not show up on a Nintendo console.

(Then again, nobody was counting on DOOM and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to show up on the Switch, either, and yet both are on their way to the Switch.)


What does this mean in the long run? A few observations:

  • Cross Tag Battle gives the Switch another high-profile fighting game franchise for its portfolio in the form of BlazBlue. There’s already a decent array of fighting games for the Switch that include the likes of Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers and Nintendo’s own ARMS, as well as smaller upcoming fighters like Blade Strangers. But Arc System Works is considered by many to be one of the best non-Capcom fighting game developers in the industry. They’re responsible for three of Cross Tag Battle’s four franchises, as well as the upcoming Dragon Ball FighterZ (which could also see a Switch release if the demand is there), and their legendary Guilty Gear series. That’s a helluva feather in Nintendo’s cap.
  • Similar to the previous point, this reaffirms the notion that third parties are willing to work with Nintendo again. A nagging issue during the Wii U’s lifespan was the sparse third-party support, which forced Nintendo to rely on its own franchises and smaller indie developers to fill out the system’s library. Now, developers and publishers like Bethesda, Square-Enix, and Arc System Works are willing to bring the big guns to the Switch’s library. This could even attract developers and publishers that Nintendo didn’t mention last year when the Switch was first shown off.
  • Finally, while I might be reading too far into things, I believe that Cross Tag Battle on the Switch could open the door for future communications between Nintendo and Rooster Teeth Games. Obviously, it doesn’t mean we’ll see a Red vs. Blue Switch title or Team RWBY being in the mix for the next Super Smash Bros. entry, but if all goes well, Rooster Teeth may be keen to call on Nintendo for future game developments. In addition to Rooster Teeth web series properties like RWBY, Camp Camp, or next year’s Gen:Lock, original titles in the vein of Super Rad Raygun and BattleSloths 2025: The Great Pizza Wars could also find homes on the Switch. It’s all just conjecture, of course, but if Rooster Teeth Games and Nintendo strike an alliance, it could make for some interesting stuff in the future.

Nintendo, for the most part, has been hitting all the right notes this year. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and ARMS have been home runs, and Super Mario Odyssey is primed to put an exclamation mark on the Switch’s first year in the open. But what’s more, the fact that they managed to get a massive crossover fighting game like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle on the Switch is a testament to how they’ve turned their fortunes around from the Wii U days. The only question that remains is where Nintendo could go from here.

Nobody truly knows the answer at this point, but I’d say the future’s looking pretty bright.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Where Have All the Smash Bros. Gone?

2017 has, so far, seen Nintendo return to the high life again, thanks in large part to the success of its newest all-in-one console, the Switch. From its modest launch lineup headlined by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the system has amassed an all-star library of games, ranging from new franchises to pleasant surprises. What’s more is that there are plenty more amazing titles on the way for 2018.

Yet, there’s one entry that’s still missing from the Switch’s already-vast catalogue. One that everyone has expected Nintendo to unveil at one point or another, and so far, it hasn’t happened.

(Video courtesy of the official Nintendo YouTube Page)

The Super Smash Bros. franchise is one of Nintendo’s crown jewels, a fantastical compilation of the Big N’s extensive history brought to life in the form of a platform-based fighting game. It also holds the distinction as both a fun party brawler for Saturday evenings with friends, and a competitive juggernaut for tournament-level players. Much like many of Nintendo’s other franchises, Super Smash Bros. has a little something for everyone.

With each new Nintendo console starting from the 64 era, a new Smash Bros. title has graced it. Melee was the king of the Gamecube (and is still a fixture of tournaments today), Brawl was one of the Wii’s finest, and the more-recent Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS took the series even higher on two systems; the Wii U version, much like Melee, also sees regular time as a tournament fixture. Now that the Wii U era has come and gone, the world turns its eyes to the Switch.


There have been a handful of major events this year where many expected Smash Bros. to make its presence on the Switch officially known to the world. The pre-release Switch event held in January showed off much of the system’s library, including the debut of Nintendo’s newest franchise ARMS, and next month’s Super Mario Odyssey. Sadly, Smash Bros. was not among the titles shown off.

E3 in June showed off even more for the Switch, with games like Kirby: Star Allies and a new Yoshi’s Woolly World sequel, and the more recent Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle, which has been met with critical acclaim thus far. Once again, however, Smash Bros. was nowhere to be seen.

Some even thought that the Evolution World Championship fighting game tournament series could have been a perfect stage to show off a new title, especially with Smash Bros. for Wii U’s Top 8 getting an extra signal boost on Disney XD. Of course, Nintendo wasn’t even officially there.

There have also been smaller Nintendo Directs where people have predicted the game to show up, but those seem too small in scope for the reveal of a series entry as grandiose as this.

So, with almost a quarter of 2017 left to go and many of the bigger gaming events in the rear-view, the question arises: When will we see Super Smash Bros. on the Switch?


It should be noted that this isn’t a question of whether or not the Switch will see a new entry in the series. At this point, a Super Smash Bros. entry on the Switch is as safe a bet as the Golden State Warriors winning the Western Conference in the NBA this coming season. This is more of a matter of when this new entry will see the light of day.

Also, I’m ruling out the possibility of this entry simply being a high-definition remake of Super Smash Bros. Melee, perhaps the most-beloved entry in the series by the hardcore crowd. Granted, this could happen at some point in the far-flung future, as Nintendo has some understanding of how big competitive Melee is. Not to mention, an HD remake could go a long way towards bringing the title into the future minus the CRT televisions many tournaments still use today. As far as the immediate future goes, however, an HD Melee is not in the cards.

That being said, the more-likely scenario is that this is a port of the Wii U and 3DS games, in line with the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Pokken Tournament DX. All of the content from the previous games returns, including downloadable content such as characters and Mii Fighter costume parts, while also adding in some new goodies like brand-new characters, stages, and even game modes if possible.

Of course, this port wouldn’t necessarily need much more given how jam-packed the previous game was, but it never hurts to dream, right?


In any event, let’s get back to the question at hand. And as far as I can tell, there are two possibilities as to when we will see Super Smash Bros. make its Switch debut. The first, as luck would have it, is actually coming up very soon.

(Video courtesy of the official Nintendo YouTube page)

As of this writing, we are a week away from the third Nintendo World Championships tournament, the third in its history and first since 2015, when it was held prior to E3 that year. In the past, the Nintendo World Championships have been known to pull out one last surprise for the finale; the very first one showed off Super Mario Bros. 3, and the second showed off Super Mario Maker. So it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the fate of the NWC title come down to a few rounds of Smash Bros. on the Switch.

The other possibility ties into another scenario that runs opposite of my first one: This game may not be a port of the previous games, but an all-new entry that won’t be out until 2019. That might seem far-flung, but keep in mind that 2019 is the series’ 20th anniversary, and Nintendo will likely want to celebrate it in style given how big it’s gotten over the years, both casually and competitively. And while it may seem like a long wait, the Switch is seeing no shortage of great games coming out over the next year, and there very well could be even more big titles beyond what we know of waiting in the wings. By that logic, it’s not like Nintendo is in dire need of a new Smash Bros. to bolster its sales.


Ultimately, I don’t know when it will happen, or what exactly it will be. For all I know, it could be either a bulked-up port, or a fresh entry to the series. It may come next year, or the year after. But mark my words; Smash Bros. will come to the Switch at some point in time. Right now, it’s all a matter of “Wait-and-See.”

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Expectation vs. Reality: First Impressions of Icons

One of the things I pride myself on when it comes to this blog is that I’m honest. You’ll never hear me sugarcoat anything; I will always tell it like it is however I want to say it, regardless of what the consequences may be.

So, with that said, let me start off by saying that Icons: Combat Arena isn’t looking too hot right now.


I wrote a few months ago about Wavedash Games’ first big project, a platform fighter tailor-made for the competitive Super Smash Bros. scene. Well, they finally showed off the game to the public at Evo over the weekend, gameplay and all, and its initial reception has been…rather tepid. In general, people have commented on things like its presentation and gameplay, deriding them as, to put it mildly, subpar and generic. In an Evo weekend that was chock full of surprises, this was one of the few duds to come out of it.

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that this is coming from someone who has experience with Melee, both from playing the game casually and spectating competitive matches. If any of this seems foreign to you, I apologize and recommend researching the competitive Melee scene to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about. With that out of the way, let’s talk about Icons’ troubles.


We’ll start with the game’s presentation. In fairness, the look, sound and speed of the game as it stands is forgivable, albeit still hard to take in. It’s explicitly-stated to be in pre-alpha, so of course it’s going to be slower and rough around the edges. Given a little more time and TLC, it’ll hopefully look smoother, sound better, and play faster when it exits beta. So, for the moment, I’ll let them pass on presentation and game speed.

For gameplay, I will say that the Gust Shield (a mechanic similar to pushblocking in traditional fighting games) is a cool idea for a platform fighter, but other than that, it looks like Super Smash Bros. Melee all over again. I do want to see if there are more new ideas and concepts mixed in. As of now, gameplay barely squeaks by.


Where this game truly falters is the gameplay of its characters. Ashani, Kidd, Raymer, Xana, and a new sword-swinging character named Zhurong were all shown off in motion for the first time. Aside from Raymer, whose projectile zoning seems unique enough, you’d swear this game was a Chinese Super Smash Bros. Melee bootleg with all the similarities to Melee‘s beloved cast. Granted, that seems to be what a lot of people are saying, but it’s true.

Zhurong and Kidd are the biggest offenders here. The former has normal moves that are evocative to Fire Emblem’s Marth, right down to the ability to perform the “Ken Combo,” a short aerial sequence that spells certain doom for anyone caught by the blade.

Meanwhile, Kidd is a dead-ringer for Star Fox characters Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi. This includes a laser pistol and a reflector for offensive and defensive purposes, often referred to as a “Shine.” The only things that are remotely unique are some of his horn attacks, but that’s about it.

To round out the rest of the knockoffs, Ashani moves and strikes much like F-Zero’s Captain Falcon, and even though she’s a rare true grappler in the platform fighter genre, Xana borrows a few tricks from the big bad of The Legend of Zelda, Ganondorf. It all adds up to a roster that looks fine visually, but feels painfully uninspired when it comes to the playstyles they convey.


Now, I understand the desire to retain the spirit of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee. Even if most major Melee tournaments consist of some combination of the same five people, the mental and physical dexterity that’s shown off in competitive matches are in a league of their own. However, I believe that creativity is an important component in the development of any sort of medium, and as such, it should not be sacrificed in the name of preserving legacy. The last thing a team of creators should do when developing a spiritual successor is forgo creativity and bank on nostalgia being the lone driving force of a project; doing so hurts your bottom line more than helps it. Not to say that Wavedash Games is deliberately doing this, but with the nods to competitive Melee lore…don’t try and tell me Kidd isn’t a send-up to some of Melee‘s competitive gods…it almost feels like that’s what’s going on here.

(Video courtesy of Dan Fornace’s YouTube channel)

There are many instances where old and new concepts were successfully synthesized. In fact, let’s talk about another platform fighter that does this, and more importantly, does it well: Dan Fornace’s Rivals of Aether. Some of the game’s playable cast borrows from popular Melee gameplay archetypes, but uses classic natural elements like water and fire (as well as their respective offshoot elements like ice and smoke) to put creative spins on them.

One example of this concept in action is Wrastor, an avian wind-based battler who, much like Falco, prefers the air. On a base level, Wrastor’s moveset borrows from the likes of Falco and Captain Falcon, but what really sets him apart is his side special. It creates a slipstream that increases his aerial mobility, as well as his ability to perform air combos, making him a terror to face in the sky. And that’s before getting into the fact that he’s the only character in the game that can perform chargeable strong moves while in the air.

To be blunt, Rivals of Aether’s roster has more of a unique personality and creative ambition to it than Icons does at the moment. It strikes that fine balance between nostalgia and creativity, retaining the competitive aspects of Melee while blazing new trails at the same time. And it’s only going to get better with more new characters on the way, including the guest duo of Ori and Sein from the runaway hit Ori and the Blind Forest.

Meanwhile, Icons is being compared to a Chinese bootleg game. The platform fighter revolution we’ve been waiting for, am I right?


I wanted to see Wavedash Games do something unique with this game, and so far they’ve failed with regards to their characters’ gameplay. They may have said in a recent AMA that there’s more to these characters than what the trailer shows off, and I want to believe that. However, that just begs the question of why they didn’t show any of those unique character qualities off in the first place. Yes, it’s not feasible to show off every single difference these characters have, but showing at least one or two would’ve given people enough confidence that this wasn’t going to be another me-too Smash Bros. clone. First impressions mean everything in the long run, and the first glimpse of Icons, to me and several other people, did not give a good first impression.

And what’s worse is that this has less to do with the graphics, sound design and game speed, and more to do with how the characters play. If all you show off are one-to-one copies of Marth’s normal attacks or Fox’s Blaster and Reflector, you’re not instilling much faith in people who expect to see platform fighters taken to another level. As harsh as I may seem here, it’s only because I want to see these guys redefine what platform fighters are capable of.

Then again, there’s still time before they officially launch the game to show off more and tweak what they have. I’m willing to give Wavedash Games the benefit of the doubt for now, as Icons still has some promise to it. But until they show off more of their roster’s unique qualities, that first impression is going to stick.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom