FROM THE AUTHOR
So…it’s been almost four months since my last piece. Whoops!
Sorry about that. The thing is, life’s been busy for me lately, what with trying to find a permanent job and all. I recently worked a short-term job that finished a while ago, so I’ve been trying to get my writer’s groove back in the meantime. I won’t make any specific promises, but I should be updating this a bit more regularly from here on. I apologize once again for the lull in writing, and hope you enjoy this latest piece!
(Video courtesy of Nintendo’s official YouTube page)
2018 is the year of “Ambitious Crossovers.” In a year that has seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe come together to challenge its greatest threat, and the universes of BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY all collide in a world-bending tag team tournament, Nintendo is ready to answer with its biggest multiverse mashup ever later this year.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was the Big N’s tentpole title for E3 2018. Its biggest draw is the fact that it brings back every single character from the series’ twenty-year history, while adding in a few new faces to keep things fresh. Metroid’s Ridley, long-thought to be ineligible due to his towering stature, joins the cast alongside the Inkling from Splatoon, with the two of them being the only whole-new characters as of this writing. Meanwhile, Princess Daisy from the Super Mario series debuts as what’s known as an “Echo Character,” a character that has similar traits to another (Peach, in this instance) while also having enough uniqueness to work as a standalone entity.
When considering the re-addition of returning lost characters, the likes of which include Wolf O’ Donnell from Star Fox and Solid Snake from Metal Gear, the total number for this roster is a staggering 65, though the game’s official website suggests that there may be at least one more newcomer waiting in the wings for later. On top of that, the game is also set to feature mechanical tweaks that are sure to thrill competitive enthusiasts.
Indeed, Smash Bros. Ultimate is looking to be the definitive experience across the board. The evolution of the series from its humble Nintendo 64 roots has absolutely lead to this, a culmination of Masahiro Sakurai’s near-twenty years of work on the Super Smash Bros. franchise. With all of that being said, however, that just leaves one question:
Where does the series go from here?
Yeah, I get it. Ultimate was only announced a few days ago, so why speculate now? Well, for one thing, it’s fun. It’s also a valid question to ask even now; Nintendo showed the most important card in its hand, and despite the game being half a year away from its December release, it’s still something worth pondering. Maybe it’s too early to start speculating the future of Super Smash Bros. as a series beyond Ultimate. In fact, it could be argued that it’s poor form. But the fact of the matter is that Nintendo will have to address this question at some point.
So with that said, while there are plenty of possibilities for what could happen to the series after Ultimate, let’s focus on two.
The first is that the game becomes a “platform,” title, meaning it gets updated regularly with new fighters, stages, and cosmetics like costumes; basically, think along the lines of League of Legends and Overwatch. (And no, that would not necessarily mean resorting to using a Lootbox-style system.) This would ensure that the game not only sees life past Day One, but each new character released has a chance to shake up the metagame, and would be adding to a roster that is already the strongest the series has ever seen, and that’s regardless of whether they’re entirely new, or an Echo Character.
Of course, it’s not the rosiest option. The main challenge in making Ultimate a platform is that Nintendo would need to devote more time and energy into supporting it. Sure, they’ve supported games like Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, ARMS, and the first two Splatoon games past their eventual releases, but those were only for so long. It’s not impossible, but the idea of keeping the game alive indefinitely with regular updates sounds taxing for Sakurai, a man who has been known for working himself to the bone. Also, Nintendo would likely want members of Ultimate’s development team to work on other upcoming titles; granted, I don’t foresee Nintendo being in danger of stretching themselves thin, but keeping fresh minds available for future projects would be the smarter route to take.
Then there’s the second option, which would likely be the most divisive amongst the entire community, both competitive and casual alike: Reboot the series. This is a particularly-loaded idea, as it would mean doing a few different things, but amongst many others:
- Pairing the roster down to a select list of Nintendo’s best and brightest.
- Renovating some of the old characters like Mario with new sets of skills.
- Introducing potential new universal mechanics to freshen up the gameplay.
- Maintaining a fine balance between competitive and casual appeal.
Obviously, Nintendo doesn’t necessarily need to go whole-hog if they decide to hit the reset button on Super Smash Bros., though it could be argued that some aspects such as specific character movesets feel a bit long in the tooth. Of course, the series could stand to benefit from some changes and additions to make it feel new again. It should be noted that characters in Ultimate have received some significant adjustments, such as Link receiving a moveset centered on his incarnation from Breath of the Wild, but for other characters whose kits might not have been changed as much over the generations, some retooling could go a long way.
The idea of rebuilding the entire series from the ground up could be risky, and turn into a hot-button issue for some fans of the series. Most fans may be afraid of their favorite character(s) being left off the initial roster, or in a worse-case scenario, not being included at all. Fighting game franchises like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are no strangers to losing old faces with new entries, and people do get upset when their favorite is nowhere to be seen. But especially in the case of Super Smash Bros., which features some of the most iconic gaming names in the world, people may not take kindly to their favorite being left in the dust.
To reiterate, maybe speculating the series’ future in a post-Ultimate world at this point is premature, but it’s something I can’t help but wonder about. While the thought of bringing back every single character from the series’ history is awe-inspiring and wonderful, it does leave the future of the series a bit hazy. I don’t think Nintendo has to answer this question immediately, but at some point…whether it’s during the Switch era or sometime after…they’ll have to. Super Smash Bros. has become a household name for them, and it’s clear that Ultimate is the zenith of Sakurai’s work. So it does beg the question of where the series goes next.
For now, though, let’s bask in the fact that the most ambitious crossover in the history of media is just on the horizon.
‘Til we meet again,