The Ultimate Showdown…and Ultimate Uncertainty

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 other things:

  • 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. That said, 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,
Tom

Advertisements

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