Why Smash Bros. matters, and why it doesn’t

Between fighting with my brothers and losing a few friends, Smash Bros. has certainly made an impact on my life.

It’s a relatively simple idea, right? Get the best characters, put them into one game, and see who would win in a fight. In 1999, the game developed by Hal Laboratories found an unprecedented following using this formula.

And it’s one they’ve been able to successfully emulate for three subsequent games.

Luigi

A week ago, Nintendo announced the latest iteration in the series with an HD version and portable version being released to players sometimes in 2014. As with the last game in the series, speculation about who is in and who is out has already started.

According to an interview with game director Masahiro Sakurai with Polygon, he said that the character selection process was stressful almost bringing him to the brink of death… perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.

“The amount of stress I feel, it’s almost to the brink of death,” Mr. Sakurai said referencing the Smash Bros.‘s new character roster.

“Because it’s not just a matter of me personally thinking this character or that character is going to be in the game; it’s that we also have the game balance, animation, graphics and sound to think about in order to make that character fully fleshed out in that universe. I have to think about all of that when I go through this decision-making process.” | Via Polygon

While the process brought the game’s creators to the brink of death it’s brought the Internet to its knees with hundreds of posts going up by the day speculating on new characters.

A lot of the ones you find online are pretty funny, but some of them really make you think, “What if he or she was in the game?!” With the massive amounts of speculation going on it kind of makes you wonder, “Why does everyone seem to care what characters are in the new game?”

I’ll tell you why.

Near to the end of the Post Arcade’s Nintendo Direct Live Coverage, Smash Bros. was finally rolled out before our eyes. It’s high-definition, it’s portable, and it has a whole new set of characters including the original cast, but one of the new characters has caught the eye of fans.

Seeing The Villager enter into the ring was entertaining and the fallout of his demonic appearance – I don’t really get why people think of him this way – has been funny to watch.

To be honest, it’s been a bit of a forced meme. He’s far from the malevolent character presented by the Internet, and I think this comic pretty much sums up how he’d respond as a real person. What this explosion of online image macros and captions means is this:

From Comboni | Deviantart

From Comboni | Deviantart

Of all of the Smash Bros. games to exist, this one will be under the most scrutiny when it comes to its character selection. No wonder Mr. Sakurai says its brought him to the brink of death.

But when Megaman appeared… oh man that was a heart stopping moment. It exemplified the kind of “surprise” the series has become known for since Nintendo created the Smash Bros. Dojo – the website is down, but still thought to link – before the release of the last game.

It was a kind of tournament area for players to get them hyped up about the new character in the game. Right now the Dojo is silent, but over the next few months Nintendo and Namco Bandai are going to be rolling out a lot of hype for players.

The Smash Bros. character selection has become part of Nintendo games/character’s social validation. In other words, it’s like having your album – keep in mind I’m a child of the 90’s – covered by Weird Al Yankovic.

The Villager and the Wii Fit Trainer, who looks like an awesome character btw, are examples of Nintendo trying to brand new and unique players to keep them guessing about who will be coming next.

WiiFit

Just read this freaking article, it’s already starting to speculate about who is coming next… all aboard the Nintendo Hype Train! As I said in my last article, with how divisive the Sony and Microsoft were at this year’s E3 it’s nice seeing one company really keeping to what they do best.

Think about it, Nintendo is doing its best to avoid the blunders of games like PlayStation All Stars that seemingly pulled at anyone they could simply plop into the game. The only way they can do this is by slaving over the character selection to see who really makes sense for players.

No one wants a character to show up like Young Link, Dr. Mario, or Pichu this generation. We want to see who Nintendo think its worthy because it can lead to sequels – like with Pit – or a rediscovery of why they are awesome characters – like with Lucas.

It’s why Sonic appeared in the last game and now he has such a strong presence on Nintendo’s consoles.

***

The character roster represent a kind of bell weather for where Nintendo is going. Seeing a revival of certain characters in Smash Bros. means a lot, not only to fans, but to those watching to see why a Wii U might be the console for them.

I’ll create a little post later on about some characters who could appear in the new game and why licensing is a huge deal when it comes to the third-party roster.

But what do you think, is this the most important Smash Bros. game to date? Is social validation of characters a sign of Nintendo’s future? Am I looking to much into the character roster?

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4 thoughts on “Why Smash Bros. matters, and why it doesn’t

  1. Apparently, Sakurai wasn’t so keen on even making Brawl. I read in an article about a year ago that Sakurai wanted to focus on quality instead of just quantity, in this case being characters. I’m glad that the new game will have the Wii Fit Trainer and Mega Man! I can’t wait to see what other characters will be added to the game as well!

    • It’s really good to see her in the game :), I think Nintendo is off on the right foot bringing in unexpected characters, but Nintendo fans want to see more third-party characters even if Sakurai says not to expect too many of them. I’m already feeling pretty excited about who they might unveil next, but I’m not expecting to see anyone like Andy from Advance wars any time soon… though I hope he’s an option.

      • Well, they wanted to put in Tekken characters and I don’t know if they still want to do that (or are able to do that). I want to see Geno and Lord Ghirahim. Oh yeah, and Chibi Robo. 😀

  2. Lord Ghirahim for sure :), I don’t think they’ll replace Ganondorf with him however (thank goodness I play as him all of the time). Geno is a hard sell since he’s technically a Square character, though he seems perfect. As for Chibi Robo… I have him on the list I’m making up for tomorrow 😛

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