Long-term GNamerians will know of my over-fondness for not just the Smash franchise, but also Meteos, a space-themed DS match-three game, directed by none other than Masahiro Sakurai. The reason I’m exhuming that particular horse for another thwack is its main menu. You could use the touch screen to operate it, natch, and also to move the icons around, shifting the others out of the way. It was enjoyably tactile, offering literally seconds of fun.
So why, in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, can I not even operate the menus on the Gamepad? SAKURAI!
It’s a nitpick, but almost any criticism of SSBU is going to be picking nits. This piece was going to be a review, until I realised that I was going to spend it doing more whining than a Parisian at lunchtime, before giving the game an incongruous 10/10.
So let me state this here: SSBU is the finest fighting game that I’ve ever played.
But it’s not perfect. It doesn’t improve enough on Brawl in some areas, and goes backwards in others. So I thought I’d use it as a basis to talk about where Super Smash Bros. 5/Kerfuffle/for Wii3 (No Wait, It’s a Different Console, Come Back) can go next, and what it can learn.
Spare Some Change, Guv
The cliché is that there are two types of change: evolution or revolution. Smash Bros. can’t revolt much, as a series: the fighting has stayed pretty much the same since Mêlée introduced Side-Bs and chargeable Smash Attacks, and that’s what its fans want.
Think of how the same fanbase that moaned about Dark Pit’s inclusion (more on that later) would react to SSB5 becoming a football sim., or a turn-based RPG. (Although I would play the pixels out of either.)
So there aren’t many big obvious changes for the taking, although I’ve got a couple of ideas.
Greater than Eight
Eight-player Smash is probably the biggest change to Brawl's formula in SSBU, and probably the most friends most could reasonably get around the screen in local multiplayer. Online has no such qualms.
The Great Cave Offensive still seems a tad bloated with eight players: what about sixteen? Or could we have an entire thirty-two-player war on the Smash Run island, based around collecting treasures and hit-and-run?
The Smash series’ temperamental Internet seems to have improved since the lagfest of Brawl (not that I’d know *sob*): this would appear to be the obvious next level, if Nintendo’s servers can handling it without Smart Bomb-ing.
The other idea I have applies more to specific stages. We’ve had bosses, like Ridley and the Yellow Devil, mixing things up in SSBU.
Now imagine a Xenoblade Chronicles X stage (possibly a huge one for 16 players) where, during the match, a mech becomes available. You get into said mech, your controls change depending on the mech, your stats. go through the roof; but anyone killing you deducts two lives from your total unless you barrel out for others to grab. Risk/reward, innit?
“So, like Titanfall, then?” ...yes, a bit, I suppose. On other stages you could control Samus’ gunship, or legendary Pokémon, for a similar effect. The balancing would need to be top, but Sakurai likes getting his aching fingers dirty with that sort of thing.
(When I was younger, I also had an idea for multi-frame fighting. Fighters could enter a building in the background and duke it out in there instead. Funnily enough, this idea then turned up in SSBU, in the new Donkey Kong stage. So where are my royalties? SAKURAAII!!)
With the major changes exhausted, we turn to evolution. Adding some stuff, taking away some stuff, changing stuff that didn’t quite work. Just how Darwin likes it.
Smash has always been big on this: “Did you like this stuff we had last game? HAVE SOME MORE.” I’ll concentrate on just three of the areas where I’d like to see MORE, omitting things like music, items, Assist Trophies, or custom moves. (I have a lot of opinions about Smash Bros.)
Characters: This will happen. SSB5 will have more characters. And SSB4 did it well, bringing us interesting new fighting styles like the pair of Rosalina and Luma, the aerially incompetent Little Mac, and the quadrupedal triple-team of the Duck Hunt Duo (see the naming flaw there?). More of those will be fine, so there’s not much to say here.
Only... no clones, please. I don’t care if they require minimal development time: I don’t want to have to complete every mode with Pit twice. Oh, and let’s have a bit more character in the Miis next time. Customisable voices would be a good start.
Stages: As crucial a part of the games as the characters, SSB4 seemingly skimped on these. The Wii U game had far too grand a share of retro-to-new stages, including no new F-Zero or Mother stages at all; the 3DS game went the whole hog, with main franchises like Donkey Kong and Starfox having no new courses. If a couple of retro stages have to make way for more new ones, that’s a price I am more than willing to pay.
Modes: This is simple. Bring back the SubSpace Emissary, only with more classic enemies and fewer duffers (anyone remember the Feyesh? How about the Trowlon? No?). The Wii U game’s “Orders” modes, though fun, couldn’t compete with a proper campaign and decking Rayquaza in the face.
Running out of room on the disc? Feel free to scrap Smash Tour. Supposedly geared towards the more casual player, I’d rather treat my less gamey friends to Mario Kart 8 than subject them to that mess. SAKURAAAIII!!!
The Lord Giveth...
Implementing all of the above will take time and effort, not to mention money. Things like sixteen-player online and creating thirty new stages don’t do themselves. Thankfully, I have an easy solution to give that time back: don’t do a portable version.
I was so excited at the thought of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, in the face of others’ cynicism. I’m a big man: I can admit when I’m wrong.
I haven’t played the portable game since SSBU came out. It feels like a step back: fewer stages (especially new ones), fewer modes, less music, obviously less pretty. At the same time, it meant that I didn’t get any excitement from discovering characters on the far superior Wii U game. And abandoning the idea should prevent Sakurai having to limit his game to fit on a less powerful platform.
If there is to be a new Smash Bros. game on a handheld, it should be something completely different with interactive capabilities. Maybe an epic JRPG... (At this point I’ve stopped saving time and money, and started dreaming.)
New Challengers Approaching...
I should state at this point that I would buy SSB5 if it squirted anthrax out of the Wii U’s disc slot. I love making Nintendo characters beat up other Nintendo characters (and occasionally their third-party friends, I grudgingly suppose). Shulk vs. Marth vs. Bowser vs. Greninja, on Gaur Plain, with Metal Face, is approaching a dream scenario for me.
So these things, which are all products of my personal opinion anyway, don’t need to be in the game for me to buy it. I’d take a game with the bare minimum of character and stage updates, and while I’d be disappointed, I’d certainly get my money’s worth.
But I’m sure that Sakurai, or whoever will succeed him, will work jolly hard to go above and beyond the call of duty to give me things I never knew I wanted in the game, like having a stage based in a Virtual Boy game, and letting me play as the blue-haired boy from Shin Onigashima. At the same time, completely ignoring the fans’ calls for playable Ridley. That’s just how they roll.
But they’d better give me my touchable menus. SAKURAAAAAIIIII!!!!!!!!!
(Thank you to various people around the Internet for not suing me for using your images.)