It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when the Smash series didn’t have a dedicated fanbase; it didn’t have a competitive scene, there were no memes, no tier lists, and no petitions to include Waluigi in the next game. From the beginning, Super Smash Bros. gave us 12 playable characters, asked us to choose our favorite, and then beat the snot out of the others. And we absolutely loved it.
Duke it Out as Your Favorite Nintendo Characters!
When the original Super Smash Bros. launched back in 1999, it led to dozens of potential matchup opportunities. Matches could range from Pikachu vs. Kirby, Mario vs. Link, and Samus vs. that kid from that one obscure RPG on Super Nintendo (I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t have a clue what EarthBound was at the time). The beauty of Smash came from every Nintendo fan’s desire to see who would win in an all-out battle between different franchise mascots. So any time someone on your local playground said that Donkey Kong could totally beat Kirby in a fight, you had the power to prove them wrong!
Duke it Out with Other Players that Disagree With Your Opinion!
Over the next decade, we would see two new Smash games hit the market: Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube and Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. This is where the newly established fanbase started to become divided; on one hand, competitive players strongly preferred the more advanced techniques and fast speed of Melee, but felt frustrated with the inclusion of random tripping and floaty physics in Brawl. On the other hand, some Brawl players enjoyed the more casual nature of the latest entry and were just happy to see so many new characters and stages in the game. The sad truth was, no matter which side you chose, you were still wrong.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that every Smash fan chose a side and stuck with it. There were plenty of fans that enjoyed both Melee and Brawl all the same; but there existed a vocal majority that couldn’t find peace between the two opposing arguments. It was at this time that Smash Bros. was starting to become less about dreaming up iconic new characters (and Wii Fit Trainer) to join the fight and more endless disagreement over which game was superior. If you loved Melee, you were called an elitist. If you loved Brawl, you were labeled a casual.
Unfortunately, this same “logic” carried over in the next entry, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS (aka Smash 4). Despite having a far more active competitive scene than Brawl and adding tons of new content, there were long-time fans that still shunned it as an inferior entry. Some expressed disapproval in the lack of single-player content, while others felt there was a lack of true combos for fighters to use. There were even certain characters that had to be banned from tournaments for being broken (if you thought Meta Knight was bad in Brawl, enter pre-nerf Diddy Kong…). No matter how fantastic of a game Smash 4 was and still is, it seemed like many fans were still disappointed in the end.
So where exactly can the series go from here? How can it possibly win back multiple generations of fans? Well, Masahiro Sakurai has an idea.
Bring the Whole Community Together One Last Time
Ok, so it’s tough to say if Super Smash. Bros Ultimate will really be the final entry in the series, but it sure looks that way. Within only its second trailer, the next Smash Bros. game boldly declared, “everyone is here.” Everyone. Yes, even Pichu. Upon viewing this trailer for the first time, I was a bit skeptical. Does this mean we’ll see less new characters? Does Goku no longer stand a chance? (well, not that he ever did.) The more I thought about what this could mean, the more new trailers kept coming out. Whether I was seeing King K. Rool, Ridley, or Simon Belmont, it seemed like everyone really was here.
The classic characters that fans have been asking for since Melee had finally made it to Smash. Once the initial hype settled in–and the saltiness from Piranha Plant’s reveal went away–I realized just what Ultimate is all about. I believe this is the Smash game that will bring two decades worth of fans together, once again, for the most ambitious crossover fighting game yet. This is the game that will unite old-school players with newcomers, just as the roster of characters is doing.
In a recent pre-release interview with Sakurai himself, he stated that, in reference to Ultimate, “Smash Bros. itself is like a big crossover festival, but I’m speechless to see this game being accepted by the fans so much” (Nintendo-Insider, November 2018). Despite previously anticipating disappointment from fans, Sakurai is confident that Ultimate will have something for everyone. He is truly trying his best to bring players from all generations of Smash together, with all of the classic fighters we love (and maybe a few we don’t). Thankfully, it seems that his efforts aren’t going unnoticed (I mean, have you seen this guy’s work schedule!?)
It doesn’t matter if Ultimate won’t end up being as successful in the competitive scene as Smash 4. It doesn’t matter if it can’t dethrone Melee’s massive popularity. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a game we’ve been waiting for since 1999, whether we realized it at the time or not. Let’s all try to enjoy it together.