Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Super Smash Bros. U Predictions - Non-Fantasy Edition

Of course, as I play through Melee (which I'm almost finished with, by the way. Expect that review soon) I can't help but think about what the future of the Super Smash Bros. franchise holds. The past three have been somewhat magical experiences, but in hindsight Brawl was a much more predictable game than it seemed at the time. Looking at Brawl I realized that the previous two games used the same kind of logic to decide who would be in and who would not, and how they would be represented. Sadly, I realized that Super Smash Bros. wasn't the glorious celebration of Nintendo's history that I thought it was, but actually a celebration of the previous generation and of the early days of the game's current generation. So before I get into predicting what Super Smash Bros. U might hold, let's take a look at some of the previous games.

First let's look at Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, which doesn't have two of the primary tropes that Melee and Brawl were sure to include: there are no classic characters, and there are no "system" characters (Mr. Game & Watch and R.O.B. respectively). It's been argued that all of the characters in Smash 64 are classic, so there isn't a need for that (and that Donkey Kong represents it besides) and that Ness serves as the "Out-of-the-Box" or "Weird" character. But that's not how I see it at all.

When I look at the roster for the original Super Smash Bros. I see a roster comprised of Super Nintendo-era all-stars with just the slightest hint of the Nintendo 64. Mario and Luigi of course represent the Mario franchise as a whole, which experienced great success on the SNES console with titles such as Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, and Super Mario RPG, but the Mario franchise in this game is actually one of only two examples where their driving influence is the N64 incarnation. While Luigi is there simply because of the fame of the Mario Bros., the stages and character actions of both brothers are heavily inspired by Super Mario 64, the first Nintendo 64 game.

Donkey Kong here is representing the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, which was as highly regarded at the time as it is now. Similarly, Samus represents Super Metroid and Captain Falcon is representing F-Zero. Although F-Zero X launched prior to Super Smash Bros., I don't think it influenced Captain Falcon or his portrayal very much, although advertising for the game might have been one of the deciding factors in his inclusion. The final character in the top row is Link, who is the only character in the Smash 64 roster to not represent anything from the SNES era. The Link seen here, and the stage he plays on, are 100% Ocarina of Time.

The bottom row is entirely SNES and GB all-stars. Ness is there to represent the sleeper hit Earthbound, and probably to push promotion for the eventually-cancelled Earthbound 64. Yoshi is pure SNES, as he originated on the console. Here we see him representing both Yoshi's Island and the early N64 platformer Yoshi's Story. Kirby had great success on the Super Nintendo, and Kirby 64 wouldn't be released for another year, so it's safe to assume that he's representing as Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land trilogy, and the few spin-offs the character saw on the console (such as Kirby's Avalanche.) Fox McCloud, like Yoshi, Mario and Link, plays the double roles of a SNES and N64 pilot. This is even more important for him as the franchise was technically rebooted with the launch of Star Fox 64. Rouding off the roster are Pikachu and Jigglypuff, who obviously represent the SNES era super-franchise known as Pokémon.

Looking at the Super Smash Bros. roster I see 12 SNES all-stars. Now let's look at Melee.

Welcome to one of the earliest GCN titles and one of the best selling games of all time. Super Smash Bros. Melee builds on the formula of Super Smash Bros. and introduced the "Classic Character Revival" and "System-Type" roster tropes continued in Brawl. Like its predecessor, Melee has a roster which is largely comprised of the previous generation (in this case the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color) with a hint of its own. Additionally, all previous characters return. This could be seen as continuing the series with what it already had, but it could also be seen as representing the previous generation by incorporating the elements of Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64. Regardless, I'll be skipping over the veterans and only talking about the new challengers.

First off is Dr. Mario, who was a bizarre pick but one which I greatly appreciated, and still do. His inclusion has remained controversial, but I think it's pretty well-known that he was there because of the out-of-the-blue release of Dr. Mario 64. Bowser and Princess Peach join the ranks of the Super Mario super stars and represent Super Mario 64 as well as the numerous Mario franchise spin-offs which were born on the N64. Additionally, with two exceptions, the Super Mario stages featured in Melee are both inspired by Super Mario 64.

Ganondorf, Young Link, and Zelda/Sheik all appear to bolster The Legend of Zelda ranks, and all of them are in their Ocarina of Time incarnations. Falco shows up as a representative of Star Fox 64. The final members of the middle row are the first inclusion of a revived classic character, the Ice Climbers. They were another weird inclusion that nobody saw coming, but we're all glad to have them.

The bottom row starts off with Pokémon. Mewtwo is simply building on what is already there, although he could also be there because of his large role in the first Pokémon movie, while Pichu appears as one of the mascots for the second generation of games (Gold, Silver, and Crystal). We carry into Mr. Game & Watch who not only represents the early days of Nintendo video games, but also serves as a representative of the Game & Watch Gallery franchise, which really took off with Game & Watch Gallery 2, which was a Game Boy Color title outside of Japan. After him are Marth and Roy, two very bizarre entrants who break every established rule. Marth hadn't been seen outside of Japan at all, and even there his last appearance was in a Super Nintendo title. Roy, on the other hand, hadn't appeared anywhere yet, and was simply an advertisement for an upcoming GBA release. Fortunately the popularity of both characters has led to the localization of the Fire Emblem franchise in the States and elsewhere.

Next came Brawl, which did something horrible to the franchise: it removed characters. Dr. Mario, Mewtwo, Roy, Young Link, and Pichu were all cut from the game. Mewtwo, Dr. Mario, and Roy have been found by hackers, so they were at least intended to return, and Young Link evolved into Toon Link. Arguably Pichu also evolved... into this game's Pikachu, but that still means a character was cut (Melee's Pikachu), so the point is moot.

However, what it took away was made up for by what it added. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the first game in the franchise to introduce third-party characters. Since I've already started with them, I guess we'll talk about that column first and move our way from right to left. Sonic the Hedgehog shows up for a few different reasons. Primarily because he's the secondary mascot for the entire gaming industry, but also because Sega and Nintendo became best buds during the GCN era. There were so many Sonic the Hedgehog titles being released on the console that rumors began to circulate that Nintendo was in talks to buy up Sega completely, or at least purchase Sonic. Unfortunately that never happened, and I think the rumors eventually became that awful Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise.

Solid Snake is a weird character to put here, because he doesn't really fit. The story of his inclusion is just as weird, as his only real reason for being there is due to a friendship between Kojima and Sakurai. The column ends with Mr. Game & Watch, whose return is simply due to series tradition.

The next column are the RPG heroes. Marth returns as the figurehead of the Fire Emblem franchise, but Roy has been cut completely. In his stead we received Ike, the hero of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the Nintendo GameCube. Below them are the returning Ness and the newcomer Lucas. Lucas represents Mother 3 (or Earthbound 2) which was the GBA-era adddition to the Mother/Earthbound franchise.

Mewtwo has been replaced by Lucario, whose role is to represent both a movie and the fourth generation of Pokémon games, which makes him the first equal-generation representative so far. The other new Pokémon character is the Pokémon Trainer, also known as Red, who uses Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard to battle. While at first it seems that he represents the early days of Pokémon, this is wrong. Pokémon Trainer is actually representing the third generation of games, specifically Fire Red and Leaf Green.

Fox and Falco return and are joined by Wolf, who represents both Nintendo GameCube's Star Fox Assault and the Nintendo DS flop Star Fox Command. Captain Falcon also returns, probably due to the popularity of the GCN's F-Zero GX. The space theme continues to the left where Kirby is joined by both King Dedede and Metaknight. This makes sense as the Kirby franchise saw a revival on the Game Boy Advance and became extremely popular with a new generation. This popularity hasn't waned, and Kirby has continued strong through the DS and into the 3DS genertions. Below them comes Captain Olimar, the star of the highly popular Pikmin games which originated on the Nintendo GameCube and were later ported to the Wii.

Samus returns sporting a style and tone which screams Metroid Prime which first showed up on the GCN. She can also be played wearing the Zero-Suit, which first showed up in the GBA remake of the original Metroid, Metroid: Zero Mission. Beneath her are the two classic characters. The Ice Climbers are now joined by Pit who hadn't been seen since the original Game Boy. This incarnation of the character would later go on to star in a new 3DS title, Kid Icarus: Uprising. R.O.B. appears as the "System-Style" character for this generation, being the next step in line. This is actually interesting, because it shows that the "System-Style" characters are moving up with the progression of Nintendo's actual history. Mr. Game & Watch represents the company's early forray into handheld gaming while R.O.B. represents the original NES. From this we could guess that the next "System-Style" character will have something to do with either the Game Boy or the Super Nintendo.

The Legend of Zelda characters have all been updated to match their GameCube couterparts. While Young Link transformed into the Wind Waker's Toon Link, Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf all took on the personas featured in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

The Mario spin-off characters occupy their own column here. We finally get introduced to Wario, who here represents both the WarioWare and Wario Land franchises, and probably with a small touch of Wario World for good measure. Diddy Kong's inclusion is actually a little weird, but it can probably be chalked up to the revival of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the Game Boy Advance.

There are now no Mario characters added other than Diddy or Wario. So now that we've covered the past, what can we say about the future?

Well, actually a whole lot. We can make a safe assumption that Super Smash Bros. U will feature a roster increase of 15-20 characters from Brawl's 35-man roster. This can be assumed by the steadily increasing number of new characters per installment, and the fact that Nintendo is doubling their production power by working with Namco, who is really good at handling large numbers of playable characters.

Looking at the pattern (Smash 64 is SNES, Melee is N64, and Brawl is GCN) we can assume that the majority of the characters will be inspired by Wii and DS titles, with early 3DS and Wii U games for good measure. It's probably safe to assume that Xenoblade's Shulk will show up in some capacity, as well as either Isa Jo or Kachi from Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. It's also possible that Isaac of the Golden Sun franchise could be promoted to a playable role due to the release of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn on the NDS.

It's possible that we'll see the Fossil Fighters games for the Nintendo DS represented in some way, but I wouldn't hold my breath on it. I also wouldn't be holding breath for Starfy becoming playable, as he only had one international release and it didn't do so well. Likewise, don't bet on any characters from a Mario RPG game appearing as a playable representative, with the possible exception of Geno whose star status might just be enough to push him into the running this time.

Where the Mario franchise is concerned, though, I do think we'll be getting at least one new character, and maybe even two. Nintendo has, in the past generation, released three New Super Mario Bros. titles, Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, Super Mario 3D Land, and a very large number of spin-off titles. I don't think we'll be seeing Rosalina as a playable character, but she might claim the Assist Trophy spot she was planned to have in Brawl. It's also possible that Mario's FLUDD attack could be replaced with an attack styled on Super Mario Galaxy.

I don't think King Boo will appear as a representative, but it's always possible with the release of Dark Moon for the 3DS. I think more likely we'll be seeing Bowser Jr., whose significance has really been cranked up in terms of exposure and down in terms of who actually likes, and finally Toad, who would owe his inclusion to the Blue and Yellow Toad characters who are playable in the more recent Super Mario titles. It's also possible for Boom Boom or one of the Koopalings to make an appearance, but that isn't very likely. I do see them as likely Assist Trophies, however.

I don't think we'll be seeing Daisy as her popularity has waned, and it seems as though Miyamoto is attempting to phase out Waluigi. The lanky loser wasn't even in Mario Kart 7. It's possible that there might be enough of a fan base to warrant upgrading his role in the franchise, but I really don't see it happening.

More on what I don't see happening: new Donkey Kong characters. If there is a new Kong character I expect it to against the grain and be K. Rool, who hasn't been up to his criminal mischief for a while. I don't think the Tikis would appear as anything more than cameos, and I don't feel like Dixie or any other Kong has been important in the past generation. Like with some other characters, though, there might be enough fan sway to see them in.

Since there hasn't been a new F-Zero release for the Wii or DS, don't expect Captain Falcon to have any running mates. Samus, however, will probably be joined by an Other M-inspired Ridley. This is actually extremely likely, in my opinion. Additionally, the Zelda characters will be upgraded to correspond with Skyward Sword, and we might even finally get a Toon Zelda in the form of either Tetra, to represent the Wind Waker Wiimake, or as a ghost to represent Toon Link's latest adventure, Spirit Tracks. Tingle might also appear representing his own game for the DS and possibly as a spin-off character to the Zelda series.

Where Pokémon is concerned I see Mewtwo returning to represent the new movie, although he could be pushed out by Genesect. Zoroark is also likely to appear, and there may or may not be a character representative of the upcoming Pokémon X and Y generations. I don't think any Pokémon characters will be cut this time, due to the negative reaction to the removal of Mewtwo and Pichu before.

Actually, I think there's a possibility of the Forgotten Five returning to Super Smash Bros. U with no cuts being made to the Brawl roster, because of how negatively the previous cut decisions were received. It does stand as a possibility, however, that characters with no significance to the previous generation of Nintendo could be cut from the roster. This could be seen with Captain Olimar, who might be cut in favor of utilizing one of the newer captains from Pikmin 3.

I don't think Kirby will be joined by any new characters, but if he is I expect that it will be Prince Fluff. I don't think the Bandana Waddle Dee has quite the uniqueness about him to show up, and Return to Dreamland didn't make quite the splash that Epic Yarn did.

As much as I'd like Krystal to appear, there hasn't been a Star Fox game since Command other than the 3DS remake of Star Fox 64. Because of this, I don't think we'll see any new Star Fox characters. I expect Roy to appear to the Fire Emblem characters, although I also expect that he'll be sporting his outfit and dual-swords from Fire Emblem: Awakening. Speaking of Fire Emblem, I think it's likely for Micaiah or Sothe to appear, but more likely for a new FE rep to be one of the original characters from FE:A. That seems pretty possible.

No new Earthbound characters. Sorry, Mother fans.

I think there's a good chance the classic character could be Little Mac due to his revival on the Wii, but there's also some samurai character which Sakurai seems fond of. I don't think Mach Rider or Balloon Fighter will be appearing, unfortunately. We might also be surprised by Professor Hector of Gyromite appearing as a second R.O.B. rep, but I doubt it.

Earlier I mentioned the natural progression of the System Style characters, and I expect Diskun to at least be in the running for the next one. We could also expect the Satellaview mascots, but I'm really thinking it'll be Diskun.

For new characters, I do think Dillon from Dillon's Rolling Western could appear, although I'm not sure how deep Nintendo is in that franchise, if they own any part of it at all. Similarly, Professor Layton might show up (this was teased some time ago on the character's official Twitter page) due to his popularity and closeness to the Nintendo consoles, but he isn't really a Nintendo character.

Where third-party is concerned, I do see a new Sonic character joining the ranks. Either Tails, Knuckles, or Eggman. Granted, it's also possible that Sonic could be removed from the game completely, as there does seem to be some distance between Sega and Nintendo these days. I also don't know if Snake will be returning, but it's likely that he will. For new companies getting in on the action, I expect at least on Namco character to join the mix. It will probably be Pac-Man, due to his significance as a gaming icon. I also think it's likely that we'll be seeing either Mega Man or Ryu from Capcom showing up. Capcom seems to have embraced the crossover spirit these past few years. But like with Sega, there seems to be a rift growing between Capcom and Nintendo.

If Nintendo can manage the rights to Geno, I expect a Square character to appear as part of the compromise. While this could be anyone, it's most likely going to be Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, as that is Square's biggest cash cow.

A quick side before I wrap this up: Miyamoto has metioned that Yoshi will receive a new sidekick for the upcoming Yoshi's Epic Yarn (unofficial name). It's possible that this new sidekick character could apper in Super Smash Bros. U to intice players to purchasing the new game.

I don't think there will be non-game characters added. While Nintedo has broken the third-party rules, I don't see them crossing media types. To wrap it up, here's what I think the final roster for Super Smash Bros. U will probably look like:

  1. Mario
  2. Luigi
  3. Peach
  4. Dr. Mario
  5. Bowser
  6. Bowser Jr.
  7. Yoshi
  8. Yoshi's New Sidekick
  9. Donkey Kong
  10. Diddy Kong
  11. Wario
  12. Skyward Link
  13. Skyward Zelda/Skyward-Styled Sheik
  14. Skyward-Styled Gannondorf
  15. Toon Link
  16. Tetra or Spirit Zelda
  17. Samus/Zero-Suit Samus
  18. Ridley
  19. Captain Falcon
  20. Ness
  21. Lucas
  22. Fox
  23. Falco
  24. Wolf
  25. Pikachu
  26. Pichu
  27. Jigglypuff
  28. Mewtwo
  29. Pokémon Trainer
  30. Lucario
  31. Zoroark
  32. Possibly Genesect or an X/Y Pokémon
  33. Marth
  34. Ike
  35. Roy
  36. Shulk
  37. Isa Jo
  38. Pit
  39. Ice Climbers
  40. Little Mac or Samurai Guy
  41. R.O.B.
  42. Mr. Game & Watch
  43. Kirby
  44. Meta Knight
  45. King Dedede
  46. New Pikmin Captain
  47. Solid Snake
  48. Sonic the Hedgehog
  49. Tails or Knuckles
  50. Pac-Man
  51. Diskun
  52. Dillon