Is this the end for Smash Bros. as we know it?
Alana Hagues, Deputy Editor: I feel like it’s weird to be asking “is this the end?” for Smash Bros. on the fifth anniversary of Ultimate’s release, but with Sora’s release and the end of the Fighter Pass, it certainly feels like the end of an era. And looking back after five years just hammers home how big this game was Just what can Super Smash Bros. do next? Is there a next?
Jim Norman, Staff Writer: I feel like there will most definitely be a ‘next’, but the ‘next’ in question will be a “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Deluxe”. I’m picturing a port to the next hardware, a couple of visual tweaks and maybe the odd character or two thrown in there for good measure *cough* Oatchi *cough*. But in terms of what comes after, something actually new, I feel like things are slightly less clear-cut.
Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer: It’s not the end of Smash, but there’s definitely an opportunity now for the series to experiment a little bit and see what lands. I feel like with Ultimate, Sakurai presented the, well, ultimate vision of what Smash could be using the basic foundation from the original game. Now that that’s all done with, it’s time to go in a slightly different direction. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but look at franchises like Street Fighter that have endured for way longer; Smash is not down and out just yet.
Alana: I agree with you both. There’s no way Smash Bros. as a name will just vanish, and as you say, Ollie, lots of fight game franchises have stuck around for years. Heck, many of them have entirely rebooted themselves in the last few years – Guilty Gear, Mortal Kombat (kinda?) – so maybe Smash Bros. will be a bit different, but it’ll still be Smash Bros.
Which characters will we see in the next Smash Bros.?
Alana: So I think the most obvious question to ask, in terms of Smash’s future, is – who will we see? Which characters will be in that starting line-up, and what wild dreams do we have for brand new characters? I saw an Oatchi mention there, Jim…
with Ultimate, Sakurai presented the, well, ultimate vision of what Smash could be
Jim: Big dreamer Jim has high hopes for Pikmin 4’s adorable pup thing! While I’m making wishes, why not throw in a Layton? Who knows what kind of weapons of mass destruction he’s hiding under that hat? Unfortunately, Realist Jim has just tapped me on the shoulder and told me to “quieten down now”. Realistically, I can see them going back to a much smaller roster. Perhaps just the classics, even. Once we have tasted the range that Ultimate put on display, it seems like the only way things can really go.
Ollie: A smaller roster would be almost essential at this point, I think. If we’re assuming that Nintendo will want to go back to the drawing board, as such, then it would make sense to cut out a lot of the fat (good fat, mind) from Ultimate and start almost from scratch. So I’m thinking they should retain the starting line-up from the first game – Mario, Link, etc – but then go in a completely different direction for the unlockable characters. If we really want those third-party characters, then let’s get a whole new cast in there: Cuphead, Layton, Mega Man X, Doom Guy… I don’t know, but there’s a massive opportunity here to go wild again.
Alana: Yep, I was wondering whether they’d go all retro and start with the N64 line-up, including the bonus characters, but Nintendo’s core has changed so much since the first Super Smash Bros. that I think the starting line-up has to include Inkling, Villager, and oh, I don’t know, a newer Pokémon alongside Pikachu. New characters… I think Nintendo could go wild, but I wonder if they’ll just stick to Nintendo games now? Another Splatoon rep feels like a shoo-in to me, but I’d love some Xenoblade Chronicles 3 or, you know, Waluigi.
Jim: It does feel like there is still a good amount of untapped potential in Nintendo’s back catalogue that they could churn out an entirely new lineup with no crossover at all. Give me an E. Gadd, a Big Man, a Tom Nook… Daruk? There’s still so many names out there that I can’t see Nintendo sniffing around other studios for the time being.
Ollie: I wouldn’t be opposed to Nintendo sticking to first-party IP for the next one. I imagine that gaining so many ridiculous third-party additions for Ultimate was a bit easier because the core foundation of Smash had been perfected by that point. If the next game is looking to change up the experience, then it would make sense to strip things back a bit, focus on Nintendo IP, and really nail that first impression.
What will be the focus of the next Smash Bros.?
Jim: Which brings us quite nicely onto what this ‘next’ game will be all about. Deciding on a cast of characters and potential stages is one thing, but if we all agree that something big is going to have to change, what will that big thing be? 3D brawling? RPG elements? Oh, a fishing minigame??
Ollie: This is the big question and ultimately (ha), we’re not game developers. As for my own hopes and dreams, I would love the stages in the new one to be a bit more involved. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it needs to bring in a third dimension, but more interactive elements would be nice; perhaps there could be a load of paint on the ground in Delfino Plaza that would inflict damage or inhibit your movement. I’m not sure. It would be cool if there was an option to combine multiple stages together in some way.
Unfortunately, Realist Jim has just tapped me on the shoulder and told me to “quieten down now”
Alana: Oh gosh, you mean like different elements? So Kraid could spin the Great Fox around in Corneria, or the Wario Ware Inc. elevator could open up to different sections of stages? Just examples – no idea if those stages will ever come back, but I love that idea.
Ollie: Something like that, yeah. It’s tough to really nail anything down at this stage. They could even completely change up the gameplay and make the mechanics more complex, like traditional fighting games. Really though, what Nintendo does with the next game is going to depend on whether Sakurai is involved, but we can talk about him more later.
Alana: For sure. In terms of what I think it’ll focus on, there’s always a chance that Nintendo could go the more competitive route, but that could conflict with the company’s own mission statement. Smash Bros. has a great competitive scene but ultimately it’s the casual fans who make that game what it is. So I’m not sure. In my dreams, I’d love a campaign mode – not so much World of Light, but like, a whole Tournament Arc thing. Realistically, I think the single-player side will actually diminish a bit.
Jim: I agree with the idea of an improved campaign. I almost feel like because Nintendo has nailed the formula of the brawling side of things (and I can’t see them making too large of a change to that outside of, maybe, new movesets), the game’s originality is going to come from what is added to that experience. I’m not necessarily asking for a Subspace Emissary re-do, but I’m also not not asking for that.
Will Smash Bros. ever go free-to-play?
Alana: Subspace Emissary is probably never going to happen again… and that’s okay (as much as I want it). But something that’s been sitting at the back of my mind and gnawing away at me with dread – would Smash ever go free-to-play? I think the answer is no, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if there was ever a mobile spin-off or something like that – collect all characters, stickers, trophies, etc.