Smash Bros. DLC: Expectation vs. Reality
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Oct 22nd 2020
The fine line between excitement and disappointment
Okay, so “expectation” isn’t really the right word. More like hopes. Smash Bros. speculation is a bit tired at this point, and while there’s still a lot of fun to be had in hoping for awesome and exciting new reveals, some of the wind has definitely been taken out of its sails. The Byleth reveal left a lot of folks feeling underwhelmed, and even genuinely good reveals like Terry and Min Min were undermined by a severe lack of people having played the excellent games they came from. (Seriously, ARMS is a good time!)
There are always a lot of rumors constantly flying around regarding the next Smash reveal, and instead of the giddy excitement that used to surround the mystery, a lot of people are preparing for inevitable disappointment, myself included. Not because many of the rumored upcoming reveals are bad characters, but because what I anticipate coming down the pipeline isn’t going to actually bring anything new. I’ve never played a Persona game, but I appreciated that Joker brought with him completely unique elements from his franchise. Byleth brought… more Fire Emblem.
For he most part, what we’ve had so far has brought so much more to the already massively inclusive table, and while I’d love to see fresh reps from Zelda (Ganon), Kid Icarus (Hades or Medusa), and more, having entire new game worlds added is by far the most exciting prospect.
But at this point, are fantastic new worlds even likely, or will the remaining slots be a letdown? Here are my expectations/hopes vs the more realistic (and somewhat disappointing) options.
Expectation: Ryu Hayabusa
After Mega Man was added to Smash 4, my highest hope was Simon Belmont. After Simon was added to Ultimate, my highest hope was Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden.
Besides the obvious awesomeness of having a genuine sword-wielding ninja running around blasting enemies with all manner of awesome ninja magic moves, part of what made Mega Man and Simon’s inclusion so awesome was the way Sakurai and his team took these NES legends and brought them visually into the modern era. Mega Man and Simon both look like their NES sprites come to life. Their stances, walking animations, all of it. It’s this kind of stuff that makes classic characters making their debut in Smash so darn special.
Ryu’s history is right up Sakurai’s alley. He has so many different versions of himself out there, from the arcade original, the Master System and Game Gear offerings, and of course the unforgettable NES and modern incarnations. Drawing on all of these for inspiration on his looks and moveset would be incredibly fun to see.
Greninja and Sheik are already ninja-type fighters, but neither of them are sword wielders, meaning that Ryu could still be a very unique fighter. And just think about all that music!
There’s also the fact that Tecmo still doesn’t have any representation in Smash, despite their close relationship with Nintendo (they are the ones behind the Warriors series, after all).
Ryu has been my #1 pick ever since Simon was announced, and I still hold out hope for his return.
When thinking about important iconic video game characters, Ryu immediately comes to mind because, well, I’m old. Dante does not. I understand that he’s likely far more relevant today than Ryu is, but there’s something about Dante’s heavily rumored potential inclusion that leaves me massively underwhelmed.
Devil May Cry is a very cool franchise, but in a world where we already have Joker and Bayonetta, would Dante really feel like anything special? There’s also the fitting in factor, which I suppose isn’t as much of an issue since Bayonetta is in the game and she doesn’t fit in at all, but I don’t think we need more of that, do we?
I’m sure Devil May Cry fans would be excited, and I have no doubt Sakurai and his team will make him at the very least enjoyable to play as, but this one leaves me cold, especially when considering the excitement of the alternative.
Expectation: Ring Fit Adventurer
I can’t believe how much fun I’m having in the world of Ring Fit Adventure. It’s a ridiculous game, and it’s remarkably creative. I remember when Wii Fit Trainer was announced, people were pretty upset, but not me. I played a TON of Wii Fit over the years, and I still have a blast playing as her. The thing is, Wii Fit wasn’t much of a game. Ring Fit Adventure is, and that’s what makes their potential inclusion so exciting.
In case you’ve never played the game before, you basically run around with this sentient ring named Ring (I know, very clever) and you use wind powers to do stuff. When you jump, you do it by shooting a gust of wind underneath you. While you’re running, you can blow gusts of air to break crates and activate switches, or you can create a vacuum to collect items or pull objects closer to you. There are the traversal transformations too, like sprouting wings or riding a rail system like a roller coaster, and that doesn’t even touch on the actual battle system.
A moveset based almost entirely around wind management would certainly be something new, and the game’s fantastic art direction and character designs pull it all together brilliantly.
There are no shortage of fascinating environments in the game, meaning that their new stage would be very cool. Dragaux could even be a stage hazard like Rathalos or Yellow Devil.
And let’s not gloss over all that great music! It would be an amazing addition.
Reality: Another Pokemon rep
We don’t need another Pokemon rep. With Sword and Shield out and about making fistfulls of money while simultaneously ticking off its fanbase though, there’s little doubt some sort of Pokemon is destined to suck up another slot in Smash. This is disappointing because, well, Pokemon is already very well represented, and the discourse around the most recent installments has been remarkably negative. No matter what they do, adding a new Pokemon to Smash would only cause more vitriol.
Maybe they’ll put someone in and they will at least have an interesting fighting style, but most importantly, it wouldn’t be expanding the universe of Smash any further. There are already plenty of Pokemon themed stages about, so I expect that when this inevitably happens, a sizable portion of the Smash fandom (myself included) will be just as underwhelmed as when they introduced Byleth. At least they’ll probably be colorful.
Expectation: Crash Bandicoot
I’m not much of a Crash Bandicoot fan, but I am a fan of the historical significance of the character. Here in the US, when the console wars were Nintendo 64 vs. Sega Saturn vs. Sony PlayStation, Crash was Sony’s answer to Mario and Sonic. Nowadays, Sony isn’t exactly into playing ball with their competition, so having a genuine Sony character appear in Smash is just about impossible. Fortunately for us, Crash isn’t a Sony property anymore.
In fact, Crash’s recent remasters sold like gangbusters on Nintendo Switch, and with an inevitable port of Crash 4 on the horizon, drumming up more excitement for the character could only be a good thing.
This would be cool for old farts like myself just to see Mario, Sonic, and Crash duke it out. And of course, there’s this.
As for what kind of character he’d be, I really don’t know. I guess he spins around and stuff? I don’t know, I’ve never played Crash before. I also don’t know what his stage could offer that Banjo’s doesn’t already, but I’m sure the Crash franchise has plenty of personality and I just don’t know about it. He’s a great fit.
Reality: Bandana Dee
I’ve been so fearful of this little guy making it into Smash. He’s such a non-character. I know Kirby fans want him, and Sakurai has a not insignificant connection to that franchise, but please no. I don’t have a personal grudge against Bandana Dee, but he’s just a Waddle Dee in a bandana with a spear. What interesting could he possibly bring to the table? I suppose we don’t really have many spear fighters already, but outside of that, there are plenty of Kirby stages and music, etc. He’s cute, but we don’t need more Kirby.
However, this is a character Nintendo owns, and Crash would no doubt cost some money. Therefore, I’m pretty sure Bandana Dee is going to make the cut.
It could also be Shantae, but I’m not sure I’d feel too great about her making the cut either. Regardless, for all the sense Crash makes, I just don’t see it realistically happening.
Expectation: Master Chief
I’m also not a Halo fan, but hear me out. One of the coolest things in all of video games is being a huge gaming fan and seeing something impossible happen in a Smash trailer reveal. The sheer unadulterated excitement that accompanied the reveals of Mega Man, Simon Belmont, Banjo, even King K Rool, were incredibly nuts. Just some of the absolute most joyful things ever. A large part of that is seeing an official channel where these characters can coexist.
Microsoft has been playing REAL nice with Nintendo lately, and in all honesty, seeing Master Chief revealed as the final character in the Fighters Pass would be completely insane. That moment alone would be worth the price of admission, but it really makes sense the more I think about it.
It’s not like Microsoft doesn’t have Halo games to sell. Increasing his visibility in the current zeitgeist via a Smash reveal would no doubt bring some eyes to Microsoft’s new console and the latest adventures of the Chief, but if the long rumored Master Chief Collection really is coming to Switch, Microsoft could be sitting on a gold mine.
And that’s where Microsoft and Sony differ. Those games have been exclusive to Xbox for a good long time, but if there’s money to be made by putting them on a competing console, particularly one that doesn’t really compete, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them port it around. Microsoft loves dollar signs, and they have absolutely no qualms with doing whatever it takes to make them.
Chief is still an extremely unlikely scenario. He’s still the face of the Xbox brand, and while they’ve played nice enough to let Nintendo borrow Banjo and Minecraft for Smash, and allowed games like Cuphead and Ori to grace the eShop (to killer sales I might add) putting their big exclusive character on a non-Xbox console still smells pretty unlikely.
That’s why we’re unfortunately going to wind up with Tracer. She’s a fantastic character design, but the Overwatch hype train has long since sailed. It’s still a big property, but it’s nothing like it was back when development on this fighter probably would have started, so I can’t help but feel Tracer will land with a thud.
She’s not really someone who seems like she’d bring all that much new to the table either. I just can’t shake the feeling that Nintendo thought this would be the best idea at the time, and it’s just not. I don’t think Overwatch is still going to be a thing 5 or 6 years from now, other than a game people look back on with a degree of fondness. Then again, I didn’t think Minecraft was going to stick around, and here we are 9 years later and it’s still one of the most played games on the planet.
What I’m getting at here is that I don’t know squat. But like I’ve said before, speculating about this stuff is incredibly fun. And if this really is the end of the DLC train for Smash, I’m not going to miss out on having fun speculating about what’s coming next.
If they’ve proven anything so far, it’s that they love to surprise me, so who knows, maybe the remaining fighters won’t be any of these. Maybe Sora and Kingdom Hearts will have their day. Maybe Urban Champion will come out swinging. Maybe they’ll find a way to fit Contra or Bubble Bobble in there. Either way, I bought my Fighters pass already, so I'll have them no matter who they are.
Who do you hope will wind up in Smash next?