Once Nintendo finishes releases Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s DLC pack, Fighter Pass Vol. 2, which will add six new characters to the game’s already impressive roster, the game’s hype train will slow to a crawl. Part of the fun of Smash Bros. games, outside of playing them, is looking forward to new characters and it has been that way for a while. Ultimate is a special entry in the series because, historically speaking, successive titles have cut out characters from their predecessors. Ultimate has everything and more. So what’s next, and can Ultimate even be beat?
It will be a while before we know because it appears that there isn’t even a new game in development. According to a translation of an interview the game’s director, Masahiro Sakurai, gave to Famitsu back in February, Nintendo hasn’t even talked to him about plans for a new title. It makes sense because there hasn’t been two Super Smash Bros. releases in a single console generation, yet. I would imagine whatever Nintendo’s next console is will probably see a new game around launch. How could it not? This has been the best-selling game in the franchise and one of the best-selling fighting games in the United States. It’s a significant force, especially when compared to its predecessors.
Before this game, the community was fragmented with a lot of people dividing their attention between different entries in the series. That’s still true, to a degree, but the mechanics and roster of Ultimate seemed to pull a lot of people to the current generation title. I have to imagine that this is all part of the incredible dedication of Sakurai, who once noted that this could be the last game he directed. Ultimate was an exceedingly ambitious title and I honestly wasn’t surprised to discover that he’s the sort of person who makes himself sick with work. He has also said that he worked on Ultimate with the assumption that it was the last Smash game, but that could have just been a testament to his work ethic and a need to go out with a bang. He did subsequently admit that he doesn’t know what the future holds.
So the future of the franchise is uncertain. I think we need to craft our expectations carefully going forward, though. First, we should realize that the series might at some point continue without Sakurai. That could mean changes, although Nintendo is a company who has been pretty consistent with quality over the years. Second, we should realize that new generations will likely bring changes to the game’s mechanics. More rifts could form. Third, we have to accept that this is probably the most characters we will ever have in one Smash game.
It really seems likely that future games will have fewer characters. For starters, adapting characters to new systems isn’t easy. Everything has to be rebalanced, animation has to change, and forcing them in might take resources away from innovation. Beyond that, we have to imagine the possibility for licensing problems. How long can Nintendo keep using characters that are not their own?
I am forced to consider Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield when I think about future Smash titles. When those games were announced, fans were very angry that the game’s wouldn’t include every Pokemon that has ever been created. It makes sense, though, because they have around a thousand characters that they need to animate and factor into a competitive meta, all while adding new creatures and innovating on the design. Some favorites had to be cut but the resulting product was absolutely amazing.
I think this is the mentality that we have to adopt. There will be changes, and that’s a good thing. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was an amazing title, even if it had significant differences from its predecessor, especially in terms of roster. We could get interesting new modes, interesting new mechanics. Maybe the best way to think about Ultimate is as an end of an era so we can begin to look forward to what is next. It would certainly make sense when we consider the definition of the word “ultimate.”
Writing Team Lead