The Super Smash Bros. series is one of the most iconic gaming franchises of all time. What started off as just a Nintendo crossover series back in 1999 is now the ultimate gaming celebration, bringing in major characters across many series throughout gaming history. The roster, which started off with just 12 characters in Super Smash Bros. (N64), is now up to 69 fighters in the latest installment, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This is without counting the seven echo fighters and extra six DLC fighters, three of which have already been released. The game’s director, Masahiro Sakurai, puts great care and thought when adding a new fighter into the roster.
With the release of its newest DLC character, Hero from the Dragon Quest series, it is becoming more and more apparent just how much some of the original fighters added back in the original title and the second installment, Super Smash Bros. Melee, need a moveset overhaul. I am not saying that these characters’ movesets are bad or boring, I’m just acknowledging that since the formation of their original movesets, many of these characters have had new titles and abilities. The result is that some of these fighters end up feeling outdated compared to how they are portrayed in their original game series. This is not some new talking point as pre-release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, many fans were speculating whether Link would have a completely new moveset related to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or if Mario would have some new abilities derived from Super Mario Odyssey.
To my rejoice, the release of Ultimate came with some changes to early characters. Link had the biggest moveset adjustment, gaining several abilities from Breath of the Wild, including remote bombs, having a sword beam at 0%, removal of the hookshot, and being able to shoot two arrows. Luigi got some Luigi’s Mansion representation with the use of the Poltergust for his grab. And Ganondorf was further “de-cloned” from Captain Falcon with the use of a sword for all his smash attacks, an ask many fans have wanted since his addition. Many fighters also received an updated Final Smash. In my opinion, all these changes are welcome, and I might sound a bit greedy, but it left me wanting more. I would have loved to see Link with a glider as it is a key aspect of Breath of the Wild or with powers from the Sheikah Slate. Luigi’s Mansion is about to have its third installment release this year, and adding more moves with the Poltergust or anything spooky related would have been awesome. Fan-made mods for Super Smash Bros. Brawl have demonstrated the potential of a unique Ganondorf moveset relating to more of his abilities in The Legend of Zelda series.
Outside of these three slightly updated characters, we have many others whose movesets were not changed. Mario has no moves referencing Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Odyssey. The exclusion of Super Mario Galaxy is a little more justified since they have Rosalina representing it, but I was surprised that Cappy was only shown in a taunt. I’m just talking about two titles, but Mario has many others to pull new moves from. Add a barrel or bongos to Donkey Kong’s moveset. Give Samus some moves from Metroid: Samus Returns. Kirby has a wide array of titles from which to reference new moves.
Moving on from talking about movesets from the franchise installments point of view, I would like to discuss that some of the original fighters feel almost like prototypes to the more recently added ones. This idea might be a “hot take”, so I want to preface this by saying that I am not a game developer, nor have I a technical background in gaming. Some characters’ movesets feel technically more limited, and this should be expected as hardware has become a lot more advanced since Melee’s release in 2001. Technical limitation has been seen in the Smash series with Super Smash Bros. 3DS not being able to run the Ice Climbers or transformation characters, such as Zelda and Sheik, which was confirmed by Sakurai in Famitsu articles. New characters like Joker, Cloud, and Little Mac have bar or limit mechanics, an ability that may not have been feasible on older hardware. Villager’s Pocket and Bayonetta’s Witch Time are also moves I could see being more difficult to implement on older hardware; this is just an assumption though.
I think these moves and abilities are some of the best in Smash as it really helps make a character unique. With a roster of over 69 characters, it should be expected that moves might overlap. On different message boards, you can find complaints saying Joker is just a lazy clone, and with the release of Hero, I am seeing that too. These new fighters are not lazy clones, and if anything they make some of the older fighters feel like prototypes. Hero and Joker both have abilities that I would be surprised to see running on older hardware, and this makes me wonder how some of the original fighters would turn out if they were designed today. If Hero was designed back in Melee, I would be surprised to see his RPG mechanic make it in. The original fighters play with the same movesets that were developed years ago for a more limited hardware, so they are due for an update.
Newer fighters also make characters look more cosmetically restricted with the variation in palette swaps. Newer characters have more lively color palettes, with Bowser Jr. representing all the Koopalings, and characters like Cloud and Bayonetta having two versions of themselves. Joker has his usual appearance, as well as his school uniform, and Hero has alts from four different protagonists across the Dragon Quest series. Creating different character models must take a lot of time, so it is understandable, but having the option to play as different eras of Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf would have been a neat addition to the Ultimate gaming crossover. Once again, the Smash mod community tends to make me want new alts, even more with people detailing the different Samus suits across multiple titles or the shiney alts for different Pokemon.
Super Smash Bros. is one of those games where there will always be someone who isn’t satisfied. Implementing new moves to early characters can’t be easy from a development standpoint, and that is not even accounting for the potential backlash from the community if they don’t like the changes. If Sakurai did modify older characters to have more modern movesets, there would surely be praise from some fans, but at the same time, there would probably be just as much outcry from other fans. Personally, I am in the camp that if there ever is another installment in the franchise, then the older characters should get a revamp to not only take advantage of the newer hardware but also to keep up with their series.
Where do you stand? Do some of the older fighters feel like base components to the new additions? Should more movesets and character alts be updated? Feel free share your opinions in the comments section below.