Talking Smash Bros: 2018 Edition

Super Smash Bros for Switch was just announced last week, but it’s never too early for Smash Speculation! (I’m so happy to get to use that post category again.)

Actually, I’m even a little late to this particular topic. The biggest debate on the internet right now is whether the new Super Smash Bros game for Switch will be a new game or a port of the 3DS/Wii U games with some new bells and whistles. Me, I’m firmly on the side of this game being Smash 5. It’s a new game, it has to be. Or, it doesn’t have to be, but give me some time to explain my way of thinking.

Firstly, and I feel like this is the most salient point: Nintendo did not specify that this is a port. In my opinion, if they’re going to be porting over the WiiU version, they would make that clear. It’s okay not to say anything specific if it’s a new game, but you would definitely want to make note of when you’re re-releasing something for a new machine. That’s the kind of thing you need to tell people up front. I get that the hype around Smash is maybe even more important than Smash itself, but people are going to be pissed if you only reveal that it’s a port once the hype has already gotten out of control. Be honest and rip that band-aid off ASAP.

Following that, we also need to take a look at the game’s title. It would have been called “Super Smash Bros for Switch” or something like that if it were a port of the WiiU game. But rather, it’s just “Super Smash Bros (working title)” and nobody ever uses (working title) for ports. It’s never happened in the history of mankind. (Working title) only happens when a game in development doesn’t have a final name yet, and ports already have a name built in. You just paste a DX or Complete Edition or some other meaningless qualifier on the end. There’s no way they wouldn’t have already decided on what that qualifier would be if that was what was happening.

Look at the logos, too. And you know, they are pretty similar. Yes, they use the same typeface, but every Smash since Melee has had a very similar typeface. What makes them all unique is how it’s stylized. The Switch logo is very plain. Sleek, simple. This is unheard of. There is always a border effect, with a coloured gradient inside the letters. Maybe this is a placeholder logo? Well, that’s possible, but it wouldn’t make sense for a port when they have a perfectly good logo already. Nintendo doesn’t appreciably change their games’ logos for ports. From Wind Waker HD to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, they retain the original logo and tack on the qualifier. Besides the completely different design style, the Smash Switch logo has one completely unique feature: the “Smash Cross” is cut through the lettering itself. That’s never happened in a Smash logo before. Someone added that in on purpose. Someone put that there to make it unique. Someone put thought into designing this version of the logo. Sure, it’s simple, but that’s sort of the whole design philosophy behind the Switch in general. Minimalist design all over the place.

It’s worth noting that despite having many different features, the Smash 3DS and Smash Wii U logos are the exact same, with the only difference being the colour scheme. It stands to reason that if the same game were being retooled for Switch, they would stick with that trend.

Probably the biggest question I had after seeing the teaser is this: Will Masahiro Sakurai be involved in this project? Considering how burned out he was said to be after Smash WiiU/3DS, I was skeptical that he’d be on board if it were a port of those games. But he has confirmed that he is the lead on this project. It doesn’t really mean anything either way, but I feel like having him at the helm is a good sign of a new installment. He also confirmed that his next project was decided and underway once all the DLC for Smash WiiU/3DS was out, so this has been in the works since at least February 2016. That’s a lot of time to dedicate to a port.

The only bigger reveal than Super Smash Bros actually coming to Switch (it was always just a matter of when) is that the Inklings from Splatoon would be joining the roster. Yeah, they could be added in as some extra incentive to buy the Wii U version again on Switch (they were also the added characters for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe). I don’t think it’s as simple as that, though. Link has been shown to be appearing in his Breath of the Wild incarnation, which is potentially huge. BotW strayed so far from the regular Zelda formula that Link’s traditional move set would make no sense for BotW Link. He wouldn’t need to be rebuilt from the ground up, but there would need to be some radical changes. And at that point, why not just make him a wholly new character? That then, begs the question of how “classic” Link fits in. Will there be three Links now? Will Toon Link be cut to prevent an over-saturation of Links? There is so much mystery surrounding what seems to be a simple costume change!

While the addition of the Inklings and Link’s new look don’t offer a lot of insight into Smash Switch’s uniqueness, it’s the other character reveals that say a lot more about this being a new game. Or rather, the lack thereof. All we know for sure are the Inklings, Mario, and Link. There was a silhouette of roughly a dozen other characters shown, but it’s hard to place exactly which guys are in or not. It’s easy enough to pick out well-defined shapes like Donkey Kong, Bowser, and Kirby, but there are plenty that are much more difficult to identify.

But the “who’s in/who’s out?” question is secondary to the fact that they are playing this game again in the first case. A massive part of the Smash Hype Cycle is where a dozen or so guys are revealed along with the game, and then more are slowly revealed as the release date draws closer. So here’s my question: why go through this process for a port? Again, I know that the hype cycle is very important to Smash, but it seems silly to do it for a roster that is already defined. I could see some third-party characters losing their spots, but I really don’t expect that the roster would change in any meaningful way for a port. Yeah, we’ll get Inklings and Ice Climbers will return and maybe one or two new guys (calling it: Spring Man and Rabbid Peach), but there’s no reason to drip-feed all of the returning fighters if it’s just going to be a port.

Obviously, all of this is just speculation, and I’m sure there are already many more smartly-written dissertations on why Smash Switch is a port. But it’s fun to theorize, and I really do believe we’re looking at a new game. It’s also important to distinguish just how different a new game and a port will likely be (read: less different than you may think), but that’s an essay for… let’s say next weekend. Yeah, there are going to be a lot of Smash Speculation posts throughout the rest of the year. Let’s all get on board that hype train!

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