With the most recent update for Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS at the end of July, for the first time we have reached a point where we don’t know any of the new content coming to the game. The update was wrought with confusion with the lack of a new character and the Mii Fighter costumes that caused an uproar. So, what are we to make of this? I feel the reason we did not see any new characters is because we have reached the end of the the first wave of new content– the pre-ballot content, and everything beyond this point will be completely new.
The Content Thus Far
A vast majority of the content released so far was actually planned very early on, even before DLC was officially decided. In fact, most of the content was featured in the 50 Fact Extravaganza. Below is the content that was added since the Wii U’s release and which fact it corresponded to:
- Miiverse – #8
- Tourney – #45
- Tournament – #46
- Sharing – #51
Numerous other features not detailed in the 50 Fact Extravaganza were also planned earlier based on other sources. Uploading replays to Youtube was found in the game’s code before its official announcement, and the ability to use A and B for Smash attacks was detailed in Sakurai’s original proposal.
The rest of the content was added based on the ease it could be brought out. Roy and Lucas are good examples of this; both characters were added because they could be modeled after other characters. Lucas is actually modeled after Ness and Roy is modeled after Robin. You can see from these screenshots that they share the same hit-stun animation (all credit goes to Master0fHyrule for these shots). Its very likely these characters were chosen because not only were they veteran characters, but because the team could use other character assets to create these characters. As an aside, Shulk and Ryu’s animation look very similar but it’s hard to tell for sure its the same (note the legs and the right arm). Ryu’s addition may be simply that he is a standard humanoid character which Smash Bros for Wii U has plenty of (Ike, Captain Falcon and Little Mac have similar poses).
For Krystal, we didn’t have any of the technical modeling knowledge that we had cultivated with Fox and Falco, so it was like making a brand-new character from scratch. And because of the limited amount of time we had, creating Krystal wasn’t realistically possible. On that point, with Wolf we already have some knowledge of how to model his character, and would require about 70% of the effort required to create a whole new character.
As Sakurai states, it would be easier to make Wolf as they know how to design this character with Fox and Falco, and they used some assets (like the Landmaster). So, while Ryu may not be directly based off another character, the team could use the assets of other humanoid characters (Super Smash Brothers for Wii U and 3Ds had far more humanoid characters to use than Super Smash Brothers Brawl did). This may also be why Sakurai didn’t add other veterans like Wolf or Ice Climbers because they would be different enough to not use assets of another full characters. (Fox and Falco’s hitstun animations are actually different.)
Mewtwo may be the exception to the rule. Sakurai discussed adding Mewtwo on the premise of him be a special thank you to those who bought both version. After Mewtwo announcement, Sakurai stated “what I can say now about paid DLC is that we aren’t working on anything at the moment.” Mewtwo was announced before the launch of the Wii U version; therefore, Mewtwo was likely decided much earlier on in development. Mewtwo also took a few months to make where Ryu, Lucas and Roy were all released in the same update.
The stages are similar case as well. Besides the Miiverse stage, the only new stage is Suzaku Castle. The other stages have been right out of Super Smash Brothers on the Nintendo 64. The stages are very similar to the original N64 version outside of texture updates. The backgrounds are the same flat images and most of the elements on them have the same sprite like appearance. For instance, the bumper and trees in Peach’s Castle 64 resemble the N64 version. You can see a side-by-side comparison of one here. Even Suzaku Castle is a simplistic stage and doesn’t have much going on in it as compared to a lot of the other stages in the game.
The Mii Fighter Costumes
The running trend with the content added as DLC is that it was either planned before the game’s release or was easier to implement. Which brings us to the Mii Fighter costumes. The costumes are likely a way to add more content and make some extra income without an exorbitant amount of effort. Sakurai has discussed that a big part of this game is customization and the Mii Fighters are an important part of that. For these reasons, we have seen three “waves” of outfits for the Miis.
Many fans have been worried about the inclusions of their favorite characters as DLC because Mii Fighter costumes have been made for those characters. There have been numerous arguments against it, but what I think is more prevalent is the nature of the Mii Fighter costumes. Most of the content was likely planned when Nintendo and Sakurai officially decided to do DLC, but before deciding any major new characters. The Mii Fighter costumes, like the rest of the content, was likely done because it was easy to produce while still maintaining a high level of quality. Sakurai is likely aware that these characters are popular, but he can’t guarantee every character will be added. The costumes may be an attempt to put those characters in the game in some way in the chance that some of them won’t be playable.
After the Ballot
From what I’ve gathered, a lot of the content before the ballot has been done as a stop gap. The characters chosen were mostly veterans who were already designed for Smash and, in the case of Lucas and Roy, could be modeled after other characters reducing the need for new assets. The only new mode, Tourney, was announced before the Wii U version was released. The stages were mostly from the original game and the Mii Fighter costumes would be far easier to produce than stages, characters and other game modes. The content is that which is easy to produce while still maintaining a high degree of quality.
The ballot is done to plan for new content. As I discussed in DLC Econ 101, the ballot is a sly way for Nintendo and Sakurai to gauge what characters fans want. Sakurai has stated “Fighters take an incredible amount of work to develop” and this was echoed by Xander Mobus in the 50 Fact Extravaganza (when discussing Mewtwo in fact #54). He has also stated that he can’t keep the team together forever; hence, proper planning is needed in order to finish the extra content in a timely manner. The ballot is one of the biggest planning tools the team has. Sakurai has even stated that, “it wouldn’t be surprising for the planning of one item to coincide with the development, balancing, and finalization of several others.” supporting the notion that the current content is a stop-gap while him and his team plan and develop other content.
So how then will content look after the ballot? Sakurai stated that “We also have version updates, online features, and additional modes to worry about.” which could be inferred that other modes may come into the game as well. The original proposal specifically mentioned a 4 on 4 battle mode, which could be revised down the line. There may be more online features as the Event menu has plenty of room for more content. In regards to characters, they will likely be more involved and unique than what we’ve seen before. While it is very possible to see other veterans, like Wolf or Snake, appear, the characters will mostly be new. Likewise, these characters will likely take longer to make, so Nintendo likely won’t release three characters in a single update again. I would not expect a vast number of characters, but around 4 is very possible. This is somewhat predicated on the fact that we have a fighter bundle #1 which features four characters.
It remains to be seen what will be added going forward. All fans can really do is do what they did before launch: wait and speculate.
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