The idea of third party characters in Smash Bros. has become something of a sensitive subject within the Smash community. Since the number of third parties has become more extensive in subsequent titles of Smash Bros., it may be difficult to find a fan without an opinion on them. Some fans seem to feel as if the addition of too many third party characters can dilute the overall ‘Nintendo vibe’ of the roster, and therefore they do not want many, or in some cases, any more. Some fans are much more accepting and embracing of potential guest characters joining the fight, thus presenting a divide in the community.
Ever since the first third party characters made their way into Super Smash Bros. Brawl, fans around the world have been longing for their favourite guests to enter the fray. This feeling has recently become more prevalent due to a number of key factors. Mainly; the Fighter Ballot, where Nintendo suggested that any video game character was eligible for nomination, as well as Ryu’s inclusion as a third party DLC fighter. Which gives fans a clear impression that third party characters aren’t off the menu for future potential DLC fighters.
It has even been said in the past that guest characters frequently generate more attention and sales than 1st Party characters in fighting games, despite opposition from some fans.
In this series of articles, I will attempt to take a non biased look at just how plausible some of the most popular and/or expected third party characters really are. Weighing up exactly what hurdles they have (beyond the standard licensing quandary that every guest will suffer from) and trying to assess what positive, as well as the negative attributes they have going for them.
Please bare in mind that I can only measure to the current precedent of principles that Sakurai has abided by up until this point. I would however like to stress that while Sakurai has broken precedent in the past. This is above all else, an opinion based article and should be treated as such.
Tails (and other Sonic characters).
Relationship with Nintendo.
When looking at the possibility of more third party characters joining the fight, the relationship that Nintendo shares with the IP owner is quite possibly the most crucial indicator when gauging plausibility. This is perhaps one of the greatest things going in the favour of additional Sonic characters joining the fight, as Sonic has become almost synonymous with Nintendo in recent years. Even to the point, where SEGA recently reached a deal with Nintendo to produce multiple exclusive titles for their consoles.
When looking at Smash Bros, it’s infinitely interesting that as it stands now we have four third party characters spread out between three different companies. These companies; SEGA, Namco Bandai, Capcom (as well as Nintendo) all happen to be involved in another cross over series of games, Project X Zone, developed by Nintendo’s own Monolith Soft. This further indicates a strong working relationship that Nintendo has built with these companies.
SEGA has also in the past disclosed that they consider Nintendo more of a natural home for Sonic than other platforms. Citing the Sonic franchise’s ability
to historically perform better on Nintendo systems.
Significance to the history of Nintendo
All of the current third party characters in Smash Bros. share a very important trait; they are significant, one way or another to Nintendo’s history. Ryu for example has seen great amounts of success on Nintendo systems, as the posterboy for the Street Fighter series. Street Fighter 2 and its follow ups remain to this day, the most successful third party title released on a Nintendo console.
The Sonic franchise in a very unique position. After all, how many other franchises have appeared in an entire series of crossover games alongside Mario and friends?
Sonic the Hedgehog and Nintendo, and particularly Mario have a historic rivalry dating back to the inception of the Sonic franchise. Following Alex Kidd’s less than stellar reception, and his overwhelming similarity to Mario, Sonic was devised as a mascot for SEGA. One they felt could compete with Nintendo’s mustachioed plumber.
What soon led after was a console war between the two big guns in town. Inspiring various slogans, pot shots and marketing campaigns in order to highlight superiority over the opposition. A war that lasted until SEGA exited the console market following massive losses in 2001.
It’s undeniable that the Sonic franchise has made an incredible lasting impact on gaming. When you take every playable franchise in Smash Bros. into account, Sonic hails as the third most overall successful franchise behind only Mario and Pokemon.
Many of the games in the franchise have received incredible amounts of critical acclaim, including Sonic The Hedgehog 2, which appears on many publications featuring the greatest games of all time. Tails himself has appeared in at least one new game every year since he first made his mark.
Tails is chiefly a big part of the Sonic franchise, and has become known as one half of among the most iconic gaming duo’s of all time. In addition to finding fame as a symbol of sidekicks throughout all of gaming. His inclusion as a playable character introduced multi-player into the series, and greatly contributed to making Sonic The Hedgehog 2 a huge success.
Sonic is anything but a one and done series. With more than 80 games released since 1991, it’s easy to see that it is a franchise that will live on long into the foreseeable future. With SEGA having already revealed a few tidbits about what the future might hold for Sonic. This is crucial, as to quote the man himself, “Characters without a future are rarely chosen” – Masahiro Sakurai.
Having been involved in the video game market since 1982, SEGA has amassed a rich history of critically acclaimed and commercially successful franchises. Nevertheless, they do not have anything to their name that compares to the billion-dollar Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. To put this into perspective, Sonic has shifted approximately 150 million games. Conversely the next leading SEGA IP (Puyo-Puyo) sits firmly at 13.5 million games. It’s hard to seriously consider that Nintendo or SEGA would be willing to use anything other than a Sonic character for a hypothetical second SEGA character for Smash.
The Sonic franchise itself has a diverse cast of characters with ranging levels of importance and popularity. One of which is very notably an important character, the primary antagonist of the entire Sonic franchise. Doctor Eggman. Eggman has appeared in nearly every Sonic the Hedgehog game to date, as well as comic books, movies, animated TV series’ and novels. He also has the distinction of being one of the best known villains throughout video game history.
Another character, one who is comparable in many ways to Tails; is Knuckles, who debuted in the follow up to Sonic the Hedgehog 2; Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Knuckles boasts enough popularity and renown to be a contender, and at the very least serves as competition for future Sonic characters entering the Smash Bros fray. One key attribute Knuckles has going in his favour above Tails is that he actually appears to be more requested in the hardcore Smash community.
Shadow the Hedgehog has also found extreme popularity with the Sonic fans. Even headlining his own game. Though his appearance as an in-game Assist Trophy for both Brawl and Smash 4 could indicate that Sakurai does not see him as a good fit for a playable role.
Popularity in and out of the Smash Community
A potentially major detraction for further Sonic characters is that the Smash community at large seems indifferent to the inclusion of more. The demand for them is significantly lower than that of various other third party characters.
Although it can be said that the opinion of the hardcore Smash community has not always mattered when it comes to the addition of third party characters. For example, Pac-Man’s reception prior to his official reveal was not entirely positive. Ryu was similarly not a popular choice in comparison to his Capcom compadre, Mega Man. Tails, like Ryu and Pac-Man boasts a significant amount of potential to appeal to the casual fanbase. As someone who has been slapped on all kinds of merchandise, he is legitimately a character who is frequently on the minds of a broad demographic of potential buyers.
When weighing up the chances of any character joining the fight in Smash Bros., moveset potential will always be a key factor in whether or not Sakurai would be willing to add said character.
The Sonic franchise has many different kinds of games to draw from. It is a franchise that has branched out into several different genres of gaming. Including but not limited to; racing, sporting, and fighting .
Despite this being the case, there’s something exceedingly unnatural about centring a move set for such an iconic character around side games and spin offs. Especially when you take Sonic’s moveset into account. At its core, a spin dashing and speed oriented move set similar to the one that Sonic uses perhaps makes Tails a less enticing character than other, more obviously unique third party choices.
It is indeed true that there is no prior precedent that multiple characters from the same third party franchise have been made playable in Smash Bros. Yet it would appear that the Sonic franchise has the best chance of being the first to accomplish this feat due to its overwhelming success and close ties to both Nintendo and the Mario series at large. Certainly, Tails seems like the most plausible candidate out of the given choices, though Doctor Eggman and Knuckles should not be entirely discounted.
It has to be said that everything that makes Sonic a success is fully realized with Sonic himself. Adding Tails would not be introducing anything majorly new beyond giving Sonic a second character. Which is in itself a big detraction based on Sakurai’s method of selecting characters.
Despite the fact that Tails lacks the hardcore fan support of many other third party character choices, he does boast a vast amount of casual appeal. Being able to have Mario & Luigi face off in battle with Sonic & Tails could conceivably be a strong selling point to fans, both old and new. I see his situation as being most comparable to Ryu’s prior to his inclusion as a Downloadable Fighter. While there are other SEGA characters who have more support within the Smash fanbase, the many positive attributes that he has going in his favour would probably override that popularity in the same way that Ryu was chosen, as opposed to the fan favourite Pheonix Wright from the Ace Attorney series of games.
I would personally rate Tails’ chances as being fairly strong.
What do you think? Could you see Tails or any other Sonic characters joining Smash Bros. in the future? Which Third Party characters would you like to see covered next? Sound off in the comments below!