Evaluating Plausibility of 3rd Party Characters: SEGA

3rd Party Chara SEGA

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.

Future Potential
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.

A famous hoax depicting Sonic and Tails as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

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.

Moveset potential.
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!

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  1. Honestly, I think the most likely second SEGA rep would be NiGHTS (though that’s not to say that I feel it should be) due to more or less being the next most synonymous franchise with SEGA. However, my dream SEGA fighter after Sonic would be Ristar, who I feel would be much more suited to a game like Smash.

  2. On one hand, third party characters are major hype generators, and they tend to get a lot of attention. On the other, though, their very nature means there are so many more hoops to jump through during the creation process to get things cleared with their parent company that it’d be that much less practical for what amount to optional content. Combine that with how ultra-selective Sakurai is when it comes to third party characters…and personally, I think it’s more likely than not we won’t see any more third party characters as DLC.

    If it were to happen, though? You have a fair point about how the chance of a second Sonic character is getting a bit overlooked.

    1. The problem I have with a second Sonic character – so Tails, basically – comes pretty much entirely from your argument. For better or worse, guest fighters are special circumstances, and the effort to add them really should lead to them representing something other characters (particularly those from Nintendo) can’t. Rayman could represent Ubisoft (and broadly, European developers), Shovel Knight can show the resurgence of independent developers, etc. Multiple characters from the same third party franchise, for the most part, simply can’t do that. Tails would be fairly popular, and probably not as difficult as someone from another company, but he wouldn’t show off the exciting possibilities inherent to the concept of a guest fighter.

      And that’s sort of the problem for SEGA, inasmuch as having only one fighter is a “problem.” They’ve been defined by Sonic so extensively that there aren’t any other series that would really work. I mean, Ai-Ai, ToeJam and Earl, and Ryo from “Shenmue” don’t exactly inspire confidence.

  3. Personally, I would rather see someone from another Sega franchise. Arle from Puyo would probably be my first choice, followed by Ash from Phantasy Star Online.

    If we DID have to have another Sonic character… I can see the appeal of Tails, but I’m not really sure what he could add to Smash. Knuckles is at least more of a brawler-type character, making him a bit more like Ganondorf to Sonic’s Captain Falcon. Plus, with things like gliding and digging (would be a totally awesome down B), he would at least have some interesting tricks that Sonic doesn’t.

  4. IMO,knuckles is better as the second sonic rep.
    1: is the most popular sonic character in the ballot.
    2: he could have a pretty unique moveset being a strong,fast character with great aerial mobility.
    3: he debuted in the game which is considered the best sonic game ever,sonic 3 & knuckles

    1. I’m not sure thats true. I found many publications that listed Sonic 1, Sonic 2 and even Sonic CD among the best games ever made (usually top 100 of all time lists). I didn’t see Sonic 3 or & Knuckles on any such publications.

  5. Although I do agree with the possibility that Sega (and Namco) would bring a second character to Smash in order to balance and compete with Capcom for having 2 of their reps, I don’t agree that they’ll bring another Sonic character in it; because if they did, then Capcom should’ve done the same thing too, rather choosing Bass or Mega Man Zero instead than Ryu. Tails and Knuckles I understand, but Eggman might be impossible because he might end up as being a Bowser Jr. clone as Eggman’s main weapon is the Egg Mobile. Plus for additional info, Eggman didn’t appear in every series entirely as he missed one, and that’s Sonic and the Black Knight. Also, Eggman’s Japanese voice actor, Chikao Ohtsuka, already passed away since this year January 15th, and Sega still haven’t found the new voice actor yet, so I wouldn’t think Eggman will have a choice to take action without his new Japanese voice.

    Rather bringing another Sonic character in Smash, I think Sega will just bring another Sega franchised character instead. But the problem is that most games don’t have a relationship with Nintendo in the past. Wii’s Virtual Console and Project X Zone series doesn’t seem to count as this point, I guess, so I wouldn’t think any characters from Virtua Fighters, Fighting Vipers, Virtua Cop, House of the Dead, Space Channel 5, Jet Set Radio, Golden Axe, Sakura Wars, Shinobi, Shenmue, Yakuza, Shining Force, End of Eternity, etc. should be in Smash. I got some names of certain character that I think have possibilities to be in Smash…

    1. Arle Najya (Puyo Puyo)…she’s actually one of my most predicted character for Smash of if Sega brought another character in it. The series was not just only sold for Sega console, but also released for Nintendo too in the past. Her magic does fit well as Smash’s move sets, and female magicians may be something that Smash need alongside with Zelda and Female Robin. The only downside is that although this game was released globally, it’s only popular in Japan rather than the west, since the west prefer Tetris and Dr. Mario, and some other non-Nintendo puzzle games like BeJeweled and Candy Crush as best puzzle games. However, if Sakurai did choose the game that was released globally, whether it’s popular or not, then maybe Arle may have a chance. Honestly, if the Fire Emblem characters (who weren’t popular in the west) and Little Mac (who weren’t popular in Japan) made it in, then Arle may have possibilities too.

    2. Bayonetta…I’ve seen many people voting for her through every fan polls, Twitters, and even Youtube. Her Devil May Cry-ish move sets (not to mention the creator is the former DMC creator) made every players stunned with excitement, and it may be quite interesting and (maybe) unique to use those as her move sets for Smash. And although she’s a Sega character, the game also have a Nintendo license in it, so she’s pretty much being one of the Nintendo Family now, just like Fatal Frame. Downside of this is not just her appearance is overly sexy in visual (I disagree with this comment since there’s Zero Suit Samus), but some of her weapons contains real-life firearms, which Sakurai disagrees to add it in Smash, like how he discarded those from Snake back in Brawl. But rather using real bullets, I think they’ll change it to Mii Gunner’s blaster shots instead, since that fits well visually. And since this game’s been released globally and popular at the same time, and if Arle didn’t make it in the end, then maybe Bayonetta have a chance.

    3. NiGHTS…I love this character since its first debut of his own game back in the Sega Saturn era. NiGHT’s also the another face of Sonic Team alongside with Sonic, and have appeared many times in certain Nintendo franchised Sega games. Its sequel (or remake?) game has also released for Wii too in the past, plus became a playable character for Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing Transformed which also released for Wii U. However, its appearance was mainly cameo crossovers rather than its own game, and I wouldn’t think that’ll count for its chance of joining Smash. Its move sets are also quite complicated rather than unique, as it mostly flies rather than walking on ground, and only have spinning tackles and loop attacks, which doesn’t seem to fit well in Smash. I wouldn’t even think using the Persona masks will add anything for Smash either. It can almost be like Mewtwo, floating on ground which makes NiGHTs blown away easy, but uses tackles and loops as its main attacks. I don’t know how it’ll add in for Smash, but it’ll be interest if it did appear in Smash.

    4. Segata Sanshiro & Wreck-It-Ralph…okay, I just placed these names here as a joke. (lol) I’d be laughing so hard if Segata Sanshiro did appear in Smash, but wouldn’t think so since he’s a real-life person, much of a mascot of former first gen Kamen Rider advertising for Sega Saturn. Also Wreck-It-Ralph does have a great connection with Sega. Not just only he appeared in Infinity for Wii U, but also appeared as a guest racer for Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing Tranformed which also was released for Wii U too. Not to mention the actual movie had more Sega characters than Nintendo, Capcom, and Namco. But I do disagree that he’ll be in Smash, because he’s a Disney character, and of course they won’t allow him due to copyright issues. As I said, I placed their names here as a joke, so don’t take it seriously.

    That’s about it. Sorry for the long text though.
    And one more thing to say…I think that “Direct info in 2 weeks rumor” ended up as fake.

  6. A very nice read and great article!

    I’m all for tails, as may be evident by this picture I have here xD I grew up with Sega as many others have I’m sure before switching (fully) to Nintendo after the Dreamcast, so I think Sonic and friends have that sort of appeal to that sort of person, and as you pointed out the rivalry turned cooperation is another aspect that gives them a unique edge over a few other third parties.

  7. I would say that one more important factor for Tails/another Sonic character, would be what Nintendo has planned with Sega as a collaborator.
    It is merely a pipe dream to think that Sega, or even Sonic the Hedgehog, would be bought out by Nintendo- yet, going to this extreme example, we would of course be able to state that after such an acquisition, Sakurai would add the upside of 3-5 characters for the franchise. If such were true, doing so in one bulk move may be overwhelming, and creeping in with a second character in this game could be less of a leap for future installments.

    This is of course, hypothetical, based solely on whatever the future of the series holds. Until then, I will have to dream for Tails, Shadow, Eggman, Knuckles– and the wild card Chao.

  8. I wholly agree that if another Sega fighter made it in, it would definitely be a Sonic character, though I would personally far more enjoy a Jet Set Radio rep. That being said, Knuckles seems like a far more likely choice than tails – he has quite a bit more moveset potential, I think.

  9. While the prospect of Sega’s second rep being another Sonic character does seem likely, I feel that people in the west overlook Arle Nadja’s chances from Puyo Puyo, given her popularity in the Japanese polls we have seen (however limited our data on that may be). While Puyo Puyo has much less success than the Sonic franchise, as it was even stated in this article, she belongs to the second biggest Sega franchise to date.

    Now, while I feel that this alone doesn’t give her much of a shot, my mind goes to the popularity of our indie reps Shovel Knight and Shantae in the west. If Sakurai does decide to comply with having either of these western choices enter the fray, I see it fairly likely (or at least plausible) that he will attempt to balance it with an eastern rep as well. And between the cat thing from Yokai Watch and Arle from Puyo Puyo, I feel that Arle is the more likely of the two to be chosen. Also, Sega may be up for her inclusion in hopes that it may get the fans curious enough to bring the series to the west.

    So, while another Sonic character seems the most likely for another Sega rep, if we do actually end up with one of our indie characters, I believe Arle’s chances shoot up quite a bit as well.

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