All of the third party characters that have appeared in the Super Smash Bros. series up until this point have a few things in common. One of the most prevalent is that they all represent large Japanese developers that have a long history with Nintendo. There are very few Japanese companies that can compare with SEGA, Namco, Capcom, and Konami in regards to size, history, and prestige, but Tecmo-Koei certainly comes close. Of all the characters in Tecmo-Koei’s stable of IPs, one stands head and shoulders above the other, the ‘the ultimate ninja,’ Ryu Hayabusa
Character Background: The heir to the dragon lineage and inheritor of the mystic Dragon Sword, Ryu Hayabusa is the most feared and accomplished ninja of his generation. With a powerful mix of ninpo magic, amazing agility, and a mastery of most forms of armed combat, no target, be they ninja, demon, robot, or any combination of the three, is safe from his blade.
Ryu Hayabusa headlines two different series, that being Ninja Gaiden and DOA. Ninja Gaiden debuted almost simultaneously on both the NES/Famicom and in arcades in October of 1988. The NES game included over 20 minutes of cinematic cutscenes, a first for the system. Ninja Gaiden was, in fact, a pioneer of storytelling by cutscenes in video games.
Since then, the franchise has had over a dozen games release on a wide variety of systems, including Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge on the Wii U and Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword on the DS. The series had a revival on the Xbox in 2004, being reborn as one of the most notoriously difficult and well received hack and slash games of it’s day. This carried on the tradition of the 2D platformers, which were also renown for their “break your controller” levels of difficulty. The games don’t have much else in common, except for being high quality action games.
For its part, DOA is one of the longest running 3D fighters, and Hayabusa has been one of the premiere fighters since it’s inception in 1996. The game takes place years after the main games in the Ninja Gaiden series, and Ryu only joins in order to investigate some nefarious goings on, but he still managed to win the second tournament.
Reasons for inclusion: Tecmo-Koei and Sqaure-Enix are probably the two most likely Japanese devs to see a character added to Smash in the future. Tecmo-Koei in particular has a strong relationship with Nintendo at the moment. The company developed two games based on the Zelda franchise, Hyrule Warriors and Hyrule Warriors Legends, for Nintendo hardware. The Zelda franchise is (CDI games notwithstanding) not something Nintendo lends out lightly. The only other time the franchise has been outsourced was to Capcom, a company that already has two characters in Smash Bros. Team Ninja, the development team directly responsible for both DOA and Ninja Gaiden, also had a hand in the development of Metroid: Other M. Don’t worry though, as they had nothing to do with the story.
Ryu himself has a long history on Nintendo hardware. He debuted on the NES the same year that he debuted in the arcades, and the games in the original NES trilogy are often regarded as some of the best on the system. While classic Ryu is the version that is most readily recognized with Nintendo, the newer 3D incarnation has had a few noteworthy games for the big N as well. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, was built from the ground up for the DS and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was funded by Nintendo (much like Bayonetta 2 was) for the Wii U. Over all, seven games were released in the Ninja Gaiden series on Nintendo Hardware since 1988.
The games are critical darlings and consistent million sellers. Ninja Gaiden Black, the definitive version of the Xbox franchise reboot, sold over 1.5 million copies and is the fourth highest ratest Xbox game on Metacritic , while the original series did well enough to spawn two sequels on the NES and a collection on the SNES. Ryu has also crossed over into other media on several occasions, most notably a 1991 OVA and a novelization of the first game as part of Nintendo’s World of Power series of books.
Reasons for exclusion: While the early Ninja Gaiden games are heavily associated with Nintendo, the newer entries (post 2004) have stronger ties to the Xbox brand. This isn’t to say that the “new” Ryu doesn’t have some Nintendo ties (Dragon Sword is a Nintendo exclusive, after all) but it is much more tenuous. Additionally, the classic series, although iconic and successful, does not evoke quite the same legacy as the other third party characters currently in the game.
The modern games are also quite violent. This is a game series that is heavy on gore, as Ryu is a ninja that is not afraid to eviscerate his foes. It was such a huge part of the series, infact, that the lack of dismemberment in the third installment resulted in quite a bit of controversy. This fact might make it difficult to properly represent the character, although it should be noted that this would be less of an issue if he drew inspiration primarily from the NES games.
What is Smash Bros. without music? Here are a few tracks you can look forward to if Ryu Hayabusa makes it in.