What does it really take to be a guest character in Smash Bros.? It’s a question that is at the very heart of the “Case For” series. I have long argued that the defining characteristic for third party Smash characters is their iconicness. It’s what separates the Sonics and Pacmans of the world from the Klonoas and Ristars. It’s what makes a character like Cloud Strife make sense. Is he a Nintendo All Star? No. Is he one of the most recognizable and influential figures in the video game industry? Yes. Cloud’s inclusion opened the minds of many Smash fans to a world of possibilities. We now have Mr. Fighting games (Ryu) and Mr. RPG (Cloud) in the SAME game. Who else could measure up to these titans? As odd as it is to consider, video gaming does have a Mr. FPS – Microsoft’s own Master Chief.
The former leader of Spartan Blue Team, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 is the quintessential super soldier. One of the most decorated and important figures in the Human-Covenant War, Master Chief is a man of few words but many actions. As a member of the SPARTAN-II program, Master Chief is a biologically and cybernetically enhanced living weapon inhabiting an exosuit of mass destruction. He always puts that strength to good use, however, as he defends humanity from a variety of extraterrestrial threats including the insidious flood.
Halo: Combat Evolved, launched on the original Xbox in November of 2001, and went on to be a commercial and critical darling. The game currently sits at a staggering 97 metascore on review score aggregator metacritic.com and has sold more than 5 million units on that platform. It has gone on to sell over 65 million units(http://www.gamespot.com/articles/halo-series-reaches-65-million-units-sold/1100-6428844/) since then, placing it in super elite company.
The series has been lauded for its online multiplayer, and was one of the primary forces driving First Person Shooters on consoles to their current prominence. Its fingerprints can be seen everywhere in the genre, with rechargeable shields, the ability to use grenades on the fly, and a two gun inventory system becoming the norm.
Halo has moved far beyond its video game, roots, however. The series has spawned a successful book series, several comics, a few live action and anime adaptations, and even a life size wax statue at Madame Tussauds’ famous wax museum in Las Vegas. Even bigger things loom in the franchise’s future, though, as Steven Spielberg is currently working on turning Halo into a live action TV show for the Showtime Network.
Reasons for inclusion: Smash Bros. is a series that focuses very heavily on the history of gaming, with an understandable focus on Nintendo in specific. While Halo has zero ties to Nintendo, it is, simply put, one of the most successful and influential game series of all time. When Pacman was revealed, Masahiro Sakurai was quoted as saying that he was “aiming to make Super Smash Bros. best character game in the world.” With the additions of Ryu and Cloud, he managed to add “Mr. Fighting Game” and “Mr. RPG” to an already star studded roster. What better way to round things out than to add “Mr. FPS”?
At 65 Million units sold, the only series currently in Smash with better sales than Halo are Mario, Pokemon, “Wii,” Final Fantasy, the Legend of Zelda, and Sonic the Hedgehog. That’s it. Megaman, Street Fighter, Metroid, Animal Crossing, Donkey, and all the rest lay below Halo in sales, and most are older franchises on top of that. Halo is a proven “system seller” and is often seen as a killer AP on whatever system it happens to be on. As mentioned previously, however, Halo and the character of Master Chief have crossed over to other media many times, making them familiar figures to gamers and non-gamers alike. The importance of Halo to Microsoft can be summed up in one word: Cortana. In the games, Cortana is a synthetic intelligence that assists Master Chief on his missions. Microsoft has used the name and voice actress to launch their own intelligent person assistant for all Windows Phones.
Unlike many modern gaming icons, Master Chief has a very recognizable look. He is a point of view character, yet he has a design and arsenal that are very much his own. He is very similar to Nintendo heroes such as Link and Samus in that way, as he is a largely silent protagonist that the player can project themselves on while still feeling like an entirely unique and powerful character.
Reasons for exclusion:
Master Chief is not only “Mr. FPS,” he is also “Mr. Microsoft.” Seeing him in Smash Bros. would be akin to seeing Mario in PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale. While many Smash Fans bemoan the inclusion of Snake and Cloud for being “too Sony,” they are both from third party franchises that have an actual history on Nintendo franchises. Halo, on the other hand, is wholly owned by one of Nintendo’s direct competitors.
It should be noted that Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, did send out a tweet saying that he would love to see Banjo and Kazooie in Smash Bros. He also cited that Microsoft has worked with Nintendo on games such as Diddy Kong Racing for the DS. The thing to remember is that these collaborations are rare (no pun intended) and have not occurred since Viva Pinata DS in 2008. In addition to this, all of the Microsoft games to appear on Nintendo consoles were Rare properties. Halo is a different animal as it is Microsoft’s golden child. There was some talk of the franchise coming to the DS, with a playable pitch even being produced (see video below), but the fact remains that Chief has never appeared on non-Microsoft Console (mobile and PC excluded).
Halo DS, a thing that you might currently be playing if you come from a parallel universe
Master Chief also has a few smaller, but still noteworthy strikes against him. The first is his use of realistic fire arms. While it is true that many of his weapons do fall into this category, he also has a wide variety of sci-fi weapons (including Covenant weapons) that are iconic to the series and are no more “realistic” than Fox’s laser pistol. A bigger issue may be that he is created by a Western studio, and that the majority of his popularity stems from the West. The series is not completely unknown in Japan, however, with Halo 3 being the best selling game of its Japanese launch week.
Master Chief is a character that is almost mandatory in any list of video game icons. If Smash is ever going to evolve into a series that is truly a celebration of all things gaming, his inclusion makes a staggering amount of sense. Right now, though? It’s hard to imagine Microsoft lending out their poster child to the competition, and even harder to imagine Nintendo wanting to make that offer. Who knows, though… Sakurai is going to Sakurai, after all.
What is Smash Bros. without music? Here are a few tracks you can look forward to if Master Chief makes it in.