This article is a collaboration between LIQUID12A and Delzethin. Special thanks to Spazzy_D for help with research.
Disclaimer: due to how respectful people are on the Internet there are several instances of swearing in the images provided.
Another Super Smash Bros. game has its final roster and another round of speculation can come to a close. With a grand total of 58 different characters, the newest edition of Smash covers a wide swath of Nintendo’s history from its classic franchises to its up and coming modern games, and with a cast that stands out amongst each other impressively well for its size. This final roster brings something else with it, though, something that is unfortunately becoming very predictable: a whole lot of salt.
Vocal, negative reactions have become the norm since the final DLC characters were announced this past December. Disappointed fans have lashed out with wild emotions, condemning the characters selected and accusing series creator Masahiro Sakurai of letting personal bias dictate his decisions. The backlash has even created longing for the roster of previous entry Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a game that rarely saw such nostalgia from the fanbase before now! With so much opposition to the character selection of this installment, surely this will be a black mark of some kind on the series, right?
But what if we were to tell you…that this has all happened before?
Join us as we journey to the bygone times of early 2008 as we take a look at Brawl in its early days and observe the reactions to its roster. You may find them to be a surprise.
To begin with, a quintessential and undeniable fact: the roster of a brand new Super Smash Bros. game will always feel like it sucks.
As we’ve seen a few times now, the release of a new Smash game and the reveal of its final roster brings a lot of feelings to the forefront. There’s the excitement from finally having it in our hands and getting to experience it for ourselves, especially present for anyone whose favorite or most wanted characters got to join the fight. There’s a sense of relief, as well, as character speculation finally ends and the stress therein leaves, a calm after the storm. But there can also be disappointment to the fans whose favorites missed out, a feeling that the game isn’t as good as it could’ve been.
Some fans are unable to handle that disappointment…which leads to the salty comments you hear about so much.
But that’s happening this time because of how questionable the new roster additions were, right? That didn’t happen on this scale with the previous games, right?
While one could argue the reactions to 3DS/Wii U’s roster were more vocal and pronounced for various reasons–the Smash Ballot being the greatest–the truth is…Brawl’s release was shockingly similar. For its first few months, and even for a while before its release due to its final roster being leaked beforehand (yes, just like the ESRB leak for 3DS/Wii U), salty comments were everywhere. Fans attacked the 38-character roster for being smaller than they expected, they attacked the clone characters they felt were “undeserving” (Even though they were all less of clones than the ones in Melee!), they accused the Subspace Emissary of hogging development time that could’ve been spent elsewhere. They even directed their ire toward Sakurai himself!
There are a few parallels: people were angry over characters, the final roster, and minor gimmicks. The common complaints about Brawl were the small roster, several clones and the overly robust story mode. Fast forward to 2015, and the complaints are about other things…but they’re there nonetheless.
It’s okay to be disappointed, it’s okay to question some of the creative decisions that went into a game, but there’s a line, and so many reactions, past and present, cross it. A little constructive criticism is always a good thing, but there’s a difference between critiquing something and bashing it for not catering to one’s individual wishes. It’s egotistical and immature…and it reflects poorly on the community as a whole.
A lot of people have claimed the Smash community reached a low point when the final wave of DLC was revealed. Turns out this is all happened before.
Even when looking at the speculation base for both games, some aspects are similar, and that is no less evident when we look at the biggest, most controversial part of any Smash game: the characters. Just like the newest games, Brawl had its share of fan favorite characters who missed the cut. The support bases of King K. Rool, Ridley, Waluigi, and several others turned sour once they found themselves on the outside looking in, creating scenes very similar to what we’re seeing today.
If Brawl’s roster really was as “perfect” as a nostalgic minority is starting to claim…why was it so controversial from the beginning?
Characters assumed to be shoo-ins missed out, and some of their fans felt cheated. Less expected characters found their way in, to be branded “less deserving” for not being who the vocal minority preferred. Veteran characters who were hated when they were first revealed in the previous installment were suddenly put on pedestals and given special status solely for being in a Smash game once before.
Now tell us: Was the previous paragraph about Brawl or 3DS/Wii U? Can’t tell, can you?
We’ve been going on for a while about how similar the reactions have been…but one key detail is very different.
So, who has seen the “reps” argument brought up repeatedly in the last few years? Many a discussion has happened over how many characters are present on the Smash roster from each franchise, and their “representation” is treated as a measuring stick to compare to other franchises one might not be as interested in. There are constant cries of some series being “over-repped” and others that “deserve more reps.” The truth is, while Sakurai does pay attention to such things, he doesn’t restrict himself with them–he’ll add a character that “over-reps” a franchise if he thinks the character is worth adding, and he won’t shoehorn in a character just to even out a series’ representation compared to the others.
…But many fans still treat the situation as more simplistic than it actually is, acting like any decision that doesn’t match up with one they would make is a personal slight against them.
For Smash 3DS/Wii U, the salt was directed mainly at a few characters and franchises that were accused of being “over-repped”. Kid Icarus in particular drew the most ire during the 3DS version’s release, as two newcomers and many items, trophies, and enemy models were brought over from Kid Icarus Uprising as Sakurai was accused of blatant favoritism toward a franchise he personally revived. The Super Mario series was another target, gaining two newcomers and having Dr. Mario return, raising its total number of characters to either 7 or 9 (depending on if you count Yoshi and Wario) while fellow major franchises Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda remained at the same character count they had in Brawl. By the end of DLC, Fire Emblem would join them as a scapegoat, gaining three newcomers–none of them the one with the largest bandwagon going into the game–and four characters overall, each for a wildly different and unforeseeable reason. Vocal fans of series such as Donkey Kong, Metroid, and Star Fox felt ignored, and took their anger out however and on whoever they saw fit.
All of this also happened after Brawl’s release…but with several franchises in the opposite situations. The lack of a Mario newcomer and the absence of Dr. Mario (who missed out due to time constraints) rubbed many fans the wrong way. Other fans were annoyed that the only new Zelda character was the semi-clone Toon Link, deeming him “undeserving” and claiming the roster would’ve been better off without him. Sakurai was even accused of bias, as well, but toward Kirby instead, as then-newcomers Meta Knight and King Dedede became scapegoats for those who couldn’t stand that their favorites fell short of the cut.
But one character in particular saw the most hatred, resentment, and salt of any of them. Want to guess who it was?
It may be hard to believe for anyone who wasn’t there, but Wolf O’Donnell was despised for months after his reveal. Many fans couldn’t believe that a second Star Fox clone would get in over so many other characters they were hoping for. Even within his own series, he didn’t see a whole lot of support, as significantly more went toward the mystically-aligned telepath Krystal (who was actually considered all along, missing out mainly due to, once again, time constraints) for her greater moveset potential!
But then the months and years passed, the fanbase grew used to Wolf being there…and when a new Smash game was announced, he was as vehemently defended as any other veteran. When it turned out he wasn’t coming back, the fans reacted with as much salt over his exclusion as they did toward his inclusion years before!
So Star Fox as a series was fairly active during Brawl’s release, yet it was maligned and called “over-repped” for having 3 characters. Then it went inactive for several years leading up to 3DS/Wii U, fell to 2 characters since the inactivity made it lower priority…and now it’s “under-repped” despite having no releases in that entire span aside from a Star Fox 64 remake!
Does that even remotely make sense to anyone?
What can we learn from this? Much of the Smash fanbase is very opinionated, very dead set on their opinions, and has trouble coming to terms with any outcome other than the one they want most. Many of the fans are also resistant to change, idolizing some characters solely for being in a previous Smash game and ignoring the situation surrounding them at the current time. A spot on the roster is a grand and venerated position, and the more vocal supporters can and will tarnish any character they feel doesn’t deserve the honor…only to praise them with the rest of the veterans years later. It’s a very strange cycle.
There’ll be new Smash Bros. games in the future–it’s only a matter of time, and we might be seeing one soon for the NX if the rumors hold true–and more discussion and arguments and salt will come with them. The best we can do is take a look at the past, understand how and why these things happened, and try to use that knowledge to handle the emotional roller coaster that is Smash speculation better than the last time.
May we remember well that those who do not know their history…are doomed to repeat it.