Note: This article is based on speculation.
Hard to believe how much Super Smash Bros. has changed in the last few years, isn’t it? A brand new entry to the series brought us new content, new ideas, and a constant stream of new members to the community. Things previously thought unimaginable have come to pass–who would’ve thought two years ago that we’d be talking about the inclusion of Cloud freaking Strife and a character nominated into the game by the fans? But neither would’ve ever come to pass were it not for the biggest change: downloadable content in the series for the first time!
So much, in fact, has changed that it can be hard to believe how far we’ve come. Just a handful of years ago, Super Smash Bros. Brawl faced an uncertain future, with mixed opinions in the community about the roster and overall balancing of the game. The Wii’s hardware was set up in a way that made it impossible to update the game after release via downloaded files, meaning the very idea of post-release content was no more than a pipe dream.
But…what if things had been a little different? What if the Wii had been capable of the necessary steps to keep Brawl updated for a while after release? What could we have seen if Brawl had DLC?
Before we start speculating, let’s lay down some rules. We’ll be focusing primarily on characters–they were the focal points of Smash 4 DLC, and it would’ve been no different for Brawl. As we saw last year, DLC stages are very difficult to predict–the only thing that stayed consistent was that every third party newcomer brought a new stage with them. And since the Mii Fighters didn’t exist yet, there wouldn’t be any reason to create Mii costumes, and we do not know how willing the dev team would’ve been to create DLC costumes for non-Miis.
We’ll also be following the same criteria that seems to have been used when choosing characters for Smash 4, both the base games and DLC. Returning veterans need to feel worth bringing back–they need to at least be decently well-received in previous entries, and have something that keeps them from feeling redundant next to other characters. First party newcomers should have some kind of relevance around when this would-be DLC would’ve been started in early-mid 2008–having at least one foot in the spotlight is a major factor towards a newcomer’s inclusion, and for some candidates, lack of relevance singlehandedly kept them out of the running. The exception is retro Nintendo characters, but they’re a different story entirely and we did not see any retro picks for Smash 4’s DLC. Third party newcomers need not necessarily be relevant, either, as long as they are iconic enough to be recognized. Furthermore, all potential newcomers need to have abilities that make them unique, allowing them to stand out among all the other all-stars on the Smash roster, and their unique abilities should be able to come together into a moveset in a way that feels natural and true to character.
With all of that in mind…let’s begin. Which characters could’ve had a shot?
Mewtwo, Roy, and Dr. Mario
These three have a few traits in common. They were added to the series in Super Smash Bros. Melee, they all had their support bases hoping to see them return, and most importantly, all three have leftover, partially finished in Brawl’s data, implying they were planned for inclusion but were cut for time. If DLC had been an option, any of the three could’ve seized that second chance.
It’s worth noting that the eventual Smash 4 versions of Roy and Dr. Mario may have been based on their scrapped concepts for Brawl! One trend we saw with Brawl was taking the characters who were added to Melee as clones, and giving them unique traits to make them merely semi-clones. We don’t know how much work was done on Roy and Doc–only that some work was done–but there is reason to believe project plans were written out for their movesets. It’s plausible that Roy’s semi-clone moveset in Smash 4, and Doc’s continued use of the Dr. Tornado despite Mario’s version being replaced by F.L.U.D.D., could be a carryover from their Brawl concepts!
But what of the rest of the Forbidden Seven? Well…it’s hard to say if the other four would’ve actually been considered for DLC. Dixie Kong was intended to be a partner to Diddy who could swap out in tag-team fashion like in the Donkey Kong Country games, and so it’s hard to say if her Brawl concept would’ve even let her function on her own. Toon Zelda and “Toon Sheik” had no work done on them beyond placeholders in the code. And the exact identity of the character labeled as “pra_mai” is still a mystery!
It’s a similar situation to Rhythm Heaven in Smash 4. An icon found in the games’ code gives us reason to think a character from the series was considered at some point and then shelved. Despite being considered for the base roster, said character wasn’t given the nod for DLC.
Starting with his debut in Super Mario Sunshine, the koopa prince fit right into his role as a secondary boss and underling for his dad. As an up-and-comer with increasing relevance to his home series, Bowser Jr. would’ve been on the short list for DLC candidates. He’d have been helped by the fact that the main Super Mario series saw no newcomers in Brawl, giving the developers little reason to question whether adding him would be a step too far!
It’s worth noting that Bowser Jr.’s moveset would likely have been completely different had he been added as Brawl DLC. It wasn’t until Super Mario Galaxy and beyond where he would start piloting machines in most of his boss fights, meaning he’d probably have had a moveset built around his paintbrush from Super Mario Sunshine rather than the Koopa Clown Copter. Would that have been better or worse than the moveset he got for real? That’s a matter of personal taste.
Another rising star (heh) in the Mario series, Rosalina became a fan favorite overnight with her debut in Super Mario Galaxy. As an at-the-time new character from an established IP with unique powers and abilities, Rosalina could have found herself in a similar situation to the one that gave Corrin a chance, bolstered further by Galaxy being a massive critical and commercial success!
Like with Bowser Jr., Rosalina’s moveset may have been very different if she had debuted in Brawl. Her puppeteer playstyle revolving around Luma may have been deemed too complicated for Brawl’s more casual-minded approach. That said, we’ll never know for sure.
Wolf Link & Midna
Next is the Twilight Princess and her faithful…steed? Wolf Link, Midna, or both combined were a fairly popular suggestion when Brawl speculation was running high, as well as an “alternate” idea presented by fans who were initially dissatisfied by Toon Link!
The pair would’ve brought a unique blend of abilities to the game. The combined powers of otherworldly Twili magic and the ferocity of a sacred beast would’ve made for a moveset and playstyle quite unlike any other. They would’ve even had a niche as a rider-and-mount character…sort of.
As luck would have it, having the role of two bosses means Ridley would’ve been been out of the running. Fortunately, there was another Metroid character making waves in 2008: the big bad of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, usurper of the Space Pirates, and harbinger of the mutagenic substance known as phazon!
A sentient, corrupted metroid inhabiting a stolen shell of armor, Dark Samus could’ve potentially been a semi-clone of the real deal…but she wouldn’t necessarily have to be. Her attacks could’ve been twisted, phazon-based bastardizations of Samus’ kit, with hitboxes and behavior that’d have put her closer to Wolf’s status of being only marginally derived from their source character. Could some of her moves have had damage-over-time effects, using her abilities to spread the corruption to her opponents?
Star Fox had yet to go dormant in 2008, meaning a fourth character would’ve been very plausible had DLC been possible. Believe it or not, Krystal was actually a more common suggestion than Wolf was back in the day! Combine that with the fact that the dev team may or may not have considered her for the base roster, and you have a character who could’ve made waves as DLC.
Krystal would’ve benefitted most from a moveset built around her battlestaff from Star Fox Adventures. Sakurai has shown he’s fully willing to base movesets around assets from a series’ less recent games, and the staff’s spellcaster-like powers would’ve made her a very rare magic-wielding fighter, on top of giving her a weapon type no one on the roster possessed. Throw in some of Star Fox Assault’s sci-fi weaponry to complement it, and Krystal would’ve had a blend of magic and technology that no other character could match!
The Silver-Haired Maiden wouldn’t have been as controversial as one might think! Believe it or not, Fire Emblem was considered under-represented in Brawl’s day, and a fourth Fire Emblem character back then wouldn’t have seen nearly the same backlash as a sixth did for Smash 4 despite the similar circumstances!
Micaiah has a natural gift for light-elemental magic, a rare element in Smash that would’ve been even rarer at the time as Palutena wasn’t around. Combine her arsenal of light tomes from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn with a few staves for warping and inflicting ailments, and you have another viable spellcaster on a roster with very few to speak of.
The Blue Bomber was one of the most requested characters for Brawl as soon as the first third party content was revealed. If DLC had been an option, he would’ve almost surely been chosen.
Mega Man’s moveset in Smash 4 is a giant love letter to the classic NES games in particular, and odds are his would-be Brawl moveset would’ve been very similar…with one exception. His Final Smash begins with the Black Hole Bomb from Mega Man 9, a game that wasn’t released until late 2008, and so a Brawl incarnation would’ve likely used something else. Maybe the Rush Super Adaptor from Mega Man 7?
The tireless wanderer has been seeking to hone his skills for a long time, and had things been different, perhaps he could’ve found his way into Smash much earlier. Whereas Mega Man has fallen off in recent years and is mostly remembered for his legacy, Ryu and Street Fighter have held strong. Perhaps enough for him to have even been considered alongside Mega Man as DLC?
There are some interesting things to consider here. Brawl’s different design philosophy could’ve potentially led to Ryu’s moveset being different than the one we have today. Would the greater focus toward casual play and accessibility back then have led Sakurai and his design team to pass up on the more complicated aspects of the Ryu we know, like his light and heavy tilts or the special command inputs for his B moves? What could a Brawl Ryu have been like?
Konami has fallen from grace in many gamers’ eyes as of late, but things were different in 2008. Bomberman was a legitimate option instead of wishful thinking, and if DLC had happened, maybe Konami and Hudson Soft could’ve worked something out.
Like his name would suggest and anyone who’s played his games would confirm, Bomberman is all about strategic use of his iconic explosives. A Smash moveset would likely be built around placing and interacting with his bombs. Could his specials involve different ways to set or arrange them? Could they use different bomb elements? There’s quite a bit of moveset potential to be had!
Simon Belmont is another icon of the NES era, and in a way, Konami’s counterpart to Mega Man. The vampire hunter was well-supported during Brawl speculation, and if DLC had been possible, who knows?
Simon’s greatest strength lies in how well his abilities from the Castlevania games could translate into a Smash moveset. The various flicks and swings of his Vampire Killer whip give him a strong core to base his normal attacks on, as well as giving him a long ranged grab. His subweapons fit right in as his B moves, from his arcing throwing axe to cross boomerangs to holy water surging across the ground. You can picture it already, can’t you?
Who’d have thought we’d see a one-off Square-Enix character from the ‘90s on a list like this? Geno was long thought to be a pipe dream until we learned that he was legitimately considered for Brawl. He fell short of the base roster, but if DLC had been in the cards, this is one wish that may have seen the light. Pretty impressive for a star inhabiting a child’s toy, isn’t it?
Geno would have been able to pull from all the various weapons and skills he obtains in Super Mario RPG, morphing the limbs of his doll body into weaponry and firing powerful magic projectiles at foes. His special techniques would’ve fit right in as his specials in Smash, from the laser-like Geno Beam to the destructive disc of Geno Whirl to Geno Blast’s descending rays of light. And if Sakurai and his team had deemed it so, they could’ve even built Geno’s moveset around the Action Commands that Mario RPG games have become famous for, allowing him to deal extra damage with additional button presses at just the right time!
As interesting as all of these options are, there would’ve only been so much time to work with. Much like Smash 4’s DLC, the list has to be narrowed down to something more realistic. The circumstances would’ve been a little different for Brawl, but if they were to have chosen 7 characters, here is what Brawl’s DLC list may have looked like:
But in the end, it’s all just an educated guess.
Every Smash Bros. roster has a lot of fan favorites who miss the cut, and our fictional DLC list is no different. Here’re a few that fell short who weren’t already mentioned above, and the reasons why they missed the cut:
King K. Rool: The fan favorite would’ve been stuck between a rock and a hard place that he’s yet to get out of even now. He hadn’t appeared in a major release for a while even back then, and his role in the 2007 spinoff title DK: Jungle Climber likely didn’t matter, since it was a spinoff title. The King’s situation is the same then as it is now: waiting for his chance to return to the spotlight once more.
Villager, Mii, Pac-Man: All three were considered during Brawl’s development, but were passed on for reasons that would not have changed in time for DLC. According to Sakurai, he thought at the time that the Villager and Miis were ill-suited for Smash, and that Pac-Man’s classic design felt “too far-fetched” to work. It took until Smash 4’s development for him to change his mind, meaning they’d have been out of the running for DLC.
As you’ve gathered by now, things could’ve been very different if the Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl had been capable of downloadable content. More characters would’ve meant more variety and more grudge matches between fighters that would never have otherwise met.
But how else would things have changed in the long run? How many of these characters would’ve stayed for our newest Smash games? Would people be complaining about Dark Samus being a “braindead top tier” now? Would they be clamoring for fan favorite low tier Micaiah to be buffed? Would they be mourning Bomberman as much as they have Snake?
Brawl DLC wasn’t meant to be…but sometimes it’s fun to wonder just how different things could’ve been.
(Special thanks to the Smashified team for their Krystal and Bomberman renders, and to Nibroc.Rock for his Geno render!)