- This article has content based on the author’s opinions that shouldn’t be taken as fact.
- With the exception of 3DS snapshots, all other screenshots and gifs weren’t recorded by the author and are solely meant for illustrative purposes. Credit goes to the respective owners.
- Thanks to PushDustIn and Nocturnal for the translations.
- Additional thanks to PushDustIn for recording some of Ganondorf’s animations.
Table of Contents:
Who is Ganondorf?
Ganondorf in Super Smash Bros. Melee
-Out of the Clones, the Odd One Out
-Similar Moves, Different Concepts
Origin of Moves and the Changes After Melee
Respecting the Character in Different Ways
Keep him as a Clone or Overhaul Him Completely?
Hi all, Frostwraith here. In my first article, I talked about clones in Super Smash Bros. and my own thoughts on them. Among those clone characters is Ganondorf, the main villain of The Legend of Zelda series and one of the most iconic villains in all of gaming.
In Super Smash Bros., he happens to have a derivative moveset based on Captain Falcon, the main character of the F-Zero series. A seemingly bizarre design choice that has remained a controversial subject in the Super Smash Bros. fandom ever since his inclusion in Melee.
What exactly is the deal with Ganondorf’s moveset? As a fan of the character and the Zelda series, I decided to look at both sides of the debate, analyzed the animation work, moveset design and how can those relate to the Zelda series. Considering Sakurai’s statements on representing characters true to their source games’ selves, this raises the question: is Ganondorf accurately portrayed?
Who is Ganondorf?
Ganondorf is the humanoid form of Ganon, the main villain of the Zelda series since the first game on the NES. A recurring antagonist with the ambition of ruling the world and turning it into a world of darkness, he can be described as a huge, pig-like beast with devastating magical powers and physical strength.
In the original NES game, Ganon is the main antagonist known as the Prince of Darkness, kidnapping Zelda and possessing the Triforce of Power. In Zelda II, Ganon is briefly seen in the Game Over screen, implying that Link’s defeat leads to Ganon’s rebirth.
He was given a backstory in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where he’s implied to have been human, previously known as Ganondorf and being the leader of a band of thieves from the desert.
In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf makes his official debut, matching the backstory provided in A Link to the Past, one of the three story sequels to Ocarina of Time (the others being The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, following different timelines). There, he’s quickly set up as the main antagonist, first alluded by the Deku Tree as an evil man in black who put a curse on him. In the first meeting with Zelda, Ganondorf is first seen speaking with the King of Hyrule. Just as the Deku Tree described him, he’s a man clad in black armor. Zelda is very suspicious of him, claiming that the dark clouds she sees in her prophetic dreams symbolize Ganondorf himself.
Ganondorf is described as the king of the Gerudo, a tribe from the desert mostly comprised by female thieves. It’s said that a Gerudo male is born every 100 years and is destined to become their king. As you may have guessed, Ganondorf is that man.
Ganondorf is shown to have the ambition to rule the world and wants the Triforce, a divine relic known to grant the wish of those who touch it, in order to fulfill that ambition. Ganondorf eventually succeeds in obtaining the Triforce, but according to legend, only those with a balanced heart may obtain it whole. Ganondorf, due to his ambition, only obtains the Triforce of Power. The other two parts, the Triforce of Wisdom and the Triforce of Courage, are bestowed on Zelda and Link, respectively.
After ruling Hyrule for 7 years, Ganondorf is defeated in battle by the combined efforts of Link, Zelda and the six Sages and is sealed away afterwards. During said battle, Ganondorf eventually uses the Triforce of Power to transform into Ganon, his beast form seen in previous games.
Ganondorf returns in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Many years after his defeat in Ocarina of Time and Link, the Hero of Time, went back in time, Ganondorf’s seal is broken and he once again attempts to conquer Hyrule and the world. With no hero to help them, the people pray to the gods to help them. The world is flooded, the mountaintops to which people fled to becoming islands in a vast ocean, and the kingdom of Hyrule becomes nothing but the object of an ages-old legend, its name also lost in time.
Ganondorf did survive, however, and plots world domination once more. Ganondorf is introduced by the King of Red Lions to Link after the failed attempt to rescue his kidnapped sister Aryll. Ganondorf, named Ganon by the King of Red Lions, is described as a shadowy figure who was sealed long ago and attempted to turn the world into darkness. He’s also described as a wielder of evil magic.
Ganondorf’s motivations are explained by the man himself, originally wanting to conquer Hyrule to provide his people a better place to live instead of the harsh desert, coveting the wind and green landscape of Hyrule. Reuniting the three Triforce pieces, Ganondorf is interrupted by the King of Hyrule at the very last minute, who wishes for the gods to wash away the land of Hyrule along with Ganondorf. In one last duel with Link and Zelda, Ganondorf is defeated once and for all.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures features the Gerudo and the desert once again, with Ganondorf being the sole male member of the tribe. Unlike other games, they aren’t portrayed as thieves nor antagonist, except for Ganondorf, who’s said to have broken the taboo of entering the sacred Pyramid, taking a powerful trident. By the time Ganondorf finally appears, he’s already transformed into his beast form. Zelda refers to him as a reincarnation of an ancient demon king. The official Hyrule Historia book describes Ganon in this game as a reincarnation of the original Ganon in a similar vein to how Link and Zelda throughout the series aren’t really the same identities, but multiple incarnations of the same entities.
The villain returns once more in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Happening in a different timeline after the events of Ocarina of Time in which Ganondorf’s ambitions are exposed before he actually conquers the world, Ganondorf is executed by the six Sages. As the Triforce of Power inexplicably ends in Ganondorf’s possession, the dark lord survives and kills one of the sages in a fit of rage. As a last measure, Ganondorf is sealed in the Twilight Realm deceiving Zant to do his bidding afterwards. Ganondorf is described by the Sages as the leader of a band of thieves, a ruthless demon thief and evil magic wielder who invaded Hyrule and aspired to conquer the world.
In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Ganondorf doesn’t make any appearance. As the game takes place many eras before Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf has yet to be born. A similar antagonist named Demise does make an appearance and alludes to a reincarnation of himself that the descendants of Link and Zelda are doomed to fight against. Hyrule Historia, an official book detailing the lore of the Zelda series, explains that Ganondorf is a reincarnation of Demise’s hatred for the goddess and her chosen hero.
Ganondorf has always been portrayed as a cunning, ruthless and manipulative villain. He’s very ambitious, aspiring to conquer the world, and also possesses leadership skills, leading an entire army of monsters. In all Zelda games in which Ganondorf makes an appearance, he’s always described as an evil magic user and often described as demonic, with immense power.
The same is also carried over to the Smash Bros. series, his trophies always describing his roles in the series.
“Said to be the sole man born to the Gerudo tribe in a hundred years, Ganondorf aspired to conquer the world. He plundered a piece of the sacred Triforce from the Temple of Time when Link pulled the Master Sword from its pedestal. With the Triforce of Power in Ganondorf’s possession, Hyrule was plunged into darkness until Link and Zelda defeated the fiend.”
“A man who wants to use the power of the Triforce to conquer the world. In Twilight Princess, he gives strength to the Twilight King, Zant, and tries to change the land into a world of darkness. He possesses Zelda, transforms into a magical beast, and attacks Link. In the end, however, Link deals him a finishing blow and defeats him.”
Smash 3DS trophy (North American version):
“The King of Evil is Link’s arch-nemesis in most games in the Legend of Zelda series. With the Triforce of Power at his disposal, he’s a fearsome opponent. In this game, his mighty attacks have so much impact, they easily make up for his slow speed, and his launching ability is extra impressive! Rush in when the enemy’s open and strike hard.”
Smash 3DS trophy (PAL version):
“The King of Evil that awaits Link at the end of most of his adventures. Ganondorf possesses the Triforce of Power. In Smash Bros., he makes up for his low speed with devastating power. The strength of his blows can knock back most opponents. Get close with a dash attack, and pummel your foes!”
Smash Wii U trophy (North American version)::
“Ganondorf, the King of Darkness and owner of the Triforce of Power, is bent on plunging the kingdom of Hyrule into ruin. Thankfully, he’s usually stopped by Link before this happens. In Smash Bros., he makes up for his low speed with devastating power. The strength of his blows can knock back most opponents. Rush in when the enemy’s open and strike hard!”
Smash Wii U trophy (PAL version):
“The King of Evil is Link’s arch-nemesis in most games in the Legend of Zelda series. With the Triforce of Power at his disposal, he’s a fearsome opponent. In this game, his mighty attacks have so much impact, they easily make up for his slow speed, and his launching ability is extra impressive! Rush in when the enemy’s open and strike hard.”
|Character:||Japanese:||Literal Japanese:||Official Localization:|
|Pit:||あの見るからに悪そうな魔人は……。||That evil looking demon that I see is…||This Ganondorf guy really has the evil look down pat|
|Palutena:||ガノンドロフですね。豚王がノンとなることもありますが。||naturally Ganondorf. He sometimes turns into Pig Ganon.||He can sometimes take another form. As Ganon, he’s known as the King of Porkness.|
|Viridi:||いやいや、”魔王”ガノンじゃろう。ゼルダやリンクがいるハイラルを幾度となく窮地に追い込んでいるようじゃ。||It’s ACTUALLY the” Devil King” Ganon. He’s brought the Hyrule that Zelda and Link are in into quite the dilemma many times.||It’s ACTUALLY the King of Darkness. He’s brought Hyrule to the brink of ruin more times than I can count.|
|However, even after using my Palutena Scan, I still don’t understand his personal history.||Hmm. My Archvillain Database doesn’t bring up anything about his past.|
|Pit:||パルテナさま、そんな能力ありましたっけ？||Goddess Palutena, you have the sort of ability?||Wow, I didn’t know you had that app.|
|Palutena:||いえ？無いですけど？||No? I don’t have it?||Hee hee. A goddess must preserve some sense of mystery.|
|Speaking of him, there are actually many Ganons.||One thing you should know, Pit, is that there are many different Ganons.|
|Palutena:||ゼルダやリンクにいろんな人がいるのと同じですね。||It’s the same as there being many Link and Zeldas.||Just like there are multiple Links and Zeldas.|
|Viridi:||ともあれ、あの比類無きパワーは要注意じゃな。||Anyhow, pay special care to his unrivaled power.||But don’t let that confuse you. I’ve spent years studying Ganon canon.|
|Palutena:||その分、非常に重たいのでそこを突いていきましょう。||Also, [Ganon] is extremely heavy so use that for your advantage.||Remember, Ganondorf is as heavy as he is powerful. Use that to your advantage.|
The detail about multiple Ganons is a little odd as it’s explained in the series there’s only one Ganon, however, it might be a reference to how Four Swords Adventures features a different Ganon, reincarnated in a similar vein as Link and Zelda. Hyrule Historia places the game as happening after Twilight Princess where Ganon is shown dying after the final battle. Similarly, in Skyward Sword, Demise’s curse is described as eternal, meaning that even if Ganon dies, he will be reincarnated like Link and Zelda to fulfill his fated role.
Ganondorf in Super Smash Bros. Melee
In the Smash Bros. series, Ganondorf first appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee as one of the six clone characters added to the game to expand the roster. To much confusion, he was a clone of Captain Falcon.
As a matter of fact, Ganondorf’s circumstances regarding his inclusion were different from the other clone characters. Unlike them, his model wasn’t actually made for Melee, but for the SpaceWorld 2000 tech demo, as mentioned in my previous article.
Captain Falcon’s moveset was the one chosen as a base for Ganondorf’s moveset. This has to do with technical reasons, as Ganondorf’s model from the SpaceWorld 2000 demo worked best with Captain Falcon’s moveset due to similar body shapes: that of an adult muscular human male.
It was these circumstances and technicalities that led Sakurai to deem him as a lucky inclusion in Melee. He wouldn’t have been added if Falcon’s moveset hadn’t worked well with Ganondorf’s model and was actually the very last character added to the game, according to internal data. Sakurai also explained that Ganondorf’s popularity was also a factor in including him in the game. In fact, he was the character from The Legend of Zelda series that had the most votes in the Smash 2 poll, above fellow series newcomers Zelda, Sheik and Young Link.
Below is Ganondorf’s description in the official website of Super Smash Bros. Melee, written by Sakurai himself in which he describes the character and explains the circumstances of his inclusion and why he was added as a clone of Captain Falcon.
“The descent of the supreme ruler. Ganondorf!
Ganondorf is the human form of the final boss of “The Legend of Zelda”, “Ganon”. His first appearance is in “The Ocarina of Time.”
Ganondorf was a very lucky character [to get in].
To be honest, I had no plans to bring Ganondorf to Smash, but because of various convenience circumstances, I decided to include him in the battle.
(I received the model, the traits were clearly defined, the body proportions matched Captain Falcon, and above else his popularity was high.)
If you play as him, you will quickly understand but above else he is stolid, and feels extremely heavy. In that regard, his strong points is that his offensive ability is very high, and because he is heavy he is very hard to knock off [the stage]. Ganondorf is all about brute force, while Captain Falcon is more focused on technique.
Once again, I made another character that clearly shows their strong and weak points….”
Out of the clones, the odd one out
There’s a good reason why Ganondorf’s moveset is the source of much controversy. Take a look at all other clone characters in Smash. Paying attention to their portrayal in regards to abilities, it becomes apparent those characters are inherently similar to their counterparts:
- Luigi is Mario’s brother and often plays similarly or identically to Mario in the platformer games
- Dr. Mario is Mario himself donning a doctor’s outfit, using Megavitamins instead of Fireballs
- Pichu is the baby form of Pikachu, sharing the same abilities
- Young Link is Link at a younger age (similarly, Toon Link is a different incarnation of Link, younger as well)
- Roy has the same role as Marth in his game, being a Fire Emblem series protagonist, a young royal swordsman and a Lord class unit
- Dark Pit is a literal clone of Pit that shares the same abilities, playing identically as Pit in Kid Icarus: Uprising, where the gameplay is determined by weapons
- Lucina is depicted as Marth’s descendant, takes on his guise before her identity is revealed and, like Roy, is a Lord class unit
Ganondorf and Captain Falcon have nothing like this going for them. They aren’t even from the same series. Captain Falcon’s moveset, being essentially a set of several martial arts moves, can fit about any human shaped character. In fact, a lot of the punches and kicks in Falcon and Ganondorf’s movesets are also used by other characters as well such as Mario, Samus or Fox.
Captain Falcon is never shown outside of his vehicle in the F-Zero series during gameplay, so he had nothing from source material to draw from, with the exception of the Final Smash. In fact, the original Super Smash Bros. prototype had generic male models with moves and a build similar to Captain Falcon that may have evolved into the character’s final build.
In my opinion, Captain Falcon may have been chosen as a playable character in the original Super Smash Bros. because he would fit well with the prototype build’s moveset, sharing the same body proportions. That would make him fall under a similar situation as the Evil King himself.
Similar moves, different concepts
The two characters share the overall same moveset in Melee, having more differences starting in Brawl. However, unlike other clones, they could be deemed as polar opposites, having drastically different designs: Captain Falcon emphasises on speed and combos, while Ganondorf is slow and focuses on single, but extremely powerful hits. Captain Falcon is a middleweight and Ganondorf is a heavyweight.
Sakurai has stated multiple times that he designs characters according to their source material. This adds to the controversy: how can Sakurai claim that Ganondorf is true to source material, if his moveset is heavily derived from Captain Falcon, hardly having any moves taken from the Zelda series?
The thing is, Sakurai has also stated that he doesn’t just take moves from source material when designing characters, instead, borrowing the moves he deems to suit the character’s overall gameplay concept. As variations on the same moveset, it’s only natural that both characters will share a lot of moves.
However, it’s best to distance from the fact they’re clones. How do their respective movesets tie with the characters’ origins? Do the overall concept of their gameplay reflect their source games as Sakurai has stated?
It’s best to analyze the source games first. F-Zero is a fast-paced, futuristic racing game. No fighting is involved, aside from being able to knock other vehicles out the race by hitting them, adding to the competitiveness. To play F-Zero, the player has to rely on fast reflexes and quick thinking. Before Sonic was introduced, Captain Falcon was the fastest character in Smash Bros., possessing fast walking and running speed as well as fast moves, with some slower, but powerful moves added to the mix. Like the F-Zero games, the emphasis of Captain Falcon’s moveset is on speed and fast reflexes, but also featuring a component of power. Furthermore, in the F-Zero series, the Blue Falcon is a balanced vehicle in regards to stats and Falcon’s Smash moveset also reflects that by having his more powerful moves be slower, attaining a balance between speed and power.
Ganondorf is often the final boss in the Zelda series, portrayed as having dark powers and immense strength. Both concepts are very prominent in the moveset. When designing Ganondorf, even though he is a Captain Falcon clone, Sakurai took notice of those attributes. The fire properties were altered to feature either darkness or lightning effects, reflecting the sort of magic Ganondorf shows off in Ocarina of Time. Likewise, the moves were made much stronger with even his normal attacks (tilts) being very strong. Conceptually, this reflects Ganondorf: he possesses immense strength and dark powers.
Next, the gameplay style. Ganondorf is strong and very slow. In order to be effective as Ganondorf, it’s important to know when to strike and compensate the slow speed with devastating blows. Reading and predicting the opponent is key to effectively playing as Ganondorf. In a way, this could be interpreted similarly as Ganondorf’s personality: a deceiver, waiting for the right moment to strike and advance with his plan, exploiting the weaknesses of his foes to further his own ambitions.
However, I think there’s also something that could have inspired Ganondorf’s gameplay. Sakurai has stated he designs characters with source material in mind, including gameplay elements from their series. Thinking about this, I concluded that one possible inspiration for Ganondorf’s play style may derive from boss battles in the Zelda series.
Before I explain things further, please note that this is just a personal interpretation of mine without official confirmation, so don’t take it as a fact. Anyway, notice how boss battles flow in the Zelda series. They rarely are one-on-one duels, rather, it’s often about facing enormous monsters capable of finishing you off before you realize how to beat it. There’s often a weak point or a certain element or item you need to take advantage of before you’re able to attack the boss directly. In other words, patience and cleverness is rewarded over mindless attacking.
In a way, this can kind of apply to Ganondorf’s gameplay in two ways. One, to be effective as Ganondorf, exploiting the foe’s weak points in their strategy is key. Two, if the foe can’t deal with Ganondorf’s attacks, they will be defeated quickly, often without doing much since Ganondorf can KO much earlier than other characters. Another aspect to consider is how Ganondorf was made a heavyweight, making him a more resilient character, much like bosses in the Zelda series.
Whether those elements are actually inspired by the Zelda series or mere coincidence, I cannot say, but I think it’s one way to look at things. Officially, the main concept of Ganondorf’s design revolves around his power, using his magic abilities as the base for the special effects.
Origin of moves and the changes after Melee
In Melee, Ganondorf shared pretty much all animations with Captain Falcon, those being generic martial arts moves made up for the game and possibly deriving from the Smash 64 prototype. The only exceptions to this were the victory animations and taunts, just like other clones, as well as the forward aerial move. Most of those are actually inspired by source material.
First, the taunt. He spins around floating and extends his arms and legs laughing. This is a reference to Ocarina of Time, where he strikes a similar pose when recovering from being plummeted to the ground by Link’s Light Arrows. The fact he curls before doing the pose makes it more reminiscent of his transformation into Ganon.
Two of his win poses having him posing with his fist closed, with the back of his hand facing the camera. Ganondorf strikes similar poses as those when showing the Triforce of Power. First in Ocarina of Time, but also later in Twilight Princess (released after Melee). It’s worthy of note that those win poses were the ones to have remained in later Smash Bros. games.
The third one has him swing the sword he uses in the SpaceWorld 2000 tech demo. This stems from the fact his model was originally made for said tech demo and it’s likely the developers wanted to have Ganondorf show it off, even though he doesn’t use it in actual combat. Prior to Melee, there wasn’t any instance of Ganondorf using swords in Zelda games besides the tech demo (though his beast form, Ganon, did use weapons in A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time).
The only different move he has from Captain Falcon is the forward aerial, using a downwards arching punch instead of a knee thrust. A piece of artwork from Ocarina of Time shows Ganondorf attempting to attack Link with a similar looking punch. Perhaps, this artwork is what inspired having Ganondorf as a physical brawler? It’s a stretch, I’d say, but the similarities between this artwork’s pose and the forward aerial wind-up animation are so striking, I find it difficult to think the move wasn’t inspired by this.
Just like all other clones in the Smash series, Ganondorf was changed in Brawl while still being mostly based on his moveset counterpart, Captain Falcon. He got revamped animations, a few new moves, a new special move and a Final Smash.
Many players were expecting a complete overhaul to him and, while there were fans that applauded the differentiation, there was still a sentiment that more could’ve been done.
Regardless, a lot of details in the revamped animations and some new moves show there was more research put into Ganondorf than it meets the eye. Despite the lack of projectiles or weapon usage, there are some moves that are identical or, at least, similar to moves Ganondorf did in specific occasions throughout the his own games.
Below is a side-by-side comparison between his revamped moves and possible origins or inspiration for them.
|Neutral attack||Thrusts his palm forward, electrifying foes who come in contact.||Animation is nearly identical to a sword thrusting move he does in the final battle in Twilight Princess.|
Ganondorf often opens his palm fully when casting magic. This dates all the way back to his debut in Ocarina of Time. Electrifying magic has also been a recurring element in regards to Ganondorf’s abilities.
|Side tilt||Performs a piercing kick. Also known as the “Sparta Kick” due to its similarity to a kick done in a scene from the movie “300”.||He does a similar kick in Twilight Princess, which is the commonly attributed origin of this move. In the SpaceWorld 2000 tech demo that predates Melee, he also performs a similar kick.
In Smash Bros., the animation more closely resembles the kick from the SpaceWorld demo, however, the leg and foot are positioned more like in Twilight Princess.
|Down tilt||Does a crouching, piercing kick.||Basically, a crouching version of the side tilt. Animation somewhat resembles the “Sparta Kick” from Twilight Princess.|
|Side Smash (with an item)||Swings the item with his right hand in an half-circle motion from left to right.||Animation is nearly identical to one of his sword moves in Twilight Princess.|
|Warlock Punch||Initiates a backhanded punch with his left hand, charging dark energy, and unleashes it.||In Melee, the animation is the same as Captain Falcon’s Falcon Punch. In Brawl and Smash 3DS/Wii U, the animation closely resembles a backhanded punch he inflicts on Link during a cutscene in The Wind Waker. Ganondorf’s hands’ positioning is similar, but the motion is notably more exaggerated.|
|Flame Choke||Rushes forward while attempting to grab a foe.
If the move connects in the ground, Ganondorf briefly holds the captured foe in a choke hold before blasting them with dark magic.
If the move connects in the air, Ganondorf slams the foe in the ground.
|The initial motion originates from the cutscene in Twilight Princess in which Ganondorf gets the Triforce of Power during his attempted execution and kills one of the Sages, choking him.
When grabbing the foe on the ground, Ganondorf holds the foe similar to how he chokeholds Tetra in a cutscene in The Wind Waker.
The animation for grabbing the foe on the air is the same as the slamming move he does during his boss battle in Ocarina of Time. In that game, Ganondorf holds a magic ball instead.
The Flame Wave variant has Ganondorf create a bigger explosion of darkness, sending foes flying instead of plummeting them to the floor. This makes the aerial version of the move closer to source material.
|Beast Ganon||Transforms into Ganon, as he appears in Twilight Princess, stomps the ground roaring, rushes forward and, upon reaching the KO zone, teleports to the initial position, already back into human form as well.||Basically a condensation of all actions Ganon does in Twilight Princess.
The transformation’s animation is essentially a sped up version of the scene in Twilight Princess.
In the boss battle against Ganon, all he does is ramming against Link, teleporting from time to time. Ganon has shown teleportation abilities since the first Zelda game on the NES.
An interesting note is how the animation Ganondorf does when teleporting back to the initial position is different between Brawl and Smash 3DS/Wii U. Both games have him teleport and float back to the initial position, which in Smash 3DS/Wii U has dark magic effects. Afterwards, Brawl has him doing a slightly dizzy animation and Smash 3DS/Wii U has him strike a similar pose to the up taunt instead.
|Dark Dive||Jumps upward, attempting to grab a foe. In Brawl and Smash 3DS/Wii U, he also does an uppercut in the end.
If it connects, Ganondorf grabs the foe and zaps him with electricity before causing an explosion to blast the foe away.
|In Melee, all the animations were identical to Falcon. In Brawl, the initial animation was changed. In Smash 3DS/Wii U, the grabbing animation was changed and Ganondorf no longer appears to be physically grabbing with the foe. Instead, he appears to be trapping the foe using his magical powers similar to Robin and Mewtwo’s grabbing animations. This change was likely done to make him more distinct from Falcon and better emphasize his magical powers.|
Starting with Brawl, all characters possess three taunts, as opposed to just one. Besides a few exceptions, all characters had two more taunts along with their taunt animation from Melee. This is the same for Ganondorf. The Melee taunt remains assigned to the up button on the d-pad. The side taunt has him pounding his fists towards each other, with some dark magic effects showing up. The down taunt has him draw and inspect the sword that was used in Twilight Princess to execute him, which he also uses in the very last duel with Link, before putting it away.
In regards to victory animations, two of them remained the same while the one where he swings a sword laughing was replaced by one where he laughs evilly with his arms crossed. This is likely a reference to a scene in Ocarina of Time when Ganondorf reveals that Link’s opening of the Door of Time was beneficial to his plan and laughs evilly.
Entrance animations were re-introduced in Brawl after their absence in Melee. Ganondorf enters the stage through a portal of darkness. In Ocarina of Time, dark portals are used by Phantom Ganon during the boss battle against him, by Ganondorf himself to banish Phantom Ganon upon his defeat and by the witches Koume and Kotake to kidnap Nabooru.
In Smash Bros. 3DS/Wii U, Ganondorf has remained the same as in Brawl, the only changes being a few animation tweaks (mentioned above) and balance adjustments. This once again brought the controversial subject of Ganondorf’s status as a Captain Falcon semi-clone.
Notably, however, one of Ganondorf’s custom special moves is Warlock Blade, which changes his Warlock Punch to a sword stabbing move. The animation is the same, with the positioning of his hand being slightly adjusted to have the sword properly attached. Reception to his move was overall positive, but complaints still persisted as people desired to have Ganondorf using his sword more often in the moveset. Other special move options are quite different from Falcon’s variations, further setting apart the two characters. Ganondorf’s custom moves also have more prominent magical effects.
Respecting the character in different ways
The main gripe most have with Ganondorf’s moveset usually stems from being regarded as “not canon”, “out of character” or “not demonstrating Ganondorf’s abilities”.
As mentioned before, Sakurai doesn’t just take any moves from source material: only those that fit with the character’s overall concept. Veterans may get changes, especially in regards to special moves, but since their debut in Smash Bros., they have never diverged too much from their base concepts.
Ganondorf, in this regard, gets the exact same treatment. He was added as a heavyweight, heavy hitter, slower version of Captain Falcon and has overall remained the same. However, it’s also true there are plenty of changes he got over the series that were made with Ganondorf’s character in mind. Many of his cloned moves were altered to be inspired by moves he actually does in his own games. I feel that Sakurai doesn’t want to diverge too much from the moveset concept (heavyweight variant of Captain Falcon) but wants to stay as true to Ganondorf’s character as much as possible within that limitation. Even though Ganondorf is limited to punches and kicks with some dark magic touch-ups, there are more than just a few moves inspired by or based on actions Ganondorf has done in his own games. The trophy descriptions provide accurate information on the character and Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma stated he’s worked with Sakurai on the design of the Zelda characters in Brawl, which is in turn corroborated by Sakurai stating that consulting with the original creators is a step in conceiving each character in Smash.
In addition, Ganondorf’s role in Brawl’s adventure mode, The Subspace Emissary, has him portrayed similarly to the Zelda games: a cunning and manipulative villain. In Smash 3DS/Wii U, a palette swap available for him changes Ganondorf’s skin and parts of his outfit to blue and his cape to red, a reference to the classic design of his beast form. I think those are more indicators that Sakurai knows well Ganondorf’s characterization and did research on his various games.
All these factors are why I think the idea of adding Black Shadow to the roster for the sake of him having Ganondorf’s moveset while Ganondorf himself gets a new moveset isn’t a particularly likely outcome. Characters in Smash are added through a variety of factors such as popularity and development viability. I think the same should apply to Black Shadow. He isn’t a popular character right now and is only wanted for Smash Bros. by certain fans because they see him as fodder for Ganondorf’s current moveset, while Ganondorf himself gets something new. I don’t believe that is a particularly good reason to add a character. I once again reiterate that Ganondorf’s moveset design and subsequent changes after his debut in Melee were made with Ganondorf’s characterization in mind.
Considering Captain Falcon’s moveset is somewhat based on the F-Zero series overall and also has inspiration from the gameplay of the Blue Falcon, a more faithful design for Black Shadow would be basing it off his gameplay in F-Zero: having attributes similar to the Black Bull, which means high speed (in fact, it’s the fastest F-Zero machine) and durability at the cost of boosting power. I’d say these attributes would better translate as a sort of speedy defensive character with less emphasis on actual power. Not quite the same thing as Ganondorf, is it? Ganondorf’s main attributes throughout the Zelda series are immense strength and dark magical powers, which are the focus of his gameplay design and special effects respectively in Smash.
All in all, Ganondorf’s moveset and animation work in Brawl and Smash 3DS/Wii U feels like an unarmed version of his fencing style from Twilight Princess while borrowing some moves from Captain Falcon (carrying over from his Melee moveset, entirely based on Captain Falcon’s), as well as plenty of unarmed, physical moves he’s done throughout his home series. Doing a deep analysis of the animation work and moveset changes has really made me think Sakurai is on the fence between accurately representing Ganondorf and keeping his gameplay style from Melee, opting for a sort of middle point between the two.
Keep him as a clone or overhaul him completely?
What makes the situation with Ganondorf complicated is the fact it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. Keeping him as a Falcon derivative and overhauling him completely both have their own merits and faults to them. I feel there’s no right choice here. Regardless of whatever choice, the outcome is likely to be the same: debate between fans. Analyzing the pros and cons of each option is vital to better understand why Ganondorf may have remained the overall the same. The table below lists the pros (+) and cons (-) of each possibility:
|Keep Ganondorf as a Falcon derivative||Give Ganondorf a new moveset|
|+ Players coming from previous Smash Bros. games can feel familiar with Ganondof’s moves, just like any other veteran character||+ Would permit a design that could take more moves from the Zelda series and ones that don’t just involve unarmed physical combat|
|+ Less development time necessary as the concept is set in stone and porting animations from Falcon is possible, which in turn means that resources can be spent on more new content||– Could take more development time and resources, possibly cutting other content|
|– Doesn’t have a lot of freedom to borrow many moves from Ganondorf’s series of origin, being limited to unarmed physical combat and having the magic powers present at a more conceptual level||– Could upset players who were used or like the current moveset|
The major advantage about keeping Ganondorf as is likely stems from being easier to develop. People have interpreted this as “laziness”, “lack of creativity” or “disrespecting the character”. I think otherwise: it’s all about resource management and efficiency in development within a tight schedule and limited time.
While I do believe there’s a lot of merit in overhauling Ganondorf completely and that would please many fans, especially those of the Zelda series, it’s also true that doing so would require drafting and implementing a new moveset design, which would amount to the same effort as developing an entirely new character and potentially upset Ganondorf players from previous games already used to the current moveset. Veteran characters are always designed in a way that players coming from previous Smash Bros. games will feel familiar with their moves, even if they may get some changes in each iteration.
I’d say it all basically amounts to keeping Ganondorf as is but add a new character or content, or completely revamp Ganondorf at the expense of more content.
After doing this thorough analysis, I believe Ganondorf is correctly portrayed in Smash in many aspects even though he lacks some of his more iconic moves from the Zelda series. Regardless, I feel lot of the main fundamentals about the character are present and correctly represented in Smash.
His personality is intact, the trophies correctly describe the character’s main attributes as well as his roles in his own games and Brawl’s Subspace Emissary gives him a role reminiscent of his role in the Zelda series as a major villain who operates mostly behind the scenes, contrasting with fellow villain Bowser’s more aggressive traits. He’s a deceiver and eventually betrays Bowser and plans the same for Master Hand before being outwitted by Tabuu.
However, I do think Sakurai is playing too safe in regards to his moveset design, though I do understand that going with this route can be better for the games’ development and allows veteran players to feel more familiar with the moveset. Anyway, I think more moves could be changed while keeping the same style of gameplay. For example, I believe it was a missed opportunity in Smash 3DS/Wii U to not have one of his custom specials as a projectile or long ranged move. A Warlock Punch variant in which he throws a magic ball or unleashes a large wave of darkness would have been a great addition.
On the other hand, I can’t help but think the current moveset overall could be meant to be a representation of how would Ganondorf fight barehanded. As this article shows, Sakurai and the development team picked almost every unarmed physical combat move Ganondorf does in source material when revising his moveset in Brawl, also adding a few of his sword moves, either modified into a barehanded style with magic effects added or for item usage.
As for the lack of sword or trident, I’m actually okay with that since there are games in the Zelda series in which Ganondorf/Ganon fights without weapons, solely relying on his physical strength and magic powers instead. He is primarily described as a powerful demon-like warlock, after all. Of course, a moveset that mixes weapons, magic (ranged or physical) and physical blows would show off his versatility better as an amalgam of his various fighting styles throughout the Zelda series.
Overall, if his moveset remains the same in future Smash Bros. games, I won’t mind. However, new moves always bring a sense of freshness to a character and I’d be happy if more moves from the Zelda series were implemented into the moveset.
What do you think of Ganondorf in Smash Bros.? What changes would you like to see in his moveset in future games? Do you feel that Ganondorf is accurate to his own games, even if only to an extent? Let your thoughts be known in the comments!
“There’s a Ganondorf model that was featured in (Arbitrarily called) “Legend of Zelda: GC Real Type” which was shown off. “Real Type” never came out, but we ported him to Smash Brothers: Melee so I guess you can say that the real Ganondorf is still alive.”
Note: “The Legend of Zelda: GC Real Type” is the name of the demo shown at SpaceWorld 2000.
 Original Japanese:
 Eiji Aonuma was interviewed by GameInformer in regards to the Zelda characters in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
“GI: Have you been consulted at all for the usage of Link or Sheik or Ganondorf for Smash Bros. Brawl?
Aonuma: I’ve been working with Sakurai for a very long time with this new Smash Bros., because the Wii came out and when discussion for a new Smash Bros. took place nobody could think of anyone other than Sakurai working on it. He was kind of the default, and I was very happy to hear that he would be working on it. Actually, my designers did work on the designs for Sheik and Link and Ganondorf. So they submitted the initial designs, and so it would fit in the Smash Bros. Brawl environment, they’ve had to tweak some of the designs. But Sakurai has brought those altered designs to NCL. We’re working very closely with the team of Smash Bros. Brawl to make sure the characters look their best.”