Clones. The characters that made the Star Wars prequels either barely tolerable or insufferably boring.
But in the context of fighting games, clones are a touchy subject. They either add a bit more meat to a roster or they drive people up walls due to their inclusion. Dark Pit surely did(and still does after two years for some reason), but the clones in Super Smash Bros. are not the only clones around. Pretty much every fighting game out there has them. So why not perhaps look at some of them and see just how much they differ from one another?
Let’s begin with the grandfathers of fighting game clones: Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter.
These two are the quintessential examples of a character and their clone, having appeared in every game in the series to date. At first, they were carbon copies, having the exact same movesets and being merely head-swaps of one another (because the original Street Fighter had no scope for mirror matches, so they needed two identical characters for competitive play). During the Street Fighter II games, their stats, moves, and strategies began to differentiate, albeit little by little each new iteration (in the Super Turbo release, the duo had different basic attacks and special moves, whereas in The World Warrior, literally the only difference is Ken’s kick throw spins an extra time), but by the time the Alpha series started they had distinct backstories and extremely similar, but not identical, abilities.
Naturally, the series also includes Sakura, Akuma, and Dan, who borrow from Ryu’s moveset to an extent but also have their own unique qualities to make them stand out; Akuma’s style is not far from their own, Dan tends to at least share Ryu and Ken’s basic techniques albeit with different (read: pathetic and goofy) specials, while Sakura is possibly an aversion to the clone aspect due to her unusual permutations of Ryu’s special moves (and some different basic moves) that move her away from the model. Outside of Street Fighter, a character that has any combination of a fireball (or other projectile), a rising physical attack (usually an uppercut) and a spin attack is known as a shotoclone. Super Smash Bros. has a clear example of this in the form of Mario and Dr. Mario, and to an extent Luigi.
Next, a pair of clones that I’m quite familiar with: Cole and Evil Cole from PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
The product of a certain point of view by the character’s owner Sucker Punch, the protagonist of inFamous was split into two characters for his appearance in PlayStation All-Stars. While you might think that this makes them pure moveset clones, the reality is that while they share some moves, the rest of their moveset couldn’t be less similar, making them completely different to fight and play as.
Both Coles are fighters that are most effective at mid-range with energy projectiles, solid movement options and easy ways to start combos, which is where the characters begin to diverge. Evil Cole’s moveset is more geared towards disruption and range fighting due to his projectiles being quick and easy to use repeatedly, with a few close range options as well that make combos almost guaranteed. Cole, on the other hand, is much more technical by comparison, as his projectiles are more of the stun variety, which makes them possible to chain together more than a few times for combos and kill confirms, rewarding precise timing to gain high amounts of AP for Super Moves. In regards to that, both characters share the same Level 1, grabbing an opponent with kinesis and launching them, but their Level 2 and 3 differ, having roughly the same effectiveness in comparison, with Evil Cole’s Level 3 being slightly superior to Cole’s.
The most obvious comparison to make with Smash is the Pit/Dark Pit duo. Unlike the angels, though, the Coles have plenty of gameplay differences to make them stand out from one another.
Finally, in the realm of major comparisons, let’s look at Tekken, which is unique in the aspect of clones in several ways. Starting off, the central protagonists of Tekken in the form of the Mishima family (mainly Heihachi, Kazuya and Jin) all share a common fighting style in the form of Mishima Style, which leads into them having similar movesets (and oddly enough, the characters Devil and Angel, whenever they appear, actually use Mishima Style karate mixed in with some unique moves despite having no bloodline relation to the Mishimas). Jin would adopt a more traditional karate style after Tekken 4, but in Tekken 5 Devil Jin is introduced, sporting the same moves pre-4 Jin had.
But it doesn’t stop at the Mishimas. Tekken is a case where a lot of characters started off as clones of someone else, but underwent divergent character evolution in later games to make themselves different. These pairs include King and Armor King(who was revamped in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection), Kuma and Panda, Jack and Prototype Jack, Baek and Hwoarang(bizarrely, the latter in 3 had oddly similar albeit not identical moves to the former from 2, but when they appeared together in 5, the amount of identical moves they had increased notably) and Roger and Alex(because for some reason a raptor can be made to fight just like a wrestling kangaroo). Time eventually separated these characters from one another gameplay-wise when they originally existed as palette swaps or filler clones, akin to Fox and Falco from Melee to Brawl or Mario and Luigi from Super Smash Bros. to Melee.
In the end, there are a massive amount of fighting games that incorporate clones, and if we listed them all we’d be here all day (though some are way too easy; just look at Marvel vs Capcom 2 and it’s myriad semi clones and palette swaps given slots). It’s easy to see why one side can decry clones as the absolute worst when they expect new blood in a roster, but if there’s a small space to be filled, then they can’t be all that bad, especially if there are newcomers aplenty already.