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Filed under: Speculation

The Case for Solaire

Thanks to Cart Boy and Soma for edits.

Ah, hello! You don’t look Hollow; far from it! I am Solaire of Astora, an adherent of the Lord of Sunlight. I have come to this great land, birthplace of Lord Gwyn yet fallen under the accursed Darksign, to seek my very own sun! The flow of time here is convoluted; the very fabric wavers, and relations shift and obscure. There’s no telling how much longer your world and mine will remain in contact. But we can cross the gaps between the worlds, and engage in jolly cooperation!

The Character:

The world of Dark Souls is not a pleasant one; its kingdom of Lordran is terrifying and often unpleasant. It is beautiful, to be sure, but in a tragic, apocalyptic, spooky way, with its ruined and decaying architecture. Its inhabitants are violent and crazed, and the few who aren’t out for your Humanity are often deceitful, obtuse, or just unwell. It’s hard not to feel you’re the only person in this world who’s even barely holding together. And then, after fighting the second boss fight, the monstrous Taurus Demon, you meet an odd knight whose tunic carries a memorable drawing of a sun. Certainly it seems he’s not quite altogether, talking about his “own sun” and all that, but he has a better idea of what’s going on in Lordran than anyone else. And beyond that, he’s kind; he gives you usable information, shows empathy, and even offers to help you through these trials when he can. He is Solaire of Astora, and over the course of the adventure he will occasionally pop in to aid, congratulate, and potentially battle you. The former is the biggest deal; he’s the most famous of the series’ summonable warriors, who can aid you in vanquishing the gargantuan, intimidating bosses of the trilogy. That’s a main mechanic in Souls, players bringing in real or fictional friends to help in hairier moments.

Last year, I wrote a “Case For” article on not an individual character of the series, but for Dark Souls itself as something worth representation in Smash. Over the past couple months, the idea of that happening has gone from something a bit absurd – if the response to that article was any indication – to a genuine idea people are considering. And in the discussions about the possibility, only two names come up: the Chosen Undead, the name of the player avatar, and the series’ unofficial mascot, Solaire. And with an amiibo of him coming out and personal preference on my part, here we go with the latter.

Reasons for Inclusion

Like I said above, the debate – beyond “should Dark Souls be in Smash at all?,” which I’ve discussed in that previous “Case For” – for a Souls fighter has largely boiled down to the Chosen Undead or Solaire. Ultimately, it’s a question of whether you’d prefer to use a default version of the player avatar, or the mascot. Smash has gone on both sides of the divide: Pikachu, Mr. Game & Watch, and R.O.B. on one end; Pokémon Trainer, Villager, Robin, and Corrin on the other. But the Chosen Undead is ultimately (and deliberately) generic in almost every way, from backstory to personality to fighting style, the better to provide a blank canvas for players. Even their “signature look” is just a bland drawing on the cover art, compared to the immediately iconic, distinct designs of the avatars Smash uses. This isn’t to say it’d be bad if they were chosen, but I could see the character’s fairly high lack of distinctness being a point of frustration. At the risk of being reductive, the real “main character” of Dark Souls is Dark Souls itself, a seemingly untameable beast that must be studied, understood, and fought with at every turn. And beyond the player character, there are NPCs, but outside the gargantuan monsters and deadly warriors that make up its cadre of bosses, one stands out far more than most.

There’s a reason why Solaire is the one getting an amiibo. There’s a reason he’s a beloved meme, endlessly telling people to “PRAISE THE SUN!” – the iconic gesture of his Warriors of Sunlight – and championing that “jolly cooperation” on internet forums. There’s a reason we at Source Gaming decided to talk about him first. Solaire is, in some ways, representative of Dark Souls at its most pleasant, silly, and especially positive. If the worst of Dark Souls culture is telling newbies to “git gud” and treating difficulty as a metric to keep players out, then its best is wanting them to jump in, make friends, and defeat the undefeatable. And no one exemplifies that more than Solaire. He’s lighthearted, even a bit goofy, but he’s also a tough as nails warrior who can be a godsend in some of the most painful boss fights. And he not only accepts support and teamwork, he adores it. He even goes on his own narrative arc, as his positive outlook slowly fades and he, depending on how you progress, either succumbs to madness or is saved to potentially join you against the final boss – the corrupted Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, thus bringing his character arc full circle. I imagine he’ll be as adored by Switch owners as he was by Dark Souls fans the world over, especially with that lovely amiibo.

And as a fighter, hoo boy could he be fun. He’s one more swordfighter, for sure, but he would supplement his hacking and slashing with the exciting Sunlight Spear, a huge lightning attack that could home in on enemies but be better for stunning than K.O.s. He could also use additional spells, whether miracles associated with the Warriors of Sunlight (among them healing, magical barriers, and shockwaves) or pyromancies or sorceries (which are associated with rival factions, though it wouldn’t be the first time a Smash character brought in surprising techniques). He could even represent summoning by calling on other warriors for attacks or a Final Smash, take some of Gwyn’s various attacks, or have a mechanic in which his weapons and armor steadily degrade and can be repaired, a holdover from the games. I see him as a fighter who’d be slow, not able to take hits too well, but with strong attacks and a parry mechanic, though that might end up as just another counter. In other words, he’d be a high risk, high reward character, appropriate given his origins.

Reasons for Exclusion

Regardless of a debate between “mascots” and “player avatars,” Smash generally prefers player characters (and main characters and antagonists. I’m unsure Solaire fits as the former, and he’s certainly not the latter); Palutena, Duck Hunt, and Wii Fit Trainer are the only fighters who’ve never been playable in another game. I suspect it’s because Sakurai wants to represent the heroes we play as because they’ll always be the ones we know the best. And if I’m being honest, there’s little in that suggested moveset the Chosen Undead couldn’t do, with the added bonus of potentially using a non-sword weapon (even if I doubt they wouldn’t use a sword) and more easily employing a wider variety of magic spells.

Of course, that’s just in the debate between Solaire and another Dark Souls fighter; much greater is the argument of whether Dark Souls should be represented at all. As iconic as the series is, its history with Nintendo won’t really “start” until the release of the remaster in May. Not that it’s a bad thing; having the first, and most famous and beloved, of the trilogy on Switch is huge. Again, this is something we’ve gone over before, but it is still new to the world of Nintendo, though I think Sakurai is less strict on that so long as the third party series have some form of presence.

Just as two quick final notes: firstly, the amiibo only really matters as a metric of Solaire’s popularity; it doesn’t mean anything substantial, just as all four Shovel Knight protagonists, Qbby, Detective Pikachu, and Chibi-Robo aren’t guaranteed spots…though I would certainly be happy if they all joined. The other is that some players might find him, or especially his series, as not fitting the Smash aesthetic, potentially clashing too much with the rest of the roster with either its subdued color scheme or melancholic tone. Dark Souls’ environments are colorful but often visually muted, with a number of dark, dimly lit corridors, and it is a quite darker experience than most of Nintendo’s games. I really don’t think it’d be a problem (and visual clashing has actually been a consistent benefit to Smash), but that is there.

Music:

What is Smash Bros. without music? Bupkis, I say! Here are some tracks you might hear if Solaire makes the cut.

4 comments
  1. on the issue of Mascot Vs Avatar thing, the Avatar has to be an actual character with a personalty for example, i really like Robin and Corrin because they do actually have personality to them in comparison to previous avatar characters in Fire Emblem like Mark from Blazing Blade and your Avatar in New Mystery. i really hate Avatar characters like Red from Pokemon because it’s easier to add good traits to a character that your controlling.

    David Horan on April 12 |
  2. “As iconic as the series is, its history with Nintendo won’t really “start” until the release of the remaster in May.”
    Where did say that was a requirement?
    https://sourcegaming.info/2016/02/23/nintendo-dream-interview-with-sakurai-part-2/
    https://sourcegaming.info/2015/10/05/sakuraithirdparty/
    https://web.archive.org/web/20151003043331/https://cp.nintendo.co.jp/us/

    They put Cloud Strife in and put emphasis on Final Fantasy VII, a game that was never released on a Nintendo platform. instead of Warrior of Light, Bartz Klauser, or Terra Branford. It shows where the priorities of the third-party developers lies.

    I don’t think cloud being in a single game that’s not even his home series is really much of an improvement. What Sakurai states is only more of an objective. Not an actual rule. He refers to it as a “courtesy”. It’s ridiculous anyway. Master Chief appeared in Minecraft, is it a “courtesy” to appear in a game that is not his home series but appear in one hundred titles that’s not on a Nintendo platform? Or Lara Croft? Or Scorpion? Holding the door open for people to pass through is a “courtesy” is it not? Does that mean I have to hold the door open every time? No.

    If “history on a Nintendo Console” is so important then why not make it a top priority and mention his reasoning for including Cloud Strife? Why not focus on Cloud Strife’s “history on a Nintendo Console” and not Final Fantasy VII?

    Sakurai has wanted or added characters that aren’t “iconic” such as Ness, Ice Climbers, Roy, Geno, etc. I wouldn’t call them an “international superstar”.

    https://sourcegaming.info/2016/02/21/nintendodream3/

    https://sourcegaming.info/2016/04/29/duflupdate/
    Sakurai has considered adding Sonic the Hedgehog in Super Smash Bros Melee. A character that have never appeared on a Nintendo platform before but the reason he couldn’t was because of “time constraints”. There is no evidence Sonic was rejected simply because he didn’t appear on a Nintendo platform prior. He already added Roy in Super Smash Bros Melee so it didn’t matter to him. Sakurai is known for changing his mind such as adding Leif, Villager, Pac-Man, and Chrom for example.
    https://nintendoeverything.com/yoshis-woolly-world-doesnt-support-the-pokemon-or-toad-amiibo-for-pattern-unlocks/
    https://zeldauniverse.net/2015/01/06/wonder-why-tingle-isnt-in-hyrule-warriors-aonuma-said-no/
    They are still rules like Pikachu isn’t allowed to appear in Yoshi’s Woolly World or Tingle isn’t allowed to appear in Hyrule Warriors. Bayonetta’s game was still released on Steam. Sony still released games for Nintendo like Microsoft. Regardless whether Geno is playable or not doesn’t change what Sakurai intended. Sonic’s games was released after Super Smash Bros Melee, not before.

    Sakurai: “Exactly. And within the FF franchise, Cloud is without question the most popular choice. A number of people fixate on the fact his original game was never released on a Nintendo console, but if we were to limit our choices to characters who appeared on a Nintendo console, we’d end up with Bartz from FFV or the Onion Knight from FFIII—how would that work?”
    https://sourcegaming.info/2016/02/23/nintendo-dream-interview-with-sakurai-part-2/

    Sakurai: “At the same time, I think it’s only natural to prioritize the character who enjoys worldwide popularity. I might have had misgivings if Cloud had never appeared on a Nintendo console in any form, though.”

    [Interviewer]—”Recently, he’s shown up in the Theatrhythm and Kingdom Hearts series. He’s even branching out to the PS4 now with the FFVII remake.”

    Sakurai: “Which is why I think we should forget about console wars and focus on what’s really important: enjoying the games themselves.”

    In just a few sentences he went from how only focusing on 3rd party characters who appeared a Nintendo console limits your character options, to maybe having misgivings if they didn’t appear on a Nintendo console, to saying that we should forget about console wars. Sakurai hadn’t drawn a line and make a very clear stance one way or the other.

    https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Iwata-Asks/Iwata-Asks-Super-Smash-Bros-Brawl/Volume-7-Once-in-a-Lifetime-Experience/1-Dragon-King-The-Fighting-Game/1-Dragon-King-The-Fighting-Game-226141.html
    Sakurai didn’t know if he’s allowed to put Nintendo characters in the game when it started under the name Dragon King: The Fighting Game which means he is a third-party himself.

    Koma on April 12 |
  3. This doesn’t make a huge difference but can I just point out: You mention “Palutena, Duck Hunt, and Wii Fit Trainer are the only fighters who’ve never been playable in another game”. While this is true today, I’m pretty sure Zelda, Sheik and Ganondorf were never playable in any other games until after Smash 4 came out, so they should count as well.

    In any case, I hadn’t really thought of it, but Solaire could be a fun inclusion! Not sure I’d go so far as to say I’m hoping, but if they do add a Dark Souls character I wish he’s the one they end up going with.

    Fake Gay on April 14 |
  4. Assuming Dark Souls DOES get a fighter… I am 99% sure it would be Solaire. The Chosen Undead can basically be any other human NPC in the game by equipping the right stuff and levelling up the right stats. There’s really no reason to include the Chosen Undead since it’s such an ill-defined character… UNLESS they want to craft a moveset using many different areas of Dark Souls.

    I think the real question is… what would be the gimmick to Solaire? It seems like most 3rd party characters have a unique trait represented of their games. Bayonetta has N combo in the air, Ryu has weak and strong attacks, etc. So… basically you’d have to ask what is true to the Dark Souls gameplay that can translate to Smash gameplay.

    I mused on the ability to switch from one to two-handed stances… but that might be too much like having two characters/movesets in one… plus, aesthetically, Solaire’s smash attacks would probably be two-handed sword swings… basically like Link who just visually switches between one to two handed attacks in animations.

    Hollowing is another but I pretty much concluded that anything that doesn’t reset at KO could be balanced (aside from passive charged moves). BUT… a Dark Souls stage with a hollowing gimmick for all fighters could be interesting.

    You mentioned weapon and armor degrading but I don’t know how that would manifest itself in an interesting way… unless it was just armor breaking and, as he got higher damage, his armor broke off and he became lighter and faster but… idk… that’s like a stranger rage mechanic.

    Also, as a complete novelty and a representation of the more negative aspects of the Dark Souls community… they could give him a handicap (like Pichu) and slap a stamina bar on him that you’re a slave to. Then it’s like “Only hardcore smashers pick Solaire” because they have to have that extra level of resource management when it comes to attacking and guarding and dodging.

    At any rate, it’d be interesting to see what is chosen if he (or the Chosen Undead) does become a Smash fighter. I feel doubtful he’d be included as JUST a swordsman with spells and miracles.

    CFG on April 23 |