The most important moment in the history of Super Smash Bros. occurred 13 years ago at E3 2006.
The first trailer for Super Smash Bros. Brawl was released the end of Nintendo's stage presentation, which also included the first look at Super Mario Galaxy and the announcement of the DS Lite. The trailer was good, but nothing had prepared the audience for how it ended.
In the last seconds of the revelation trailer, after the end of Nobuo Uematsu's legendary theme song and the flashing of the logo on the screen, we heard the unmistakable sound of Metal Gear Solid's radio. A meta-talk with the Colonel later, and Solid Snake had officially joined Nintendo's flagship franchise.
In a sense, the Super Smash Bros. series has since been on the trail of the emotional high of this 30-second snippet.
The Power of Collaboration
Crossovers and cameos in video games were by no means a new concept in 2006, but they were mainly used in fighting games. SNK's King of Fighters was the kind of corporate-wide fighting game that was to eventually become Smash Bros., and it debuted in 1994. Alex Kidd in Shinobi World was a platformer of Namco's entry Cameo Territory while performing in 2002 Spawn, Heihachi and Link as a platform-exclusive guest characters in Soul Calibur II . Still, watching and listening to Solid Snake in a Nintendo game, from its character model to the dozens of full-codec codec conversations, felt different. The usual, expected rules for the exclusivity of video games were bent, if not completely hurt.
And that was before Sonic the Hedgehog was later also announced as a playable character. The younger generation may have grown up with Mario and Sonic, who have worked together or participated in a series of games, but many of us in our 30s still find it surreal. Such a thing would have been unthinkable in the midst of the Nintendo Sega console wars.
The addition of new challengers from Nintendo and non-Nintendo franchises has since become a staple of the series and a source of rampant speculation as well as (often funny) celebrations by fans. Nintendo has adjusted to this anticipation and boasting. The modest engine-concealed revelations of Snake and Sonic in Brawl paved the way for the beautifully animated short films fans love and expect.
I saw the Solid Snake reveal when I was 18 years old; I am about to become 32. In the years between these two events, participating in this cycle of unfounded speculations about new characters added to Smash has become my favorite part of the game culture. It is a positive, optimistic activity that I can share with friends and family. Nintendo still manages to surprise us, though the entire Internet is trying to figure out who's next to the series.
Seeing how Nintendo rejects our assumptions is indeed part of the fun. Ridley? I thought he was too tall, so I never thought it would happen. I did not think Bayonetta would have a chance to go hell in a family-friendly Nintendo franchise. Joker? I never saw it coming, which made even more fun .
Choose your character.
The game industry as a whole would be much better if they were more like Super Smash Bros., putting aside short-term profits, platform exclusivity, and other often consumer-unfriendly practices to create something that upsets people and makes them happy.
And this approach is not an altruistic fan service from Nintendo. Ultimate is the fastest selling game ever, and the hype surrounding new characters and anticipation of upcoming characters by DLC has undoubtedly contributed to strong sales.
Similarly, a look at the credits of the game shows that every single non-Nintendo feature is included, from a Mii-Fighter costume from Geno Super Mario RPG to every single song , visual element and playable The character of the Castlevania franchise was the result of a thorough, legally binding negotiation process that I can only assume. Nobody lent his intellectual property to Nintendo and hoped for the best. It looks like every publisher and developer has been tightly involved in dealing with his characters.
Nevertheless, Nintendo had no to do so. Masahiro Sakurai had this not to do. But they did, and the results are so good and satisfying that I have to ask myself, why do not all games do that, or at least more games that are more often crossovers? Nintendo is developing its own reference and crossover version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Smash Bros. series and, like Marvel, seems to benefit from this approach.
But third-party crossovers are still exciting and rare in gaming. The level of coordination and cross-brand partnership required to play games such as Project X-Zone (an RPG series featuring characters from Sega, Bandai / Namco, Capcom and Nintendo) and LEGO Dimensions (a game in which GLaDOS, Homer Simpson and Scooby Doo can hang out) was most likely extreme, but their publishers were still able to come to different conclusions. These instances still feel like exceptions rather than examples of how things are done.
And the process does not become straightforward just because a single company controls a multitude of characters. The now disbanded Disney Infinity series may have been partially phased out as the company's various departments required different concessions that might have served them individually but had affected the game itself.
There is not a single magic trick to smooth these cross-promotion opportunities, and there is no one who deals with it better than Nintendo and the companies that Smash Bros. works with.
The Super Smash Bros. series has become a kind of living documentary in the history of the game. It's an on-going franchise developed and released by the company that saved console games in the 1980s. It contains a number of characters from almost every decade of game history and most of its platforms.
It is fair to say that recording in Smash Bros. gives a character (and its franchise) a prestige and notoriety similar to a museum exhibit, and at the same time presents that character to a larger audience than it could otherwise be enjoyed , Of course, game characters can become canonical without being a Smash Bros. game, but inclusion in this sacred series definitely helps.
When I sent dozens of uppercase texts to my brother during the revelation of King K. Rool, I was not pleased that another heavy fighter was added to the game. That's because a significant part of our childhood, the boss we've been bundling for hours in four games and two generations of consoles, should be recognized on a broader stage.
To see Joker exposed as a DLC character requires Persona fans to see their obscure favorite band on the main stage of a huge music festival. It is a confirmation, especially if you have spent the entire journey of this character or franchise there.
Most importantly, these crossover fans cause them to come up with their wildest character trappings and ask a simple, important question: why not? For years, it was accepted that there was too much strange history and bad blood between Square-Enix and Nintendo that the series Final Fantasy could ever return to one of their consoles.
But Cloud Strife was represented in two Smash Bros. games, and every good 3D Final Fantasy title is available on the switch. I doubt it was easy to achieve this, but since it looks like everyone benefits from it, it probably was worth the cost and effort.
One year ago it was assumed that Persona is exclusive to Sony. Now, Smash Bros. features the main character of Persona 5 and a collection of music from across the franchise. Also, a persona game is finally coming to Switch, though that's not what people expected or hoped for. These walls are being torn down, and Nintendo often seems to be the company most likely to get out the sledgehammer to accomplish this.
Banjo and Kazooie, Steve from Minecraft Erdrick from Dragon Quest Sora from Kingdom Hearts Spider-Man, Son Goku; why not? Nintendo has slowly abandoned our expectations of what is possible in the gaming industry, and we live in a world where Thanos can appear in Fortnite . These crossovers are still surprising and enjoyable, but so many of them are successful that I'm always surprised that so few other big companies are trying to put them into action.
Nintendo has revealed – unintentionally or not – how many of these barriers have always been arbitrary, and it has helped fans like me find much joy and happiness when they've just hoped for something new, exciting and interesting.
Nintendo changed the game by at least partially opening its doors, completing deals and inviting others to its area, which happens to be one of the most revered in the industry's history. And it has become clear that his colleagues have little reason not to do the same.
So the real question is simple: Are you up to the challenge?