Nintendo Direct review, 12.15.15 – Smash ’em if you got ’em

So, earlier this evening, we got what Nintendo promised is the final Nintendo Direct for Super Smash Bros for 3DS/WiiU. Of course, this has obvious interest for Smash fans, but perhaps we’ll get some tidbits about what’s to come for Super Mario Maker as well. Well, with a little logical deduction, maybe.

The first announcement was, in some ways, a surprise. The lead character for the upcoming Fire Emblem Fates was not on any list of “requested Smash additions” that I found. But Corrin, as they (like Robin, you can choose between otherwise identical male and female versions) are known in Smash, was the first newcomer announced. This brings us to six Fire Emblem characters (for those who can’t name the rest off the top of their head – Marth, Ike, Robin, Lucina, and Roy are the others), which in a way is impressive for a series that had absolutely no penetration outside of Japan for over a decade. Now, in terms of additions, I don’t think anyone can be surprised at this. Roy was originally added to Melee because Nintendo wanted to promote his upcoming Fire Emblem game. Part of the inspiration for Zelda and Ganondorf in Brawl was to promote the upcoming redesign in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Also, it’s not like other franchises don’t get heavy billing as well. Mario has six representatives, Pokemon has five, and Sakurai got six collective representatives from the franchises he heavily worked on (three each from Kid Icarus and Kirby). Sure, maybe I would have liked more EarthBound representation (which you can cheat up to three when you remember that Creatures, Inc. used to be Ape, Inc., and they cribbed more than a little from their work on Giygas in EarthBound Beginnings to make Mewtwo). But I know that Fire Emblem is a solid game with a dedicated fanbase; I honestly won’t fault them getting another representative.

What I can fault, however, is how similar Corrin’s moveset appears to many of the other Fire Emblem characters. There are a couple of prime differences – since Corrin is apparently part-dragon (hey, they cribbed off my Dungeons & Dragons character!), they have wings that pop out in a few attacks that can even provide momentum. And some of the particulars are different – the counter is wider, and the forward swipe can pin foes. But overall, it feels like very familiar ground – a neutral charging move that can do incredible knockback, a forward thrust that can set up combos if done correctly, a counter move, and a rising swipe. Oh, and they even announced that Corrin’s attacks have a sweet spot at the tip. The description sounds a bit too much like Marth for my liking, particularly when Lucina and Roy are already cloned movesets and Ike’s is more similar than not. It feels like a Fire Emblem fan can either choose to be Robin, mid-range Marth, balanced Marth, short-range Marth, heavy Marth, or now dragon Marth. I’d like Corrin much more if I had confidence that he’d play radically different from other characters from their series.

Incidentally, the only thing coming with Corrin is two music tracks that can play on either Fire Emblem stage. I suppose we don’t also need another stage from the game, but only two tracks seems a bit thin.

Next, the reason Nintendo’s servers are slammed tonight – Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. In a reference to the Smash online poll, he was the most requested Final Fantasy character, and they went into more detail both about his moves and his stage. For one, I appreciate both that the Limit mechanic is active at all times but only visible when using the specific Limit Meter move – this gives play a bit of an edge, because both attacking and defending build the meter… but if you back off, Cloud can just charge it. How lucky do you feel pressing the attack? In addition to each of his moves getting stronger (though using a special depletes a fully charged Limit meter), he even replaces his Limit Meter move with a new move when it’s fully powered – I appreciate that he can manage to swap moves (for Finishing Touch, a weak attack with huge knockback) in a way no other Smash character can. Beyond that, he seems to mix up speed and power at a reasonable ratio, and I think he will play much differently than other Smash fighters so far. Ironic, given my less-than-sanguine opinion of his original game, but I think he might be a good addition to the game.

He also comes with Midgar as a stage, and for the most part, the stage’s layout isn’t anything special – at its base, it heavily resembles Battleground and several other “base platform and three floating platform” stages. Where things get interesting is that red summon materia float around the stage, and whoever grabs it summons one of five summoned beasts from the game to affect the field – Ifrit, Ramuh, Odin, Leviathan, and Bahamut ZERO. Beyond the fact that we’re spared Knights of the Round (which would take a whole round to finish), these are effectively Poke Balls that you can’t turn off and can warp the battlefield. Take that, no-items snobs! It’s admittedly not the most outrageous stage build out there, but I do appreciate that it’s more than just a static field with a couple of platforms. Oh, and as alluded before, they announced that Cloud would be live for download shortly after the Direct, which means servers are slammed. This shouldn’t be a surprise; Nintendo has previously done the “oh, you can download this now” thing multiple times. It makes sense at least one thing in tonight’s Direct would get the same treatment.

For those who like to pay for outfits, well, good news and bad news. The good news is, because Nintendo and Square Enix are buddy-buddy about Smash, you get Geno again. Bad news is, only as a Mii Gunner outfit. Other characters that are showing up as Mii Fighter outfits include WarioWare‘s Ashley as a female Swordfighter, Sonic‘s Tails as a male Gunner, and the same series’ Knuckles as a male Brawler. Myself, I don’t bother paying for items that don’t have a gameplay effect, but I imagine that some will pick up them just to finally play as their favorite character.

Oh, somewhat related, for those who just don’t have the knack for Mii construction – Nintendo also announced that they’re now including QR codes for the base Mii for many of their models. Want a Mii with an Inkling face, or maybe Viridi? Now you can without the hassle of building it yourself. This is free, so I do appreciate that they’re not trying to soak people for a lack of artistic eye.

Nintendo then pointed out that it’s been about a year of work on DLC characters, and that they’re wrapping things up for work on this iteration of Smash. But first, it’s time to reveal the results of the fan request poll. The thing I think a lot of people have to keep in mind is, this was a worldwide poll. Not only that, but a lot of characters had to be ditched because they couldn’t necessarily get the rights – that means you, Goku of Dragon Ball. So the winner that Nintendo could get into the game? Bayonetta.

This isn’t that much of a surprise. Bayonetta has a very dedicated fanbase around the world, Nintendo and Platinum Games couldn’t be closer friends right now if they tried, and Platinum already has some representation in Smash (in the form of The Wonderful 101 trophies). Unless Wolf O’Donnell had suddenly overtaken her in the vote, it was to be expected, I think. I’ll grant that there is plenty of complaints about the choice, but unless Nintendo was to announce about a half dozen DLC characters (Shovel Knight, Shantae, Goku, Wolf, Nana & Popo, and Ridley, at bare minimum), there were bound to be complaints about who was chosen. Perhaps it was Nintendo’s own Kobiyashi Maru, and at least they made a decision.

That said, I will fully credit Nintendo for making her look fun to play. It looks like she has a very deliberate combo style of play, with windups and telltale punishment for good defense, but ridiculously punishing combos if not. I also enjoy that pretty much all of her attacks can be extended by her many firearms, and she even has a unique counter mechanic (depending on the timing, you either avoid damage and slow your foe, or you take no knockback and reduced damage). Her Final Smash even feeds into this mechanic, as it’s only good for a knockout if you can combo your foe into north of 100% damage. If nothing else, she looks like she plays differently than every other character in the series, and that looks like lots of fun to me.

Finally, we get to amiibo and release dates. We now have March 18, 2016 as the date for the amiibo for Ryu and Roy, as well as a surprise release of the Famicom pattern for ROB outside of Japan. Plus, while no date is firm thus far, all three DLC characters featured today are confirmed to get amiibo as well. Know what I’m thinking? We’re going to see a Super Mario Maker level with a Street Fighter theme sooner rather than later on this blog.

Finally, we get word from Sakurai about how they’ve continued working on this edition of Smash for a year after its release. There are the usual heartfelt thanks, of course, but what strikes me is that Nintendo would encourage this development. And they encourage it because of the enthusiasm of the fanbase. This was what’s key for this site, in my opinion. For a fanbase that’s dedicated and wants to support the game, Nintendo will keep working on content and tweaks. And they’ll do it for quite a while in video game industry terms. What this tells me is that, if we keep dedicated, Nintendo will continue to support and add to Super Mario Maker. I’m not going to go so far as to guarantee various things I’ve seen people ask for in regards to the game – the Angry Sun, Chargin’ Chucks, slopes, the ability to remove the timer, and many others. But Nintendo basically says that if the community is there and keeps the game going, they’ll continue to support and add on to it. Myself, I can’t help but think that means there’s more in store for Super Mario Maker beyond event courses. We just have to keep building.

About the author


30-plus year veteran of the Koopa Wars. The things I've seen, the levels I've played... let me tell you of them.

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