I absolutely love the Smash series, ever since the series arrived on the N64 back in 1999. Whilst I thought the Gamecube entry was the best, the Wii game had it’s charms too. I remember checking the website back in 2007 every day to see which character or item got announced. I remember the insanity of the reactions when Sonic appeared. I’m sure this time too I won’t be the only person watching the official site like a hawk, waiting and hoping that director Masahiro Sakurai blows my mind again like he did all those years ago.
Whilst I am almost certainly going to pick up the 3DS version, right now I’m not getting the “I must play this game!” feeling I had when I saw Brawl’s announcement trailer. Yeah, Megaman is cool, and Wii Fit Trainer is pretty funny, but aside from cleaner graphics we haven’t actually seen anything that Brawl couldn’t do.
I’ve written four things I’d like to see appear in Smash 4. I’m not expecting all of them (although that would be totally cool) but I think if we get none of them at all, I won’t be picking up the Wii U title. Let me know in the comments if you agree with any or all of them. (Or none!)
1. Proper Online
Nintendo have, up to now, limited their online services to keep their users safe from nasty people. You can’t type what you want to say, you select from an approved list of messages. You can’t have a proper friends list or play statistics or ranking systems or anything like that. I totally understand this, and honestly, something does need to be done to improve the world of online gaming – an hour of League Of Legends should be enough to convince anyone of that. But there has to be a balance. A parental lock or an age verification system or something. Even if e-sports and so on aren’t a priority, it’s not fair to hinder those who would like to run leagues or tournaments. Children play games and need to be kept safe from angry and crazy people, but I’m not a kid. This is probably more of a Nintendo-wide request, but please stop wrapping every user up in bubble wrap.
2. A Core Gameplay Change
Smash bros is really, really fun. Over the years the series has evolved, adding more characters and items and so on. But from the E3 promo video, we didn’t actually see anything new, gameplay mechanic wise. We need some sort of distinct shift or new mechanic to keep things fresh.
I had one idea, a swap-in swap-out character mechanic, like Tekken Tag and so on. It’s a pretty easy thing to add that immediately gives some extra variety and depth to the game. Either have it so when you die you come back with your other character, or maybe have a button combination that allows you to swap mid-fight.
It doesn’t need to be that, of course. But it does need to be something. Brawl brought the side scrolling story mode, which was fun for a while but wasn’t a change to the very core of the combat system. Without innovation, this game is essentially a big patch with a bigger price tag.
3. Patches and DLC
STOP. STOP. Don’t say it. Don’t go on an anti-DLC rage. I am not advocating on-disc day one DLC à la Mass Effect 3, nor am I suggesting mandatory paid upgrades to be able to play online every so often like World of Warcraft. I am talking about balance patches based on character win rates and so on, and perhaps some extra characters people can choose to download. But allow people who don’t own the character to fight against them! That way if I’m not interested in Professor Layton, I can still beat up my friend who has chosen to buy him.
As for patches – back in the Gamecube Melee days there was quite a sizeable pro tournament scene. However, changes to Brawl moved it in a more casual direction. I’m predicting this trend will continue, but that doesn’t mean patches will never happen. Give it 6 months after release, then come back and see what characters are considered too strong on big forums, look at what bugs are being complained about, and patch it. That would be a super cool thing to do, Nintendo.
4. More Niche or 3rd Party Characters
Although I’m sure people got angry because Wii Fit Trainer is kind of out of left field. I personally love her as a new fighter. We’re pretty much out of super popular Nintendo mascots anyway. I want more weirdness. Megaman is cool and I’m glad he’s in, and it would be great to have Snake and Sonic back. But how about Phoenix Wright, or Professor Layton, or Mystical Ninja Goemon, or Moogle from Final Fantasy, or Geno… or… or… or…
Okay, everyone and their grandmother has made a Smash 4 character wishlist, so I won’t bore you with one here. The point is, weird characters like Wii Trainer are great. They make the game stand out, they make headlines (which is good for promotion) and they make Nintendo Lore purists mad, which is even better. Maybe ‘Wii Trainer is the best character in Smash’ can replace ‘There’s only one Zelda timeline’ as the best way to start a riot on a web forum..
In closing, then, I’m pretty excited about this game. Melee was probably my favourite game of the whole Gamecube library, and the other two titles were fun too. I’m sure this title too will ooze Sakurai quality and will enjoy great sales. But as I said, I’m just not quite sold on it yet. So let’s hope there’s a big announcement coming soon!