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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Smash Bros. fan here. I'd be pleased if the roster got smaller!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Well, Masahiro Sakurai was wondering, so I figured I'd let him (and you) know.

In an interview published this morning between Super Smash Bros. franchise director Masahiro Sakurai and the media outlet The Verge, the two parties discussed many things now that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is done with new content. Masahiro Sakurai is happy to have finally received some time off working... allegedly he has “more free time now than [he has] probably ever had since [he] started working in game development[.]” As he already said back at Harada's Bar, his hobby is driving around. It took seven years after I wrote “Masahiro Sakurai's Day Off”... and he's FINALLY getting those now. I guess he hasn't been started working on his next project yet.

Other than him justifying “DLC Privilege” (the notion that Fighters Pass characters and their associated franchise content have much more effort put into them than returning characters or base game newcomer characters) because he needs to justify their additional cost to players, people's main takeaway from the interview was the last question, where Masahiro Sakurai said in order for the Super Smash Bros. series to live long and healthy, someone besides Masahiro Sakurai needs to be able to successfully direct it. In addition, any future titles “would have to shrink the roster, but we need to think about whether fans would be pleased about that.”

As a fan, I'd like that.

There is a powerful design concept called subtractive design. The underlying philosophy is that if you add too many things to an experience, it actually takes away from user satisfaction. If you get something more towards its core essence, it will be a better experience overall. Good writers often begin by writing a long draft with several ideas, and then what you see published is them cutting a lot from it to make a more concise point. (Incidentally, I generally don't follow this process when writing KoopaTV articles.)

Where subtractive design can get dangerous is if people don't know what the right things to subtract are. This is likely what happened with Fire Emblem Fates (going from Shin Kibayashi's 500-page detailed story to... the actual nonsense plot that got released) and everything Shigeru Miyamoto works on in recent memory.

With a fighting game, people might be appalled at the idea of cutting the roster. The roster is supposed to be the core content of a fighting game! But consider the increased number of match-ups with every new character added. That's not just something that the game's development/balance team has to consider, but people playing the game have to do so, too. Three years after Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has released, there are still several highly obscure characters and extremely rare match-ups that the public doesn't even know how they'd go. There are characters that have been virtually unused throughout the game's lifespan. And maybe you find that cool that there are these sort of secret characters that you can pick and no one will know what to do around them. I recognise there's appeal to that.

But there's just so much bloat on the roster right now (this isn't an article about who I would specifically cut, but start with Chrom), and it came at the expense of there being things to do with those characters. It'd be way harder to make a story mode for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that'd meaningfully involve all of the characters than it was for Super Smash Bros. Brawl... and Subspace Emissary didn't even really do that.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Online Records total Play Time
Most of the new characters they added are frustrating to fight against, anyway.
I certainly ain't using (or buying most of) them. And my time with the base newcomers is barren.
By the way, they censored my picture and replaced it with Bowser Jr.'s.

I don't think I'm advocating a “have more modes and less characters” approach. Super Smash Bros. Brawl did that by comparison and I didn't actually enjoy that, while I did enjoy Kirby Super Star Ultra's one mode for its Helpers. It's really about the quality of those modes. Yeah, there was the new Classic Mode in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but that was... pretty quick per character. And that's almost all there is to it. It was an appetiser, not a main course.

If they do cut characters to focus on the remaining characters to make every fighter feel special like they have DLC Privilege, that would be an awesome way to approach the next game. Yeah, I'd be upset if they decided to cut Jigglypuff... or... myself... But chances are that I'll still have one (they wouldn't ever cut King Dad, right?) or more characters I'd really enjoy. 'cause I like Nintendo characters. I'd be fine if they just universally wiped out all of the third party characters. Yeah, there's a lot I like. ...There's more I don't like. Some of my Most Wanted are third party (Phoenix Wright, Travis Touchdown). But I think it was a mistake to make Super Smash Bros. go from the ultimate Nintendo collaboration to some generic celebration of gaming. If they want to cut down the scope (and presumably royalty costs?) of the game, they can start with that. I still don't know why Joker is in.

Expanded quality modes and designing like every character and franchise is very special is what Super Smash Bros. should focus on, at the trade-off of cutting away a lot of the bloated roster where it's just a chore to try to do everything with everyone. Go back to the core!

Are there characters in mind that you'd like to see given treatment like they're a brand new character? Little Mac? Donkey Kong? Ganondorf? Feel free to talk about those in the comments section! And feel free to disagree with Ludwig completely on his main point. Ludwig didn't subtract anything he wrote from this article and it was all his first take. You could also comment about if you think Ludwig should employ more subtractive design in his writing.


  1. I would love the roster getting cut as well. Because third parties are usually the first to go. And that means no Sora.

    If Pokémon Sword and Shield can sell amazingly well even with a cut roster then Smash can as well.

  2. I've semi-jokingly advocated for a "rejects only" Smash spinoff before, and for marketing reasons I know that's incredibly unlikely but I do think it would be interesting for a downsized roster to be very judicious but trying to compensate by either completely reimagining characters (RPG-inspired Luigi?) or overhauling echoes / alt costumes to incorporate fan-favorite characters that don't provide a wholly unique experience. I'm a big fan of several of the third party characters and I think at least Banjo should stay, but leaving them as something unique to Ultimate would just make it fun to go back and revisit, something that I think the industry could stand to consider more seriously than neverending spectacle creep.

    1. A lot of fans—myself included—look back to Super Smash Bros. For Wii U and see a game that's totally been upended by Ultimate with no reason to go back to it.

      At least if Ultimate is known as that game with all of those added third parties, it's something to be remembered by.
      I guess maintaining a legacy isn't really a valid reason for purposefully stunting your game development, but...

      We might be one of the few people who'd prefer a Smash Bros. game to take after Superstar Saga than Luigi's Mansion.

  3. I agree but I can’t figure who’d be in it and how big the cast should be. I suppose the size of brawl or melee would be acceptable. No more than 30. The size should never be so big that you have no idea what your looking at, although Ultimate obviously gets a pass here.

    I feel like the original smash roster should always be present, I mean there’s no way Mario or Zelda would ever be removed. But as much as I love Ness or Kirby, are they really entirely necessary? My heart says yes, but my brain knows that’s not true. Lucy also seems unnecessary but I really don’t think they’d remove him either. I suppose if they could do like melee, have the same initial 12, add 14 newcomers for 26. Or even keep the initial 12, have 2 of the very popular other established fighters, and have 12 more NEW fighters. Although again, as much as I detest fire emblem, you cannot deny the character's mass popularity. Of course we’d definitely be getting one or two new fire emblem characters so maybe that’d make up for say, Roy’s absence.

    1. Additionally, on that Less is more note. I agree entirely and it hits home on a personal note. The professor Layton series is one of my favorites, and the developers very firmly felt they did everything they could with the professor and needed a restart. So the most recent game centered on the professors daughters and focused on smaller mysteries. All the previous games focused on the professor and mysteries that got bigger as the games went on but still carried a similar weight of importance in each of their games. Unsurprisingly, this new game with laytons daughter was a flop and didn’t feel as grand as even the first Layton game with the arguably “smallest” mystery.

      Over typing this I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say. I guess the main message is something along the lines of, “Less is more, but don’t lessen all the way to nothingness”.

      Removing a lot of fan favorite charecters will surly bring the ire of many fans. It might affect the first smash game to implement this change, or it might affect the game directly after that, as belated backlash. Although I’m sure as with Paper Mario Nintendo will still make enough profit to disregard the complaints, or just do as they normally do and disregard them without any reason.

      I predict Sakuri will still be very involved with the next smash game despite what his intentions are now. He’s a very hardworking man. The best way for him to hand off his legacy would be to have him mentor an employee that he chooses specifically to take over the series for him. Then the next game that employee would lead the smash project all by himself with Sakuri stopping by with tips. I don’t think Sakuri could ever really stop with the series so long as he’s able, although it may be necessary as conflicting creative visions could cause chaos. In a way it’s exciting to see what the smash series in entirely new hands would be like, but also completely terrifying. Oh the Temerity!

    2. "Or even keep the initial 12, have 2 of the very popular other established fighters, and have 12 more NEW fighters."

      There aren't 12 new fighters they could add that would be better than bringing back fighters introduced from Melee or Brawl.
      Like, this won't work out if Lord Bowser isn't in the game.

      "Lucy also seems unnecessary but I really don’t think they’d remove him either."

      The problem the series faces is that there are dual concerns of having a breadth of franchises and then a depth in those franchises, so if you cap out the number of fighters, one of those goals suffers. Focusing on a breadth means that supporting characters and antagonists don't get in the game, so only main characters get to appear. That'd get in the way of any "heroes vs. villains" initiatives, of course.
      The depth might mean that they'd remove whole franchises like Wii Fit or wotever. They could still appear as Assist Trophies. ^_^

    3. I don’t know why it says Lucy. I meant LUIGI. Hardly necessary but still a big staple. Bowsers important too, although I don’t think they’d put Gannon in the same vein. Which might be a good thing.

      Wiifit would be the first to go. I doubt they’d get rid of miifighters. I’m not a personal fan, but I do understand the appeal. Especially since it allows them to include references to characters they refuse to include as actual fighters. I think any 12 new fighters would be seen as inferior at first compared to the already established ones, but it’s necessary. Otherwise who actually gets cut from the game? There are a lot more than 24 super fan favorites.

      People have gone nuts for the last couple of Pokemon fighters introduced. I’m sure the inevitable new Pokemon fighters would make up for any initial backlash gotten as a consequence of removing fighters.

    4. Well, for 30 fighters... Let's say...

      1. Mario
      2. Donkey Kong
      3. Link
      4. Samus
      5. Yoshi
      6. Kirby
      7. Fox
      8. Pikachu
      9. Luigi
      10. Ness
      11. Captain Falcon
      12. Jigglypuff
      13. Peach
      14. Bowser
      15. Zelda
      16. Ganondorf
      17. Sonic
      18. King Dedede
      19. Pit
      20. Wario
      21. Wolf
      22. Mega Man
      23. Little Mac
      24. Inkling
      25. King K. Rool
      26. Newcomer (Gen 9 Pokémon)
      27. Newcomer
      28. Newcomer
      29. Newcomer
      30. Newcomer (Phoenix Wright)

      See look I even cut myself out.

      Anyway, that list is sure to anger a lot of people for cutting out a lot of franchises. I took out the whole FE series, which is slightly awkward because my first-party most-wanteds are Micaiah and the Black Knight. (Though they have almost no chance of getting in.)
      But maybe they are better getting their own stages and Assist Trophies instead.

    5. Wolf and mega man would more likely be swapped for meta knight and Pac-Man/game and watch.

      Other than that I suppose it could work. There’s always going to be new fire emblem characters and stranger characters have gotten in. I mean we did get Min-Min after all. If the higherups also like a certain character than anything’s possible! I always wanted Chibi Robo….

    6. If Namco ain't workin' on it again, then PAC-MAN should be excluded. >:(

      New FE character could get in as a Newcomer.

    7. I dont know. Part of the fun of smash is that you can play as your favorite characters. If you shortened the roster, some fans (including myself) might be sad. I say, the more the merrier.

    8. Only if you believe that "Character X is SOMEONE's favourite character!" to be a true maxim.

      It's a destructive design philosophy to say once you've added something, it can never be removed.

  4. Here's my top 10 fighters who should get cut

    10. Wii Fit Trainer
    9. Solid Snake
    8. Jigglypuff (shocking)
    7. Young/Toon Link
    6. Little Mac
    5. Corrin
    4. Pichu
    3. Dr. Mario
    2. Byleth
    1. Mii Fighters

    1. Keep Little Mac, but rework him from the ground up.


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