A Smashing Direct

ImageEver since the inception of the Nintendo Directs, never has a presentation caused this much anticipation among fans. The hype, of course, was completely warranted. After all, differently from the shows that occur close to E3 – when there is a fog of mystery surrounding what will be shown – this one had a clear focus revealed from the get go: Nintendo was going to deliver more details about the upcoming pair of Super Smash Bros. games.

In that sense, this week’s show fulfilled expectations. Fans got to know the release window for both titles, Summer for the 3DS version and Winter for the Wii U game; plenty of new characters, items, and assist trophies were revealed; and gameplay details that are bound to please different kinds of Smash Bros. fans were made known.

Masahiro Sakurai – the series’ director – if fully aware of his audience’s diverging mentalities when approaching his most famous brainchild. He knows that while some view the franchise as a realm on which the wackiness of party games meets a delightfully simple, yet deep, fighting gameplay; others view it as a competitive arena that is occasionally hampered by random elements, such as items and stage effects that interfere with the fighting.

ImageIn a way, he has always tried to make both camps happy by making a game that is as customizable as possible, allowing gamers total freedom in setting up the battle style and the items that would appear. This time, though, that flexibility has been taken to a whole different level, hence practically guaranteeing that the two sides of the coin will be satisfied.

On a simple masterstroke, Smash Bros. will now allow all of its stages to be configured either to a madhouse full of traps, or to a standard single-platform arena with no quirks. That division will be extended to the game’s online, on which a simple menu click will separate those who want an item-free battle on static stages from those who feel like getting the full insane extent of the Smash Bros. experience. The rift on the fanbase is, then, materialized on its online community, pretty much creating two distinct sides that will fight with their preferred set of rules.

In terms of character announcements, the Smash Direct left a little to be desired. Having characters such as Charizard, Sheik, and Zero Suit Samus star on their own slots is certainly deserving, for all of them present original movesets and great designs, and the announcement came as a pleasant surprise. At the same time, though, the only real new character to appear was Greninja, from the Pokemon X/Y versions.

ImageThe new Smash Bros. versions are, naturally, expected to bring numerous additions to the roster of characters they inherited from Brawl. However, as we stand a few months from the release of the Nintendo 3DS version – which will knowingly have the same cast as the Wii U game – the roster additions remain thin.

A positive outlook indicates that such fact means future updates to the game’s site and Nintendo’s eventual E3 Direct will probably be packed with new characters, whereas a more gloomy perspective will lean towards the confirmation that the existence of the 3DS version has severely limited the potential for expansion of the cast, which would be a terrible shame. Sakurai has already stated that such a problem does exist, but the extension of its effects remain to be seen.

From a business standpoint, Nintendo’s decision to produce two versions of the game, hence taking away the home consoles’ exclusivity over the franchise, remains questionable. The Nintendo Wii U undoubtedly needs a boost in sales, and that push could have come with it having a firm grip over the next Smash Bros. game.

ImageNow that it is known that the 3DS game will be released a few months before Wii U version, that decision becomes even more confusing. The 3DS game was already bound to rob the Wii U of numerous hardware sales due to the fact 3DS owners would not need to buy Nintendo’s home console to play the game. With an earlier release date and a fully exclusive mode, the allure of the 3DS Smash Bros. has greatly gone up, while the Wii U version will come as an afterthought to the greater part of gamers out there.

With at least eight months before the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. comes out, Nintendo has a good amount of time to build up hype and announce sweet morsels of exclusive content. Still, though there is not really much to criticize when it comes to today’s wonderful Direct (greatly presented by a humorous Sakurai that displayed great knowledge on the audience he is dealing with), Nintendo’s business strategy in handling these two Smash Bros games remains utterly confusing.


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