Note: This is an editorial article.
Asking only for popular characters to appear in Smash…doesn’t get me excited
In an interview back before Mewtwo was release, Sakurai delved into some aspects of the game. Specifically, he mentioned that Ayumi from Famicom Detective Club was considered for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Takumaru from Mysterious Murasame Castle was considered for the Super Smash Bros. For Wii U/3DS . Both characters were excluded because they were unknown outside of Japan. From Sakurai’s standpoint, this is understandable. He needs to make a game that appeals to a lot of different people, so filling the game with lesser known Nintendo characters would be uninteresting to most people. The decision to exclude these characters based on a lack of recondition the world over makes sense; however, I want to present an antithesis to this. I want to demonstrate why these unknown characters are good and why Sakurai should consider including these characters, even if they aren’t well known.
First, unknown characters are nothing new to Smash. When Melee was released, the game included Marth and Roy who are from the Fire Emblem series which never been released outside of Japan. In fact, the team had considered not including the characters in the Western release; however, Marth and Roy were included because the translation team enjoyed the characters. Some other characters that have been lesser known before inclusion are Ness, Lucas, Shulk, and many of the “old school” characters. Despite being unknown, fans have enjoyed these characters. In fact, Sakurai mentions that the inclusion of Roy and Lucas in DLC for Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS was due to popularity for these characters during the June 14th presentation.This is in spite of the fact that neither of these characters starred in a game that was released outside of Japan.
As Sakurai’s quote above signifies, having only characters that are popular and are very familiar may not be the best thing. As they say, variety is the spice of life. Having characters that will be unfamiliar to fans is not a bad thing and adds more to the game. It also makes character reveals more interesting as fans won’t expect that character’s inclusion. Overall, the Super Smash Brothers series is, in part, about exploring Nintendo’s lore. This also means exploring content that has been forgotten or isn’t well known in the current day. Consider Takumaru. He was created alongside Link, Samus and Pit for the NES Disk Drive (an add on for the NES released only in Japan) in 1987. Even though he hasn’t had his own game since, he has been referenced in other games including Captain Rainbow, Nintendo Land and even Samurai Warriors 3. In Ayumi’s case, the Famicom Detective series has 3 games, even more than Starfox and F-Zero at the time of Super Smash Bros. Melee‘s release, and, based on a poll of Famitsu readers, was rated one of the best Nintendo games of all time. Its was also one of Nintendo’s text games, a genre that was more prominent during the NES’s time. These characters hold a special place in Nintendo’s history and could add some interesting variety to the roster.
Furthermore, beyond adding some variety, these characters can also help Nintendo gauge interest in their series, even bringing them back in new games. Kid Icarus saw a revival after Pit’s inclusion in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and the Fire Emblem was released in the West after Roy and Marth’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros Melee. Perhaps this could also be the case for Takamaru. Platinum developer Hideki Kamiya has expressed interest in reviving Mysterious Murasame Castle, the series Takamaru is from. While this shouldn’t be the sole reason a character is added, it give Nintendo the chance to test the waters with some characters. Even if Nintendo doesn’t make a new game with that character, fans may enjoy playing with them. This has certainly been the case for characters like Ice Climbers.
Of course, adding only unique and off brand characters would make for a roster that would not appeal to mainstream fans. However, there are characters that can help make the game more interesting and add a characters fans wouldn’t expect. As such, I don’t think Sakurai should shy away from a character because fans may not know that character.