Note: This is an opinion article. Feel free to(respectfully) disagree, as this is merely a hypothesis.
Cuts. Nobody likes it when those happen, except when it’s a sword slicing through a foe. Every character, no matter how hated, has a fanbase. But we lose characters every time a new Smash game rolls around. Between Brawl and Smash 3DS/Wii U, we lost 4 characters(5 counting the Pokemon Trainer’s mons as individuals, since Charizard was made a solo character), and DLC only brought back one of these in Lucas. What will become of the rest of the cuts is unknown.
It’s been several months since DLC ended with the final announcements of Bayonetta and Corrin in December, and their proper release in early February. With that in mind, I’m going to offer a perspective on who might be at risk for the next proper game.
Several of these points will be shared with the previous SG article on cuts from October 2015 with a new point of view due to what we got with DLC.
Clones and clone-like characters, historically, have been frequent choices for cuts. From all Smash games prior to 3DS/U, three clones are currently gone: Young Link, Wolf and Pichu. This was previously six with Dr. Mario, Lucas and Roy, the latter two added to Smash 3DS/U as DLC and the former to the same game on the base roster.
Currently, we have Dark Pit, Lucina, Dr. Mario, Lucas and Roy as the present moveset clones in Smash 3DS/U(though Lucas differs enough from Ness to be his own separate character and not a full clone). The former three, as is common knowledge, were included as a result of free development time, allowing them to be implemented without obstructing the rest of development. Roy was brought back out of desire to bring back a popular Melee character(albeit tweaked from his Melee self), and Lucas(whom ironically almost cut Ness in Melee) for similar reasons, albeit for Brawl instead.
Which ones could be axed?
As a theory, to make space, the former three clones would be brought down to character swaps similarly to how Alph is currently implemented for Olimar. This carries the distinct advantage of technically not removing them, thus not generating(massive) ire across their fans. However, in the case of Dark Pit and Dr. Mario, they were separated partly due to their unique attributes, and in the former’s case, to avoid conflicts in canon. Thus, whether they would be removed entirely or not remains to be seen.
As for Lucas and Roy, they are both loved clone characters from their respective games. Given that Sakurai takes series balance into account when selecting characters(plus the controversy over Corrin’s inclusion), there exists the chance Roy (and/or Lucina) could be removed/downgraded to make space for a fresh new character. Lucas’ safety is rather debatable; not only is the “original twelve” rule false in the case of Ness himself, Earthbound as a franchise is finished, and series without a future are not usually prioritized. Although, in Ness’ defense, he was going to be replaced with a character from the same series.
A general statement about third party characters: they can be cut if circumstances change. None of them are completely safe, but they all have reasons to stay. From Brawl to Smash 3DS/U we saw the cut of the first third party introduced to Smash Bros., Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. In his case, however, it was likely the public image of his parent company Konami preventing him from returning, but there are no concrete answers regarding his absence at present.
At present, we have 6 third party characters in Smash 3DS/U: Sonic, Mega Man, Pac-Man, Ryu, Cloud Strife and Bayonetta. However, as third parties are in a different league compared to first party characters, attempting to predict who will be cut is tough due to the unseen difficulties of rights negotiations. The ‘safest’ character is Sonic, having made it from one game to the next unlike his sneaky counterpart. After that, however, it gets harder.
Mega Man and Pac-Man were the on-disc newcomer third parties added out of certain circumstances; both have a long-lasting impact on the gaming industry and are cultural icons, particularly the latter. They made it in despite their series not doing much at the time Smash 3DS/U was being made, with the former being particularly infamous for it. Due to their high prestige, it’s hard to imagine them being cut, but still remaining a possibility.
Cloud Strife and Ryu were the non-ballot third party DLC characters from Square-Enix and Capcom, respectively. Cloud’s inclusion stemmed from long-running fan requests for Final Fantasy characters in Smash, a significant portion of those requesting Cloud, and Final Fantasy director Tetsuya Nomura’s agreement to negotiate after being contacted. This would put Cloud’s inclusion in a similar boat to Solid Snake’s, except that Sakurai asked first and not the other way around(note that this scenario was in Brawl; Kojima had originally asked during Melee’s production first). The question now is whether Cloud would be kept. I personally believe he would. Unlike Snake and Konami, Square-Enix really doesn’t have any public image problems to the degree Konami does, and thus would likely be more willing to arrange for a second appearance.
As for Ryu, he really doesn’t have that much of an explanation for his inclusion, though the argument can be made that the father of modern fighting games would be highly welcomed to Smash precisely for his iconic value. The ambiguity regarding his inclusion would make it so his chances of staying are an arguable 50/50.
And finally, Bayonetta was the final character added to Smash 3DS/U as a result of the Fighter Ballot, where she was the top voted in Europe, amongst the Top 5 in North America, and overall #1 worldwide amongst negotiable and realizable choices. Unlike what some would claim, Bayonetta has a a couple of critical points in her favor:
- Being the Smash Ballot winner, Bayonetta automatically has reason to be prioritized. Regardless of who it would have been, cutting the winner of a global poll to determine a character’s inclusion would cause a high amount of displeasure among fans, as with any cut, really.
- On top of this, PlatinumGames have a solid relationship with Nintendo, with content of theirs appearing in Smash Bros. for Wii U on top of making several games for their systems since the Nintendo DS and Wii.
- Hideki Kamiya himself is likewise on very good terms with the company and Sakurai himself(who was a guest at Platinum’s anniversary party in early 2016). Evidence of Kamiya’s potential future willingness to allow Bayonetta’s usage (apart from Smash) comes from a statement by Kamiya in early February where he regretted his initial decision to not allow Bayonetta to be used in the company crossover game Project X Zone 2(which happens to include every third party company currently in Smash except for Square-Enix), and is fully open to her appearing in a potential sequel.
- Another detail worth noting is that due to Bayonetta 2’s exclusive Wii U release, Nintendo partially owns the character nowadays, having both funded and published the game.
With these facts in mind, it’s easy to see why Bayonetta could avoid getting cut; that does not make her a lock, mind you, but feasible to see her reappear in the world of Smash after her shocking inclusion.
First Party Characters
The clones have already been covered above, so they won’t be mentioned again. Surprisingly, with the roster at the moment, only a few series could objectively be seeing cuts outside of unexpected circumstances.
Fire Emblem is easily the most divisive series in the fanbase with the amount of characters it has at the moment. Lucina and Roy have been discussed above. With Ike making it through one game untouched apart from design, it seems as though he is a mainstay. Robin is hard to see cut due to the passion Sakurai put into the character, as is Corrin. The only way either could be seen as potential cuts were if another Fire Emblem title came around in the time the roster were decided based on higher relevance and Lucina and/or Roy were not cut; in which case Robin would likely be at greater risk than Corrin due to the latter being more recent. Remember this as well; Sakurai agrees that six is too many Fire Emblem characters, so space would have to be made. As with all of Sakurai’s statements, however, this is subject to change, and also depends on what happens with Fire Emblem in the following years, seeing as it received a massive boost in popularity and is now considered a major IP for Nintendo.
Pokemon is a constantly changing series in Smash Bros(having seen the most amount of cuts between games). Pichu, Squirtle and Ivysaur are no more. What does that mean for the current characters? Pikachu is obviously staying. Mewtwo has a wealth of points in his favor, being an insanely requested veteran, so it’s likely he’ll stay as well.
Charizard and Lucario remain consistently popular in the franchise, so that’s points in their favor as well. Greninja is the outlier; as a character included before it actually became popular, it was a lucky addition. But whether it would be cut for a more recent Pokemon is up for debate, especially with Sun & Moon approaching in late 2016. On that note, Pokemon could be a relatively safe series in regards to avoiding cuts; as a massive Nintendo franchise, there would likely not be much complaint if a seventh character were added to the current six.
You may have realized I didn’t mention Jigglypuff, a mainstay since Smash 64. It’s a rather unique case, given Jigglypuff’s almost cut in both Melee and Brawl, being a low priority character for the latter. While it’s unknown if it was close to being cut in Smash 3DS/U as well, it’s near omission in two games makes it stand to reason Jigglypuff could be at risk of being cut by the next game.
And that’s it. The way the roster is right now, I think this is a very reasonable hypothesis as to who stays and goes. I fully expect to be proven wrong on some of these guesses, but that won’t happen for a couple more years. So enjoy your characters, everyone, since you never know if they’re on the chopping block!