Thanks to Cart Boy and Soma for edits.
Ah, hello! You don’t look Hollow; far from it! I am Solaire of Astora, an adherent of the Lord of Sunlight. I have come to this great land, birthplace of Lord Gwyn yet fallen under the accursed Darksign, to seek my very own sun! The flow of time here is convoluted; the very fabric wavers, and relations shift and obscure. There’s no telling how much longer your world and mine will remain in contact. But we can cross the gaps between the worlds, and engage in jolly cooperation!
The world of Dark Souls is not a pleasant one; its kingdom of Lordran is terrifying and often unpleasant. It is beautiful, to be sure, but in a tragic, apocalyptic, spooky way, with its ruined and decaying architecture. Its inhabitants are violent and crazed, and the few who aren’t out for your Humanity are often deceitful, obtuse, or just unwell. It’s hard not to feel you’re the only person in this world who’s even barely holding together. And then, after fighting the second boss fight, the monstrous Taurus Demon, you meet an odd knight whose tunic carries a memorable drawing of a sun. Certainly it seems he’s not quite altogether, talking about his “own sun” and all that, but he has a better idea of what’s going on in Lordran than anyone else. And beyond that, he’s kind; he gives you usable information, shows empathy, and even offers to help you through these trials when he can. He is Solaire of Astora, and over the course of the adventure he will occasionally pop in to aid, congratulate, and potentially battle you. The former is the biggest deal; he’s the most famous of the series’ summonable warriors, who can aid you in vanquishing the gargantuan, intimidating bosses of the trilogy. That’s a main mechanic in Souls, players bringing in real or fictional friends to help in hairier moments.
Last year, I wrote a “Case For” article on not an individual character of the series, but for Dark Souls itself as something worth representation in Smash. Over the past couple months, the idea of that happening has gone from something a bit absurd – if the response to that article was any indication – to a genuine idea people are considering. And in the discussions about the possibility, only two names come up: the Chosen Undead, the name of the player avatar, and the series’ unofficial mascot, Solaire. And with an amiibo of him coming out and personal preference on my part, here we go with the latter.
Reasons for Inclusion
Like I said above, the debate – beyond “should Dark Souls be in Smash at all?,” which I’ve discussed in that previous “Case For” – for a Souls fighter has largely boiled down to the Chosen Undead or Solaire. Ultimately, it’s a question of whether you’d prefer to use a default version of the player avatar, or the mascot. Smash has gone on both sides of the divide: Pikachu, Mr. Game & Watch, and R.O.B. on one end; Pokémon Trainer, Villager, Robin, and Corrin on the other. But the Chosen Undead is ultimately (and deliberately) generic in almost every way, from backstory to personality to fighting style, the better to provide a blank canvas for players. Even their “signature look” is just a bland drawing on the cover art, compared to the immediately iconic, distinct designs of the avatars Smash uses. This isn’t to say it’d be bad if they were chosen, but I could see the character’s fairly high lack of distinctness being a point of frustration. At the risk of being reductive, the real “main character” of Dark Souls is Dark Souls itself, a seemingly untameable beast that must be studied, understood, and fought with at every turn. And beyond the player character, there are NPCs, but outside the gargantuan monsters and deadly warriors that make up its cadre of bosses, one stands out far more than most.
There’s a reason why Solaire is the one getting an amiibo. There’s a reason he’s a beloved meme, endlessly telling people to “PRAISE THE SUN!” – the iconic gesture of his Warriors of Sunlight – and championing that “jolly cooperation” on internet forums. There’s a reason we at Source Gaming decided to talk about him first. Solaire is, in some ways, representative of Dark Souls at its most pleasant, silly, and especially positive. If the worst of Dark Souls culture is telling newbies to “git gud” and treating difficulty as a metric to keep players out, then its best is wanting them to jump in, make friends, and defeat the undefeatable. And no one exemplifies that more than Solaire. He’s lighthearted, even a bit goofy, but he’s also a tough as nails warrior who can be a godsend in some of the most painful boss fights. And he not only accepts support and teamwork, he adores it. He even goes on his own narrative arc, as his positive outlook slowly fades and he, depending on how you progress, either succumbs to madness or is saved to potentially join you against the final boss – the corrupted Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, thus bringing his character arc full circle. I imagine he’ll be as adored by Switch owners as he was by Dark Souls fans the world over, especially with that lovely amiibo.
And as a fighter, hoo boy could he be fun. He’s one more swordfighter, for sure, but he would supplement his hacking and slashing with the exciting Sunlight Spear, a huge lightning attack that could home in on enemies but be better for stunning than K.O.s. He could also use additional spells, whether miracles associated with the Warriors of Sunlight (among them healing, magical barriers, and shockwaves) or pyromancies or sorceries (which are associated with rival factions, though it wouldn’t be the first time a Smash character brought in surprising techniques). He could even represent summoning by calling on other warriors for attacks or a Final Smash, take some of Gwyn’s various attacks, or have a mechanic in which his weapons and armor steadily degrade and can be repaired, a holdover from the games. I see him as a fighter who’d be slow, not able to take hits too well, but with strong attacks and a parry mechanic, though that might end up as just another counter. In other words, he’d be a high risk, high reward character, appropriate given his origins.
Reasons for Exclusion
Regardless of a debate between “mascots” and “player avatars,” Smash generally prefers player characters (and main characters and antagonists. I’m unsure Solaire fits as the former, and he’s certainly not the latter); Palutena, Duck Hunt, and Wii Fit Trainer are the only fighters who’ve never been playable in another game. I suspect it’s because Sakurai wants to represent the heroes we play as because they’ll always be the ones we know the best. And if I’m being honest, there’s little in that suggested moveset the Chosen Undead couldn’t do, with the added bonus of potentially using a non-sword weapon (even if I doubt they wouldn’t use a sword) and more easily employing a wider variety of magic spells.
Of course, that’s just in the debate between Solaire and another Dark Souls fighter; much greater is the argument of whether Dark Souls should be represented at all. As iconic as the series is, its history with Nintendo won’t really “start” until the release of the remaster in May. Not that it’s a bad thing; having the first, and most famous and beloved, of the trilogy on Switch is huge. Again, this is something we’ve gone over before, but it is still new to the world of Nintendo, though I think Sakurai is less strict on that so long as the third party series have some form of presence.
Just as two quick final notes: firstly, the amiibo only really matters as a metric of Solaire’s popularity; it doesn’t mean anything substantial, just as all four Shovel Knight protagonists, Qbby, Detective Pikachu, and Chibi-Robo aren’t guaranteed spots…though I would certainly be happy if they all joined. The other is that some players might find him, or especially his series, as not fitting the Smash aesthetic, potentially clashing too much with the rest of the roster with either its subdued color scheme or melancholic tone. Dark Souls’ environments are colorful but often visually muted, with a number of dark, dimly lit corridors, and it is a quite darker experience than most of Nintendo’s games. I really don’t think it’d be a problem (and visual clashing has actually been a consistent benefit to Smash), but that is there.
What is Smash Bros. without music? Bupkis, I say! Here are some tracks you might hear if Solaire makes the cut.