Though some DLC and amiibo are still to arrive, leaving the development team with some work to finish off, it's certainly the end of an era for this generation of Super Smash Bros. The very nature of the Final Video Presentation was always going to be a tad divisive - the Fighter Ballot, in particular, had been a red hot topic for months. The confirmation that Bayonetta would complete the roster was welcomed by some and bemoaned by others, but overall the final flourish from Sakurai-san seemed apt for the series; it was full of detail, with flashes of humour and bombastic confidence.
When we ran a series of polls many of you seemed to agree, with the majority generally being satisfied with the broadcast as a whole. Considering how much was riding on it that's a decent response.
A question that pinged around the Nintendo Life team when it ended, though, is what's next? Where does Masahiro Sakurai take the series from here, assuming he'll still be leading it? How can the next generation's entry possibly top this one?
It was apt that, at the conclusion of the Final Video Presentation, Sakurai-san reeled off statistics that emphasized just how big the games had become. We've recreated them below:
- 58 fighters
- 84 stages between both versions
- 99 Mii Fighter oufit 'pieces' and 97 hats
- 743 trophies on Wii U, 707 trophies on 3DS
- 507 music tracks
While debates around game mechanics and gameplay for the latest entries are subjective, there's little escaping the fact that the volume of content in the Wii U and 3DS games is significant. It can hardly be accused of recycling old material to excess, either - though there have been HD versions of classic stages, for example, a decent percentage of the roster and stages are entirely new, utilising both first- and third-party IPs. As the dust settles and we look on at what these games feature - also factoring in online modes that were added for Wii U - it's rather striking to see how much it's evolved.
That is, as we've suggested before, becoming the Nintendo way. Splatoon has evolved significantly since its launch with new content, Mario Kart 8 eventually added 16 tracks, multiple characters and more besides, while Super Mario Maker is getting into a steady groove of major updates that add items, modes and improvements. Platforms within platforms, in other words, and Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and 3DS have been at the heart of that.
Unlike its frequently updated contemporaries, of course, Smash Bros. has heavily monetised its extras; the Mario Kart 8 packs, we'd suggest, were particularly generous with their pricing, especially once free updates to the racer are also taken into account. Yet Sakurai-san's game has followed more typical industry trends - though some modes and updates have been free - by charging relatively small amounts for individual extras like character, stages and Mii outfits, and offering bundles with minor bulk discounts. The end result, at the time of writing, is that the most affordable all current DLC can be - if buying for both 3DS and Wii U combined - is over $78; that's avoiding duplicated content within bundles, though multiple overlaps with some content may confuse some buyers. Even looking at it conservatively it's the price of the Wii U game again with a little extra, and we still have Corrin, Bayonetta and more Mii outfits to come.
While not all will welcome that, on a business level it undoubtedly works - in his most recent investor presentation, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima stated that the Smash Bros. DLC was Nintendo's most successful, coming top in the list of top download sales.
What that likely means is that the next entry in the series, assuming it comes, not only has pressure to deliver similarly hefty volumes of content, but Nintendo's management will be keen to repeat the trick of successfully monetising DLC. Even beyond core profit, the regular additions to the game have provided valuable excitement around Nintendo as a brand, with video presentations / Nintendo Directs accompanying the most substantial releases. Across five major 'Collections' of DLC to date, in addition to features such as YouTube uploads and online Tourneys, Nintendo has made money and generated plenty of hype.
In addition to all of this, of course, the new entry on Wii U has achieved something that Super Smash Bros. Brawl struggled to do - it gained the approval of the competitive scene. Though Super Smash Bros. Melee is still just about the biggest draw for the series at landmark events like Evo, many thousands now tune in online - or attend the event - to see the top Wii U players battle it out. With the expanded cast, the continual revisions to try and improve balancing through updates and the generally snappier tempo of the matches it's won an audience, with Brawl somewhat joining the N64 original in the margins. Nintendo of America, in particular, worked hard to make it happen with the original E3 Invitational event and support of competitive tournaments, but ultimately it's noticeable that the community has embraced the new title.
Of course, this isn't the first time we've wondered how Nintendo could possibly improve on a key success, but there's no doubt that Masahiro Sakurai and his team have a significant task ahead of them - if they choose to take it on. Sakurai-san himself has spoken in the past about how each entry is bigger than the last, and the pressure that brings. Below is one of numerous examples where he's seemed exasperated by the conundrum, in this case from late 2014.
You could say that all the effort in the past to stretch out, keep pushing myself, and provide all these extra merits wound up tightening the noose around my neck in the future.
That may seem like it contradicts my personal desire to keep giving gamers as much as I can, but I don't see any easy answer for it. And yet, despite that, I also have trouble picturing someone else taking my place and providing all this value-added content without me.
Sakurai-san has often wavered between suggesting he's keen to step away from Super Smash Bros., to then stating that he can't possibly leave it behind in someone else's hands. He seems both keen to escape and, at the same time, obsessed with continually making it better - the lure of the acclaim and buzz from fans is up against the long hours and exhausting process of making these games. Where he stands on it right now, only he likely knows.
In any case, it may be late into the NX generation before we see Super Smash Bros. again, but it'll have to go a long way to 'beat' this gen's efforts. Improvements can certainly be made to some aspects of infrastructure online - Tourneys seemed to disappoint most, in the end - and the bonus 'fun' modes of Smash Run and Smash Tour were divisive. As a whole, though, it seems that the majority have hugely enjoyed this gen's entries.
After the opinion-splitting Brawl, with its slower pace, tripping and more besides, it feels like the latest Smash Bros. entries have not only been a return to form, but have shifted our expectations in terms of content - a roster of 58 with 84 stages can hardly be sniffed at. It's so sprawling, however, that upping the game next time will be a fearsome challenge.
We know Masahiro Sakurai, with his commitment and attention to detail, has the ability to take it up a notch again. Whether he wants to, however, is the key question that only time can answer.