Last week during the most recent Nintendo Direct presentation, Nintendo rocked its fan-base to the care with a surprise announcement that the Super Smash Bros. series will be making its way to the Nintendo Switch in 2018. And while rumors have been swirling since back when the system was called the ‘NX’ that Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U would eventually be ported to Nintendo’s next system I really don’t think that’s the case, especially after seeing the short teaser released last week. And really, it wouldn’t make any sense for Nintendo to port the older game to the Switch, even as a Deluxe version with a ton of new content and I now believe that what we saw last week was the first glimpse at a brand new game in the Super Smash Bros. series, which is the only way to go for the franchise at this point.
Of course there are a few reasons why it would seem logical to port the 3DS / Wii U title to the Switch. For one, while both versions sold very well they were both tied to platforms that not a lot of people wanted to play Smash Bros. on. The 3DS being a handheld isn’t natively suited for Smash’s frantic gameplay and the Wii U was a system that even many Nintendo fans ignored so the game never did reach its true potential, so moving the game onto a singular platform, complete with the content of the 3DS and Wii U versions makes a lot of sense in that regard. It would also cut down on development time and resources required to get a new Smash out less than two years into the Switch’s life, but I think that despite these advantages there’s a lot more reasons for Nintendo to focus on making a brand new game instead.
The first reason why I think a new game would make the most sense is to shake off any restrictions that were put in place on the previous title by the requirement that both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U versions be as close to the same as possible. This of course meant that any characters with transformations (Zelda/Shiek and Pokémon Trainer) had to be retooled and that the fan favorite Ice Climbers had to be cut entirely. Now I’ve already put my thoughts together as to which new characters could join specifically with these restrictions lifted but the technical limitations of the 3DS didn’t just restrict which fighters we could play as but impacted many other technical aspects of the game as well.
Chief among these is the online elements of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U, something that is critically important for the Switch version’s success. Basically since both the 3DS and Wii U version shared an online framework any caveats that existed in the 3DS version had to exist on the Wii U despite that system having more resources it could dedicate to online gameplay. This led to the game being a sluggish experience online and one of the most frustrating games to try to play with friends who weren’t on the same couch as you. If the Switch version is in fact a port its possible these restrictions might still exist in the game’s code making what should be Nintendo’s premiere online experience an embarrassing 0-3 when you remember that Super Smash Bros. Brawl was also a mess online.
The next point I would like to bring up is more of personal preference one but I think it also applies to a lot of Nintendo fans in this brave new world of gaming spearheaded by the Nintendo Switch. Simply put a lot of the content featured in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U is old and will feel a lot older if the game is brought over the Switch. So much of the game’s characters and levels are based on Wii (Super Mario Galaxy, Skyward Sword), early 3DS (Kid Icarus: Uprising, New Super Mario Bros. 2) and Wii U (Yoshi’s Woolly World, Super Mario Maker) that fall in this odd spot of not being old enough for ‘retro’ inclusion and not new enough to be relevant and I worry that simply porting all of this older content to the Switch will undermine a lot of what the system’s first year was about.
One of the obvious goals of the Switch was to serve as a clear break between the DS/Wii/3DS/Wii U era of Nintendo and the new, more modern approach they have taken since March 3rd 2017. Games like Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Mario Odyssey and even Xenoblade Chronicles 2 all represent key tenants of what this ‘new’ Nintendo stands for and would all need to be a part of the new Smash Bros. in some way, shape or form. We already have seen how the Inklings and Link’s Breath of the Wild version will be present in the game but having these new characters battling in say the Bridge of Eldin stage would just seem out-of-place. And if Smash Bros. really is Nintendo’s biggest and most popular franchise then it would make sense for it follow in the steps of games like the one’s I mentioned above and take the series in a bold, new and fresh direction.
The Nintendo Switch has already breathed new life into classic Nintendo franchises that had not seen a lot of fundamental changes in decades as most obviously evident with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey but one thing that’s not as often cited but is just as important is how the console has managed to turn game’s that were once singular experiences into platforms in their own right – namely Splatoon 2 and Arms two games which are now receiving regular content updates and, especially in Splatoon 2‘s case with the recently announced Octo Expansion look to become ‘evergreen’ titles that will remain in high demand throughout the Switch’s life.
It would only make sense for Nintendo to apply this same philosophy to Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo Switch which is easily their most prominent multiplayer title and arguably the one with the most mass-market appeal. With regular updates, tournaments, new stages and of course new characters all being big events in the Smash scene it would be a no brainer for Nintendo to turn Smash Bros. into a platform in and of itself that can stay relevant until the Nintendo Switch is retired. This would be hard to do if the game was just a port of the 3DS/Wii U game since that one is already so jam-packed with content, a lot of which was already paid DLC that folks might not be keen to invest heavily into a game that, for many was already their most played game on the Wii U and their biggest investment of paid DLC.
As of late last week my personal ‘most anticipated’ game was decidedly changed over to the new Super Smash Bros. title coming to the Nintendo Switch. Being a massive fan of the series I have extremely (and possible unrealistic) high hopes for the game and while I know that I would enjoy a Deluxe version of the 3DS and Wii U title on Switch I really don’t think that’s the way to go for this series. The Nintendo Switch has completely changed the landscape for Nintendo and a clean break is needed from what came before. So while we likely have a few more months to go before we get concrete details on what shape and form the next Smash Bros. will take it really better be a new game.