Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is due to launch later this year, with many players and series fans desperately hoping that it lives up to its moniker- which will involve, among other things, it being treated as better by the Smash community than Super Smash Bros. Melee. Melee launched back in 2001 for the GameCube, and the legendary game is widely regarded as the greatest Smash game.
That’s not where it ends, either- the game has such an enduring community that it’s basically caused a schism in Smash play, with fighting game tournaments like EVO effectively having to cater to Melee, as well as Smash 4 (for now, at least- presumably this one is superseded by Ultimate) simultaneously. Where Street Fighter players always move on to the newest entry, Melee fans have refused to do so- because, they maintain, correctly so, there is no other game like it in the series.
They’re not wrong. See, Melee was a technically nuanced and deep game, and Masahiro Sakurai, the creator and director of the franchise, has sought to not make one as technically layered as it since. This is because, according to him, Melee‘s technical depth scared more casual players away.
“I think a lot of Melee players love Melee. But at the same time, I think a lot of players, on the other hand, gave up on Melee because it’s too technical, because they can’t keep up with it,” he said in an interview with Washington Post. “And I know there were players who got tendinitis from playing, and messing with the controller so much… that really is hard on the player and I feel like a game should really focus on what the target audience is.”
This is also the reason that while the competitive audience will always be accommodated – and indeed, Smash Ultimate makes many concessions to competitive play – they will never be the focus at the expense of all else.
“When you talk about audience, I don’t really think too much about the audience per se. I feel like a game, at the end of the day, is about playing the game. But if we focus too much on the top level players — or the audience — then the game skews a little bit too much on the technical side,” Sakurai said.
It is what it is, then- what this might end up implying is that Smash Ultimate, while more nuanced than Brawl or Smash 4, will not end up as the “successor to Melee” that never came. Whether or not it will be layered enough in its own right, and enough to get the Melee community to move on to it, is something that remains to be seen.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate launches on the Nintendo Switch exclusively, on December 7.