Bigger may be better but it isn’t enough for the next Super Smash Bros. according to series mastermind Masahiro Sakurai. While work on the game hasn’t started in earnest, Sakurai is already considering the future of his famous fighting game full of Nintendo’s characters. By its third entry on Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the game had dug so deep into Nintendo’s catalog of warriors, monsters, and amorphous blobs that it had to branch beyond the company’s stable to fill out the ranks. A-listers like Link and Mario, B-listers like Pit, and even Z-listers like Mr. Game & Watch were joined by Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake. This is why expanding the game won’t be the focus in the next entry. Smash Bros. new raison d’être is connectivity between handheld and home consoles.
Speaking with IGN on Wednesday, Sakurai said, “[There] is a certain dead end we come to if we just expand the volume of the game. I intend to change direction a little as we go. The key to that’s going to be its dual support for 3DS/Wii U.”
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Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has habitually committed Sakurai to making new Smash Bros. games before the game maker has even agreed to the project. The first time this happened was the 2006 announcement of Super Smash Bros. Brawl at E3, a performance that was repeated at E3 2011 when Iwata announced Nintendo’s intent to make a Smash Bros. that featured cross play between 3DS and Wii U. Sakurai had some warning this time around, but the game is still in the conception stage. “I’m really just getting started on this so it’s going to take time, but I’ll come up with something that uses that link as the game’s central axis, so I hope you’re looking forward to it,” said Sakurai.
Super Smash Bros. has maintained a consistent popularity over the past decade. 2001’s Super Smash Bros. Melee for Gamecube went on to sell more than 7 million copies, while Super Smash Bros. Brawl has sold more than 10 million copies since 2008. Despite reaching a wider audience though, Brawl has been criticized by the tournament fighting game community as lacking compared to Melee, with additions like tripping over items in the environment breaking the game’s already teetering competitive balance.
It’s hard to predict just what Sakurai will do with this new game. The obvious choice would be to simply let a large number of players compete simultaneously through the 3DS and Wii U, possibly expanding matches beyond four players into larger free-for-alls. Sakurai is an unpredictable man though. This is the same person that decided, in the face of widespread criticism, that it would be better to make a custom stand for Kid Icarus: Uprising so it can have awkward touch screen controls than to implement a more traditional interface. Who knows what he’ll decide to do. Maybe we’ll have to actually stand on the Wii U controller while punching and kicking with the Wii remote in one hand and a 3DS in the other. Stranger things have happened.