"What I'd like to do now is have you take a look at this gorgeous image," said Super Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai, gesturing to an illustration of Sonic, Mario, Mega Man, and newly announced character Pac-Man. With the addition of Pac-Man, Nintendo's fighting game series now features perhaps the four most iconic characters in the medium. "This really is a miracle."
The Super Smash Bros. series has always had a taste for history. The collectibles you unlock and stages you battle in are all based on Nintendo franchises, both popular and obscure. The addition of Pac-Man only further cements this. The big yellow ball appears as the more cartoonish Pac-Man seen in games like Pac-Land, but when he performs certain attacks, he turns into the retro, pizza-shaped character we all know and love. He can even eat dots and summon ghosts.
"This really is a miracle."
The addition of Pac-Man is just one of a seemingly unending list of tweaks and updates that fill the next Smash Bros. with an incredible wealth of content. In addition to new characters, which include the ability to play as your Mii avatar, the game will also be the first title to support Nintendo's upcoming Amiibo figures, letting you buy toys and then scan those characters into the game. The company will also be releasing an adaptor that lets you play the game with your old Gamecube controller, and for the first time ever the game is going portable, launching across both the Wii U and 3DS. The Wii U desperately needs a hit, and Nintendo is pulling out all of the stops when it comes to its incredibly popular fighting game series.
The game itself feels remarkably similar to past entries, at least in the brief time I spent with it. If you're not a hardcore player it's unlikely you'll spot any major gameplay changes. Even the 3DS version feels surprisingly familiar, despite the somewhat changed controls and display. As always, it's a game about controlled chaos: four players fighting each other on a single screen, jumping impossibly high across dynamic levels that can change over the course of a match. Random items and power-ups further fuel the insanity.
"I'm aiming to make this the number one character game in the world."
In the past, these battles have always managed to strike a satisfying balance between depth and accessibility, making it possible for both veterans and more casual players to enjoy. The next entry, meanwhile, seems to take things a bit further in one direction: it's still accessible, but offers new tools like customizable move sets that will make it a much deeper game for those who really want to invest the time and energy.
It's clear that the next Smash Bros. will be the biggest entry in the series to date, and some of the changes could end up making it the best as well. Much like the recently launched Mario Kart 8, many will be looking to Smash Bros. as one of the few games that could help boost the struggling Wii U's sales — the Wii version was a huge success, selling close to 12 million copies over its lifespan. But Sakurai also has more ambitious plans for Smash Bros.
"I'm aiming to make this the number one character game in the world," he says.