What can Namco do with Super Smash Bros.?
Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct special was full of surprises. Along with a new model of the Nintendo 3DS (the XL, coming to stores this August for $200) and some news on upcoming DLC for New Super Mario Bros. 2 and other games, the company made the startling announcement regarding the progress of the next Super Smash Bros. game, which is in the works for both Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
The company announced that instead of going with the usual team over at HAL (who produced the previous efforts), it had asked Namco Bandai Games for assistance. The director of the series, Masahiro Sakurai, will once again be returning to the franchise, teaming up with Namco’s Yoshito Higuchi and Kenya Kobayashi on the project.
This isn’t the first time that Nintendo has teamed up with the long-time game publisher. Years ago, Namco produced the GameCube sequel Starfox: Assault, a sequel that was moderately entertaining, if not as memorable as Starfox 64. It also made Mario Superstar Baseball for GameCube, which also got a warm reception.
But Smash Bros. is a whole different animal. Fans have come to expect a certain style when it comes to their multiplayer brawling. They want traditional controls that keep them in the fight as long as possible, as well as features that HAL has been known to “dial in” over the last few chapters — including Melee and, most recently, Brawl on the Nintendo Wii.
That’s not to say that Namco is a slouch. Not by any means. The team has produced numerous fighting games over the years, including entries in the Tekken franchise (Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is due for release later this year, including a Wii U version) and Soul Calibur (part five came out earlier in 2012 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3). They know how competitiveness is supposed to work in a brawler, so they aren’t taking the Smash Bros. project lightly, I assume.
So what does it mean, having Namco Bandai on board? Well, it means that we could see possible changes to the formula, such as better balancing, possible new levels inspired by Namco worlds along with Nintendo, and maybe even the opportunity to land multiple hit combos, similar in the way fighters do in the Tekken games. (But obviously not to the point that it’s Tekken-like. That’d just be ridiculous.)
Namco would also consider the possibilities of cross-play, allowing fighters to log into the Nintendo Network and fight against one another across the Wii U and the 3DS. Considering that the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita take advantage of said feature with select games now, it would be wise for Namco to consult with Nintendo to make this happen. Better to catch up late on technology than not at all, right?
And seeing how their franchises have crossed over in the past, with Pac-Man making an appearance in the Mario Kart arcade racing game, why couldn’t Namco characters appear in the new Super Smash Bros.? We’re talking Pac-Man, maybe Dig-Dug (complete with air pump and assists from Pooka and Fygar), Rick from Splatterhouse (with a variety of weapons) and numerous others. Namco could even throw in heroes from current franchises, like Heihachi from Tekken (hey, it worked for Solid Snake, and he’s old too) and others. Just an idea. But it’s all about balance. The characters have to have a certain type of balance, or it’s all for naught.
With Sakurai at the helm, we have full confidence that Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U and 3DS will live up to previous chapters of the series, as he’s obviously guiding his team at Namco Bandai down the right path. But let’s hope that cross-play and some fresh ideas are taken into consideration to make this the best entry in the series to date. The fans certainly deserve it, especially seeing how Brawl turned out to be so awesome. Step up and knock it out of the park, guys.