Nintendo has just released a new character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Banjo & Kazooie. The Rare mainstays have joined the battle and are already shaking things up with the usual Smash formula. With each new character release, it feels like Sakurai and his team are stretching the rules they’ve established, and that’s a big part of why I’ve really enjoyed playing these new characters.
At its core, Smash has always been a game with a low skill floor. Smash has a universal input system, where the combinations of directional input and button presses will do the same type of move (smash attack, up special, down tilt, etc) across every character in the game. What makes each character unique is the specific ways that those moves manifest. One character’s up smash may swipe upward multiple times while another character might do a single upward thrust with a sword. The biggest difference comes in special attacks, where on one character hitting right+special will launch them into a sideways rushing attack, while another might just fire a projectile.
Building around this framework has allowed for a wide —yet familiar-feeling—set of characters. Once you’re comfortable with the game’s mechanics it’s pretty easy to jump between different characters and find which one fits the best. What’s interesting about the DLC characters so far is they’ve started to bend and break some of these conventions in ways that keep each fighter feeling fresh. For example, Hero from the Dragon Quest series replaces a single down+special attack with an RPG style menu of four randomly chosen attacks from a pool of 21, expanding his potential move pool much larger than any character before.
Banjo & Kazooie follow this trend in a few ways. The first is by not being put into a helpless state after using their Up+Special attack. Snake from Metal Gear also does this, but Banjo & Kazooie can also *jump* after their up special. Add in a self-damaging grenade, which then allows them to use another up+special, and you can reach some pretty ridiculous heights. The second thing that really breaks from their usual formula is their side+special attack. This attack is called Wonderwing, and it is a super strong attack that also makes them invincible for its duration. This rightfully sound pretty broken in a game where attack priority can play a pretty big role, so you can only use it 5 times per stock. That’s right, you have to lose a life in order to use that attack again once you’ve used up its charges.
Nintendo’s willingness to break it’s own rules has kept a series with 70 + characters feeling fresh with each new addition. As much as I’m saddened that the next addition won’t be a character from Metal Slug like I’d hoped, the ways they seem committed to keep each character true to their origins even if it breaks with series’ conventions has me excited each time a new challenger approaches.