Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Is The Ultimate Crossover

Move over “Avengers: Infinity War.” For those who know their pop culture, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” was by far a more ambitious crossover event and definitely the most surprising one of 2018.

For one, Marvel owns every character featured in “Infinity War.” It did take an insane budget and nearly 20 movies of storytelling to reach the point the Marvel Cinematic Universe reached last year, but the rights were always there. Where Marvel executed was its effort.

“Super Smash Bros.,” Nintendo’s crossover fighting series that debuted on the Nintendo 64 in 1999 with various intellectual properties of the company beating each other up, has come a long way from being a slapstick fighting game. It’s still that at its core, but 20 years later, it’s become a celebration of gaming better realized than any other.

The franchise first broke the mold and expanded its roster to include characters Nintendo didn’t own (but were famous anyway) in 2008 with “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” for the Wii, the series’ third installment. In it, both Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake from “Metal Gear Solid” were featured as they represented the glory days of Sega consoles of old and one of the top-tier PlayStation franchises respectively. In “Brawl,” Nintendo gathered mascots of both former and current competition, and that was only the beginning.

In the editions for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U in 2014, the series’ director, Masahiro Sakurai, was able to get the rights to additional video game legends: Capcom’s Mega Man and Namco’s Pac-Man from the 1980s era of arcade cabinets and the height of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s popularity. The latter wasn’t all too surprising considering Bandai Namco Entertainment helped develop these “Smash Bros.” games, but it was exciting nonetheless.

However, these two “Smash” games revealed to us that copyright haggling was imperfect. Sonic remained in these games, but Snake was nowhere to be found. Fans blamed Konami, Snake’s parent company, for business practices that focused more on mobile games and pachinko machines. The company just didn’t seem interested in licensing out their character anymore.

This loss was somewhat forgotten when extra downloadable content was introduced for the first time in the franchise. For a few extra purchases, enthusiasts were able to download Ryu, the mascot of the “Street Fighter” series; Cloud Strife, the protagonist of “Final Fantasy VII,” a game that never appeared on a Nintendo console (until this year when it will be ported to the Nintendo Switch) and even represented developer Square Enix’s move from making role-playing games for Nintendo systems to Sony’s PlayStation; and Bayonetta from the series of the same name, a couple of action platform games created by Platinum Games.

To the point, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” has collected all of these characters once again (yes, even Snake somehow returned) and has also added Simon and Richter Belmont from the classic “Castlevania” series of games in which the family of vampire hunters wage war against Dracula. This franchise is considered another legacy mainstay and was first introduced on the, you guessed it, Nintendo Entertainment System back in the 1980s. To go another extra mile, Ken Masters, who is also from Street Fighter, was added to the game

If you’ve been paying utmost attention, you’ll notice that’s a total of 10 famous characters not owned by Nintendo that are included in the Big N’s premier fighting game for the Nintendo Switch.

Sure, there are 77 playable fighters in all (including the recently released Piranha Plant from the “Super Mario Bros.” series), but what started as a celebration of Nintendo gaming in the past decade has also become a celebration of gaming in general and its most noteworthy characters.

To continue the unprecedented collection of gaming mascots, Nintendo announced further downloadable content will be added to this 2018 release throughout 2019 and 2020.

The first paid fighter will be Joker, another third-party character, from “Persona 5,” which was lauded as one of the greatest modern role-playing games when it released in 2017. “Persona 5” is a PlayStation 4 exclusive to boot, at least at the time I’m writing this, and he’s not even representing an old classic franchise like most of the third-party characters already in “Smash Ultimate,” so it seems at this point that just about any video game character could be fair game to be announced in the future. We have 11 third party characters owned by different companies fighting alongside the potted plant Mario jumps over in his games. Anything can happen.

Sakurai continues to surprise fans and bring together everyone from Mario, Link and Pikachu to the likes of Sonic, Pac-Man and Cloud in one amazingly solid fighting game.

And how great the core gameplay is in this series is what truly makes me fall in love with every installment I’ve grown up with over the years. But perhaps we’ll talk about the gameplay another time!

For now, it’s good to recognize the never-before-seen crossover that has already graced the Nintendo Switch systems of millions of people across the globe since “Smash Ultimate” was released in December.