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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Super Smash Marvel 4: What Would the Newest Super Smash Marvel Game's Roster Look Like?

With three down and only one more to go, we’re almost through with the Super Smash Marvel series. There’s plenty left to go, though, with our biggest roster expansion ever in the fourth game.

Super Smash Bros 4 was released just over a year ago, in late 2014. 4 added more characters to the series than any other game, starting with 51 characters (12 more than were in Super Smash Bros Brawl); then, through downloadable content, the game added seven more characters (the last two of which, Bayonetta and Corryn from the Fire Emblem series, were announced just last week). Meanwhile, in the Marvel world, the comics were gearing up towards the huge Secret Wars event while the studio was moving from the unexpected success of Guardians of the Galaxy to their biggest release yet in Avengers 2 (meanwhile over at Fox Studios, the X-Men had just had their own huge release in the form of Days of Future Past). This is where we pick up our Smash Marvel series.

In the 21-character expansion, we got our most varied roster yet. Only four franchises already in the series got a new representative, with the rest being one-off choices for new and/or popular unrepresented series. Three of the characters are technically Mii characters (Mii Fighter, Mii Gunner, and Mii Swordsman), customizable user-made avatars that can be given unique moves from a list. If you want, you could set aside a few slots for a theoretical “User Customized” option in Smash Marvel, but I’ll be ignoring that since Marvel doesn’t have a Mii-like user-insert option (nor do I know what three types of characters would replace the choices of gunner/swordsman/fighter). We also saw our more-or-less standard two villains added to the roster (Bowser Jr. and Dark Pit, kind of*), and a more balanced gender split in characters than we’ve normally seen (roughly 12.5 male vs. 8.5 female). The roster also got some “extra” characters in the form of alternate costumes, like male and female versions of some characters, or similar characters like Alph and Olimar getting lumped together. We could conceivably replicate this feature. As I mentioned last time, I’ll be ignoring the additions of third party characters in the Smash Bros series due to the inability to directly copy the feature.

*Given how often Marvel characters flip flop between good and bad anyway, we’re already dealing with some arbitrary rulings on this already, so just go with it.

With two villains spots, I feel like there are two obvious choices: the heavies of the second and third/fourth Avenger films, Ultron and Thanos. There are few Marvel villains who are bigger before you consider the huge movie roles, but once you add those factors in, it’s hard to argue against them.

Traditionally, I've focused on the X-Men after covering the villains, and I'll continue to do so here. Since I've argued the series is Marvel's Mario analogue; they'll get the two representatives that the Mario franchise got in Smash 4. I'd argue that the two biggest X-Men who are yet to appear in Smash Marvel are Colossus and Shadowcat, so I'll go with them. Who would be the top alternate choices at this stage? Assuming that the series has grown as I've been suggesting and hasn't added an extra one or two somewhere (which I've mentioned you could probably do in a few spots), you biggest snubs at this point are probable people like Cable, Emma Frost, Gambit, and Psylocke, plus a few of the villains like Mystique or Sabretooth. If you wanted to squeeze in one of those, you could probably find a slot here, since there was one franchise in Smash Bros. got three additional characters in Smash 4.

I alluded to this earlier, but I imagine this game would be the first entry in the series to feel the full impact of the Marvel movies. With the huge success of Guardians of the Galaxy immediately preceding this game’s hypothetical release, a representative from the movie would probably be all but required. Since I added the team of Rocket and Groot last time, Star Lord is probably the most recognizable character we could be adding here.

On the subject of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I can also see them giving a shout-out to the characters whose series were just about to launch on Netflix. While the Daredevil series was first, we already added The Man Without Fear back in the initial Smash Marvel game. But Daredevil was followed by Jessica Jones, with Luke Cage amd Iron Fist also on the way. All three of them could reasonable be added to our roster.

Speaking of the movies, I think there’s a good chance we’d see two more combatants find their way onto the roster in part thanks to the screen: War Machine and Winter Soldier. War Machine just missed the cut last time, and given our surplus of slots, I find it hard to imagine he wouldn’t make it here. The Winter Soldier is more of a stretch, but he’s been a popular character since his re-introduction into the Marvel universe, and I can’t imagine his starring role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier or his run in the comics as Cap would hurt his chances.

We aren’t even halfway through adding to the roster yet, and there’s plenty of room left.  There are plenty of spots for characters who have been big in the comic world as of late, so let’s focus on them for a bit. I’ve probably been underestimating how popular Deadpool is, given that he’s a newer character and I have a harder time determining how popular new blood is in the comics. Regardless, I don’t see any way we get through a fourth game without the Merc with a Mouth. He’s had numerous series since his introduction in 1991, and a film (to be released in February) had just been greenlit in late 2014 following years in development hell. Maybe I should have included him in the third installment, but I definitely can’t go another iteration without him.

Spider Woman is also a solid choice for a space. I don’t think she would have made the roster in the third game, but she has a long history, so maybe I’m wrong. Her resurgence in popularity has been pretty recent, but she also has over 1000 comic appearances under her belt, and once again has her own series. I think now is Jessica Drew’s time.

How about some newer characters as well? Super Smash Bros hasn’t been shy about adding new characters like Lucina or Shulk, and thankfully, I think there are pretty safe analogues in the Marvel universe. In Lucina, we have a successor to an established character (Marth) with a similar set of abilities and a unique backstory, who becomes a star in her own right after her recent introduction in 2013. Over in the Marvel universe, a lot of that would describe the new Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. After her introduction in the original Young Avengers back in 2005, she’s continued to win over readers with starring roles in Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye and Kieron Gillen’s 2013 run of Young Avengers, taking up the original Hawkeye’s bow.

Meanwhile, Shulk is the breakout star of 2010’s Xenoblade, a semi-related quasi-revival of the older Xeno series (Xenosaga and Xenogears). Over in the Marvel universe, we have the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, who takes over the role despite a somewhat minimal relation to the original and ends up winning over the other heroes of the Marvel Universe (as well as plenty of real-world fans and awards voters). Maybe the game’s release date would be too soon to include Kamala, but given that seven of the spots are for downloadable content (some of which hasn’t even been released in the real world), there would be plenty of chances for Ms. Marvel to make the team just in case she isn’t added right away.

There’s another interesting comparison to consider between the characters of the Marvel and Nintendo universes. On the Nintendo side, you have a frequent collaborator in Capcom, who once had close ties to Nintendo back in the day, but had since drifted away a little since then. However, the two companies had decided to work together again, and even agreed to add two Capcom mainstays to the Smash Bros 4 roster (Mega Man and Ryu). Is there something like that with Marvel side of the equation? Perhaps a company that once worked closely with them back in the day, licensing them beloved characters to use in their comics, only to drift apart over time before teaming up in a big way in the recent past?

Coincidentally, yes, there is in fact such a company! Lucasfilm was bought by Disney in late 2012, which had also bought Marvel three years earlier. Back in the day, Marvel had rights to publish Star Wars comics, but lost the rights after several years. After Disney’s purchase, though, Marvel has resumed published tales from a galaxy far, far away. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are the two most recognizable names to add (and correspond to what seem to be the most-acclaimed Star Wars books so far, Jason Aaron’s Star Wars and Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader). It’s possible they would add a character from the new movies, but we knew next to nothing about them yet in 2014, so I doubt it (also, I still haven’t seen Episode VII, so I couldn’t begin to guess which one would be the frontrunner for inclusion anyway). I suppose it’s possible they could just add one of the two as a downloadable character, although I’m not sure they’d go from zero to three Star Wars characters in one go.

Where do we go with the final five slots? I’m going to go back to my earlier strategies. The biggest character with a major role in the comics and a starring role in the movies is probably Nick Fury. While he’s usually thought of in more of a support role, there have certainly been several more unusual choices in Smash Bros proper, such as Smash 4’s Duck Hunt duo. There’s plenty of room for Nick Fury to step up as a combatant. If we want another person representing the TV side of Marvel, there are several good choices, including the characters from Agents of SHIELD or the Punsiher (who will be appearing in season two of Daredevil), but for the time being, I’ll go with Elektra (who will also be appearing in the next season Daredevil). Realistically, you could probably include another character like that here, but I’m sticking with just one to keep more spaces open for comics-based choices.

One of the first choices that springs to mind from the comics is Namor. Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, dating back to the days when they were still known as Timely Comics. He’s one of the most-published characters we haven’t included yet (only Professor X rates higher), and he’s been seeing increased usage in recent years, from key roles in X-Men, the Defenders, and the Illuminati/New Avengers. 

We’ve got two more spots open, and I’d like to think that they’d be used for more unsual fan-favorite-type characters. We could go with another character from a popular series like X-Men, or another choice from a less-covered team like the Runaways or Young Avengers. Or, we could even go with a hero from a more obscure series. Nova and the Nova Corps has seen an uptick in popularity recently. Ghost Rider is a perpetual star. Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck have both gotten highly-acclaimed comic runs in recent years, while on the less comedic side, Warren Ellis’s Moon Knight series was among the recent events renewing interest in the character. Combining the two, there’s Monica Rambeau/Spectrum (aka Photon, aka Pulsar, aka former Captain Marvel…), who rode her revival role as the leader of the cult-hit team Nextwave to increased usage in more serious series like Mighty Avengers. I’m a fan of Nextwave, so I’ll give Spectrum one of the spots, although I’m not sure how much of that is my own bias. The second one is even more in question, but I’ll tentatively go with Nova; I wouldn’t object to any of the other options I mentioned substituting in, though.

There were a lot of tough cuts in this roster, and there isn’t a “next time” yet that we can promise to the near-misses. Is there anyone we can add in as an alternate costume to help alleviate the situation? We’ve seen several characters take over identities as legacy characters in recent years, and some of those may fit the bill. X-23, as a clone of Wolverine and successor to his title, could work. So could new Thor Jane Foster. There are plenty of Hulks running around now, between Red Hulk Thaddeus Ross and Totally Awesome Hulk Amadeus Cho (not to mention long-time Hulk adversary Abomination, or the newly-minted Red She-Hulk, Betty Ross). Pepper Potts got her own Iron Man suit and took the identity of Rescue. There’s been an increase in Spider-people running around, and both Miles Morales and alternate-universe Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen might be similar enough to work. Havok might be similar enough to his brother Cyclops to work. And this isn’t to mention cases where titles get passed on, like Rachel Grey taking on her mother’s various codenames, or the numerous Ant-Men who have fought crime.   

In the end, that gives us a huge roster for what is currently the final game in the series. I still feel like you could argue for a few characters over some of my choices, but overall, I think this is a very solid group.

Our additions in Super Smash Marvel 4:
Star Lord
Jessica Jones
Luke Cage
Iron Fist
War Machine
Winter Soldier
Spider Woman
Hawkeye (Kate Bishop)
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
Nick Fury
Darth Vader
Luke Skywalker

Returning characters: Spider-Man, Venom, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, The Thing, Daredevil

Beast, Phoenix, Magneto, Dr. Doom, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, She-Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Black Panther, Silver Surfer

Iceman, Nightcrawler, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Rocket and Groot, Nico Minoru, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Loki, Dr. Strange, Vision, Falcon, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch

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