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Courtesy of Nintendo

September 16, 2019

BONO | Put More Women in ‘Smash Ultimate’

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Smash Ultimate has been in the news a lot lately. During the Sept. 4th Nintendo Direct, a pre-recorded show the company streams a few times a year to advertise its future projects, Masahiro Sakurai made a lot of announcements concerning the latest Smash entry. The long-running franchise’s creator confirmed that Fatal Fury character Terry Bogard would be the next fighter added to the roster, added several new Mii costumes to the game for immediate release and announced that more characters would be added to the game through paid DLC (Downloadable Content) past what was previously assumed.

There’s a lot to unpack there. It’s very fitting for a game whose main slogan is “Everyone is here!,” meaning that every character from previous games (and a growing selection of new additions) would be included as playable fighters. For the uninitiated, Smash is a game where characters from a myriad of Nintendo and Nintendo-adjacent properties fight each other in a bigger crossover event than the Infinity War saga. The original Super Smash game came out on the Nintendo 64 with twelve characters and has been growing its roster ever since.

I watched the Terry Bogard reveal live on YouTube as thousands of public chat messages flew across my screen. I’ve never played Fatal Fury, so I was scouring the chat to try and figure out who this new fighter was. It didn’t seem like a lot of other people knew much about him either. And it turns out the 90s game was more popular outside of the US, but one message, in particular, caught my eye. “Aw, no new girls *insert frowny face emoji*.”

The commenter was right — it does seem like it’s been a while since Smash introduced a new female character. Back when Smash 4 came out in 2014, it felt like female characters were being added left and right. Technically, that game only saw four new women — Palutena, Lucina, Rosalina and Bayonetta — but that was also the generation that gave us eight new fighters that allowed players to pick their gender through different outfit options. For reference, that generation also included eight new male-only fighters and two animals. I’m counting Pokémon, Duck Hunt and Piranha Plant as “plants/animals” and free of the constraints of gender for the purpose of this column. Ultimate has technically introduced three new female fighters, although Daisy and Dark Samus were previously alternate skins for Peach and Samus, respectively, making the only actual new female-only character Isabelle from Animal Crossing. Ultimate has also added nine new male-only characters, five of which can be described as “strong men with their arms out,” and only one gender-choice character. I’m not sure where to sort Banjo and Kazooie — I just learned while researching this that Banjo is a boy and Kazooie is a girl, so I guess they’re in their own category with the Ice Climbers.

When Ultimate was first released, Nintendo stemmed the inevitable roar of fans demanding their favorite characters by assuring them that five characters would be rolled out post-release through DLC. After that, there would be no more new fighters, at least until the next game. In the months since, I’ve been holding my breath every time Nintendo makes an announcement, hoping I’d recognize the next pick. I thought that the lack of new women in the main roster meant they’d add women through DLC like Disney+ announcing women-led Marvel shows only after the end of the Infinity War movies. But I’ve been losing hope with each passing announcement. Since the number of remaining slots were dwindling, I was disappointed when “strong man with his arms out” Terry was confirmed, the same way I was when Ryu and Little Mac were added back on the 3DS and Wii U. Adding a fighting game character to a crossover fighting game feels a little like when professional dancers become contestants on Dancing with the Stars.

This was the part where I started getting nervous — only one slot left? Where are the girls? Luckily, Sakurai seemingly never tires (or maybe he’s always tired in the way that Bruce Banner is always angry, in which case I can relate) and announced that he’d keep cramming more DLC characters into the game as long as physically possible. With 46 male-only characters to 12 female-only, (and nine gender-choice), I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll even out the numbers.

I know it might seem silly to call for more women in a video game I only play casually and that already has a fair number — plenty of games like this only offer one or two choices, if any, and the roster already made great strides in the 3DS/Wii U era. And I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any more new male characters — I’m still rooting for my boy Professor Layton. But picking your avatar is the most important part of the Smash experience, and I know when I was a kid first starting out playing video games, I’d always gravitate towards games with women in them and pick the female character no matter what. Heck, I still do this! It can only help to make the game more inclusive (I haven’t even gotten into racial diversity) if Nintendo truly wants to make this the biggest crossover ever. If “Everyone is here!,” that “everyone” should include new players who want to see themselves in the game, and who want more options outside of Mii fighters and alternate costumes.

P.S. Put Cooking Mama in Smash.

 

Olivia Bono is a Senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at ojb26@cornell.edu. On the Level runs alternating Tuesdays this semester.