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Nintendo on Whether Smash Bros. Ultimate is Just a Wii U Update: "It's a Brand New Game Built From the Ground Up"

It's definitely not just an update, Nintendo says.

News by Kat Bailey, .

The full reveal of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Tuesday brought with it some questions. Among them, observers wondered if it was ultimately an enhanced Wii U update with an expanded roster and some new characters. Nintendo's response? Definitely not.

"It's definitely not an update," Treehouse localization manager Nate Bihldorff tells USgamer in a conversation during E3. "It's a brand new game built from the ground up. As far as it being a 'sequel,' I don't really think of Smash Bros. games as being sequels, they're just new Smash Bros. games. Everything has been built brand new. Of course you see returning characters and returning movesets, but that's sort of the nature of a fighting game. You obviously want to bring in new players, but you have to satisfy core players. If I'm playing Mario and I don't have a good Up and B, I'm going to be writing my local congressman to get it changed. It's a tough balance, but yeah, it's a brand new game."

Ice Climbers are returning to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Bihldorff says that there have been what he characterizes as "significant upgrades" to elements like the lighting engine and the texture work. He also points to updated characters like Zelda, whose look is now based on A Link Between Worlds. "True to form, I'm sure [Masahiro] Sakurai sat down with the original artists from that game and said, 'What are we gonna do about that necklace, how do we want her gown to look?' Those details are just everywhere. And that's just purely from a visual standpoint."

Bihldorff says he understands that stages returning from the Wii U version look superficially similar, but he says there are differences. "When you're bringing back stages, especially when you look at a stage from the Wii U version which was already in HD, at first glance it's going to be a little bit similar. That's when you need to go to the next level and look at lighting, how the players are interacting. Beyond the changes, I can't count the number of small changes. I don't think it's hyperbole when Mr. Sakurai said that there were tens of thousands of changes compared to the last game."

In addition to the visual changes and new characters, Smash Bros. has a handful of new and returning mechanics, including a new short hop attack shortcut and a directional air dodge. Talking about yesterday's Smash Bros. Invitational 2018 Tournament, Bihldorff says he already saw new techniques emerge among the pro set.

Asked for an example, he elaborates, "There was a moment where, in the finals, MkLeo got the Dragoon and targeted ZeRo. [ZeRo] did an air dodge to another platform just as the Dragoon was triggered, and because he landed perfectly on the platform, he was able to do a ground dodge as the Dragoon went by and it missed him."

"Dash-dancing"—an advanced technique from Super Smash Bros. Melee in which you rapidly tap the analog stick back and forth to cancel out dash animations—appear to be back as well, Bihldorff says. "I picked up the controller today and tried to do the same thing and I was doing it."

The gang's all here.

He concludes, "I fully believe that when [Smash Bros. Ultimate] comes out, the pro community is going to grab onto it and show me stuff I've never seen before even though I'm in development. I think it's going to be good. Core, casual, I think they're all going to love it."

From my own standpoint, Smash Bros. Ultimate definitely has some nice enhancements, including new transition and victory scenes. The real proof, though, will be in the single-player content. Will Subspace Emissary return? Will there be a new mode? Will challenges be updated? And how many more new characters will be announced?

Bihldorff wouldn't speak to any of those elements (sorry), but we'll know soon enough. In the meantime, with new characters like Inkling and Ridley joining the fray, balance changes across the board, and mechanical updates, Smash Bros. Ultimate does a fair amount to differentiate itself. But we'll have a clearer picture of Smash Bros. Ultimate as more announcements are made throughout the year.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is out December 7, and will include some sweet new amiibo. Go here to find everything we know about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate so far.

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Comments 13

  • Avatar for trevorwelch04 #1 trevorwelch04 11 days ago
    Kat are you a fan of Smash? If so who are your favs?
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  • Avatar for daverhodus #2 daverhodus 11 days ago
  • Avatar for ojinnvoltz #3 ojinnvoltz 11 days ago
    Ground up? If they threw out the models and animations from Smash 4 and made them fresh to look exactly the same for Ultimate, they're idiots wasting time and money. Leave it to data miners to see how "ground up" and new it actually is. I'm taking a dump on their PR speak, but I'll probably get Ultimate.Edited 2 weeks ago by ojinnvoltz
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #4 Roto13 11 days ago
    @ojinnvoltz Fans of butts will tell you the models are definitely not the same.
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  • Avatar for docexe #5 docexe 11 days ago
    @ojinnvoltz It does look really similar to the Wii U game, but it’s not “exactly the same”. I mean, I’m also skeptical that they really rebuild everything from the ground up (they must have recycled a lot of assets for the returning stages for instance). But looking at the pictures and videos, several character models and animations are indeed different. Mario’s cape immediately caught my attention for how different it looks from prior games, for instance. The lighting engine is also different.

    I have also seen some impressions around that, mechanically, it feels different from the Wii U game and a bit closer to Melee. On the whole, it reminds me of the transition from Street Fighter II Turbo to Super Street Fighter: Not quite a true a sequel, but not a mere rehash either.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #6 LBD_Nytetrayn 11 days ago
    "If I'm playing Mario and I don't have a good Up and B, I'm going to be writing my local congressman to get it changed."

    Never mind Up and B, it's Down and B that's bugged me for the last decade! Is this what I need to do to get rid of F.L.U.D.D.?!?

    Edited 4 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by LBD_Nytetrayn
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #7 hiptanaka 11 days ago
    @ojinnvoltz Why is it important whether they reused a bunch of code and assets? The important thing has to be that the game feels like a new game, right? New is relative, of course. Smash Bros. seems like a series that's pretty stagnant, to me.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #8 SIGGYZtar 11 days ago
    I hope Sakurai's health is good.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #9 SuperShinobi 11 days ago
    "Upgrades to elements like the lighting engine and the texture work".

    Those are the two upgrades you most often see in a remaster, like the recent Dark Souls remaster for example.
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  • Avatar for AceOfCakez #10 AceOfCakez 11 days ago
    66 character roster. What a huge undertaking. It makes me wonder what the full character select screen will look like when you unlock everything.
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  • Avatar for brandondixon30 #11 brandondixon30 11 days ago
    I'm expecting Rayman. Nintendo has a really close relationship with ubisoft atm.

    If not him then a Rabbids assist trophy. Probably both actually.
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #12 BulkSlash 11 days ago
    “Built from the ground up” would imply to me that they’ve thrown out all the code and assets and started again with a blank sheet. I’m betting they started with the Wii U code as a base and started enhancing/replacing from there. Unless there was something fundamentally unfixable with the old engine there’s no way they’d dump it and start from nothing.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #13 hiptanaka 11 days ago
    @BulkSlash Of course. That’s just the way game development works. ”From the ground up” probably just means they reevaluated every aspect of the game, and built new systems, modes, etc. Plus literally everything seems tweaked and improved. Few games are built ”from the ground up” in any other sense. Battlefield V isn’t ”built from the ground up” but it’s a new game.
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