SSB4: The Leaky Road to Release

Ever since its inception, the Super Smash Bros. series has always been the target of endless rumours and a few legitimate leaks, hastened by the rise of the Internet. The often delicate stream of pre-release information supplied by the game’s director, Masahiro Sakurai, creates an interesting love/hate relationship with the series’ fans as they hope for the most amount of information without spoiling “too much” before the game’s release. Everyone and their grandmothers want their favourite Nintendo franchises to be represented, and if they don’t see them, they’re pissed. After all, if Smash Bros. isn’t about the characters, what is it about?

Up until a few days ago, information on the series’ fourth instalment, Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS and Wii U (yes, that really is its name), has been served in nice little bite-sized portions on the Wii U’s Miiverse. Monday through Friday, Sakurai has revealed information that ranges from a trophy of Dr. Wily to the return of veteran fighters Ike and Meta Knight. There have also been a Nintendo Direct conference and E3 trailers to give more than the recommended dose and generate hype; the likes of which haven’t been seen since the legendary Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier rivalry. Hype creates speculation, trash talking, hope and everything in between on the Internet, and has people rushing to YouTube, Reddit and Twitter to give their opinions on the latest news. It truly is a spectacle to behold in the gaming world.

Over the past week, a string of leaks have appeared on Reddit, 4chan and gaming information hub, NeoGAF, that might have revealed most – if not the entirety of – the game’s release roster. Xenoblade Chronicles protagonist Shulk, Bowser Jr., Dark Pit and one of Nintendo’s oldest dogs, Duck Hunt Dog, have all been shown as newcomers in a screenshot of the game’s 3DS version. Video footage was also leaked in the form of five clips, though few remain since Nintendo hastily removed most of the YouTube uploads.

The leaks are said to come from multiple sources, but leakers indicate most of the information stems from the same source: an ESRB member who received a video copy of gameplay and stills. The leak also shows the return of veterans Ness, Ganondorf, Wario, Mr. Game & Watch, R.O.B, Jigglypuff and Doctor Mario; a fighter who was removed after his Melee debut.

Although the roster made for a colossal reveal, one leak may well have trumped it. One such offering suggested more characters would be made available as DLC, a move uncharacteristic of Nintendo until the recently-showcased Mario Kart 8 DLC packages which take the form of characters, karts and tracks. The Mario Kart announcement is an official statement by Nintendo and supports the possibility of a similar fate for Smash Bros. In light of all the leaked information, there has been a whirlwind of mixed emotions from gamers across the web.

Some have taken the leak as fact and either commended or condemned the roster, while some vehemently oppose all of the commotion, and some have used the information rush as a chance to formulate personal theories about characters, stages and the possibility of DLC. In the spectrum of all that, I fall somewhere in the category of “what the hell just happened?!” and “could this really be?!”

To give some perspective, I must admit that my relationship with Smash Bros. has been filled with overwhelming joy, passionate addiction and an unquenchable thirst for victory – so… the usual. I fell in love with the series in the days where Nintendo 64 reigned supreme with its fresh take on “realistic” graphics. After seeing the first commercial where Mario, Pikachu, Donkey Kong and Yoshi demolished each other to the whimsical song “Happy Together”, I had to have it. Following that, it was nonstop playing until Melee where I became competitive and strove to perfect my skills; after all, who doesn’t think they’re the best at Smash? Brawl released and was almost immediately hated by the competitive player I had become with its floaty physics and *gasp* tripping. However, I played Brawl throughout college and my hardened expectation of the game faded. Then, I saw the Megaman trailer…

I was back in the good ol’ Nintendo 64 days all over again! With each character and every hype-filled trailer I found myself 10-years-old again, but like most, I craved more. Flash forward more than a year later, move past countless leaks and here we are.

Less than a month before SSB4’s Japanese debut, we get a bombshell complete with video footage. We never get video footage! Usually just a crappy Photoshop job that reeks of trollishness or fanboy desire. The roster might be a secret no longer, the Duck Hunt Dog has people even more eager and my seemingly endless appetite for everything Smash Bros. is subduing, but a strange feeling now lingers. It’s one that I can only liken to the month of December. More accurately, the week or two before Christmas when your excitement reaches Super Saiyan levels and your curiosity leads you to that closet in the basement; you know, the one people only use when they’re trying to hide something. But when the Game Boy Color comes out of the box and the sense of wonder wrapped in a cloud of hope dissipates, there’s nothing left but the wait for Christmas. A wait filled with regret and self-disappointment.

A wait that I believe many who have seen the leak are experiencing now, and this really made me wonder. I can’t think of one other game that gets people this batshit crazy – this absolutely, overwhelmingly pumped up for release. A title that commands this much attention is powerful and Sakurai knows it. Despite the haters that say the series’ director is sick and tired of this franchise, he puts a lot of time and effort giving fans just the right amount of information. After all, we’re just little kids waiting for their Game Boy Colors, hyper from the sugary sweet reveal trailers and overly eager for the hours of entertainment surely to be had.

It’s in this that I kind of hate the internet and my Super Smash-addicted sickness. The game might be the cheese at the end of the maze, but as with all journeys it’s not only the end that matters, but also the journey taken to get there. Unfortunately, if the leaks are true, a whole lot of fans’ journeys may have been cut short this week.

Admittedly, there is a chance that the videos were a product of a mod such as Project M, a SSBB-modified game that sports the competitive Smash Bros. quickness and hit stun. Shulk’s moveset did resemble that of Marth’s, but Bowser Jr. seemed to have quite a unique moveset that might prove difficult for even some of the best modders to produce. On the other hand, the stages shown in the clips were available in Brawl, so a mod might not be completely out of the question. Without a doubt, there is much to be questioned right now.

Despite the leak’s questionable veracity and the effect it has had on players, there’s no denying the power this beloved brawler has over the gaming population. It can get people to make countless prediction videos that could result in nothing and leave forum members flaming each other in the wake of opinion-filled rants about how Ridley would or wouldn’t be a viable character. It can even bring you back to a simpler time in life. A time where we were much younger and far more impatient.

So to all of my fellow Smashers out there I give you a nod of understanding. If the leaks prove false and we can all wait long enough for the game to come out in Japan, we might be pleasantly surprised with what we find. After all, I wouldn’t be shocked if the leak was a clever ruse engineered by Sakurai, the Smash Bros. troll himself. A trick to end all tricks if you will. Heck, if people are able to turn a blind eye to Smash until a release in their countries they might be able to discover all the game’s ins and outs by themselves: a blast from the Nintendo 64 past.

Okay, let’s be honest, when the game’s out in Japan, we’ll be looking up spoilers for days. But at least we made it to release!

Tell me what you guys think about the leak and its validity. If you could pick, what Nintendo characters would you put in the game. What third-party characters would you have? Why? Tell me about your Smash Bros saga! Let me hear it all and more! Happy smashing until the game’s Oct. 3 US 3DS release! -AF