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Agree to Disagree: How much Fire Emblem is too much?

by Blake Chapman and Tanner Kinney

Byleth: A safe but utterly disappointing choice – Viewpoint by Blake Chapman

Image from The Verge

Super Smash Bros. has evolved from a series of party games that offer a fun time with friends around an old television to a fighting game franchise celebrating characters that have become pillars of gaming history. In no other video game can Fox McCloud throw a Pokeball at Solid Snake while getting whipped by Simon Belmont. 

When you consider the impressive effort that goes into making each character feel different, your appreciation for director Masahiro Sakurai and his team must absolutely skyrocket. Well, that would be the case if every fighter felt satisfying and unique, and there is one Nintendo series represented in Smash that has been notorious for a lack of originality—Fire Emblem. Byleth, the protagonist of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, is the final addition to DLC pack one for Smash Bros. Ultimate, and there are multiple reasons why the eighth representative from such a prolific set of games is causing such staunch opposition online. 

For starters, many Smash fans will point out that with eight fighters, Fire Emblem is over-represented for such a retrospectively niche series. One of the major counterpoints by Fire Emblem fans is that while eight fighters is pretty high, Super Mario and Pokemon both have a larger influence on the roster, and Byleth’s gameplay offers a unique experience, unlike any other swordfighter. To be fair, what we have seen of Byleth does prove their fighting style is extraordinary, combining the famous dragon-bone weapons of Three Houses into one character. 

Image form Newsweek

However, that is not enough to calm the tide of uninteresting swordplay offered by Marth and his three clones: Lucina, Roy, and Chrom. A match of Luigi against Bowser or Rosalina against Piranha Plant is just as unique as a Pokemon-only match like Incineroar versus Pikachu or Mewtwo versus Jigglypuff. Unless you are playing as Ike, Robin, or Corrin, a pure Fire Emblem game is going to play out pretty much the same every time. Yes, clones like Daisy or Dr. Mario are basically the exact same as Peach and Mario respectively, but even if you excluded them from the lineup, there is still more variety present in those seven characters than Fire Emblem’s eight.

Byleth causes a second headache when you consider their place in the release calendar of DLC pack one. Thus far we have had purely third party characters join the halls of Smash Bros. glory, such as Joker from Atlus, Hero from Square Enix, and Banjo Kazooie from Microsoft/Rare. Coming into this most recent reveal, fans expected an impressive finale that would tide everyone over until the first entrant in the next pack was announced. Deciding to have Byleth round out the fifth slot leaves a sour taste in the mouths of all Smash players who expected something so much more ambitious. Granted, unlike Corrin’s release, Byleth’s entry into the series does not feel like a blatant advertisement for a game that nobody liked in the first place. Three Houses came out what feels like ages ago, but a reorganization of Byleth’s premiere would have lessened such massive blowback. Other than Joker, Banjo-Kazooie was the hypest reveal of all, and they were announced about a month before Three Houses came out. If Byleth’s release would have been moved up to August of 2019 and Banjo-Kazooie was saved for 2020, I can guarantee that the present amount of salt would be in much lower supply.

Finally, there are dozens of other choices that Nintendo and Sakurai could have negotiated for other than this. Byleth feels like the easiest and safest choice that they could have gone with. It is a character that is first-party, does not require that much complex construction, and has been slapped on the end of DLC pack one to save time for the now six characters coming through 2021. A few different choices that could have ended this collection on a much higher note would have been Rex & Pyra, Sora, Geno, Crash Bandicoot, or Monster Hunter. Granted two of those characters come from Square Enix, a company that has been known to not play nice with Sakurai in the past, but there are still many more. At this point, I would have rather seen any meme-worthy character that the internet could drum up. Master Chief, Tracer, Waluigi, Doom Slayer, for god’s sake put former president Barack Obama in Smash and I would be content.

Ultimately, there is nothing that the Smash community can do now to change Byleth’s inclusion, so we might as well accept this new character and move on. On the bright side, with a sixth fighter being added to DLC pack two and Fire Emblem out of the way, a world of possibilities opens up for who could be receiving their invitation soon. Let us just hope any Pokemon from Sword and Shield stay very far away.

Byleth is a wonderful addition, rounding out Fighters Pack 1 – viewpoint by Tanner Kinney

Image from Kotaku

Super Smash Bros., a series consisting of several popular party games like Brawl and For Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, along with a serious competitive fighter in Melee, is a celebration of video games as a whole. Originally a Nintendo-only exclusive club (and a boy’s club, not counting Samus) the series has grown far beyond its humble roots and now has the greatest of gaming legends from anything not labeled “Microsoft” (and no, Banjo doesn’t count since he’s most well know for his appearance on the Nintendo 64) battling it out for our amusement. And each new edition of Smash became a game of waiting to see if your favorite made it in. I was there during Brawl’s development, Smash Dojo bookmarked on my Windows XP computer with all of the sweet not-virus “toolbars” an 8-year-old would need, checking daily to see what new character would get added. And you know who I wanted the most? Young Link, my main from Melee. You know who I got? Toon Link, some bug-eyed monster from that Zelda game the internet hated until they loved it again when Skyward Sword released, because the internet and Gamers, in particular, are fickle beasts.

But I’m getting off-topic there. The main point is that disappointment is a key part of the Smash Bros experience, and Smash fans getting angry about new additions is a tale as old as time itself. But at the end of the day, every character added is someone’s most requested (even Toon Link), and the controversial Byleth, recently added to Ultimate is no different.

When you look at complaints about Byleth, a lot of it revolves around three main aspects: Fire Emblem is over-represented (therefore taking too many character slots from important characters like Waddle Dee or some puppet from a single game that released 25 years ago), too many sword boys, and selecting a first-party character to round out a pass of third-party characters is disappointing. We’ll touch on all three of those here so show that Byleth was in fact a smart decision by Nintendo, and perfectly completes the Fighter’s Pass.

Let’s start with that first point: is Fire Emblem over-represented? The series clocks in at eight characters in the roster, a fairly significant amount. But, when you look at it, a lot of these characters were happenstance and their addition here comes down to the “Everyone is here!” philosophy. Looking back at Melee, we had two characters who were fairly identical: Roy and Marth. Clones in Melee aren’t anything too surprising, it’s a game riddled with them (two of the most dominant characters, Fox and Falco, are clones on the surface). But Melee had a hellish develeopment cycle as it was aiming for the GameCube’s release. Clones are to be expected. Brawl had only two FE representatives , and Ike was way more developed than Roy. At this time, Fire Emblem was a series barely cracking 500,000 sales worldwide. It was niche. Emphasis on was.

Sm4sh complicated things, due to the fact it followed a small game known as Fire Emblem: Awakening. The game is reported to have sold around 2 million worldwide in its lifetime, and while that’s small compared to Pokemon, it’s huge for a turn-based strategy game. At this point, people were wanting Chrom. Instead, we got Lucina, who by Sakurai’s words “got lucky to join the fray” instead of just being a costume. The real addition there is Robin, who plays wildly different from even Ike (despite using a sword). Then we have Corrin, from Fire Emblem Fates (a game that outsold the entire lifetime of Path of Radiance on launch). And Corrin was more than just another swordfriend; she had a whole set of Dragon-esque moves that match her abilities in Fates.

Now with Ultimate, everyone is here, and that means Marth, Roy (basically slapped together during Melee Hell), Lucina (literally a bonus who took no one’s spot), and the newly added Chrom (widely requested for Sm4sh as, you know, Awakening was stupidly popular) are all here. All of the “Marth clones” were added to the game by pure coincidence. Every truly original FE character has been substantially different, and Byleth is no different by bringing in a whole bunch of weapons into combat. But when you look at it all out of context, it’s just a bunch of sword boys (and girls). From my point of view, there’s a lot of hate against Fire Emblem by people who haven’t noticed that the series is wildly popular now. Three Houses outsold Awakening (over 2.3 million sales) in under three months and will keep selling more as time goes by. DMCV (with widely requested Dante) reportedly had sold 2.7 million within six months of its launch, which while good, is still outpaced by Three Houses’s sales, and let’s not forget Three Houses is an exclusive title. Fire Emblem is one of the biggest Nintendo franchises now and has millions of fans, it’s time to stop living in the past.

Image from Imgur

So, what about swords? Are sword boys really an epidemic? Well, the better question is: what is a sword? Well, let’s examine this chart that was posted on /r/smashbros by user /u/averysillyman.

Essentially, any character that relies on a disjointed hitbox can be considered a swordie, even if it isn’t a key part of their fighting style. This brings the number of swords up from 16 or so to something much, much higher. Disjoints are nothing new in Smash Bros, so we have to judge by the aesthetic of swords, i.e. anyone with a sword. But would people consider Link an “anime-swordsman?” I highly doubt it, despite the fact he is an anime-swordsman (have you seen how cute Gerudo Link is?). The concept of a sword is incredibly biased against Fire Emblem, and while it is disappointing to not see an Axe or Lance user after all this time, those would be considered swords as well by the rule of swords. The amount of variety Byleth brings to the table makes them more than just a sword, and that’s something we should appreciate. And, for the record in case you haven’t noticed: Dante and Sora are both anime swordsmen. Even Mister Chef himself from Halo famously has the Plasma Sword that would be incorporated into his kit. Swords are inevitable, and they aren’t the problem.

But the rest of the Fighter’s Pass is third-party, so even if swords are okay and even if Fire Emblem is okay (gasp), having a first-party is “underwhelming.” When you look at the Fighter’s Pass, however, you find that we’ve already gotten everything we’d have wanted. We got the global favorite newcomer of Joker from Persona 5, Japan got their boy Hero from Dragon Quest, the West finally got Banjo in after all these years, and even Latin America got Terry Bogard in. Most of the world is already accounted for in these picks, but expectations are too high. And even with third-party, there are too many characters for people to not get upset about. Quite frankly, I never enjoyed Banjo-Kazooie, so his addition meant nothing to me. Hero, on the other hand, I got excited about.

At the end of the day, Byleth was always going to be the fifth fighter. They’re not “replacing” anyone; all we know about character selection is that Sakurai was given options by Nintendo, and he picked what options he preferred to work with. We don’t know (and may never know) what other characters weren’t selected, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not like these mystery fighters were cut content, like the numerous characters in PlayStation All-Stars that didn’t see the light of day; they were just straight-up never going to exist.

So when I go online and see “Byleth trash where Geno” on Twitter dot com, I have to ask: Byleth isn’t so great? Are you kidding me? When was the last time you saw a character with such style and so many weapons. Byleth puts the game on another level, and we will be blessed if we ever see a character with the diverse moveset and cool fashion-sense in the game again. Joker breaks YouTube like numbers. Banjo breaks YouTube like numbers. Byleth breaks the rules. You can keep your ratio. I prefer the magic.

Sources: VG 24/7, Endgadget, VGChartz, Destructoid, EventHubs, Dual Shockers, Capcom, Polygon

Images: Imgur, Kotaku, Newsweek

Featured Image: Baylie Clevenger