Ever been really mad about something, but you don’t really know why? Like, the more you think about it, the madder you get, only to get even more mad at the fact that you’re mad? Well, that’s exactly how I feel about Joker in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The thing is, I’m not even a Nintendo fan. I did used to like Nintendo as a kid, but I was mainly into their franchises, like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. I certainly did also play mainly on Nintendo consoles as a kid, but I was never a Nintendo fan per say – in fact, as soon as I reached my teens, I shifted pretty dramatically into PC gaming, missing out on the Wii U in the process (not that unusual, I’m aware). In fact, I only bought a Switch a couple of months ago, after many years of agonizing over whether it was worth it, because it’s the only decent handheld on the market anymore (RIP Vita).
That being said, I don’t even own Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Switch. I’m also not even really a Smash fan – I did pick up Super Smash Bros. for 3DS on launch back in 2014, but I’ve always been pretty hopeless at fighting games and only really did that so I could play with my friends. It’s for that same reason now, in fact, that I’m contemplating buying Ultimate – so that I can have a party game to play with all of those friends that I hang out with all of the time.
But there is one major thing stopping me from making that purchase – Joker being in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Logically, it shouldn’t really bother me. I might not be a Nintendo fan or a Smash fan, what I am actually a fan of is the Persona series – so much so that I picked up the limited edition version of Persona 5 when it launched in the west.
For all intents and purposes, I should be happy about Joker being in Smash. But I’m not. I’m really mad – still, almost six months after he was already added to the game.
I suppose one of the first reasons is that, even though I’m not a diehard Nintendo or Smash fan, I do recognize the importance of the long-running fighting game in the world of video games. Getting added to Smash is like being added to the Video Game Hall of Fame – you’re immortalised among some of the greatest video game characters and franchises of all time, as well as in the memory of countless children who will grow up playing the Smash game in which you were featured. Heck, I’ve never even played a Star Fox game, but I know full well who Fox, Falco and Wolf are.
Does Joker really deserve to be placed in such a prestigious line-up? Well, I mean, his game is pretty fun. It’s probably the most fully realized Persona game, with a dynamic and entertaining turn-based combat system and a more intricate web of social connections and stories that contribute to one of the most compelling cast of characters in the entire series. I also appreciate how it’s all about sticking it to the man. Persona 3 is probably still my favourite, though.
But is Persona 5 really as important as a title as, say, Metal Gear Solid – who’s main character, Solid Snake, was added to the game for Super Smash Bros. Brawl – a game which single handedly started an entire genre, showcased the incredible potential of interactive storytelling, and kickstarted one of the most lauded and influential video game franchises of all time?
For that matter, is Persona 5 really as important as Banjo-Kazooie – the main duo of which, Banjo and Kazooie, were added to Ultimate as part of a DLC pack (much like Joker) – a game which, again, single handedly started a genre, elevated a studio to greatness, and still inspires tears of joy and fierce dedication to this day?
Probably not. Persona 5 is a good game, and some people really love it. That’s fine – I do think it’s the most playable Persona game to date, even if it’s not my favorite. I’m especially looking forward to replaying the game with new content when Persona 5 Royal when it launches later this year.
But, at the end of the day, Persona 5 is just a Persona game. It’s a JRPG that borrows a lot of its combat and theming from the Shin Megami Tensei series (Atlus’ other golden goose) and incorporates a lot of slightly off-putting visual novel elements.
Don’t get me wrong, I love romancing anime babes as much as the next guy. Heck, it’s part of the reason why I like Persona so much. But I’m not sure that it’s ‘social links’ give it quite the same thematic resonance as, say, the relationship between Meryl and Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid, or Eva and Naked Snake in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I’m really not sure that such a series really deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with something like Metal Gear Solid, basically.
That being said, I don’t want to come off as alarmist or elitist. There are elements to Persona’s dating sim sections that make other people uncomfortable – especially Atlus’ constant mishandling of gender identity issues – but, at the end of the day, it’s just a bit of fun. And – as Reggie Fils-Aime one said – if the game isn’t fun, why bother?
Nintendo probably subscribes to this sentiment. Since Persona is fun and lots of people like it, why not put Joker in Smash? What would be the harm? As it turns out, for the image of Smash, quite a lot.
One of the apparent prerequisites for getting a character into the Smash roster is that you have a game on a Nintendo console. It’s true that the Persona series does qualify this criteria – the franchise has put out two games on the 3DS so far, and (leading up to the announcement of Joker for Smash) it seemed like there would be another for the Switch.
Ah, yes. The notorious “P5S” project. It was trademarked way back when, alongside P5D and P5R, which turned out to be dancing games and a “complete” edition respectively.
The “S” in P5S got many fans thinking that it stood for Switch, ie. a Switch port of Persona 5. To be honest, I thought the same – especially when Joker got announced for Smash. Surely, you couldn’t get into Smash by just releasing frankly rubbish spinoffs on Nintendo handhelds? Surely, Nintendo wouldn’t devalue their own beloved and iconic franchise like that.
As it turns out, they would. I was among the thousands, if not hundreds and thousands, that watched the Persona 5 livestream in order to find out what P5S really was mere days after the Smash announcement.
But, as it turns out, Atlus would not be making a proper Persona game for a Nintendo console. They were certainly putting out a game for a Nintendo console, that being the Switch. But it definitely wasn’t a proper game, far from it.
What we got was Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers, yet another spinoff for the Nintendo Switch. As if simply releasing another spinoff wasn’t trite enough, then guess what this game was? A Warriors or Musou game, developed in collaboration with Koei Tecmo.
I think I speak for many people when I say I’m sick of Musou games. In the past couple of years, it seems as if Koei Tecmo have given up on their own tired franchise and have instead decided to ruin other franchises but fitting them into their mindless, floaty formula.
This process started with Hyrule Warriors in 2014, and only continued from their as the studio began to make Musou games on whatever franchise was willing. Arslan? We’ll take it. Berserk? We’ll have that. Fire Emblem? Gladly. Persona 5? Of course!
The fact that I genuinely don’t like Musou meant that I’d probably never be up for a Persona Musou. But if you are a fan of them, or haven’t had any contact with them yet, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy Scramble when it launches. But even a mega Musou fan must remark that Nintendo seem to have lowered the bar quite a bit when it comes to letting characters into Smash.
Not only have Atlus never released a proper Persona on a Nintendo system, but Persona can scarcely even hope to reach the legendary status that many of the series featured in Smash do. I mean – Joker being the first DLC pack, followed by Dragon Quest’s Hero and Banjo-Kazooie’s Banjo and Kazooie? What a joke.
Joker being part of the DLC only makes matters more infuriating, as he’s taken up valuable space that could’ve been used to put a franchise that actually deserves to be in Smash in Ultimate. How about Professor Layton? Chibi-Robo? Heck, if we’re going really left field, then how about Shantae? The cult classic series has traditionally always called Nintendo systems home, and has enjoyed a big resurgence in popularity as of late.
Why do I even care, though?
I’m not a Nintendo fan, nor am I a Smash fan. I do play it, but I’m not one of those weirdos who keeps a CRT around just so I can play Melee, or screams when a character gets revealed (RIP Etika).
For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t be mad. But I am. Why am I mad? Is this just my fate? To scream into the void about things that don’t really matter, both to others and myself? If someone can hear me out there, then please – scream back.