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Game On: Sora of Kingdom Hearts joins Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, ending the game with a bang

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 7, 2021

Sora of Kingdom Hearts shakes hands with Mario in the final-update trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the party-fighting game that helps the Nintendo Switch fly off shelves.  (Nintendo Co.)
Sora of Kingdom Hearts shakes hands with Mario in the final-update trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the party-fighting game that helps the Nintendo Switch fly off shelves. (Nintendo Co.)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

Crossover events in video games might not seem odd now that Fortnite has been doing them constantly for a couple of years, but when Super Smash Bros. hit the Nintendo 64 in 1999, they were practically unheard of. Then, when Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog – characters belonging to Konami and Sega, respectively – were announced as roster additions ahead of the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008, the gaming community lost its collective mind.

Even nonfans were talking about how unprecedented it was for two non-Nintendo gaming icons to be fully playable characters in a Nintendo game. If that was a zany crossover, then this latest announcement might be the most bombastic of all. Sora of Kingdom Hearts, a game series jointly owned by Square Enix and Disney and once exclusive to the Sony PlayStation, is joining the massive roster of 86 fighters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch.

Game director Masahiro Sakurai promised that the latest addition would be the game’s last, and from a legal standpoint alone the developers really outdid themselves. The reveal was thorough, showcasing not only a teaser trailer introducing Sora but also a comprehensive video showing off his entire move set.

It’s the sort of excellence the Smash community has come to expect, but the developers’ consistency comes at a cost. Every time a new feature or character is announced to be added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, an absurd quantity of complaining and bickering takes place among its fanbase.

Normally, I don’t pay much mind to a few trolls with fringe opinions on the internet – we’d be here all day, and they’re rarely worth paying much attention to – but it’s genuinely shocking just how many Super Smash Bros. fans have gotten upset over Sora and every new character added before Sora.

Despite only dabbling in the series, it’s been disheartening to watch the drama unfold each time. Sakurai and his team have made five Super Smash Bros. titles over the years, and they’ve all been nothing short of excellent. Always occupying a unique space between the fighting and party game genres, it’s been a wild ride watching the ever-expanding franchise come to include characters, stages, music and collectibles from about 230 game series.

Essentially, the Smash community is spoiled, plain and simple. To be clear, I don’t like Sora. I don’t like his design, I don’t like his personality, and I might even go as far as to say that I actively hate Kingdom Hearts. But I have no doubt that millions of gamers are elated by his surprise inclusion, and you know what – I’m happy for them. As a Sonic fan, I had my moment back in 2008, and it turns out 2021 is that moment for Kingdom Hearts fans. Enjoy it!

It’s hardly a problem unique to the gaming community, but it seems to be all the more common among us – we want games tailored exactly to our specifications, people with different tastes be damned. It’s even worse in competitive online games like Overwatch, Apex Legends and League of Legends, where people constantly harass the developers on social media to remove whichever character is the biggest nuisance to them.

Everyone seems to think they’re an expert on gameplay balance, but there’s rarely consensus among the keyboard warriors. In the Smash community, the big talking point is typically: “Who’s the next character?” The speculation is often so intense that Sakurai stated in August on talk show “Harada’s Den” that “I can’t make connections with other games or promote them. If I connect with other games, people will think the game’s character will be added.

“Any small thing you say will spread as truth. So, fans grab on to every small piece of information about you and don’t let go. I’d just like to say, ‘Give me a break!’ ” With Sora revealed to be the final addition to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after three years of delivering consistent updates, Sakurai also announced that he would be “taking a break” from game direction. I can’t say I blame him.

In response, thousands took to Twitter to express their gratitude with the hashtag #ThankYouSakurai. Call me a pessimist, but I can’t help but wonder how many of these users harangued him to add Waluigi or Crash Bandicoot or some other character to the game’s roster just months prior. Still, better late than never, I suppose.

It’s my hope that as the video game medium matures, gamers might mature a little as well and embrace the fact that not every aspect of every game will be to their liking. A well-designed product will typically have a little something for everyone.

And while I’m not much of a Nintendo fan, I’ve always enjoyed playing a few rounds of Super Smash Bros. with friends. For directing a near-flawless series of five games over 19 years, I’ll say it too: Thank you, Sakurai – enjoy your well-earned break.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at riordanzentler@gmail.com.

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