Namco Bandaiís Nine Top Smashers - Article

By Matt Ashbaugh, August 19, 2012
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Soon after the last E3, Nintendo announced that while Masahiro Sakurai is still the director of the next two Super Smash Bros titles (one for Wii U and one for 3DS) the developer would be none other than Namco Bandai. This is, of course, great news for many reasons. First, the developer is no stranger to fighting titles: Tekken, Soul Calibur, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja, and so on. Second, this means we don’t have to wait for Sakurai to slowly build a whole new team, meaning the smashing can happen faster. Third, and the reason for this article, you can be damn sure Namco Bandai is going to want to contribute some of their properties to the mix. This means they will likely be adding their own items, stages, music, and most importantly a playable character or two. As long as both Nintendo and Namco Bandai can play nicey-nice come contract time, that is.

namco bandai nintendo

They have gotten along in the past

Now this doesn’t mean you should get your hopes up about having a bunch of Soul Calibur or DBZ characters trading punches with Link and Mario. In fact, because of how closely the characters in Super Smash Bros tend to control closer to action platformers than “standard fighter” characters, representatives from the developer have stated they would only add in characters that “feel” like they fit in with the gameplay. So Tekken is out but platformers are in. They’ve also stated that for a character to be considered, it would have to already have appeared previously in a game playable on a Nintendo platform. 

So these are my rules for this speculation list:
1) Must be owned by Namco Bandai.
2) Must be popular/well-regarded enough by the parent company or fans to be worth consideration.
3) Must have an aesthetic and possible move set that is in tune with existing Smash Bros tone.
4) Must have shown up in a playable form in a game on a Nintendo console/handheld.

Pac-man

pacman

Nintendo Appearances: Pac-Attack (1993 – SNES, 1994-GB, 2008-Wii); Pac-Man 2 (1994-SNES); Pac-in-Time (1994-SNES); Namco Museum 64(1999 – N64); Pac-Man Collection (2001 – GBA); Pac-Man World (2004 – GBA); Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness (2000-N64, 2004 – GBA); Pac-Man Fever (2002 – GC); Pac-Man World 2 (2002 – GC, GBA); Pac-Man Vs. (2003 – GC, 2007 – DS); Pac-Pix (2005 – DS); Pac-man Pinball Advance (2005 – GBA); Pac ‘n Roll (2005 – DS); Namco Museum: 50th Anniv (2005 – GC, GBA); Mario Kart Arcade GP (2005 – Arcade); Pac-Man World 3 (2005 – GC,DS); Namco Museum Remix (2007 – Wii); Namco Museum DS (2007 – DS);Pac-Man World Rally (2005 – GC); Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 (2007 – Arcade); Pac-Man Party (2010 – Wii, 3DS); Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions (2011 – 3DS); Namco Museum Megamix (2010 – Wii)

Look, I’m just getting him out of the way here because he is the most likely choice. Pac-man’s name recognition is off the yeah-I've-heard-of-that scale. You ask any average person to name a videogame character you will either get Mario, “those Angry Birds birds”, Sonic, or Pac-man. If you start going “wakka-wakka-wakka” while in public, someone will eventually laugh and ask, “why are you making Pac-man sounds?” 

No matter how uninteresting his character might end up being, you have to admit that if Namco gets one and only one character to add to the roster… they will probably select the closest thing they have to a mascot. I really hope they don’t, though, because there isn’t much he could bring to the table in the way of uniqueness. He can punch, maybe spit dots for a projectile, and really what else? Any of his signature moves would be limited to some form of Final Smash super move to avoid being overpowered. I sincerely hope they keep Pac-man off the playable list and just have a stage, assist trophy, or other items in his honor. Same goes for his family of Ms. Pac-man, Jr., Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde. Especially Clyde. You know what you did, jerk.

Taizo “Dig Dug” Hori

dig dug

Nintendo Appearances: Dig Dug (1985 – NES, 1992 - GB); Dig Dug II (1986 – NES); Namco Museum 64 (1999 – N64); Namco Museum (20012– GC, GBA); Namco Museum: 50th Anniv (2005 – GC, GBA); Namco Museum DS (2007 – DS); Namco Museum Remix (2007 – Wii); Namco Museum Megamix (2010 – Wii) 

His game was originally designed as “Pac-man in reverse”. Thanks to the yellow king of the arcades many games were focused on navigating a maze while avoiding enemies. So they designed a game in which you make your own maze in an effort to destroy the enemies. There’s a little bit of trivia to whip out at parties to further destroy your chances at getting those digits. No, no… you’re welcome.

Ol’ Taizo Hori (sorry that commercial from GameTap, his name isn’t actually Dig Dug) is quite familiar to anybody who was alive when they still had arcades. The music was catchy, gameplay simple but unique, and his attack method probably one of the most sadistic of all time. Seriously, he kills things by stabbing their innards with a hose and then begins pumping them full of air until they explode. He goes down into their homes and tortures them to death. This is made all the more dark due to the fact that the last surviving monster on any level will make a mad dash to the upper left of the screen in an attempt to escape. And you chase him down. To murder him. For points. 

So anyway, I’m not sure how they can build a character that meshes with the rest of the roster. His two defining characteristics are inflating people to death and tunneling underground. He would have to be completely re-imagined to fit into the action platformy style that Smash Bros characters fight with. Still, his world would make for a very interesting retro stage.


Kalas or Sugi  

baten kaitos


Nintendo Appearances: Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean(2004 – GC); Baten Kaitos Origins (2006 – GC)

Who, what, when, sometimes why? If you haven’t heard of this series, that isn’t too shocking. These GameCube-exclusive Japanese RPGs were marketed very poorly on a system that was marketed even worse. Still, those that have experienced it (that can stomach the less than stellar voice acting) largely enjoyed it, making it one of those hidden gems on Nintendo’s purple lunchbox. There really is no way to know which of the two protagonists they might pick as they are on the surface sort of cut from the same cloth. If one is selected you can be sure that one of his alternate costumes would be the other character.

The game has plenty of spells, attacks, and abilities to pull from to give a wide variety of fancy moves. Part of the lore of the game is that they come from a race of people with wings, which would fit nicely in designing a character who is at home in the air, much like Kirby or Pit. I’ll admit this one is a long shot, but never underestimate the love a Japanese developer can have for an anime-style RPG character.


Mappy

mappy

Nintendo Appearances: Mappy (1984-Famicom); Mappy-Land (1986 – NES); Namco Museum 50th Anniv (2005 – GC); Namco Museum DS (2007 – DS)

Ok, ok. This is getting a bit more obscure. Mappy first showed up in arcades during the beginning of the end of their golden period and was designed with the same engine as Super Pac-man. You played as a police mouse who went through a mansion trying to retrieve stolen goods from a gang of cat burglar cats. What the hell did I just type? 

Anyway, you would navigate the mansion, bounce on trampolines to quickly get to different floors, and try to capture the boss cat Nyamco in the act. Fun fact time: Nyamco, besides being a play on Namco’s own name, is also a play on “nyanko” which is the Japanese equivalent for “kitty cat”.

That being said, his character and gameplay are already primed to fit into the Smash Bros universe. He could summon trampolines to gain height. His occupation gives them many options in the way of combat. One of his attacks from his games was using a “microwave door” that would knock enemies away. Besides that, his cartoony aesthetic helps him blend into a roster that is already full of cartoony characters.


Susumu “Mr. Driller” Hori

mr driller

Nintendo Appearances: Mr. Driller (2000 – GBC); Mr. Driller: Drill Land (2002 – GC); Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits (2004 – DS); Mr. Driller 2 (2005 - GBA); Mr. Driller W (2009 – WiiWare); Mr. Driller: Drill till You Drop (2009 - DSiWare)

For those of you who are not aware, yes, Mr. Driller is the son of Taizo “Dig Dug” Hori. What was originally designed to be Dig Dug 3 evolved into a sort of side series with new gameplay mechanics. His games are more puzzle-oriented and play like a variation on Collapse. You try to drill as deep as you can while making sure to collect air capsules before you suffocate. 

This character has a good chance due largely to the potential of his dog, Puchi. Yes, Puchi the genius talking wonder dog, and I’m being totally serious. In the game he could jump higher and could go longer without getting more air. In Smash Bros he could make for an interesting 2-in-1 character to help round out Susumu’s moveset. I’m not talking Ice Climbers “monkey see, monkey do” mode of 2-in-1 character. Think a little more along the lines of how Captain Olimar uses his Pikmin to enhance his own “abilities”. Mr. Driller could use his drill to attack for normal moves, but his specials and throws could revolve around using Puchi to increase his reach and to harass opponents. Not to mention moves that have Puchi tunnel underground to either hone in on an opponent or work as a “pitfall trap”. I see potential in this. 

In the past when Sakurai was asked why character X or Y wasn’t included he would typically say that they are either not varied enough in their moveset or they would end up being too similar to another character. This is why characters like Waluigi and Little Mac are mere assist trophies. I know I’m just using my imagination to speculate here, but designed in this form we would have a unique fighter that fits right in with the rest of the roster. His aesthetic works, his moves would be simple yet deep, and there is the potential to give homage to the classic characters from Dig Dug through alternate costumes. 


Mark & Bert 

monster party

Nintendo Appearances: Monster Party (1989 – NES)

Hoo boy, is this grasping at straws or what? This little cult classic has had a bit of a resurgence in popularity thanks to how many online personalities currently exist that take a comedic look at nostalgic gaming. Monster Party paid homage/parodied horror pop culture from both European and Japanese folklore. With a bonkers plot, crazy enemies, and questionable localization text, it has a special campy place in the NES library. 

So yeah, why were these guys picked as possible candidates? Much like why most characters (beyond the most popular characters) in mascot fighters are selected: uniqueness, uniqueness, uniqueness. Much like how Zelda/Sheik and Pokemon Trainer are characters that can swap out, Monster Party’s gameplay literally revolves around this concept. You play much of the game as Mark, swinging a baseball bat at the creepy crawlies, but if you collect a pill you can turn into Bert who is a large, flying, pterodactyl-faced, beam-shooting, dragon-like creature.

The main way you could make this 2-in-1 character different from the others is by not making the transformation the result of a special move. As it was in their game, he could only transform by getting a pill which was generally obtained as a random enemy drop. Simply give him a special meter that fills up as he deals damage and upon filling it he will be able transform for a limited time into Bert. 

This guy is quite the long shot. First off, this game isn’t that popular except in an “internet definition of ironic” sort of way. Second, even though the game was made in Japan and is full of figures from Japanese folklore… it was never actually released there. So chances are pretty damn good that neither Sakurai nor anybody on the development team have ever been made aware of these characters. Still, it’d make for a fun set of characters.


Lloyd Irving 

tales of symphonia

Nintendo Appearances: Tales of Symphonia (2004 – GC) Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (2008 - GC); Soul Calibur Legends (2007 – Wii); Tales of Hearts (2008 – DS)

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Once he was but a simple country boy, but this strong-hearted young orphan goes on an epic journey to save the world from evil, makes friends along the way, and dresses like he is modeling the next avant garde metrosexual fashion line. Yeah, it is almost every main Japanese RPG character ever. 

But as I said before, never ever ever underestimate how popular JRPG characters are, especially when they are part of a well-received, critically-acclaimed, and long-running franchise like Tales. The decision will likely come down to the developer’s preference or a customer poll (much like how Sonic got into Brawl). You want to know how popular this guy is? Google Image search his name - you would be wise to turn on safesearch - and I’ll wait. 

Yeah, I know, right? I was surprised too. He has the potential to fit right into the roster just like Fire Emblem characters have in the past. He may not be the most unique character ever - he concentrates on using his sword to perform rapid combo attacks like another Smash vet (whose name starts with an ‘M’ and ends with an ‘arth’). Lloyd has, however, already been in an action adventure “fighting” game (Soul Calibur: Legends) so a lot of the guess work in how he would interact in a more action-oriented sense has already been taken care of. 

Plus, Yoshito Higuchi (the director/producer of the Tales series) has stated he would be delighted to have Tales characters appear in the next Smash Bros. The last time a creator wanted his character to show up in a Smash Bros game we got Solid Snake in Brawl. Lloyd has the fanbase, the moveset, and the blessing of his “father”. That makes him worth considering. 


Mametchi (Tamagotchi series)

tamagotchi

Nintendo Appearances: Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop (2006 – DS); Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 2 (2007 – DS); Tamagotchi: Party On! (2007 – Wii); Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 (2007 – Arcade); Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 3(2008 – DS); Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 4 (2009 – DS); Tamagotchi Collection (2011 – DS)

Before you accuse me of “trolling”, hear me out. First off, for those that don’t remember the late 1990s, Tamagotchis were freaking huge. They were pretty much a pedometer/virtual pet combo (not dissimilar to the PokeWalker) and there was even a yellow Pikachu version. As the product evolved Mametchi here became the series mascot. 

I'm not sure how he/she/it would control, but I know there are plenty of games to pull move inspiration from. The biggest reason this naked yellow bunny thing made my list is that Namco Bandai must have a soft spot for it. When they co-developed Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 with Nintendo they had their entire catalogue of characters to choose from and they picked Pac-man and Mametchi to represent them. For whatever reason, at the time they considered him to be their second round pick for the face of their company. They might feel differently about a fighting game. They have, however, stated that they wouldn’t put characters from Tekken or Soul Caliber in the game simply because they wouldn’t mesh well with the gameplay style. This mindset and their previous favoritism to Mametchi makes him/her/whatever worth considering.


Klonoa

klonoa

Nintendo Appearances: Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (2001 - GBA); Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament (2005 – GBA); Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (2008 – Wii)

Of all the characters on this list, Klonoa here feels the most like a Nintendo-designed character. He’s a sort of anthropomorphized cat-rabbit with a Pac-man hat. While he got his start on PlayStation, he has received ports on Nintendo platforms, making him a valid candidate. In his games, the main gameplay feature involves using Klonoa's ring and "Wind Bullets" to inflate enemies, which can then be thrown at other objects or thrown downwards to gain a second jump. 

This would most likely make his character a speedy fighter with a strong stun-and-throwing game. Thanks to the rules of cartoon physics, he can use his rabbit ears to hover. This could be useful as an extended second jump (like Yoshi) or something of a limited hover (like Peach). Given that his native game’s ability is to carry around enemies for later throwing, it would be nice if he would be another character (like DK) who could keep his mobility after he has performed a grab. With enough thought and balance devoted to his moveset, Klonoa would be a fitting addition to the next Smash Bros.

Really there is no way to know until an official announcement is made, but speculation is always fun right?

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