Super Smash Brothers Ultimate: The Byleth Controversy

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MISHAWAKA – Fans of the popular Nintendo fighting game, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, are divided on their opinions of the newly released downloadable character. 

On Jan. 16, Masahiro Sakurai, the game’s Lead Developer, gave a video presentation to introduce the new fighter. The new inclusion to the game’s roster, currently featuring over seventy characters in total, is Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. What makes Byleth’s inclusion so controversial, however, is the fact that Byleth is the eighth character from the Fire Emblem franchise to be included in the game. 

Many fans feel that Smash Bros. has become oversaturated with these Fire Emblem characters – “swordies” as they have been not-so-affectionately titled – and that most of them have fighting styles too similar to warrant including new ones. This sentiment was expressed at the end of the previous title’s development cycle when one of the last characters to be included was yet another Fire Emblem character, Corrin. What made the disappointment at Corrin’s inclusion understandable was that Corrin’s game, Fire Emblem: Fates, hadn’t even released in the United States yet. 

This is another reason the inclusion of Fire Emblem characters upsets many fans; their series wasn’t that popular outside of Japan until recently. The best-selling game in the series, Fire Emblem: Awakening sold 1.9 million copies, and it has been around since 2012. While 1.9 million copies is not anything to sneeze at, and worse-selling game characters have had representation in Smash, fans feel Fire Emblem isn’t nearly popular enough to warrant taking up 10% of the available characters in Ultimate. 

However, these criticisms don’t necessarily hold up in Byleth’s case. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the best-selling game in the series, by far. Selling at least two million copies since its release in 2018, no other Fire Emblem game can hold a candle to its popularity. Thus, this instance isn’t comparable to the confusion and questions of “who’s this” that met Corrin’s release in early 2016. 

Furthermore, in terms of play style, Byleth is different from most “swordies”; instead of giving Byleth the main weapon of Three Houses, the developers have included Fire Emblem’s mechanic of letting the protagonist wield any type of weapon in Byleth’s arsenal. Spears, bows, and axes are all incorporated in this one fighter, corresponding to directional inputs. Byleth isn’t just “another swordie” lazily thrown into the game. 

Regardless of the effort put in by Sakurai and his team, they still acknowledged that this inclusion might upset some fans of the series. They even included a line in Byleth’s reveal cinematic poking fun at the number of swordfighters in Ultimate. Unfortunately, this was received not as the attempt at self-deprecating humor it was and more as salt in the wound for fans who wanted something different. 

At the end of the day, Byleth is coming to Smash Ultimate, whether people are happy about it or not. In light of that, fans should be more appreciative for all of the work the developers put in. It’s okay to be disappointed, and it’s okay to be excited, but what’s most important is to remember that it is just a game, and no one is forcing anyone to buy it or play it. 

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