Indeed: as of this week, the game’s first DLC fighter, Piranha Plant, has gone live.
Since its inception in 1996 on the Nintendo 64, the Super Smash Bros. series’ biggest draw — its hook that no other games can swing — is that it is the ultimate crossover (sorry, Marvel) of Nintendo characters. In no other game can stealth operative Solid Snake be slapped around by a sentient pink puffball. That description could even be referring to multiple characters, which shows how diverse the Smash fighter roster really is.
Now, we’ve gone into ultra instinct diverse with the addition of Piranha Plant as the first of the DLC characters.
Nobody expected this. Piranha Plant didn’t even expect to be included — it always shrubbed it off as some warped kind of pipe dream.
But here we are, as its vines are being unleashed in Smash the world over.
There is always heated speculation regarding Nintendo’s tight-lipped secrets of who will be the next fighter in the Super Smash Bros. games. There are various characters who are often popular predictions as the next fighter reveal, but definitely not little ol’ Piranha Plant, originating from way back when on Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System, where it was just your garden variety enemy. But isn’t Super Smash Bros. supposed to be exclusively feature Nintendo’s biggest all-stars? Isn’t this, well… the opposite? Did anyone really ask for this?
Masahiro Sakurai, Ultimate game director and general supreme overlord of the series, has talked about the unexpected inclusion of Piranha Plant. So, why a lowly enemy and not another all-star hero?
Well, there were a number of reasons, it turns out, that the addition made sense to Sakurai, who has a notorious penchant for mischievous surprises. In an interview with GameInformer, the franchise head stated, “I’m actually not paying too much focus on the surprise element when we introduce a new fighter. The surprise element quickly fades once the announcement has been made.” He goes on to explain that the roster needs contrast, because if there were only all-star characters on the roster, it might all feel the same and less special. This is why oddball roster inclusions like Duck Hunt, Mr. Game & Watch, and now Piranha Plant are not only justifiable, but also important to the balance of the character roster.
Though the occasional quirky character has been a mainstay throughout the series, Piranha Plant pushes the envelope further, and Super Smash Bros. as a whole into a new direction. Being among the lowest of the low of Super Mario characters in terms of significance, it suggests that any character could be added, a far cry from the original Nintendo 64 game’s tagline, “Duke it out as your favorite Nintendo characters.” Though, to be fair, there is probably that one fan out there who loves Piranha Plant, complete with a dedicated DeviantART gallery and a Super Mario Bros. ROM hack where it stars as the main character.
Perhaps that’s the magic of inclusions like Piranha Plant. They further loosen the shackles on which characters can enter through the gates of Smash, and especially this one — anyone, high and low, can make it in as a fighter. The series isn’t something so simple as an all-star showdown anymore, and is becoming more and more a celebration of video games as a whole.