Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is not a retro game. It’s the opposite. We’re months away from its December 7 release for the Switch. But Nintendo’s upcoming fighting game gives retro gamers a great gift: It shows us what could have been with some of favorite characters.
Earlier this month, Nintendo revealed Simon Belmont from Castlevania and King K. Rool from Donkey Kong Country as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s newest characters. They are stars from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. They’re also both characters that haven’t received modern makeovers.
Konami isn’t working on new Castlevania games. It’s not working on many console games at all, really. The Japanese publisher has shifted its focus mobile. Castlevania is known for its 2D action games, which aren’t a great fit for touchscreens. Not that that’s going to stop Konami from trying, but I have little faith that a mobile Castlevania game can work. Konami’s mobile shift means we haven’t seen Simon, the franchise’s biggest star, in a long time. We last saw him as one of the playable characters in 2013’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate, a subpar 3DS game; and Castelvania: Judgement, a lame 3D fighting game that came out for the Wii in 2008.
Both of those games are kind of old. More important, they’re forgotten. Even for their times, they didn’t have the kind of production values you’d hope for in Castlevania game. They were on systems with limited hardware and featured bland 3D characters. Also, the design of Simon in these games felt off, abandoning the medieval look of his original character for something more anime.
Super Smash Bros. shows us what a modern interpretation of Simon Belmont can look like. It’s a version based on his original look in the Castlevania box art. And it looks awesome.
This is the version of Simon Belmont I’ve wanted to see for years, and we can only get it because of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The same goes for King K. Rool. He was the final boss in the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy for Super Nintendo and for Donkey Kong 64 on the Nintendo 64, but we haven’t seen much of the big guy since. The Donkey Kong Country got a revival with newer games Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but King K. Rool isn’t in those. So what would he look like in a high-end, modern game?
Thanks to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we know.
King K. Rool has never looked more animated, intimidating, and detailed. It brings this character to life in a way that only our imaginations could in back in the 90’s.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a haven for characters discarded by time or circumstance. It’s like the Island of Misfit Toys, except this is a happy home for these video game heroes and villains. This is why I want to see other characters, like Super Mario RPG’s Geno, in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Does Geno have a chance in starring in his own game or appearing in a new Mario RPG? Not really. But he’s far more likely to show up in Smash, giving me the satisfaction of seeing one of my favorite retro characters shine in modern triple-A glory.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn’t just a celebration of Nintendo. It’s a unique form of wish-fulfillment for retro gaming fans like me.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.