Fictochat: The Byleth Issue

Lord Mikenificent: Hello, I’m Lord Mikenificent

Randall Malus: And I’m Randall Malus. We’re here today to talk about the 5th Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter’s Pass DLC character.

LM: Earlier today, Sakurai manged to make a lot of ripples with his announcement and not the good kind of ripples like a flower petal lighting gently upon the surface. No, these ripples were more akin to a piece of garbage hitting the water. The main question we’re here to answer is: was the reveal really that big of a deal?

RM: So, I just want to drop some object facts about this reveal. Smash Ultimate is a game with almost 80 characters in it. Of those, 8 are Fire Emblem characters. That means Fire Emblem makes up over 10% of the characters in Smash Ultimate now.

This is important because the only other two franchises with as many or more character representation are Mario and Pokemon. Not even Zelda has as much representation as Fire Emblem.

So, if you were to look to Smash Ultimate to see how popular a franchise is by the number of characters representing it, you would think the top three worldwide are Mario (accurate), Pokemon (accurate), and Fire Emblem (not accurate).

Of the 8 characters, 5–over 50%–are generic anime swordspeople. Of those five, four are clones of each other (the four Marths: Marth, Roy (ginger Marth), Lucina (female Marth), and Chrom (sleeveless Marth).

So 5% of the roster of Smash Ultimate, then, is–more or less–a single clone.

Is this a big deal? Only if you like variety in franchise representation and play style.

LM: We do know those characters have differences in playstyle, and that there are those of you who know these differences intimately, but for the purposes of this specific argument those differences are negligible.

RM: Yeah, a few people have told me today that the four Marths are very different. Shut up, no they aren’t. It’s a meme for a reason.

LM: In any case, this brings us to our reveal: Byleth, the protagonist of Fire Emblem Three Houses. Though news dropped today of a DLC fourth house.

We actually had a chat about this earlier and neither of us were very happy about it so we decided to reconvene to see if our feelings remained or mellowed.

RM: My feelings have mellowed a bit. Full disclosure: Fire Emblem isn’t my thing. I don’t have much experience with the games, I don’t really want to, they don’t appeal to me in the slightest, etc. etc. I realize the franchise has gained in popularity on the last decade, but it’s just…not my thing. That said, that isn’t why I’m not overjoyed by Byleth. I mean, the roster has almost 80 characters…there are lots of fighters from franchises that “aren’t my thing.” No, it’s because…well, it’s because of a lot of things, actually. I can list them if you’d like.

LM: You can if you want. Oddly, Byleth’s inclusion has made me want to play Fire Emblem Three Houses. Earlier I was frustrated and disappointed by their inclusion but at this point their gimmick (the ability to use all three Fire Emblem weapons) redeems them a little. I also like the female version of the character far more than the male.

My only real hopes for this reveal were that it wasn’t Steve from Minecraft and it was an anime girl. I’m not exactly sure why I was so dead-set on that second one but female Byleth does fulfill both of those requirements.

RM: Earlier you said this was like a monkey’s paw wish, in reference to your requirements. It’s not Steve, and it’s an anime girl… but it’s also Fire Emblem.

LM: Yeah. At this point I still wish it wasn’t Fire Emblem but I can’t imagine what other Fire Emblem characters they’d toss in since Three Houses is the newest one.

RM: Byleth actually kills any desire I might have had to play Three Houses. Every Fire Emblem character in Smash has the opposite effect on me than what Nintendo likely intends–that’s how little I’m interested in Fire Emblem. I even opened up to a franchise I saw as “weeaboo bullshit” (Persona/Shin Megami Tensei) before Joker’s inclusion, because of his inclusion in Smash. Not so with Fire Emblem.

LM: I hadn’t had any desire to play one until Byleth.

RM: I didn’t like the build up, nor the secrecy.

LM: Yeah, I think they should be at least announcing these a lot quicker. I actually forget there was another fighter coming in this pass for a while.

RM: It wasn’t some huge character reveal. Why all the secrecy? Why not sandwich the trailer between those of other games in a larger Nintendo Direct? For that matter, why end Pass One on a character from a franchise largely reviled by Smash fans for its perceived oversaturation?

Oh, yeah, that’s another thing. Fighter Pass Two.

LM: I saw a few memes about that earlier. One was just a bunch of different Goku.

RM: So, Fighter Pass One was sold for $24.99. It guaranteed five DLC characters, each individually priced at $5.99 each–meaning you’d save a little under $5.00 by buying the pass. The catch was that you didn’t know who the five characters would be when you purchase the pass.

The first four fighters of Pass One weren’t always “great” or “the most requested,” but they were at least interesting. Different. They all came from third parties, were unexpected, and brought new worlds to Smash Bros.

And then there’s Byleth, the eighth Fire Emblem character.

LM: When you put it in those terms, we could have come out of this a lot worse.I mean, you’re inadvertently showing me that.

RM: Now, I did the math and realize that by purchasing Pass One, I only paid, like, a buck for Byleth–so he’s pretty much free. But had I known ahead of time that Pass One included a Fire Emblem character, I might have skipped the pass altogether and would have just bought the four I found interesting and cool.

Well, I’m doing both. I’m on the fence.

LM: I’m fine with having a nearly free Byleth.

RM: As am I. Or, at least, less upset about it.

LM: The way I see it, we got it out of the way. Any more Fire Emblem characters would have to be super deep cuts.

RM: I still think Byleth should have been totally free–a bonus character for reserving Pass Two…

LM: I just hope we do get another free character for Pass Two, like Piranha Plant, rather than just a Mii costume.

RM: Well, the math on Pass Two is similar.

We get a heavily discounted character. Six characters are included, and the price of the pass is $29.99

Same individual prices for the fighters separately.

LM: It is less of a deal than Pass One, for certain.

Less incentive to buy it outright.

I’m probably still going to get it, but it would be nice if they’d pre-announce one character for it. Just so we know the kind of nonsense we’re in for with this one.

RM: I’m not 100% sure I’ll get this one. Byleth left a bad taste in my mouth. They sold me on the first pass in good faith. On this one, though? That’s a big ask.

Again, I likely wouldn’t have bought Pass One if I knew Byleth was at the end.

LM: I’d probably feel the same as if Steve had been announced.

RM: Which he might be.

LM: He better not be.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if Steve is in the game then anyone who mains him is my immediate enemy.

RM: They’re selling these passes in a way that no other company does it, and it’s not really paying off for many people out there. Some didn’t like Joker. Others, Terry. Now, Byleth. “Hoes mad” is the new obnoxious meme to prod those who don’t like the Byleth reveal.

LM: I honestly wasn’t too happy about Terry.

RM: Most other companies sell their passes on the strength of what it will contain. Nintendo and Sakurai? Nope. “Trust us.” And then we get Byleth.

LM: It is odd that this is the only thing they’re doing this with.

RM: Oh, and remember how Pass One was released in one year?

All six characters of Pass Two will be released by December 31st… 2021.

LM: That’s absurd.

RM: So, now all our Fire Emblem characters won’t drop at once. We can enjoy a new Fire Emblem character every four months for two years.

LM: The way I see it, that actually allows more current games (Astral Chain and the new Pokemon, for example) to get into the game.

RM: Quick aside: PapaGenos on YouTube posted a reaction video that mimics exactly my reaction from this morning.

LM: And I don’t know but I don’t think there’s going to be a new Fire Emblem for a while while they’re still supporting Three Houses.

RM: I just don’t get why Sakurai has such a hard on for Fire Emblem. They’re just anime sword fighters, dipshit.

Like, get over it.

LM: It’s a popular genre in Japan, I know that.

Well, not genre, but series.

RM: Yeah, well, it isn’t nearly as popular in America. The NYC Nintendo Store reaction video from today proves that. Anemic at best. Always bad when you can hear the actual presentation. Even Terry’s reveal was louder.

LM: Yeah, it’s definitely not something that translates well over here.

The whole console RTS genre here never really took off in the same way. On computers, yeah, but not consoles. Even Final Fantasy Tactics only got a few entries.

RM: I don’t know. I don’t hate Fire Emblem. I really don’t. And I’m not super pissed or anything. Simon and Richter (from Castlevania) got in the game, and that’s really all I care about. But at the same time, what an anti-climax for the end of the first pass, and what a way to shrink confidence in the contents of Pass Two right out of the gate.

LM: Yeah, it’s not a good note to go out on. I do like Byleth as a concept, like if they had to do a Fire Emblem character they went a good route with it, but at the same point it’s not something anyone was looking forward to over here.

At the same point, they’re probably not going to have another Fire Emblem character, so it’s not like that’s a selling point overseas for the next pass.

RM: But that’s the thing. “Probably not.”

We don’t know.

They haven’t told us.

They know who the characters are for Pass Two, but they’ll drop them one by one, little by little, and the “leakers” like Sabi and Vergeben will never be able to see another Fire Emblem character (or six) coming. But the speculation will continue, and the speculation about when information will drop (because that is a thing now) will continue…

Honestly, Byleth’s reveal was just so… mundane that it just sort of sucked the excitement out of it for me.

LM: They really should just drop them all at once, because all this waiting just kills all the momentum.

LIke I said before, I kind of forget we were getting another fighter for this pass.

RM: Thinking of the speculation cycle over the next two years, only to have out-of-touch picks revealed…just thinking about it makes me… tired.

It really kills hype.

I’m not salty. I’m just underwhelmed. And that’s actually worse for business.

Because at least if I were mad, I’d be having some sort of reaction. No publicity is bad publicity, and such. But I’m apathetic. I just don’t care. I’m not all that interested.

And that’s a problem.

It’s not my problem. It’s Nintendo’s problem. As a company, their job, their literal job, is to keep me, the consumer, engaged.

They’ve thoroughly failed to do that.

It’s not strictly Byleth. It’s the whole package. This is the third anti-climactic finale Sakurai has put on. The first was Smash 4‘s reveal. He blew his load with Cloud in November, and finished on a whimper with Bayonetta and Corrin (another Fire Emblem character) a month later. Should have been reversed. Save Cloud, the big gun, for last. Then Smash Ultimate. Announced Simon, Richter, and K. Rool in September. November, the final characters: Ken, Incineroar, and…Piranha…Plant…? Again, should have saved K. Rool for last. Blew his load too early.

Sakurai just blows his load at the wrong time, and on the wrong characters.

LM: It could have something to do with corporate stuff, of course. But yeah, if he’s in charge of things, then he could really be doing a better job of timing all these things out.

RM: As a fan, I should never not be hyped for a product. I should never not be engaged or excited. That’s just bad marketing.

Star Wars is a good example. If I’m an obsessive Star Wars fan, the worst thing the franchise can do is lose me–because if they’ve lost me, they’ve lost others like me…and that’s how SOLO failed.

LM: Nintendo does seem to have a habit towards failing on the backend.

They have been getting better, but they’re still getting on a good track with all of it.

RM: I mean, I’m not saying that they’re going to go bankrupt because of people like me not investing in the second pass (again, on the fence right now but it’s not looking good)…but the second pass underperforming wouldn’t be good either.

LM: No, it would definitely put future projects into jeopardy. I don’t think they’re going to have too much of a problem, though.

RM: I don’t know. Recency bias is strong. Byleth chapped a lot of people. I guess time will tell how it affects sales, though.

In the meantime, I think Sakurai will need to pull a rabbit out of his ass for the first character of Pass Two (as you’ve said).

Who do you think will be the first character?

LM: Honestly, it could absolutely anyone. If I had to guess I’d say it’d be a Pokemon.

Probably one of the starters for Sword/Shield, maybe the spy lizard (Ed. Note – Inteleon). He might be fun to use.

You?

RM: At this point, I honestly couldn’t say. I have no earthly idea.

Probably a Pokemon. Or a Mario character.

LM: It’d be fun if they put a Zelda character in there, and with Hyrule Warriors being a thing the movesets are right there.

RM: Impa would be cool. Or Tingle.

LM: Linkle

They might toss one of the characters from Breath of the Wild in, though

RM: Probably another Link or Zelda.

LM: I hope not. Like a Spider-Man fan in the late nineties, I’m over clones.

RM: As am I.

I hope for Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden, but I’m not sure how likely that is at this point. He’s a tertiary hope, anyway.

All my top characters are in already.

LM: Yeah, there’s no one else I really want, I just want a complete game.

Anything else we’d like to discuss before we wrap things up?

RM: Nah. The whole thing was just a bit of a non-starter.

Not the worst, and again I don’t hate Fire Emblem, but…meh.

I can’t pretend to be excited for something that doesn’t excite me.

LM: Yeah. I’m hoping Byleth surprises me in action, but we’ll have to wait and see, and who knows when they’ll be popping in.

RM: Absolutely.

LM: Well, everyone, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts on any of this there’s a Facebook discussion group and a Discord server to find us at.

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