When Super Smash Brothers first came out (originally to be a new IP, but Nintendo thought it would perform better if they had their iconic characters smashing each other in the face – a wise move), people were pretty blown away at the concept. This was before games journalism was just a click away, and with so many of Nintendo’s fans being kids, many of them might not have even realized that all these games were made by the same people. So it was a pretty darn big deal to see so many big names in one place, and even though it feels natural these days with every company and industry trying to jump on the “Marvel cinematic universe” bandwagon, giant crossovers like Super Smash Brothers were less-than common back when it was first made, so it was a trailblazer in more respects than one.
But of course, you give people an inch, they’ll try to take a mile. And as soon as there was talk of a sequel, people started talking about who they’d want to see in the next game. And on one hand, it’s kind of beautiful: Super Smash Brothers occupies a very unique space in the games industry world, one of the only games where people can talk breathlessly about the characters they’d like to see imported into the game and actually have a chance to be right about it. No one gets excited about the roster of, say, Street Fighter: fighters come and go but since they live exclusively within that series it’s just not that exciting. But when you first learned that Solid gosh-darn Snake was in Brawl, you probably crapped your pants, didn’t you? Lord knows I did. No one could have expected it, everyone was happy about it, but… no one was surprised, you know? Because if there was ever a series where that could happen, it was Smash Brothers.
But that also brings us to the downside: people are thrilled when their favorite character is added, but they’re also mad when their favorite character isn’t – or their “spot” is claimed by a less popular choice. Objectively no one could really be sad that Bayonetta was added to the Smash roster, for example, but fans were upset because her inclusion came at the exclusion of other fan favorites: Ridley, Goku (yes, some people voted for him), Sans the Skeleton, Banjo-Kazoo… whatever. And while video game fans can be crazy on their good days, their capacity to overreact to things that don’t matter (and underreact to the things that do) never ceases to amaze.
A small side-tangent to illustrate my point: back when I was a high schooled, a friend of a friend was obsessed with Super Smash Brothers Brawl. And he showed me a thesis – that’s all you could really call it – documenting why they should add Megaman and Bomberman to the roster as DLC, and explaining what their attacks should be. And I told him dead to his face that Nintendo wouldn’t even look at his document, but he pushed on anyway and said it was worth a try anyway. Now, of course, he was wrong, it was most definitely a waste of time (Nintendo can’t even legally open those kinds of fan suggestions without putting themselves at risk of being sued for ‘stealing ideas’), but last I heard he was over the moon when Megaman did show up in the next Smash Brothers game: not because of anything he wrote, of course, but there was still that little bit of bitterness that Bomberman wasn’t also on the roster…
Anyway. You know why I’m bringing this up. Goddamn Waluigi.
Before Smash Ultimate was announced, the #1 fighter requested by fans was probably Ridley, the famous space-dragon-pirate from the Metroid series. And, lo and behold, Nintendo listened, and now he’s being added to the roster: yet, the hype for his addition has been largely ignored in favor for complaining about the fact that Waluigi – Waluigi of all characters – wasn’t included in the game as an actual fighter.
I’ve been thinking about it over the past few days, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on here. On one hand, I’m 90% sure that this is all just an example of a meme taken too far. Smash Fans have historically complained about wanting more and more characters, and now that they have basically everything they could ask for, they decide to make a self-referential meme out of it by asking for one of the most least important characters they could think of and pretend his exclusion is a big deal. The only reason they picked Waluigi was because he’s a walking meme – a character who’s just stupid to even look at whose most important role was as Wario’s sidekick in the GBA tennis game and the primary antagonist/first boss fight of the Mario-themed DDR game. He talks like a more high-pitched version of Wario, apparently has an ego the size of the moon, and does the crotch chop when he scores goals in Super Mario Strikers. Recently, his most important contribution to Nintendo has just been someone to mock, and between April Fool’s Day, Super Mario Odyssey, and beating up Waluigi’s Assist Trophy, it seems Nintendo never misses an opportunity to poke fun of him.
So in some respects, this is just Nintendo fans playing along. If Nintendo will make a joke out of Waluigi, of course their fans will follow suit.
…but on the other hand, I can’t ignore that 10% possibility that there are genuinely people who have an unironically, sincere affection for Waluigi. People who genuinely want Waluigi to take a more prominent role in the Mario games, and would like the chance to see him stand as an ‘equal’ in the fields of Smash. And on one hand… I get it? He’s got a very distinct visual personality, he’s been in enough games to actually have a presence (He’s more prominent in the gaming world then, say, Ice Climbers), and he’s fun. I mean, he’s the evil version of Luigi – Luigi, the famously cowardly, flailing, failure of a brother – and he’s the EVIL version of that. Waluigi lost every roll of the genetic dice he had, is destined for failure, and tries to overcompensate with an over-the-top ego and swagger that fails to even get him a role even in Wario’s solo outings. He’s so pathetic and over-the-top we can’t help but kind or root for him.
So when people see he’s getting the crap kicked out of him by Nintendo yet again during the Livestream… yeah, sure. Maybe they genuinely thought he deserves better. I bet they’re a small minority of the largely ironic fans, but they’re probably out there somewhere.
That said, I’m going to ask for forgiveness here, because I’m about to whip out one of the oldest and most trite arguments ever: say Nintendo ‘caves’ and says, “fine, Waluigi can be an ‘echo fighter’ for Luigi or something”. Well… then the floodgates are open again, aren’t they? We already discussed that Smash fans tend to be fairly entitled/demanding or whatever you want to call it, and even though they basically have everyone they could reasonably hope for in Ultimate (with probably a small roster of surprise additions to be introduced in the coming weeks), if Nintendo caves on this, that entitlement will flare up again and it’ll be more letters from high-schoolers on why Nintendo should add Wart or something as DLC.
Now, I’ll be the first to say Nintendo’s relationship with fans tends to be rather frigid at best, looking at how they treat their fan games and YouTube channels. I’m no Nintendo defender. But I also have no faith in Nintendo’s ability to tell between a joke and serious fan outcry. After all, most gamers who do criticize Nintendo treat them like a joke, and their fans are typically too busy kissing boots to actually critique the company in any earnest way. Nintendo, for lack of a better word, might be confused on this outcry, and not only would Waluigi open up the floodgates, it might also mean that a spot saved for a character who actually deserves a spot in the game (like, say, Soliare, now that Dark Souls is on a Nintendo console) might be taken by Waluigi of all people, and then we’ve got yet another problem on their hands.
So Nintendo is stupid and Smash fans are never satisfied. And dead in the middle of that storm of dumbness we have poor Waluigi, the butt of jokes and the ammunition for a pointless fan-war against the Smash Bros series. Because we can't just be happy with our space dragon.
Look, I love a good meme as much as the next guy, and I laugh whenever Waluigi opens his pathetic mouth just like everyone else. But sometimes we gotta stop with the jokes and just be happy with what we get. And that obviously includes being happy that Waluigi will be an Assist trophy: which is just about all he deserves, if you ask me.
Besides, people are just going to mod him into the game anyway when it launches.