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SSB4 is a fantastic game, and it’s easily my personal favorite Smash title. That said, it’s not without its flaws, and the most obvious of these is the lack of compelling single-player content. To be more specific, the game had dropped a feature that many fans had come to look forward to: the adventure mode. And what did we have in its place? A decent enough distraction in Smash Run on the 3DS version, and a godawful excuse for a game mode in Smash Tour on the Wii U version. With the more ambitious game design philosophy Nintendo seems to have adopted as of late, it would be a great move to bring back an adventure mode that’s better than ever.
And I’m not just talking about a quick twenty-minute romp like in Melee. I hope to see the return of a full-fledged Subspace Emissary-style adventure, complete with numerous lengthy levels to play through, an overarching plot for all of the characters to interact within, and a smorgasbord of gloriously produced cutscenes. I know this idea may be met with some skepticism, as the SSE’s reception was mixed at best, but by fixing some of its flaws, we could be left with the greatest single-player experience a Smash game could possibly offer.
First off, let’s address what is perhaps the greatest problem people have with the Subspace Emissary: the fact that it takes place in a bland realistic setting rather than having taken place across the various worlds from Nintendo’s franchises. In addition to this, the enemies are all original creations, with the exception of a few Mario enemies that show up briefly. This design decision hasn’t sat well with fans, and rightfully so: beyond having all of these Nintendo characters interacting in the same story, bringing together the various worlds such as the Mushroom Kingdom and Hyrule may be the greatest point of appeal in the idea of a crossover adventure.
Perhaps in this regard they should take a cue from Melee’s adventure mode, which featured the famous Mushroom Kingdom and Underground Maze amd actual Nintendo enemies to fight(Smash Run would go on to bring back this feature). Fending off ReDeads in the Underground Maze is one of my fondest memories of Melee, and it’s a shame that the SSE didn’t have such classic Nintendo enemies to fight instead of Primids and other such forgettable enemies created specifically for Smash. By allowing us to play through environments from Nintendo franchises as well as fighting actual Nintendo enemies, Nintendo could fix the SSE’s biggest problem and win a lot of people over to the idea of giving an elaborate adventure mode another shot.
A lesser issue people have had with the SSE is the plot; it could be confusing at times, even to the extent that certain plot points, such as Dedede’s brooches, needed to be cleared up on the game’s website after the fact. You can view the page that does so here. The reason these plot points needed explaining outside the game is, of course, the fact that the SSE is (almost) entirely silent. There’s only one line of actual dialogue, which is spoken in Snake’s introductory cutscene. While I think it’s impressive that they were able to do as much as they did without speaking roles, it still leaves us with a haphazard storyline.
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The solution to this is simple: allow certain characters to have voiced dialogue. It doesn’t need to be too prevalent. We just need enough so that a story can be told and properly understood; give certain characters some lines to help with exposition. It’s not as if all Nintendo characters are mute.
Of course, the biggest draw to an SSE-style adventure mode, at least in my mind, is the calvacade of glorious, beautifully rendered CG cutscenes that fire off as you progress. My little ten-year-old mind was constantly imploding as it beheld the badassery and hilarity of all these Nintendo characters teaming up to fight a greater evil. Even the SSE’s detractors have to admit that the world is a better place for having been introduced to such cutscenes as The Great Invasion and The Two Captains. And who didn’t get a tear in their eye after watching Lucas go from coward to hero, or from seeing R.O.B. attacked by his own kind, helpless to stop the Subspace bombs? There was just so much GOLD here, and I know I’m not alone in wanting to be able to experience such a spectacle again.
The newcomer trailers succeeded in capturing some of the Sakurai-delivered magic of the SSE, but it’s simply not the same. The explanation Sakurai gave us for this, which you can read about here, was that the cutscenes were meant as rewards for going through the SSE, and that people had ruined that by uploading them onto YouTube. Fans were understandably skeptical of this strange explanation; many simply assumed he only gave that excuse as an alternative to admitting that they hadn’t done a good job with Brawl’s adventure mode and didn’t want to risk more negative reception. Another possible explanation is that it was due to split development between the Wii U and 3DS versions.
I say give it another shot. They shouldn’t give up on the concept altogether just because they made mistakes the first time: reflect upon and correct them. There’s a lot of potential to be had in another SSE-style adventure mode, and I dearly hope they try and tap into that potential once again in the next Smash installment.
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