An Exhaustive History of Pokémon Representation

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Sakurai has suggested that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will have fewer newcomers than previous entries, but there are some franchises that are practically guaranteed to have new representatives. One of the most likely franchises is Pokémon, which has played a big role in Super Smash Bros. throughout the series' history. With a new Pokémon generation slated to come to Nintendo Switch in 2019, it seems like a good time to examine how these two franchises have worked closely together, ever since the beginning.

Super Smash Bros. (1999)

- Pokemon Red Version and Pokemon Green Version released in 1996
- Two playable Pokémon: Pikachu and Jigglypuff
- One stage: Saffron City
- Five Pokémon appear as stage elements
- Introduction of Poké ball item, featuring 13 Pokémon
- Total number of Pokémon: 20

With two fighters on the original Super Smash Bros. roster, Pokémon is tied with the Super Mario series for most represented franchise. Additionally, Mewtwo was planned as a third Pokémon representative, but was ultimately left out. This is particularly impressive considering that Pokémon was one of the newest franchises present in Smash, having released only three years before Super Smash Bros.’ launch. With Super Smash Bros. having had only 10 series-specific items, it's also noteworthy that 13 original Pokémon sprites and functions were developed in order to include them in this new series through the fan-favorite Poké ball item.

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Super Smash. Bros. Melee (2001)

- Pokémon Gold Version and Pokémon Silver Version released in 1999
- Four playable Pokémon: Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Pichu, and Mewtwo
- Two stages: Pokémon Stadium and Poké Floats
- 18 Pokémon appear as stage elements
- Poké ball item features 29 Pokémon
- Total number of Pokémon: 51

Melee was the most quickly-developed Smash game, with a production period of around 13 months. While the release gap between the first and second Pokémon generations appears rather sizable compared to that of the Smash games, there was a playable beta version of Pokémon Gold available in 1997. This suggests that both games were developed very quickly as a result of their predecessors’ success. Thanks to Pokémon’s continued popularity, its playable-character representation in Smash doubled, adding newcomers Mewtwo and Pichu to the roster. This means that Pokémon was tied with The Legend of Zelda for the second most represented franchise. Melee is also the first Smash Bros. game to feature full 3D models for every Pokémon in the Poké ball item, a feat that is particularly impressive considering that the number of Pokémon more than doubled from what was present in the original Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)

- Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version released in 2006
- Six playable Pokémon: Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Squirtle, Ivysaur, Charizard, and Lucario
- Three stages: Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon Stadium 2, and Spear Pillar
- 15 Pokémon appear as stage elements
- Poké ball item features 30 Pokémon
- Rayquaza featured as a boss battle
- Total number of Pokémon: 52

There was a seven year gap between Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and in that time Pokémon had introduced its third and fourth generations. This meant that the pool from which Sakurai and his team could pull new characters was much deeper than before. The number of playable Pokémon jumped to six, despite Mewtwo and Pichu not returning from Melee. There is leftover data for Mewtwo in the final game that suggests he was cut very late into development, however. In any case, more Pokémon on the roster turned out to not mean much for playable character diversity, as only Lucario is from a generation after the first.

This was the first instance of an apparent trend for the Smash Bros. roster to focus on the original Pokémon games, while simultaneously promoting the latest Pokémon generation through a hand-picked representative. After all, while Lucario was well-liked by fans by the time Brawl came out, he was clearly popular within the Pokémon development team as well. In fact, he was featured in a Pokémon movie released in July of 2005, which was more than a full year ahead of his debut in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. More evidence of The Pokémon Company’s role in Smash comes from a 2008 GDC talk where Sakurai stated that roster selection for Brawl was "essentially completed" on July 7th 2005. This suggests that Sakurai was granted early access in order to include Lucario, despite the fact that the newest Pokémon games were still in development.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014)

- Pokémon X and Pokémon Y released in 2013
- Six playable Pokémon: Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Charizard, Lucario, Greninja, and Mewtwo
- Four stages: Pokémon Stadium 2, Kalos Pokémon League, Prism Tower, and Unova Pokémon League
- 23 Pokémon featured as stage elements
- Poké ball item features 41 Pokémon
- Five Pokémon featured as enemies in Smash Run
- Total number of Pokémon: 75

Thanks to another large gap between Brawl and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Pokémon once again had the opportunity to release two generations of games from which Sakurai could pull. Yet for the first time in Smash history, the number of Pokémon representatives did not increase. In fact, due to a number of cuts, the roster of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U had fewer Pokémon representatives than Brawl’s until Mewtwo was added back in as DLC. The only newcomer from the franchise this time was generation six starter, Greninja. Confirming what might have been suspected about Lucario, Sakurai stated in an interview with Nintendo Dream that Greninja was designed based on little more than concept illustrations. Additionally, he said that the roster was decided by the time the new Smash project was proposed in May of 2012, well ahead of Greninja's official release in Pokémon X and Y.

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)

The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate reveal trailer confirmed that every previous playable Pokémon will return. Additionally, the E3 demo shows that the newest Pokémon games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, are being represented via several Poké ball Pokémon, such as Alolan Raichu, Lunala, and Bewear. Fans have yet to hear about a newcomer, however. Considering that Pokémon has never gone without a new fighter, it seems more a matter of “when” rather than “if.” And more importantly, "who?" While popular opinion seems to call for Decidueye or another Sun and Moon starter, one has to wonder if The Pokémon Company would use the new Smash to promote games that will soon be old news.

This is the first time in series history that Smash Bros. will launch ahead of an upcoming Pokémon title. Given The Pokémon Company's apparent habit of granting Sakurai early access to a Pokémon they plan to heavily promote, is it possible that an unreleased generation’s Pokémon is waiting for us in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? It may seem unprecedented, but Pokémon and Smash Bros. have a long history together, and if any series would take that kind of a gamble on Super Smash Bros., it would certainly be Pokémon.


Author's Note: While the possibility of a next-gen Pokémon is probably unlikely, it seems like DLC at the very least could be a good bet. Whether it's available at launch or not, it sure would be a good way to get Switch owners excited about the brand new Pokémon games. Who do you think makes the most sense as a newcomer? Or, who would you most want?
 
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David "DaDavid" Aguayo

Comments

#3
I really like the idea of Decidueye making it to Smash Ultimate but I find it unlikely seeing as it is the least popular fully-evolved starter for generation seven in Japan. TPCi is also heavily promoting other Pokemon like Mimikyu and Lycanroc. Most people are only supporting the inclusion of Decidueye because of the idea of having the starter type triangle be represented in Smash and Decidueye has been the most relevant fully-evolved grass starter as of late pushing Sceptile in the sidelines. But now that we have Pokemon Trainer confirmed for Smash Ultimate, the chance of Decidueye becoming playable becomes even more grim.

Due to poor timing, I personally feel like this will be the first Smash game that we will probably not see any Pokemon newcomer.
 
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#4
Imagine if Pokémon didn’t get a new rep, like how Mario had no one in Brawl and Zelda/Kirby had nobody in Smash 4? Don’t think the world of Smash Bros fans could handle that
 
#6
Due to poor timing, I personally feel like this will be the first Smash game that we will probably not see any Pokemon newcomer.
I don't think timing hurts this series.

X and Y took about three years to develop. Let's assume the same for Sun And Moon, give or take a year.


XY release: 2013. ==> XY development started: 2010.

Smash 4 project proposal (w/ newcomers) finished: 2012. ==> Gap between Smash 4 and XY development start: 2 years.


SM release: 2016. ==> XY development started: 2013, maybe 2012 or 2014.

Smash U project proposal (w/ newcomers) finished: 2015. ==> Gap between Smash U and SM development: 2 years.


The timing matches up quite well, and a concept-art-based situation like Greninja had in Smash 4 is entirely possible. The main concern is that, unlike last time, the actual release dates of Smash U (late 2018) and SM (late 2016) have a two-year gap. This isn't a reason to doubt it, though.

If the Pokémon Company is all that concerned about advertising recent / new products using Smash, the Sun and Moon anime is still ongoing from what I can tell, so a Sun and Moon rep would help in that regard. I don't see why either Sakurai or TPC would actively turn down a new Pokémon character, in any event.
 
#8
The timing matches up quite well, and a concept-art-based situation like Greninja had in Smash 4 is entirely possible. The main concern is that, unlike last time, the actual release dates of Smash U (late 2018) and SM (late 2016) have a two-year gap. This isn't a reason to doubt it, though.
Yes, my biggest question is whether they would let Smash break the news on the new rep. I could only see it happening if they include a non-evolved starter, which would be pretty interesting.

Pokémon typically (at least recently) reveals their main line games near the start of the year, so, Smash wouldn't even be breaking the news by that much.
 
#9
Yes, my biggest question is whether they would let Smash break the news on the new rep. I could only see it happening if they include a non-evolved starter, which would be pretty interesting.

Pokémon typically (at least recently) reveals their main line games near the start of the year, so, Smash wouldn't even be breaking the news by that much.
I think a Sun and Moon rep is more likely (and that's what I was talking about in my post). It'd be interesting to see a Gen 8 rep, but it's a long shot.
 
#10
I’m pretty sure I got the idea from someone else, but a gen 8 Pokemon as a DLC fighter seems pretty likely.

Saffron City’s return is probably one of my favorite things we currently know about Ultimate. Hard to tell but it sounded like the Pokémon have different voices than the 4kids ones from the original? I’ll miss those if it’s true.
 
#11
I dunno. I personally think Decidueye will be confirmed as playable, but a generation 8 rep is more than possible. For one, decidueye is a very humanoid pokémon, & while not the most popular in some area's in my opinion it has the most potential to be a fighter due to sizing as something small. It is entirely possible to add any other pokémon from Sun & Moon but in my opinion decidueye is the best design wise to save time, even if just a week it helps alot on development time. Plus decidueye is one of the most popular (if not the most popular & voted) character to be in smash.

As for a moveset it's a greninja/sheik situation. Just use it's body & general assets to base a moveset off of. It's an archer, so give it ranged moves. It has claws on it's feet, so make it a kicker with multi-hits. It has wings, so give it multiple jumps, etc. It's a simple idea that gives idea's to sakurai & saves time.

While I think a generation 8 pokémon is fully possible, I think overall decidueye has an edge over the competition.
 
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#13
Seems like a lot of people still assume our only options for Pokémon newcomers are Decidueye or an early arrival from Gen 8.

I wouldn't rely on a quick skim to determine newcomers from a franchise this big. Make sure you look beyond the surface, lest someone slip by you like Greninja was overlooked last time!

Especially considering who has the same role Greninja did right now in the anime. Such a thing would've been planned out a long time in advance...
 
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#14
Seems like a lot of people still assume our only options for Pokémon newcomers are Decidueye or an early arrival from Gen 8.

I wouldn't rely on a quick skim to determine newcomers from a franchise this big. Make sure you look beyond the surface, lest someone slip by you like Greninja was overlooked last time!

Especially considering who has the same role Greninja did right now in the anime. Such a thing would've been planned out a long time in advance...
I definitely have a blind spot when it comes to the anime, so can you please fill me in on who has that Greninja role right now?

I personally don't think Greninja was overlooked at all though. It made complete sense to me even at the time, as he was easily the fan-favorite starter. It only made more sense as time went on and The Pokemon Company put him front and center in a lot of promotional material and of course, like you mentioned, the anime.

Something I didn't get to include in the piece is the fact that Pokémon X and Y were in development for about three and a half years, which makes sense considering they were to be the first set of games on the 3DS. If we assume that Pokémon for Switch has had a similar development cycle so far, then the time frame for a Gen 8 rep lines up pretty closely to when Greninja would've been added.

In my opinion at least.
 
#15
I definitely have a blind spot when it comes to the anime, so can you please fill me in on who has that Greninja role right now?
Well, at the risk of coming off biased, the signature member of Ash's team in the anime this generation isn't even a starter. So we got a character with top billing in related media, important niches in the games (shout out to that promo Rockruff basically being like a second starter in USUM), a boatload of supplementary appearances and merchandise, all adding up to us having strong reason to believe Lycanroc would've been considered for Ultimate. Being a starter isn't all it's cracked up to be when less than half the playable Pokémon in Smash are starters so far, and by this point, Lycanroc is more or less Gen 7's counterpart to Lucario!

And then you add on that these guys are Rock types able to manipulate earth and stone, which would be extremely unique when no one on the roster uses that element. We know uniqueness is a major factor in newcomer choices to where characters have been shelved if they didn't stand out well enough in development, and it's something we should account for. And with every veteran back now...who would be the more compelling option? A second Grass type, or Smash's first earthbender?

I personally don't think Greninja was overlooked at all though. It made complete sense to me even at the time, as he was easily the fan-favorite starter. It only made more sense as time went on and The Pokemon Company put him front and center in a lot of promotional material and of course, like you mentioned, the anime.
Props for picking up on it back then, but from what I experienced, you were in the minority. All the talk surrounding Pokémon newcomers revolved around either Zoroark or Mega Mewtwo Y, with few people thinking to consider anyone else.

Something I didn't get to include in the piece is the fact that Pokémon X and Y were in development for about three and a half years, which makes sense considering they were to be the first set of games on the 3DS. If we assume that Pokémon for Switch has had a similar development cycle so far, then the time frame for a Gen 8 rep lines up pretty closely to when Greninja would've been added.

In my opinion at least.
Thing is, these newcomer choices aren't made in a vacuum, things like timeframes and release windows are accounted for. Greninja wasn't just chosen because X and Y were in development at the time, it was also because X and Y were set to be released a year before Smash 4 was! Gen 6 was going to be relevant at the time Smash 4 hit shelves, so it only made sense to look at Gen 6 for potential newcomers. Ultimate's going to be releasing at a point where Gen 7 will still be relevant, so having anything from Gen 8 in the base release, a full year early, would be a massive jump of the gun.

Not only that, but now we know the very first steps for Ultimate were taken at the tail end of December 2015, a year before Sun and Moon were released. Would they really have looked at Gen 8--which likely hadn't even started development--when Gen 7 wasn't even out yet?
 
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