In his YouTube series, Challenger Approaching, Delzethin provides in-depth analyses and discussion regarding potential characters for future Smash releases. So far, his meticulously detailed concepts include common newcomer picks like the Inklings and Decidueye, fan favorites such as King K. Rool and Isaac, and even less discussed characters like Link from Breath of the Wild. We recently had a chance to sit down with Delzethin to learn more about his process and inspiration.
How long have you been in the Smash scene?
A long time, to varying degrees. I've been interested in Smash as a concept ever since 64--which is saying something, since I was in grade school back then and I had no clue who Ness or Captain Falcon were. I followed Brawl speculation from the sidelines and was disappointed in the roster at first, but I did get my two most wanted newcomers (Ike and Lucario). I got more active when Smash 4 speculation came around after the reveal trailer and first few newcomers, because I was older and felt like I had more worth saying. Once again, the base roster was a bit disappointing next to the out-of-control hype we all felt, but some things like the bonus clones ended up making more sense once we understood why such decisions were made, and once again, I did get my two most wanted newcomers (Robin and Shulk).
I'd been interested in competitive Smash ever since a year or so before Brawl once I had learned it was a thing. I've always enjoyed competition, but I'm kinda... physically really frail and not cut out for traditional athletics in the slightest, so it was an eye-opener to learn a fighting game that featured so many characters I cared about had a competitive scene. I followed Brawl for a while at first, fell out of contact since there wasn't an active scene at my university, then went all in once Smash 4 launched. Though I haven't been able to participate much due to some issues that have so far been beyond my control… let’s just say I’ve had awful luck at times the last 5-6 years.
Would you like to elaborate on those issues?
Major neck and spine issues due to misaligned vertebrae, among other things, made it so I couldn’t focus or get work done because I was just in too much pain. Worse yet, it’s still there to a lesser extent. I haven’t been able to keep a normal job because I can have flare ups of pain that leave me almost unable to function until they settle down, and that can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. It’s a giant catch-22: I can’t work or create to my fullest potential because I’m chained down by these issues, I can’t get the issues properly fixed because I don’t have enough money, and I don’t have money because I can’t hold on to a steady job because of the pain.
I decided to try my hand at YouTube not only because it was something I thought I’d be good at. It’s also one of the only chances I have at finding a sustainable career given my circumstances and the economy.
That’s a great segue into my next question: What inspired you to create the Challenger Approaching series?
I started out being a basic “Let's Play” channel with the occasional discussion video, and… I wasn't going anywhere fast. I was trying to think of something I could do to give my channel more of an identity, a niche that'd stand out and be noticed. It was actually a few friends of mine—people I met through the Delphox support thread back during DLC speculation—who first suggested the idea of a video series talking about not just which newcomers could get into Smash, but what they'd be like if they did get in.
Gotta admit, I was pessimistic at first. I was worried my editing skills weren't up to the task, and that not enough people would be interested in listening to me spend Arceus-knows-how-long rambling about character ideas, but both they and a couple other friend groups encouraged me to give it a shot. I owe a lot to them for that. I've gone from "literally who" to having a few people on other sites recognize me from my YouTube videos! It's kind of surreal.
Have you considered going beyond just character concepts? How about stages or items, for example?
Definitely, in the long run. I can only do so much given my current situation, but I already have ideas for both. For one, anyone who's checked the speculation threads every now and then might've seen me hawking my idea for Pokkén Tournament's Ferrum Stadium as a clone of the Pokémon Stadium stages we have so far, but without the type-themed transformations. It'd be a cool crossover and an amazing starter stage for tournament play!
How long does it usually take for you to thoroughly analyze each character you choose?
It can vary. Once the project itself gets going, it usually takes about two weeks at most to fully script out, record, and edit a character concept video, but I'm constantly looking at many different characters and playing around with ideas. If there's a major Nintendo figure who isn't in Smash yet, I probably already have an idea or two for what play style they'd have, or what a few of their stats would look like, or how a special or two would function, or et cetera. I may or may not have plans for some of those. Keep an eye open and an ear to the ground.
Are there any particular characters you most hope to see in future Smash releases?
I hope you realize the floodgate you just opened.
So for one, the time frame here is important. We still don't know exactly what we're looking at for the future. There're pretty credible rumors about some kind of enhanced version of Smash 4 for the Switch, but we don't know if it's merely an updated port like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an "ultimate edition" with a lot of new content building off the Wii U version, or something else entirely. Or who knows, maybe there could be a complete curveball! Since most of each Smash game's newcomers are relevant during its development, an approximate release date is a bigger deal than it's often considered.
So if we're talking a release some time in 2018, there're a few characters I'm interested in. Pokémon in general is a big thing to look at since Gen 7 has been a huge deal and has a lot of interesting choices. You see, moveset potential is another important aspect—we know Sakurai and his team look for newcomers who can bring new, interesting things to Smash, and the bigger the roster gets, the more important it becomes. Pokémon adds so many new characters with each generation that a few always stand out, and this time around, several of them happen to have elemental powers we've seen little to none of on the current roster. It's the kind of perfect storm that I believe means multiple Gen 7 newcomers could easily be happening. Decidueye in particular gets brought up a lot, and you’ve probably seen me pulling for Lycanroc as well because it also checks off a lot of boxes Decidueye does—the new Dusk form has really established itself as being important and therefore someone who’d be on the Smash team’s radars. Or who knows, maybe they even have someone else in mind! Like I said, Gen 7 really has a lot of interesting standouts.
Outside of Pokémon, I'm a bit of a JRPG junkie, so I'm also interested in seeing what Rex and Pyra from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 could be capable of. I think there could be an interesting pseudo-puppeteer play style to be had with them, with things like a few specials having Rex pass his blade to Pyra for interesting mix-ups and stuff. I'd also be up for a Fire Emblem newcomer, but that's pretty unlikely as-is when they were already worried Corrin was pushing the envelope. I also think we could see another Smash Ballot pick, even if we don't see another Smash game for a few years. I was really interested in Isaac and Krystal as far as the Ballot went (I have a thing for elemental powers and spellsword characters, okay?), and maybe they'd both have another shot despite having relevance issues that'd keep them out otherwise. I'm not as into third-parties as most because I think there're a lot of Nintendo-owned characters who get overlooked, but I'd be up for another Square-Enix newcomer (especially another from Final Fantasy, like Terra or Black Mage), among other things… As long as it's done carefully.
What have you learned since beginning the series? Any advice to viewers thinking of creating their own?
Well… for one, I've really learned a lot about the details that go into the canon roster’s concepts now that I've followed in the developers' footsteps a little. There're times where I've been stuck on some aspect of a character, then asked myself, "What would be the best way to portray them in a way that feels true to their identity and games?”, and it often helps. I've made those decisions often enough that it's led me to notice when the actual team did something similar. For example, have you ever noticed how Mega Man fights by using his tools to slowly wear his opponents down and outlast them, just like how he fights robot masters is his own games if you don't have the weapon they're weak to? My concept for Shovel Knight was defensively geared for the same reason!
It also helps to have a general feel for where to make creative breaches that aren't 100% true to character but help contribute to the concept. Like how I decided for my Bandana Dee concept to incorporate attacks from the Parasol and Beam abilities in addition to Spear despite Bandana Dee himself not wielding them normally, since Waddle Dees as a whole are still associated with the former two. It gave him that extra bit of moveset potential he needed—and go figure, the SSF2 team had the same idea! It's like how a few of Ness' PK abilities weren't part of his personal skill set in Earthbound (other party members had them instead) but let him better exemplify the Mother series' unique psychic powers, or how Robin can't normally wield dark magic like Nosferatu in his Tactician class or carry around six different weapons at the same time (much less have them re-spawn when they break), but it was the best way to round out his specials and showcase aspects of Fire Emblem that made his moveset that much more compelling.
But the biggest thing is, while I recommend putting research in if you want your ideas to feel authentic to Smash's style… it's okay if you don't have all the answers at first. Starting something new can feel really daunting, especially with how it can feel like the greater internet will pounce on any mistake or anything they don't like, but it's okay to be rough around the edges at first as long as you're professional about it and your heart's in the right place. You'll grow into the role over time.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to your followers and fans?
Thank you for sticking with me all this way. I know I have my issues and flaws, and I appreciate all of you who've been willing to look past them and give me a fair chance. It's not something I'm used to getting very often.
If you want to lend a hand personally to help me create more content more often, you can support my YouTube channel here: https://www.patreon.com/Delzethin