My first experience with Super Smash Bros. Melee was at a friend’s house. I’d played the original game and was excited that a new one was out, but hadn’t gotten my own copy yet. The main thing I remember about my first experience with Melee is trying out the Adventure Mode. In the original Smash the main single player mode was the Classic mode, a series of predetermined matches unconnected by any sort of overarching story. When Melee’s classic mode changed things up to feature random matches, it brought in Adventure Mode: a series of predetermined encounters that this time featured cut scenes and themes to tie everything together in a sort of logical order. I loved playing through Adventure Mode – stomping on Goombas as Link and zapping ReDead as Pikachu was a cool experience.
In the first four Smash titles a number of single player modes have come and gone, and now with a fifth Super Smash Bros on the horizon the time seems right to speculate about what the newest single player mode might hold. After last week’s discussion of characters who need a redo, you all spoke up with your votes and chose single player as the next topic to tackle. So let’s stop with the intro and start talking about what Smash Five might hold for single player shenanigans!
#5: STORY MODE
This is perhaps the most straightforward and also most ambitious way to handle things, a game mode a la Subspace Emissary that tells a 5-10 hour story where you slowly unlock and play as all of the cast members in the game. This would have all of the trappings of a typical fighting game single player campaign: interactions between characters in cut scenes, battles against specific opponents given context through a narrative, and a huge final boss to contend with using your picks from the full cast of the game.
While I think a select few aspects of Subspace Emissary might be worth preserving, a lot of the features of this mode really should just fall by the wayside. Rather than having an original character as some huge cryptic final boss, the game should feature a major Nintendo villain (or two) as the final confrontation for the player to overcome. One suggestion I’ve heard online is to use Hades from the Icarus series – having not played that game myself, it’s hard for me to say whether or not I agree with that, but I certainly prefer that idea to using a random villain like Tabuu. From a story perspective, I think somebody like Hades or Mother Brain would make a lot of sense as a character that could organize some kind of multiverse-wide evil scheme.
The big advantage that I see for a mode like this would be getting to see the neat cut scenes between the different characters. It was a lot of fun seeing unusual combinations of characters hanging out in the Subspace Emissary. The friendship that developed between Samus and Pikachu, for example, or how Pokemon Trainer protected the more timid Lucas when Ness was no longer around. The Nintendo universe has some amazing personalities and I think a mode that showcases all of them together could be a lot of fun.
#4: ADVENTURE MODE
Melee’s new single player mode may not have been as ambitious as Subspace Emissary, but as a story mode for a Smash Bros title it made a lot of sense. You have some fun, goofy little sequences in a number of Nintendo worlds that vaguely justify battles against the heroes (or villains) of those worlds. It’s a bit longer than classic mode but not so long as Subspace Emissary, so you can play it in a single sitting pretty reasonably. And because the mode functions the same for any character who participates in it, you don’t end up in situations where you’re stuck or don’t feel like proceeding because you have to play through as a character you don’t like.
I think with the Switch’s capabilities and with the much larger number of franchises that are now popular in the world of Nintendo, there’s room to do more than one Adventure Mode arc. Smash Five could feature themed worlds for some of the major franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, exploring multiple locations and fighting multiple characters from those settings as you explore. This way you’re not limited to one run through Adventure Mode before you’re replaying the same sequence – having four or five Adventure Mode worlds to play through would lengthen the single player experience. And if there’s a unique trophy for each character for each world completed, having four worlds could net you one trophy per special move, and then the basic character trophy could be associated with classic mode and the final smash trophy with something like All-Star Mode.
Of course, one of the things that made playing through Adventure Mode special was trying to discover all the little secrets about the game. If you’ve played Melee, you know what I’m talking about – crossing the finish line just in time to fight Luigi instead of Mario, getting the giant Kirby battle on Popstar, scoring extra points for waiting until the last second on Brimstar. Some of these secrets are just for fun, but discovering others helped you to unlock new characters in the game. Having these neat little secrets would add some fun to the mode while also serving as a great throwback to Melee!
#3: CLASSIC MODE
Playstation All-Stars already stole a bunch of ideas from Smash Bros, so the least they could do is not complain while Smash Bros incorporates some ideas from All-Stars. The main single-player mode in All-Stars was a lot like the classic mode we have now in Smash Bros, but there was one key difference – the battles were contextualized differently for each character in the game. Every character had a different motivation for participating in the Battle Royale, and their motivations put them at odds with each other. I think adding story cut scenes to classic mode could spice up this staple of the Smash Bros series.
Here’s how I envision this working. Say I choose to play as Link. When I start the game, I get a cut scene showing Link doing his normal thing in Hyrule. He’s made his way to Hyrule Castle and here’s Ganondorf – my first battle begins and I take down Ganondorf pretty easily. This unlocks a new cutscene where, with his final breath, Ganondorf opens a portal that consumes Link and flings him to another Nintendo world. There, Link gets into his next battle, and as the game goes on I work my way back to Hyrule Castle. There are eight battles interspersed with very short cut scenes, scenes that are unique for each character. For example, had I started as Palutena instead, my first battle might have been a training sequence where I’m teaching Pit some new battle moves.
This would be a bit work-heavy on cut scenes and could get frustrating when you’re playing through Classic as a character you’ve beaten it with before, but it would keep things a little fresher from character to character (which is certainly how I play classic and how I imagine that others play it too). You get the fun of a bit of added story without any of the faux platforming levels that we’ve come to associate with typical Smash Bros story modes.
#2: EVENT MODE
Of the single player modes in Smash history so far, this one has probably been my favorite. You have a series of bite-sized challenges that task you to accomplish a specific goal. Some examples include defeating giant Bowser as giant Donkey Kong, winning a fight in seven seconds, or surviving against a high-level CPU while waiting on a weaker CPU to show up so you can defeat it. Some of these you play as a specific character, others you can play as any character you want.
The thing that I liked about event mode is that it challenged you to think outside of the box in some of the battles. Most players get the classic Smash Bros versus experience from playing local or online multiplayer, so why not use single player to explore more difficult and specific challenges using the game’s mechanics? The description of some of these events gave them a sort of storyline to work with, or at the very least context for why you had to accomplish the ridiculous challenge set forth by the event. Having even more characters to work with creates the opportunities for an even bigger variety of events!
What could be some fun event ideas? Maybe Sheik and Greninja could have a competition to see who is the better ninja by racing to grab different items that spawn on the stage or avoiding attacks from an invulnerable enemy. Shulk could have a challenge where he has to show off each of the Monado’s modes by defeating one enemy per mode. Mario could have an event where he must only use FLUDD to defeat a horde of Inkling enemies. There are all kinds of neat pairings and cool concepts that could be explored in these bite-sized events, and I think having a single player mode focused more on challenging the player than on reproducing versus mode for a single person would be more engaging.
#1: CAREER MODE
Up to this point, my suggestions have been heavily built on what Smash Bros has already done in the past. The way I see it, the focus of a game like Smash is really on the multiplayer, so they don’t have to get too experimental with single player in order to make the game a success. However, I do prefer to see new content rather than recycled ideas, so my number one concept for a single player mode in Smash Five is a career mode.
This is inspired more by sports titles than by your typical fighting game, but since fighting is a sport in real life this could certainly be an acceptable angle for the game. My idea is that you would choose a character to sponsor and then have that character compete in battles to slowly rise in rank, starting out in low-level tournaments making a few scattered coins and working their way up into “international” competitions where they can make some serious money with each bout. That money could then be used in career mode to snag alternate costumes, rare trophies, or maybe even to unlock new characters for those who don’t get to play multiplayer enough to unlock characters that way.
Single player in Smash Bros has always been about collecting trophies. Career mode could allow you to do so by earning money through ranked tournaments against CPUs that you could then spend on whatever trophy game this particular Smash title offers. Perhaps it could even serve as an alternative to classic where instead of getting a character’s trophy by winning as them, you instead unlock their trophy by defeating them. This could allow you to theoretically get every character trophy while playing as one character, which may not appeal to everybody but would offer an alternative to having to try and figure out how the Ice Climbers work in order to earn their trophy. Filling this mode with fun costumes for the characters that are more meaningful than simple palette swaps would add some extra incentive to try it out for those who don’t care as much for trophies.
That’s gonna be it for me today, adventurers, but I’d love to hear your own thoughts about a single player mode for the new Smash Bros. What kind of modes do you hope they incorporate? Do you have an idea that wasn’t discussed here? Is there an older mode I didn’t mention that you would like to see make a comeback? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to vote on the topic for next Friday’s Smash Five post!