Speculation over future DLC characters for Super Smash Bro. Ultimate runs rampant online. Everyone from Banjo-Kazooie to the literal embodiment of the Home Depot has been thrown out there by fans. Seriously.
Suffice to say, there’s no shortage of ridiculous rumors swirling around the Smash community now that we know four more DLC characters are coming down the pipeline. Amidst the chaos of sputtering fandom, does any of the gossip hold value beyond whatever sick satisfaction bickering Redditors live for? Players that are clued-in to this wider madness may have heard a very specific name tossed about the Twittersphere and beyond lately: Erdrick.
For the uninitiated, this is the grandaddy-hero-face of the early Dragon Quest games. Prior to their surge of popularity in the west, Dragon Quest went by Dragon Warrior, where many US players may have first encountered Erdrick. As a playable character in the third installment, Erdrick’s history became a foundation on which much of the series lore rests. And as far as JRPGs and Nintendo history go, you can’t go much further back than Dragon Quest and the NES, where Erdrick first popped up on players radar back in 1988.
Those who played the Game Boy Color remakes might be more familiar with Erdrick’s localized name “Loto”, though the truth is Loto and Erdrick are one-and-the-same. This guy has been hanging out in the eaves for a while now, but despite his history, he’s not the most public hero. Dragon Quest, like Final Fantasy, doesn’t exactly have a face for its series; it’s an amalgamation of stories, in a similarly-structured universe, with linked themes and loose sequels. However, as far as representatives from the world’s third highest selling JRPG of all time go, Erdrick might just be that perfect representation of Dragon Quest style, mixed with classic Nintendo history that Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai loves to drag back from obscurity.
There’s more to speculation over Erdrick’s arrival than his rich character history, however. As of late, fans have noticed more and more hints dropped toward a Dragon Quest rep appearing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Even if he doesn’t appear, all signs point to at least another Square-Enix inclusion – and since Dragon Quest is Enix’s baby (and Final Fantasy‘s original competitor before the companies merged in 2003), the logic trail leading to Erdrick’s DLC potential is solid. I would argue, the most solid lead we have yet.
So what’s the story so far?
As of now, we have two confirmed DLC fighters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: the Pirahna Plant (available now) and Joker, from Persona 5 – the first representative from game developer Atlus.
The Smash community has since datamined the latest update to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and within the game, files discovered a number of currently unused movesets and related gameplay assets. The developers have since removed this extra data in a recent patch, but that didn’t keep eagle-eyed dataminers from poking around first. Within, they found information for characters packaged under codenames – “Packun” is the stand-in for Pirahana Plant, for example.
Two more codenames were discovered within the data: “Jack”, which fans speculate to be Joker, and another data set for an unrevealed fighter codenamed “Brave”. The data mined from Jack set appears to contain Jokers general information – the character’s weight, speed, jump ability, and various other assets that define a fighter.
“Brave”, however, was initially an enigma altogether. That said, the sleuthing had to start somewhere: the codename can easily be linked to a number of IPs, where the word “brave” is commonly associated. Fans have speculated everything from Bravely Default (too obvious) to Kingdom Hearts (too unlikely, thanks Disney). On closer inspection, the data revealed a character who is somewhat on the short side, or at the very least hunched, wielding a weapon – so, no DK or Mario style brawling. These are fairly vague details that do little to shed light on just who “Brave” is, but, as this mystery data led players down a hallway with many doors – through which many potential fighters wait – only one of them has recently appeared to have any life hiding behind it.
On February 4th, 2019, Super Smash Bros. supervisor Shinya Kumazaki posted to his personal Instagram a number of photos of Kirby (widely thought of as Masahiro Sakurai’s favorite creation) next to Erdrick’s shield from the Dragon Quest series. The post reads: “The brave’s shield. そして伝説がはじまった！ (And thus, the legend started!)”
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The brave's shield. そして伝説がはじまった！ 盾が手に入って嬉しかっただけで… 全ての写真は他意なく、ただの趣味です。 This picture has no meaning. ーーーーーーーーーーーー ーーーーーーーーーーーー #Shield #Hero #Legend #Weapon #Blue #DragonQuest #GameGoods #Game #Character #Goodies #Kirby #盾 #シールド #ロトの盾 #勇者 #防具 #青い #ドラゴンクエスト #ドラクエ #ドラクエ3 #ゲーム #グッズ #キャラクター #カービィ #방패 #드래곤퀘스트 #게임 #勇者斗恶龙 #游戏
On a platform like Instagram, pictures are posted pretty flippantly, and the rest of Kumazaki’s profile is full of gaming references. The timing of this is all too suspect to not send a message, however. On top of this, there is no known Dragon Quest content in Smash Bros. currently. We know for a fact that the game includes new Spirits in its updates.
What’s particularly vexing about the information we have is that it’s just vague enough to not be this character as well. Nobody saw Piranha Plant coming, after all, and Sakurai is a known master of deflection. But if this is some grand game of 4D chess, with a board that stretches through social media and in-game files, then at least guessing Erdrick’s inclusion is a logical move, even if the developers are ready to flip the board.
Erdrick also partially satisfies a small but important request some players have had in regards to new characters. His overall design is steeped in a style more familiar to fans of anime and manga, which is a vast field of character resources that has officially been cut off by developers.
If Erdrick’s artstyle looks pleasantly familiar, you can thank Dragon Warrior’s creative director, Akira Toriyama. One of the most popular characters from the Super Smash Bros. for WiiU/3DS character poll (formally the Smash Ballot) was Goku, from the Dragon Ball manga and anime series – another Akira Toriyama creation, and undoubtedly one of the world’s most popular anime characters. However, Smash director Masahiro Sakurai has gone on record saying that there is no place for anime or manga characters in Smash Bros’ roster: it is a love letter to video games and video game history alone. In regards to the inclusion of characters from outside of the gaming realm, Sakurai stated:
“It is impossible for manga characters to join (Super Smash Bros.). While we can accept characters from other companies, we cannot, under any circumstances, take in anything and everything under the sky. That’s because (Super Smash Bros.) is a game that requires everyone’s cooperation.”
Toriyama’s style is recognizable enough for even satellite fans of his work to be drawn towards Erdrick’s design. If Smash is good for anything, it’s introducing old characters to new fans, and the value in having a character with the look and feel of the world’s most popular anime goes without question. This also, however, raises the issue of another very popular rumored rep from Square-Enix’s stable of RPG classics – as well another Toriyama-designed swordfighter known for his popularity in the Smash Ballot and beyond: Chrono, of Chrono Trigger fame.
Chrono very well may suck the wind out of Erdrick’s cape in regards to Smash inclusion – I’m ready and willing to admit, he’s got a very slight potential in his own regard. The precedent set for Chrono’s arrival is far less relevant to international players than to us in the west, however. That isn’t to minimize his possibility as a fighter, but instead, we should remember exactly how big Dragon Quest is in Japan – and just how strong Square-Enix has been pushing the IP elsewhere in recent years.
Comparatively speaking, it’s easy math: Chrono appears in approximately one game, barring cameo appearances elsewhere. Dragon Quest has a thirty-year history that extends from the days of the NES to the Switch itself, with Dragon Quest Builders.
The Dragon Quest series borders on being a media empire, with spin-offs, films, and music projects all linked to a highly profitable brand. Chrono Trigger simply does not share the same mass appeal by virtue of its sparse media presence. And while we’re on the topic of Square-Enix one-shots – games like Super Mario RPG from which popular Smash hopefuls like Geno spawn – we can probably put to bed their inclusion as well, especially in light of the evidence pointing towards Erdrick’s arrival.. not that that will keep people from vocalizing their hopes.
There are countless standalone titles of a bygone era from which people can draw fantasy picks. Especially if they’re a Square-Enix title, they’re likely great games in their own regard. Tons of characters from the company’s history could easily finagle themselves into having Smash movesets. The truth is, they’re mostly trapped in the same amber of nostalgia as Chrono. Valuable as they may be on a personal level to many gamers, good memories alone do not hold a candle to the potential profit intrinsic to a franchise like Dragon Quest.
From a historical perspective – and from a sales perspective – Dragon Quest is far more relevant to the interests of someone like Sakurai, who sees the value the synergy between Smash’s popularity and that of other properties. There’s a valid reason behind every Smash fighter’s appearance in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and those reasons are all strung together by two themes: money (first and foremost), and gaming history. Unless there’s some kind of clandestine revamp of an old Square-Enix series in the works, all signs point to it being Dragon Quest’s time in the Smash Bros. limelight.
This isn’t about a vague 4chan leak. This isn’t a Vergeben Gamefaqs drop. This is simply following the same logic that has led to every character we’ve seen thus far. I don’t really have any personal stake in Erdrick’s inclusion. I liked the earlier Dragon Quest games but fell off the wagon long ago. However, if he’s in? It’s just like Persona 5, another game I’ve been putting off: seeing the character in action might just push me to finally buying the game. And ultimately, we all know that’s Smash’s modus operandi.
Start warming up to the idea of a Dragon Quest rep if you haven’t yet. I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but it makes too much sense given the information we have. Don’t be disappointed if Erdrick takes the spot of someone else you preferred; he isn’t Goku. He isn’t Chrono. He isn’t Geno. But he comes from an incredible series that is worth investing time into, and worthy of representation in gaming’s biggest crossover event. Even if the reasons behind his inclusion boil down to a cynical matter of profit, that doesn’t mean that spot wasn’t earned.
… as for the matter of “too many sword fighters”… I’ll let the rest of the internet tackle that one.