On the night of December 7, 2018, Level Up Games South St. Paul hosted a midnight release party for the latest installment in the Super Smash Bros. series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The game, highly anticipated within the Nintendo community, was first announced last March.
Although it was late, the store was packed with people wanting to get playtime with the new game. It was clear some had been camping out for the entire evening. Backpacks and jackets littered the room, one person was taking a nap on the floor, and another wore their pajamas to the event. In between matches, a couple of teenagers told me they had been there for “at least four hours.”
The store walls were lined with monitors and Nintendo Switch consoles. Gamers of all ages huddled in groups of two to four and smashed their retro GameCube controllers. Those playing were focused solely on the game, only breaking play to share impressions on it.
The event built off a regular Thursday-evening event Level Up hosts for Super Smash Bros. Wii U (better known as Smash 4). This previous ongoing event catered to the competitive Twin Cities Smash 4 scene, and the launch event drew in many of those players to the store. Those I spoke to voiced excitement over technical changes in the game, among them Minneapolis gamer Yatiyaña Schaper. Known by his screen name, yeti, he ranks nationally among some of the best players of the game. Schaper looked forward to technical changes the game would bring, telling me that new battle mechanics like a new ability to parry were “amazing,” and that he loves all the new characters.
Others were excited for changes in the Twin Cities Smash scene that would result from the game. Community organizer and “Smash dad” Josh Marcotte is ready for a changing community. “I’m excited to see a Smash game on a console as well-received as the Switch,” said Marcotte. “I’m so excited for the bevy of new players that will be welcomed into our folds.” Fellow gamer Priscilla Sortino said she hoped some of these new players would be women. The list of new playable characters includes the adorable Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and Sortino thinks that “new characters like Isabelle and Daisy will encourage more women to play Smash.”
Marcotte and Sortino also emphasized their optimism about the changing relationship between the competitive Smash community and Nintendo. During the lifetime of Smash 4, Nintendo “didn’t pay attention to the competitive scene,” Marcotte said. He described the company as being “slow to embrace the e-sports scene.” However, organized events for video games like Arms and Splatoon 2 have given Smash fans hope. As a competitive player, Sortino is excited for what “Nintendo is going to do for the competitive scene now.”
For Twin Cities Super Smash Bros. players, it’s clear this game will change more than mechanics and playable characters. It will also change their community.