Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the 5th instalment of the Super Smash Bros. Series. It is a franchise which involves mainly Nintendo icons and some third-party characters competing to knock their opponents off the stage by hitting them to increase their percentage, the unit of measurement to gauge knock-back potency. This sub-genre of the fighting game is called a “Platform Fighter,” as it instead focuses on control over an arena (most commonly a platform) to gain stage control over an opponent rather than a focus on your adversary’s health. The game has been widely successful, selling 25.7 million copies worldwide on the Nintendo Switch, making it the 3rd best selling Switch Game, behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing New Horizons. These numbers could be explained by the simple gameplay and all-star cast of characters, giving the game mass appeal. The development team put care into each character including references and moves from their original games to adapt them to fit a fighting game environment.

After Smash Bros. for Wii U released, a few waves of DLC were announced, this led to people speculating on who might be a belated addition to the roster, one suggestion being the character of the newly released Nintendo game, Inkling from Splatoon. Unfortunately, due to the game being released after Smash Bros. for Wii U, they couldn’t add Inkling, because they had to make time to include the character from the yet to be released Fire Emblem Game, Corrin (I’m not bitter… I swear). Inkling finally got their turn (after Corrin pushed in the queue) in the next game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

As previously mentioned, the Inkling comes from Splatoon. In this (and its sequel, Splatoon 2) the player and a team of 3 other members fight another team of 4 in “Turf Wars”, where the goal is to shoot ink (out of several different weapon types) of your team’s colour onto the map. Whichever team has the most ink layered on the ground wins. Players can switch between being a kid and a squid. As a kid, they can use their weapons to lay ink, as a squid, they can swim in the ink (whether it’s placed on the floor or on a wall), this gives them heightened mobility and agility as well as recharging their ink. When the game released, the Inkling became my most wanted character to see in smash, I felt that their games’ focus on stage control could translate very well into smash, as well as them having a variety of weapons to pull moves from and their over-all design fitting quite well into Nintendo’s cast. So how well was this accomplished? Quite well.

For those who aren’t aware, Smash Bros. moves, with most characters, are slit up into normal attacks, smash attacks and special attacks. The normal is the most generic of the 3, they are activated by pressing A with the analogue stick either centred or in a direction, the attacks also change depending on whether the player in the air. Inkling’s normal attacks don’t really correspond to equivalents in their game of origin, the closest to one is their rapid jab (the attack activated by holding A with the stick centred), which sees the Splattershot (the gun that most encapsulates Splatoon’s mechanics) being used to disperse bursts of ink, which isn’t how it’s used in Splatoon. In that game it’s used as a rapid-fire gun that shoots dinstinct bullets of ink. These inaccuracies and lack of reference from the source material might seem bad, however there are more subtle references to Splatoon, for example in the way the designers gave Inkling a unique way of moving designed around their anatomy. Inklings don’t have a skeletal structure, instead they can make fluids in their body more or less dense, this is how they transform. To reference this the developers gave the inklings a bouncy and almost liquid-like way of movement. This type of movement can be seen in actions such as their down attack, where they kick using a break-dancing-esque move (which could be a reference to the inkling’s dance culture). In this move you can see the Inkling contort to go from position to position, this type of movement can be seen in their neutral air and up aerial attack. The way the Inkling animates gives them a type of flow that only their style can pull off, that being exaggerated key poses in the animation connected through in-betweens where the Inkling shows off their contortionist abilities. Their liquid-like movement also makes them very bouncy; this makes them feel very energetic and youthful, which does fit with the character. Another move that I want to highlight is the ability activated by dashing and pressing A, this sees the inkling transform out of their squid form (used as their dash) and into their kid form attacking with their elbow. I really like this move as, whilst not referencing anything explicitly, it uses implied logic from Splatoon with the squid changing to a kid and using the speed gained from swimming in the ink and the mass gained in the transformation to create an attack, it’s a cool adaptation of the Inkling’s abilities.

Let’s move onto the smash attacks, which are chargeable moves that can be activated in any direction but only when grounded. The side smash is the Paintbrush, this is an alternate weapon type that in Splatoon allows players to create thin paths of their ink colour to walk or swim through, players can also rapidly press the “use” button to flick ink at their opponents. In Smash Bros, this acts as a chargeable attack that hits the player once. Their down smash is the Slosher another alternate weapon type, that in Splatoon takes the form of a bucket, it disperses a large amount of ink in a short range, in Smash Bros. this is used to sweep both sides of the character. The up special is the Blaster, which is another alternate weapon type, it fires a slow but powerful shot that can directly hit an opponent for a one hit death, it’s fitting to be a smash attack.

The special moves all reference something from Splatoon. The neutral special is a more traditional use of the Splattershot, a rapid fire, low damage, mid-range attack. The only difference from Splatoon is that you can’t move around while using it. The side special is the Roller, which is an alternate weapon type that can disperse ink by smacking it on the floor and then rolling over it. It functions like that in Smash Bros. too, putting ink on the ground is unique to that move in smash, it stays on the ground for a short period and can slow down opponents. If an opponent is hit by the Roller, they become stuck in the ground, allowing for the Inkling to perform a follow up attack with a powerful move. In Splatoon, if a player is rolled over by a Roller they are instantly killed, I’m glad they didn’t carry that over. Their down special is the sub-weapon Splat Bomb, this can be held by the player to change the angle it is thrown. The longer it’s held the further it will be thrown, then after a few seconds it explodes. this works the same as it does in Splatoon, except, much like the Splattershot, you can’t move whilst holding it. The up special is the squid jump, this sees the Inkling turn into a squid and jump up into the air, this is taken from what happens when an inkling jumps to a teammate in Splatoon, the only difference is that in smash bros, there is a hitbox at the end, which damages the opponent and knocks them back.

Whilst references are all well and good, Smash Bros. also translates the mechanics of the character’s original title into their move set, Inking being no different. Any ink based attack covers their opponent in ink, which makes them more susceptible to Inklings attacks by increasing the damage they receive from them. The ink is also based on a tank the player has to refill by going into squid mode by holding shield and B. Usage of ink based attacks when the tank is empty will mean they won’t activate or use a weaker version of the attack. I like this mechanic a lot as I think it subtly translates what Splatoon’s gameplay involves into a fighting game character, that being maintaining advantage on your opponent through ink coverage. In Splatoon, ink coverage allows the team more movement options, limiting the opponent’s movement. In Smash Bros, ink coverage also correlates to the character’s effectiveness. However in both games you can’t just keep laying ink, you have to allocate time where you don’t attack to allow your ink to recharge, and it is in both games here where you are vulnerable. Both Smash and Splatoon encourage you to spread ink to win the game.

Whilst this move set translates a lot from Splatoon and the character of the Inkling, there are some missed opportunities that I believe would’ve been nice to see. First would be the side smash, which as mentioned previously is a smack by the Paintbrush and doesn’t carry over from how the weapon works in Splatoon, I think the side smash should have been the Charger. In Splatoon, the Charger acts as a sniper rifle, you charge it up and release to fire a long path of ink, instantly killing the all players in its sights. However, if you don’t charge it at all it is very weak and leaves the player vulnerable to taking damage. I think that would be perfect for the side smash. This move would be very weak and short ranged when not charged, leaving the Inkling vulnerable if they activate the move uncharged, but when its fully powered it would have one of the greatest ranges and be among the strongest smash attacks in the game. Unlike most smash attacks, the move will charge up exponentially in strength, rather than linearly, this would make it extremely weak at the start but extremely powerful at the end. The Paintbrush would be moved to the jab, where it can act like it does in the original game. The neutral special is something I would also change, allowing players to move around whilst spreading ink, to compensate for this useful ability and make it more balanced the move will do no knockback.

I think the interpretation we see of the Inkling in Smash Bros. is a really interesting and fun one. They are one of the character I play the most because playing as them uniquely rewards skill in the gameplay and because of how they animate. It demonstrates a deep understanding of both Splatoon and Smash Bros. to create a moveset that fits into the game and also managed to feel natural for the fighter and not make their version in Smash Bros. seem at odds with what players expect from this character. This is why I like Smash Bros.

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