The Smash Bros. Spirits you may not have heard of
Well, here we are. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally out, just in time for Nintendo fans to cause rampant noise complaints through the holidays. Reggie Fis Amie calls Ultimate “The biggest crossover in gaming history,” and with that comes a heck of a lot of obscure video game references.
Thanks to the new “Spirits” mode, Nintendo has been able to incorporate hundreds of characters into Ultimate that would have never made the cut for the roster. Many spirits are well known fan favorites, such as the notorious Waluigi. Others are more obscure, referencing games that weren’t released in English. While Ultimate does tell us the origin of each Spirit in the game, it unfortunately doesn’t give us any descriptive flavor text like trophies did in past games. But fret not! We’re here to do what Nintendon’t, and we don’t even need blast processing to do it either!
Here are 10 of the most obscure Spirits in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The following were selected by not only their obscurity, but by how intriguing their source material is. I know this seems like a cop-out, but unless you love reading the rules of mahjong, I’m doing you a favor here.
10 : Culdra
Have you ever wanted to play a video game that was like a mash up of Monopoly and Magic the Gathering? I know your answer is probably “no,” but you might be interested in Culdra’s source material anyway.
Culdra is from the series Culdcept, which dates all the way back to the Saturn in 1997. The most recent title in this genre mash-up series is Culdcept Revolt, which actually released in English on the 3DS in 2017. Culdra is the goddess who created the Culdcept, a book that has the power to control the universe. Probably not the wisest thing for a goddess to do, but hey, I’m just a guy who writes top 10 lists.
9: Zael / Aeron
Though Zael and Aeron aren’t actually related to each other, both spirits are equally notable to western gamers.
Zael and Aeron come from the Wii titles The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower respectively. These were two of the three games that were heavily petitioned to come west in the Operation Rainfall fan campaign. You can read more about its origin here.
The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower did wind up coming west in the end, but since the Wii and Wii U are out of production, these titles are often forgotten. That said, the other game in the Operation Rainfall campaign was Xenoblade Chronicles, a game that became so successful that its protagonist got a slot in Smash Bros. It goes to show what a vocal minority is able to achieve with enough coordination.
You’d assume Nintendo would rather us all forget about its ill fated Virtual Boy console. However, Ultimate‘s Spirits are here to remind us of Nintendo’s worst console ever one more time.
Harry is the protagonist of Teleroboxer, a Punch Out!! style boxing game for the Virtual Boy. The cruelest thing about Teleroboxer is that it’s actually an okay game on its own merits. If you don’t mind getting headaches after 15 minutes of play, Teleroboxer comes recommended for retro enthusiasts.
Nintendo is usually pretty good about localizing its quirkier titles that aren’t named Mother 3. But not only did Nintendoji never make it west, it’s prohibitively hard for western audiences to even play it.
Nintendoji is a puzzle-filled dungeon crawler released exclusively for Club Nintendo members in Japan. Players play as the titular Nintendoji on a quest filled with Nintendo references and card-based battles. It’s definitely a genre that’s outside Nintendo’s usual wheelhouse, and its deep roots in Japanese culture probably made Nintendoji too difficult to localize. Or maybe someone made a legally risky reference to The Beatles and no one wants to change it, who knows.
Mistwalker, the company founded by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, feels like it lurks in the shadows sometimes. While they’re most known for the mobile game Terra Battle and the Xbox 360 exclusive Lost Odyssey, five of their twelve titles have landed on Nintendo consoles. These include The Last Story (listed previously) and the tactical RPG ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat.
Aisya is ASH‘s protagonist, and unfortunately I can’t explain much more than that. Like many games I’ll be describing here, ASH is a Japan-only title. An English localization was allegedly in the works at one point, but the best we have today is an allegedly incomplete fan translation. For what it’s worth, ASH‘s battle system is strikingly similar to the stellar Devil Survivor games that would appear on the Nintendo DS years later. If you’re sad about missing out on ASH, make sure to check those games out.
5: Prince of Sable
You know, thanks to Smash Bros., I had to debate whether the Prince of Sable even belongs on this list. He’s the protagonist of Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, often translated as For the Frog The Bell Tolls. The Prince of Sable is the game’s protagonist, and true to the game’s title, he can shift forms between a frog, a human, and a snake to overcome obstacles.
For most players, For The Frog The Bell Tolls is most notable for originating the engine that was used to create the beloved Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Yet despite never receiving a sequel, remake, or even an official English localization, Nintendo has given a ton of love to the Prince of Sable. He was a sticker in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, an assist trophy since Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS, and a frequent cameo appearance in many other Nintendo games. So while the game itself is obscure for western audiences, it’s clear someone at Nintendo really, really loves the guy.
DeMille’s origin resembles the Prince of Sable’s, though Nintendo hasn’t given him nearly as much fanfare.
DeMille originates from Tomato Adventure, a Japan-only RPG for the Gameboy Advance. Tomato Adventure was developed by AlphaDream, the same company that wound up developing the illustrious Mario & Luigi RPG series. From the various minigames in combat to the wacky humor and aesthetics, you can really see how Tomato Adventure influenced Mario’s quintessential RPG series. In fact, the original director of Super Mario RPG actually directed Tomato Adventure.
While I wouldn’t call Tomato Adventure a long lost Mario RPG title, I certainly would imply it.
3: Welt & Idea
Both Welt & Idea are focal characters in the Nintendo DS action RPG Soma Bringer. The game was actually the first title Monolith Soft created after being purchased by Nintendo, though it was not the developers’ first time working with Nintendo hardware.
I could go on about Soma Bringer, but you’re better off checking out the number one slot of our Japan-only games that should have come West list. Yes I’m still salty about it.
2: Captain Rainbow
Did I say Nintendojo was outside of Nintendo’s usual wheel house? In that case, Captain Rainbow for the Wii has left the wheelhouse, secured employment with NASA, and has boarded a rocket on a one-way trip to the furthest habitable planet from which he will never see Mario’s stupid red hat ever again.
(I’m just kidding Mario, I don’t think your hat is stupid).
The titular Captain Rainbow is a superhero slash reality T.V. star who seems vaguely reminiscent of Mike from Star Tropics. After being stranded on an island, Captain Rainbow is charged with helping lesser known Nintendo characters and making their dreams come true. While its quirky premise fits Nintendo’s style, what doesn’t fit is its surprisingly vulgar and adult sense of humor. Just trust me when I say you’ll never look at Birdo the same way again after playing this.
Captain Rainbow has a dedicated cult fanbase, which means there’s a basically complete fan translation floating around the internet. If you have the means to play this one in English, you’ll be in for a weird and wild ride.
1: Ouendan Cheerleaders
Are the Ouendan Cheerleaders the most obscure Spirits in Ultimate? I don’t know, you tell me. Did I still want to put them at number 1 for a specific reason? You bet!
As their name implies, the Ouendan Cheerleaders hail from the Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan series. If you’re familiar with Elite Beat Agents, that’s technically an entry in the series that was custom made for Western audiences. The games are frantic rhythm titles that are accompanied by wacky comic-book style storylines that slightly change depending on how well you play. Each song generally involves cheering on someone faced with a tough situation, though it’s never exactly clear how aware the characters are of your sweet dance moves.
Even if you know the source material, the Ouendan Cheerleaders can be easy to miss. On the game’s Easy, Normal, and Hard modes, players control a male cheer squad that slightly changes depending on the difficulty. It’s only on the unlockable Very Hard mode that all the usual characters are replaced by the Ouendan Cheerleaders. Working up to that difficulty is no small feat, so actually using the Cheerleaders in game should be considered a badge of honor.
While most Japan-only titles are inaccessible for Western gamers, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is a different story. Even with no knowledge of Japanese, it’s easy to navigate the menus and generally make out what’s going on in each story. Also, since the Nintendo DS is region-free, a Japanese cartridge will play just fine on your console. If you’ve never imported a game before, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is one easiest titles to try for yourself. Thank Sakurai for including these girls as Spirits in Ultimate.