Nintendo is handing the next two games of its blockbuster franchise to an unexpected developer.
Last year, Nintendo announced that its flagship fighting series Super Smash Bros. would be coming to both the Wii U and the 3DS for its next installment. Series creator Masahiro Sakurai admitted that his studio, Sora, would not be ready to begin work on the new project until the game they were then working on, Kid Icarus: Uprising, was finished. Now, Nintendo has revealed that development has begun in earnest, with an unexpected lead developer: Namco Bandai.
The decision may not be as strange as it first sounds. "All the top creators from Namco Bandai are gathered here to create a never-before-seen dream team for this project," boasts Namco's Masaya Kobayashi. While Sakurai will continue to supervise development, he will be joined by Namco veterans like Yoshito Higuchi, producer and director of the Tales series, and Tetsuya Akatsuka, producer and director of Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. The main development staff of the Tekken franchise will also be working on the project, with Sakurai's Sora studio assisting in development.
Sora was planning on developing a 3DS Super Smash Bros. title following Kid Icarus, but the announcement of the Wii U opened a new door for the studio. Because a dual-platform title would have been an ambitious goal for Sora alone, it instead recruited Namco, which has plenty of experience developing fighting games. "Currently, the prototype prepared by Namco Bandai Games and Namco Bandai Studios' special team looks pretty good," says Sakurai. "In order to take advantage of the fact that there will be versions for two different systems, and to maximize and offer fun new gameplay elements, the entire team is going to work hard together."
The previous Smash Bros. game, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, was also a joint effort from multiple developers. While some fans have voiced concerns about bringing Namco Bandai onto the project, Sakurai has defended the decision at least once on Twitter, telling a doubtful fan to "Knock off looking down on them with narrow-minded thinking."