This article was contributed by Matthew Carrico, Editorial Intern.
In esports, the fighting game genre is often overshadowed by genres such as first-person shooters (FPS), multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA), and real-time strategy (RTS) games that often utilize the typical team and competitive structure. That being said, there is still plenty in the fighting game genre that has a sizable fan and player base. Games such as Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, the Street Fighter series, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat have their own dedicated leagues and organizations that do their best to bring action-packed matches in the realm of esports. While usually not following the typical team format, fighting games still offer plenty of enjoyable moments for the audience. It seems that a new player is about to enter this realm, with a Nickelodeon fighting game.
Enter Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, a brand new fighting platformer with clear inspiration from the Smash Brothers series. Instead of pulling characters from recognized video game franchises, All-Star Brawl pulls characters from both classic and modern shows, rounding up Nickelodeon favorites from across the decades. The announcement trailer wastes no time in showcasing a variety of characters. Of course, there are the expected characters in the modern, popular cartoons including Spongebob, Patrick, and Sandy from Spongebob Squarepants. There are also characters from some of Nickelodeon’s most popular cartoons that have since ended or are still ongoing including Danny Fenton from Danny Phantom, Zim from Invader Zim, Lincoln, and Lucy Loud from The Loud House, and even characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Leonardo and Michaelangelo present. What is interesting about the TMNT is that Nickelodeon has played host to a few different incarnations over the years. The ones that are showcased in the game look to come from the 1987 series, its first cartoon incarnation, instead of the versions from the popular 2012 series or the recent Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as premiered in 2018, both on Nickelodeon.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are some of the more obscure and outright surprising characters grazing the line-up in the announcement. These include Helga Pataki from Hey Arnold, Nigel Thornberry from The Wild Thornberrys, and…Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy? What is even more surprising are characters from either obscure shows or obscure characters from well-known shows. I am talking about Oblina from Aaahh Real Monsters and Reptar, a green dinosaur, from Rugrats.
Upon closer inspection of the game, it looks like a standard licensed game that serves as a promotion/celebration for Nickelodeon. However, the developers of the game from the company Ludosity actually have high expectations for the game and hope to draw out the competitive nature of the game. A recent article from Kotaku highlights that despite the licensed nature of the game, the devs at Ludosity have high hopes for its future. Ludosity are no strangers to the fighting game genre having released the positively reviewed platform fighter Slap City back in 2018. Slap City also draws inspiration from Smash Brothers and is even talked about among the Smash community. The article also highlights that Slap City, itself, serves as inspiration for the development of All-Star Brawl and how the company was personally approached by Nickelodeon in light of its success.
Despite the high hopes from the devs, it can be difficult to predict how the game will strike with the audience. Sure there are plenty of cartoons that today’s generation will recognize such as Spongebob, Danny Phantom, and The Loud House. However, there are those characters/cartoons that people have never heard of or only have small memories from their childhoods. The obscure characters are more likely to appeal to the nostalgia of the much older generations.
I am someone who was born in 1999 and thus can be seen as part of the younger generation. Growing up I was exposed to cartoons including Spongebob, Rugrats, and Danny Phantom, and even Hey Arnold! I even dabble in watching some of the shows in the modern line-up as with the case with The Loud House. While I remember Rugrats growing up with characters like Angelica and Tommy Pickles, when I saw the trailer, you would not be surprised that I could not guess that the character Reptar was from that cartoon. I also do not know much about cartoons such as The Wild Thornberrys and Aaahh Real Monsters. To give a perspective, Rugrat came out in 1991 and ran for 9 seasons, not counting the reboot in 2021. Aaahh Real Monsters came out in 1994 and ended in 1997. Finally, The Wild Thornberrys premiered in 1998 and ran until 2004 which is in my time, but I was too young to actually remember any of it and was overshadowed by more popular shows. As a result, these characters may appeal to some of the much older generations familiar with these shows. When compared to Smash Brothers, the character Pac-Man grazes the line-up. Even though he came out in 1980, he is still a widely recognized face in gaming history. On the other hand, some of the characters presented do not have much of a following to them except for cases like Spongebob, Danny Phantom, and arguably Zim.
What I am saying is that some people, specifically the younger generation, maybe drawn away by the character line-up. Of course, I am speaking in hypotheticals. There are also those people in the younger generation who may be intrigued by what characters are going to be announced next for the game. While some may be turned away by the very nature of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl by itself, taking a deeper look into this game, it serves as an homage to various eras of Nickelodeon cartoons. I was surprised to see some of the more obscure characters in the line-up but also interested in learning about their origins. This can give us deeper insight into the shows our parents probably watched as they were growing up and potentially get a similar feeling. Nickelodeon has a bunch of shows that are hard to find nowadays as the constant need to push new, “modern” shows to audiences can often overshadow the works of the past. To be blunt, it is amazing to see Nickelodeon acknowledge some of their older, less-known works in this game and make them known to this generation. While it may not get us to watch the show, simply reading and learning about the show can be just as enjoyable.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is set to release later this year. So, it is too early to tell how it will hit with players and critics as well as determine its viability in the realm of esports. The hype for this game, on the other hand, is in full force despite its status as a licensed game. People are already flocking to social media to lay out their predictions for who from classic and modern Nickelodeon is going to make the roster. The push for Hugh Neutron from Jimmy Neutron has already become a meme cementing itself. While it may not reach the same caliber as Super Smash Bros or Street Fighter, there is still potential for this game to find its footing in the realm of esports, both at the professional and collegiate level. It can be difficult to say where All-Star Brawl will go with its line-up as there are still plenty of cartoons not touched upon. Who do you think will make the roster and will Nickelodeon esports pop off?
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is launching this fall and will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series XS, and the Nintendo Switch.
Photo Courtesy of Maximum Games