Sora from ‘Kingdom Hearts’ is the last addition to the ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ roster
It’s the end of an era. The 89th and final fighter to join the cast of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Sora, the protagonist of the Kingdom Hearts series.
The announcement came from a pre-recorded Tuesday-morning presentation by Smash director Masahiro Sakurai, who also provided a 40-minute breakdown of Sora’s background and moves. (In what Sakurai swears is a total coincidence, Sora — the Japanese word for “sky”— shares his name with Sora Ltd., the small game company Sakurai co-owns with his wife Michiko.)
Kingdom Hearts is a popular series of action-RPGs that crosses over characters from Disney franchises — Goofy and Donald Duck are Sora’s sidekicks for many of his adventures — and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy.
Sora himself is an original character who is charged with defending various worlds, many of which are explicitly based on popular Disney franchises such as The Little Mermaid and Toy Story, from incursions by malevolent creatures called the Heartless.
While the Kingdom Hearts series began on the PlayStation 2 in 2002, several side games like 2012’s Dream Drop Distance were released on Nintendo portables like the 3DS.
Until today, the only Kingdom Hearts game on the Nintendo Switch was the 2020 rhythm-based spin-off Melody of Memory. However, Sakurai disclosed during the Sora presentation that the first three games are being ported to the Switch at an unspecified point in the future, with 2019’s Kingdom Hearts 3 planned for release via cloud gaming.
Naturally, due to Disney’s involvement, getting Sora into Smash presented some unique licensing difficulties for Nintendo, with Sakurai noting that Sora required “more coordination” than other characters. There’s a rather conspicuous lack of direct references to Disney characters in Smash, despite how prominently they feature in the actual Kingdom Hearts series, which suggests there have been some legal workarounds here.
Sora in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a light, floaty character who’s deliberately been made easy to use, as opposed to some of the more complicated DLC fighters like Pyra/Mythra. While he’s technically fighter #82 on the official roster, the inclusion of various “echo fighters” — characters who play identically but look different, such as Ryu and Ken — means the final roster for Ultimate is 89 characters.
Many of Sora’s moves are based off of his appearance in the original Kingdom Hearts, such as a 3-hit ground combo. His special moves include a multi-directional airdash called Sonic Blade, a Counterattack which lets him block and retaliate against incoming hits, and three offensive spells, Firaga, Thundaga, and Blizzaga, the availability of which rotates in that order whenever Sora casts one.
As with every character in Smash, Sora comes with eight different color variations, since a single game of Smash could theoretically have up to eight players using Sora at once. Sakurai noted during the presentation that Sora’s particular variations are the most elaborate of any character in Ultimate, as each one represents a specific version of the character from his home series.
Sora’s P5 variation in particular is from the Timeless River world in Kingdom Hearts II, which is visually based off of 1928’s “Steamboat Willie,” the short cartoon that originally introduced Mickey Mouse to the world. As such, P5 Sora in Smash is in black-and-white, with a unique set of simplified facial animations to make him look like an early 20th-century cartoon.
Players who purchase Sora also get his unique character stage, Hollow Bastion; a new Spirit Board that features eight other original characters from Kingdom Hearts, including Kairi and Riku; and nine of the original, non-Disney-affiliated songs from the KH series’s soundtrack. Players who have save data from Melody of Memory on their Switches will also unlock a tenth track, a swing arrangement of “Hand in Hand,” which is also used as Sora’s victory theme.
The Hollow Bastion stage in Smash is a simple floating platform, with Maleficent’s castle from the original Kingdom Hearts visible in the background. However, when a fight set in Hollow Bastion draws towards its conclusion, the stage transitions to a new area, Dive into the Heart, which is a darkened arena with special character art from KH visible in the background.
At the start of the presentation, Sakurai also announced the eleventh and final round of special paid costumes for player-created Mii Fighters. This is a relatively small wave, which includes two special character hats taken from Nintendo’s Splatoon series, but it also marks the introduction of a full character costume based upon the Slayer, the protagonist of the Doom series of video games. The Doom Slayer outfit, for Mii Gunners, is based upon his appearance in 2016’s Doom.
While it’s hard to tell if this was deliberate, since the Doom Slayer was one of the most commonly-requested characters for Smash, his appearance as a Mii costume also follows up on one of the funnier running jokes of early 2020.
When it was announced that Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons would come out on the same day as Bethesda’s Doom Eternal, the Internet decided all at once that this meant the Slayer was best friends with the Animal Crossing signature character Isabelle. This led to countless comics, cartoons, animations, and parody songs. Now the Slayer and Isabelle can hang out together pseudo-canonically in Smash.
A new wave of Smash Amiibos is also planned for release next year. Minecraft‘s Steve and Alex will come out in collectible toy form next spring, while Sephiroth, Pyra, Mythra, and Kazuya are all planned for release after that.
According to Sakurai, today’s reveals mark the last downloadable content that Nintendo will release for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after three and a half years. Since its release in late 2018, Ultimate has become the third best-selling game on the Switch, with 24.77 million copies in circulation as of June of this year. Once Sora is released, a full version of Ultimate will include 89 fighters, 116 unique stages, 140 Mii Fighter costumes, cameos from over 450 games, and a soundtrack comprised of over 1,100 songs.
Ultimate also has a professional tournament league, which held its latest event, Low Tide City, in Round Rock, Texas, this past weekend. Nintendo is notorious for keeping Smash‘s pro scene at arm’s length, but did partner with the amateur-league organizer PlayVS in May to make both Smash and Splatoon into varsity-level athletics.
Sora, as well as the new Mii Fighters, will be available for purchase on Oct. 18. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate owners who’ve bought the second Fighter Pack will automatically get Sora for no additional cost, but Sora can be bought individually for $5.99.