Warner Bros. has just revealed MultiVersus, its upcoming crossover fighter that’s basically Nick All-Star Brawl but with Warner Bros. characters. And if you’re thinking ‘what’s Nick All-Star Brawl?’ then don’t worry, I forgot about it too. It might be better to say MultiVersus is basically Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with Warner Bros. characters, but then, it’s not really that at all. It wants to be that, in the same way Nick All-Star Brawl wants to be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with Nickelodeon characters, but both games are missing the point on what Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is.

We live in a world that loves IP. The MCU is an unstoppable juggernaut simply because it is the MCU. It makes record breakers out of lesser known stars because they’re all folded into the ever-unfolding universe that is the MCU. They could announce that Paint Dry Man, the superhero who watches paint dry, would be joining the MCU in 2023 played by Timothee Chalamet and everyone would lose their minds. Fortnite has a new crossover every week, and we’re at the stage of IP worship where people define themselves, first and foremost, by what brands they enjoy. It’s for this reason that new characters joining Smash is so exciting, but it’s not why Smash is good, and these knock-offs don’t understand that.

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Related: Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Has Forgotten Nick's Core AudienceThe MCU did not become a hit machine overnight. The MCU works because people know there’s a certain quality you can expect with an MCU film. They’re not for everyone, and they lean way too heavily on formula, but you know when you park your bum in the cinema with a box of popcorn that you’re getting a B+ movie or better, guaranteed. The DCEU tried to copy this and failed, rushing ahead to a team up without establishing the heroes we were supposed to be rooting for. Justice League expected us to be excited by IP alone, and while we worship IP, we don’t care about it all that much in isolation.

multiversus
via Warner Bros

Smash is a very good fighting game. I don’t want to get too into the weeds with ‘it’s not a fighting game, it’s a party game’ - look, whatever it is, it’s very good at it. You know if you play Smash, you’re in for a good time. The IP is interesting, sure. It’s cool to have Cloud Strife, Pikachu, Ryu, Solid Snake, Kirby, and the Wii Fit Trainer in the same game, and it’s even cooler that Joker, Kazuya, Steve, and Sora joined the party later. But the thing we care about is that Smash is an incredible video game. If it was trash, the thrill of Sora vs Joker is meaningless. It’s just two characters from games I’ve already played slapping each other until one of them flies off the screen. It doesn’t matter in any meaningful way - it’s hollow. For some reason, it’s this hollowness Nick All-Star Brawl and MultiVersus have decided to copy.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh on MultiVersus - we’ve only seen a trailer right now. Let’s look at Nick All-Star Brawl though. It launched with a cast of 20 characters from 13 different series, and precisely zero voice lines. The promise was that more characters (and the character voices) would be added later, but seeing as the game fizzled on impact and quickly faded away, we might never get those updates. It did get a nomination at The Game Awards, but having a nomination in the Fighting Game category in a year with no Tekken, no Street Fighter, no Mortal Kombat, no Injustice, and no Smash doesn’t seem all that difficult.

Catdog and Spongebob in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl

Nick All-Star Brawl traded entirely on the aesthetics of Nickelodeon, but ironically, had none of the character. It was all just vague images of characters we kind of recognise. A bland arcade mode was the only thing to dive into aside from online play, and several of the ‘rewards’ were just screenshots of characters not in the game. No names were offered, no information, nothing of any value. Just a picture of some dork from TMNT. Thanks.

MultiVersus might be different - it has voices, for one. It’s not just phoning them in either, since Matthew Lillard is back for Shaggy, while Kevin Conroy is Batman. It has Harley Quinn and Arya Stark too, so I’m definitely going to check it out, especially as a free-to-play game. Maybe being free-to-play will be the making of it, but maybe it will mean it all feels a bit cheap. The fighting so far looks sluggish and limp, especially compared to how zippy and deliberate Smash is.

It’s not just a Smash clone - the teamplay element of it is interesting. But is it enough? Smash has cornered this market, and it feels like Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon are putting too much faith in their IP. We don’t care about IP this much. I know it seems like we do, but I promise, we don’t. If anything, phoned-in IP makes us like something less, because we know what these characters are capable of. Adding Batman and Harley invites an Injustice comparison on top of Smash, which is even more of an uphill struggle.

Maybe MultiVersus will be great, but I don’t expect it will. I expect it will be another Nick Brawl, and we’ll forget about it pretty quickly and go back to playing Smash.

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