Prior to launch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was criticized for perpetuating Native American stereotypes through one of Mr. Game & Watch's animations. Now the crossover fighting game is being accused of having even more racist content on Twitter, the Resetera forums, and elsewhere.
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, players earn Spirits by fighting various fighters under special conditions. The game establishes a pattern of trying to make the fighters match in some way with the Spirits they are representing. For example, players might fight Zero Suit Samus in a white costume when trying to unlock the Spirit for The Boss, as they look similar. Considering this pattern, some have taken offense to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate using Diddy Kong and Donkey Kong to represent Spirits of black characters in the game.
Some people online have said that this is an example of racism on Nintendo's part, and point to previous work by game director Masahiro Sakurai where he included characters that appear to resemble blackface. Others believe that this wasn't intentional racism, and that using the Kongs to represent black characters can be explained. For example, they point to Diddy Kong and Dee Jay having somewhat similar fighting styles, and they also point out that Donkey Kong was a secret boss at the end of Punch-Out!! on the Wii, so that's why he represents Mr. Sandman's Spirit.
However, the controversy doesn't end with the Kongs. There is also a Spirit in the game of Tac, a notorious thief from the Kirby series. Instead of fighting Kirby or Meta Knight when trying to unlock the Tac spirit, players fight a black version of the Villager character from Animal Crossing. People have also pointed out that the battle with the black Villager also sees the enemy with "increased move speed," potentially perpetuating two racist stereotypes - that all black people can run fast and are thieves.
Whether or not Nintendo intentionally included this kind of content in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to be racist is up for debate. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the company handles the criticism, and if it decides to change anything in a patch like it did with the Mr. Game & Watch Native American stereotype.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is out now, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.