As the classic saying goes, if you cherish something from your childhood, someday, somehow, corporate licensing departments will find a way to wring every penny from it. Such is true with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, a Smash-style fighting game developed by Ludosity and “exclusively announced” today by IGN. It looks...surprisingly not horrible?
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl pits up to four players against each other on two-dimensional stages that feature asymmetrical platform elements. Like every other Smash clone, you punch each other until you die. Yeah, you’ve probably played this one before. It’s planned for release on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch later this fall.
Just as Smash draws from across the Nintendo Extended Cinematic Universe (and beyond), Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl will feature fighters from various Nickelodeon shows. Nigel Thornberry from The Wild Thornberrys will be playable, as will Danny Phantom from Danny Phantom and characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—who will appear in their own beat-em-up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, later this year. Some of the fighters look...off. Just look at the SpongeBob SquarePants crew—including Patrick Star and that squirrel in the helmet—who seem to sport nightmarishly frozen smiles, as if they each opted for the budget Botox and locked their facial features in place.
Despite some unsettling character designs, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl looks and sounds like it’ll be legit. For one, the developers sport some serious fighting game cred. (Ludosity is the team behind Slap City, a well-regarded Smash clone.) For another, in the Ludosity Discord server, the devs said All-Star Brawl will feature rollback netcode “on supported platforms.”
When you play fighting games online, the connectivity between each machine is dictated by the “netcode.” Rollback, which helps both systems stay on parity and mimics the conditions of local play, is considered a gold standard feature. Here’s my colleague Ian Walker, who expertly detailed what it does and how it works in 2019:
Rollback netcode...makes a prediction about what the opponent is doing as determined by the input being performed before the connection error. If a player is walking forward, it might assume that they’re still walking forward. If they jumped or threw out a heavy punch, that animation will still play out for several frames while the game catches up. On the off chance that this prediction is wrong, the game state will be re-simulated and corrected faster than players can recognize what has happened. It’s not always the smoothest process, but with decent internet connections, the whole experience is much smoother and feels better for players used to playing offline than basic delay-based netcode.
Rollback netcode can help reinvigorate player bases when added to games that didn’t previously include it, like Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R. That Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl will feature it from the jump is a huge deal and could potentially elevate the game into a class of its own.
Basically, if you’ve ever sat up at night in a cold sweat wondering “why Smash online sucks so much,” it probably has something to do with that (among tons of other factors). But, hey, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl won’t ever have Waluigi on the roster, so which game really wins here?