Nintendo today revealed it was removing a certain move from the latest Smash Bros game, apparently not realizing it was more than a little racist. It’s definitely not the first time Nintendo’s had to clean up a character, nor the first time it’s claimed ignorance of insensitive imagery.
In case you missed it, Nintendo took some heat this week when gamers discovered a rather uncomfortable game reference buried in the latest footage of Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Specifically, it appeared the character Mr. Game & Watch had a new attack wherein he morphed in a caricature of a Native American, as depicted in one of his old titles, Fire Attack.
Please check and spread the below thread from ResetEra. Mr. Game & Watch's new forward smash in Smash Ultimate is a direct reference to a G&W game featuring racist depictions of Native Americans.
— ✨ gale (@rr_gale) November 3, 2018
Game & Watch was a staple of Nintendo’s library in the eighties, and probably has a large repertoire of moves at his disposal. This particular attack has him suddenly donning a feather and a hideously contorted expression, along with a torch.
So yeah, pretty damned uncomfortable. The move doesn’t appear to be in the Western version of the game, meaning someone at Nintendo had to have realized the imagery would have been unpalatable to an American audience, at least.
It’s not as though this is the first time in Nintendo’s history it’s been accused of being insensitive, and a few times it’s had to change depictions of certain characters in response to criticism. Remember the Pokemon Jynx? Or I should say, the original Jynx, who with her black skin and overdrawn lips bore a rather unpleasant resemblance to a person in blackface? After someone pointed it out, Nintendo quickly redesigned the character with purple skin to try and lessen the similarity.
Also, to go even further back, in the original version of Super Punch-Out!! you can fight a Russian boxer named Vodka Drunkenski. Unsurprisingly, his name was changed to Soda Popinski in just a few years.
So yeah, this isn’t Nintendo’s first controversy in that regard. The company issued a statement today stating that the original depiction was made in a different time:
Nintendo has been planning to distribute an update for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate >that removes the feather from the silhouette of Mr. Game & Watch. The original game on which this depiction of the character is based was released more than three decades ago and does not represent our company values today. We sincerely apologize that this change was not noticed in our marketing material and are continuing our work to make Super Smash Bros. Ultimate an experience that is both welcoming and fun for everyone.
This obviously doesn’t make it okay that the company willingly released something so ugly at the time, but at least it’s recognizing that, even in a nostalgia-fest like Smash Bros, there are some parts of the company history that no longer belong at this party.