No matter what Nintendo says, there will always be a debate about whether Smash Bros. Ultimate is a port or a new title. In an interview with USGamer, Treehouse localization manager Nate Bihldorff has done the best job yet of explaining why Nintendo takes the stance of Ultimate being a brand-new game.
"It's definitely not an update. It's a brand new game built from the ground up. As far as it being a 'sequel,' I don't really think of Smash Bros. games as being sequels, they're just new Smash Bros. games. Everything has been built brand new. Of course you see returning characters and returning movesets, but that's sort of the nature of a fighting game. You obviously want to bring in new players, but you have to satisfy core players. If I'm playing Mario and I don't have a good Up and B, I'm going to be writing my local congressman to get it changed. It's a tough balance, but yeah, it's a brand new game.
True to form, I'm sure [Masahiro] Sakurai sat down with the original artists from that game and said, 'What are we gonna do about that (Zelda) necklace, how do we want her gown to look?' Those details are just everywhere. And that's just purely from a visual standpoint.
When you're bringing back stages, especially when you look at a stage from the Wii U version which was already in HD, at first glance it's going to be a little bit similar. That's when you need to go to the next level and look at lighting, how the players are interacting. Beyond the changes, I can't count the number of small changes. I don't think it's hyperbole when Mr. Sakurai said that there were tens of thousands of changes compared to the last game.
I fully believe that when [Smash Bros. Ultimate] comes out, the pro community is going to grab onto it and show me stuff I've never seen before even though I'm in development. I think it's going to be good. Core, casual, I think they're all going to love it."