For the better part of a decade, the meme that is simply known as “Ultra Instinct Shaggy” has dominated almost every corner of the internet. Kickstarted by a clip from a Scooby-Doo film where Shaggy uncharacteristically beats up a biker gang that was edited to the tune of a Dragon Ball Super song, the idea of Shaggy being an immortal ultra-powerful deity only gained more traction with each passing day.
Before long, you couldn’t go anywhere on the web without seeing some form of reference to Shaggy being powerful enough to shatter reality itself. The meme went so far that NetherRealm studios even had to acknowledge fan petitions to get Shaggy added to Mortal Kombat.
Yet, we now find ourselves with a playable version of this internet creation in the latest Smash clone offering of Warner Brothers’ Multiverse, and it has me….perplexed, to say the least.
For those unaware, Multiverse is the latest in a very long line of pseudo clones of the iconic Nintendo fighting game Super Smash Bros. From Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale to the more recent Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, any company with an impressive roster of recognisable characters has had a crack at making a party fighting game.
Naturally, none has ever come close to topping Masahiro Sakurai’s original creation. But while none of these cheap imitations are by any means better than Smash, it is nevertheless an endlessly enjoyable novelty to see different sets of pop culture characters punching the living daylights out of each other.
These games at their core speak to the inner child within all of us, still arguing “Who Would Win in a Fight” with our friends at school. For the longest time, debates about Sonic vs Mario, Batman vs Superman, or Spongebob vs Nigel Thornberry (okay maybe that last one was just me) were just the things of fantasy.
Yet here we are in the year 2021, where all of those match-ups and more are now not only real but endlessly replayable and customisable. Since the dawn of the internet, versus matchup arguments have only soared in frequency, no doubt due to the fact that these matchups now have a genuine chance of happening.
We’ve now reached a point where these types of games have transcended being just famous characters having a tiff, to now being characters that encapsulate the fandoms surrounding them.
While technically not the first time Ultra Instinct Shaggy has been canonised in official media, seeing him here in a fully playable game certainly takes the impact of internet meme culture to a whole new level. While not officially called “Ultra Instinct Shaggy” in the game, the reference to him is more blatantly obvious than Monopoly‘s namesake.
From his confident strong demeanor to the fact that he literally glows with firey yellow energy like Goku; there’s clearly nothing here that even remotely resembles the cowardly junkie we know and love from the show. He is original flavour Shaggy in all but name because this incarnation is merely the representation of almost a decade’s worth of memes.
The reason why this is perplexing is mostly due to the very official and monetised nature of it. Ultra Instinct Shaggy is funny no doubt, but it’s funny because there’s always been an air of self-awareness about it. Obviously, we know that Shaggy being a devastatingly powerful god isn’t true, but it’s funny to act like he is because well…it’s Shaggy. The juxtaposition of a beloved cowardly gentle cartoon character being an ultra-violent destructive god is by pure mathematical reasoning just…funny!
But it was funny because of the ironic community-based creation of it; the sense that the jokes were ‘ours’, the peoples, with the free will to ascribe our own meanings and content from existing ideas. But seeing what was essentially a silly internet creation now be canonised in a game where it claims to be the original source material is frankly jarring.
Anyone who knows the meme will instantly recognise the Multiverse fighter as Ultra Instinct Shaggy, but the game insists that you are indeed playing the real Shaggy Rogers from 1969, despite the fact that nothing about his personality or moves reflects the original characters’ cowardly traits.
It’s at this point where I imagine many of you are asking why is this conversation even worth having? At the end of the day, it’s all in aid of a silly party game where you can beat up Arya Stark as Tom & Jerry, what more is there to say? And while that is true, I just find it interesting nevertheless that we have reached a point in culture where the internet’s ridiculous interpretations of classic characters can actually replace the originals in official media.
You have to admit that it’s certainly an interesting insight into just how much the public can influence the products they consume. There’s no denying that the developers of this game were aware of Ultra Instinct Shaggy when designing him for the game, but when do casual nods to fan-generated content become literal overwrites of the characters they’re using?
Personally, it makes me dread what a Dreamworks fighter would look like, especially given how Shrek has now been transformed into a completely different entity in the eyes of internet users. So one does need to ponder the legitimacy of our childhood matchups being fully realised. Are we truly seeing a matchup of Shaggy versus Jake the Dog, or are we seeing mere shallow shells of the characters that represent memes more than themselves?
Again, this conversation is ultimately fruitless. The game will come out as intended, and people will assuredly enjoy the nonsensical hijinks that it provides. The legitimacy of its portrayal of Shaggy is hardly anything that’s going to keep many people up at night, but I believe it’s worth noting nonetheless; if anything just to point out a possible trend that may influence a great deal of media that’s yet to come.
Beyond its predictable yet also unexpected portrayal of Shaggy, Multiversus also brings to the mix characters such as Steven Universe, Harley Quinn, Finn the Human and a….Reindog….thing?……yay? With Warner Brothers behind the wheel, expect this to essentially be a better version of Space Jam 2 where the references are actually more than just 5 seconds cameos. I just hope this means we’re getting Godzilla, Neo, Dick Dastardly, Austin Powers, and Casablanca‘s Rick Blaine in the game.
In an attempt to stand out from the plethora of other franchise fighters, Multiversus is focusing on co-operative battling, where characters’ moves aid both their teammates just as much as they deliver the pain to their opponents.
It’s an interesting focus for sure that will help it stand out much more than its predecessors, and it already blows Nickelodeon’s brawler out of the water because it actually had the decency to include voice acting!
So far nothing about it looks to have anywhere near the polish and care that Smash Bros has, but to be honest, were we ever expecting that? At the end of the day, it’s an excuse to have a similar gameplay format that allows us to effectively enjoy the same experience but with a whole host of new iconic characters….even if some of them have more ultra instincts than others…
Multiversus is planned for release next year and will be free to play with cross-play support across Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
What do you make of this new franchise clobberer? Do you find it odd to see meme-born characters now presented as official property? Let us know in the comments!