So Smash 4 has been out for nearly two years now, and as such the community has had enough time to figure out what generally works and what doesn't. As a result, I thought it would be worth taking a look at Smash 4 in a fairly broad context and seeing what could be improved upon for a potential Smash 5. I'm going to try to be making suggestions that are as widely applicable as possible, meaning that I'll be focusing less on individual characters (i.e. please fix Lucina's range or please add recovery frames to Cloud's Up-Air) and more on general trends within the cast as a whole or entire gameplay features. I'm certainly not an incredible Smash player, though I would consider myself decent at the game, so my suggestions probably won't dwell too much on the highly technical side of things either.
With all of that out of the way, here we go;
#1: Shift Combos away from Grab Setups: After Brawl, I was all for adding some more consistent follow ups to Smash 4. Nintendo delivered, but the emphasis was put almost entirely to grabs (at least until Bayonetta showed up). Mario's Down Throw to Up Tilt combo has become infamous for its ease and damage output, but he's far from the only example; several other characters, such as Bowser, Fox, and Toon Link can deal roughly an assured extra 20% or so off of up tilts (or one up tilt, in Bowser's case), assuming you're at low %s. Other characters, like Luigi, Diddy, Sheik, ZSS, DK, Lucas, and more can all get fairly easy follow ups off a down throw. Combos are fine, but I think the game would benefit as a whole if they made a concerted effort to move away from throw setups.
#2: Fewer Multi Projectile Characters: Smash 4 is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable Smash game to play if both players are using certain characters. However, Smash 4 can quickly become an utter grind due to the sheer effectiveness of projectile zoning by a large portion of the cast. One thing that I think is striking about other fighting games is that, despite nearly all characters having far more moves, you will rarely find characters with multiple projectile moves. Street Fighter V has none (out of 22), to my knowledge. Killer Instinct has two out of 23 or so (three if you count Orchid's instinct). Meanwhile, Smash 4 has Link, Toon Link, Mega Man, Bowser Jr, Sheik, Samus, Diddy Kong, Robin, Duck Hunt Dog, Pikachu, ROB, Ness, Lucas, Villager, Wii Fit Trainer, and the Mii Gunner. Admittedly that's by no means a perfect representation of each character's zoning abilities, and simply have a second projectile doesn't mean it's a particularly useful zoning tool (PK Flash or Thunder certainly aren't), but this also leaves out characters like Rosalina and ZSS that can zone effectively without a second projectile (or even a first, in Rosa's case), so I think it evens out. It's difficult to fault players for "spamming," when they're largely just using the tools given to them by the game, but it just makes matchups tedious and unenjoyable to play for the person who has to approach; particularly if they're a larger character or someone with poor range. Ultimately, I think a shift away from projectile capable characters would benefit the series dramatically.
#3: Let the Now Standard Offline Gameplay Mode Focus on the Actual Game Mechanics : Brawl brought Subspace Emissary, and Smash 4 brought Smash Tour. Both of these modes have little actual Smash gameplay; Subspace Emissary largely involves simply beating up random hordes of enemies (as opposed to racking up % and then looking for an opportunity to knock them off stage as an actual Smash match would go), while Smash Tour would let the player fight, but only when players ran into each other or at the end of the game. The point is that Smash's recent attempts to liven up the offline modes have tended to not really be focused all that much on actual Smash gameplay. I think focusing the gameplay on genuine Smash stuff, like what Killer Instinct is doing with Shadow Lords currently, would go a long ways towards keeping them from being huge undertakings on Nintendo's part while still being enjoyable offerings for the average player.
#4: More "Normal" Stages: This isn't even necessarily a call for more tournament legal stages, though I'd be all for that. Some of the stages brought out in Smash 4 are just so crazy that they're not even fun to play on. Great Cave Offensive, Palutena's Temple, and Gaur Plains are just so big that the game inevitably becomes more about just chasing down an opponent rather than fighting him. Other stages, like Yoshi's Wooly World and 75 M (yes, I'm aware this was in Brawl first) just have too little solid ground to stand on at points, making any member of the cast with poor recovery an absolute nightmare to play even if it is just for fun. Finally, if bosses are going to be thrown into stages, like Wiley's Castle and Pyrosphere, there really needs to be an option to turn them off. I'm all for the ocassional gimmick or item being thrown in to mix things up, but I'd prefer to be fighting my opponent(s) most of the time as opposed to going after some enemy.
#5: General Online Courtesies: I'm not going to demand a ranked mode, but if we're already tossing out the possibility of people backing out of playing others to avoid ranking down, then at least let us see opponent connection quality before we jump into a match. And while this complaint has been filed a billion times already, I'm going to file it one more time for good measure; throw in some additional stages to FG besides FD.
#6: Custom Moves: Custom Moves are a really good idea; and I think they can go a long way towards helping bad characters become semi-viable. The one comparison I can think of to this, MKX's variation system, has helped make almost every member of its cast have at least one viable option. Smash 4 missed an opportunity to do something similar by making some of the custom moves rather ludicrously broken, which to some extent is the result of having custom moves be combined with any custom move. Instead, perhaps Nintendo could focus on creating various custom movesets, which would alter each special move in some way. Each character could have three movesets, with four different special moves involved, that could be fairly balanced without too much additional work since they're all variations of the same move in some way. Admittedly, this does lead to a lot of extra work, which is why I'd throw the following caveat in there...
#7: Let's Trim the Roster Size: I fully expect this suggestion to be the one that gets the most pushback, but hear me out. Smash 4 needed a lot of patches just to get to the point where it is today. And there's still plenty of balancing issues in the game, along with janky hitboxes, really confusing ledge hitboxes and some absolutely ridiculous stage physics. More than anything, I suspect this is an issue with the developers not having anywhere near the time required to balance the characters, and I think the fact that two of the last three DLC characters were widely considered to be the two best characters in the game until the most recent patch puts a spotlight on that more than anything. So perhaps let's trim back the character roster for the next game; focus less on fitting as many characters into Smash as possible and more on fitting as many finished characters. Besides, putting as many people in as possible is a losing game from the start. Smash fit almost 50 into this game, so what's next? If more characters is the expectation, how many does the next game need to fit in to be successful? Are we going to hit a point eventually where less than 100 is considered a disappointment? Smash will have to put its foot down at some point and say "no more," and I think it might as well be here.
The next statement might annoy people even more, but I think clone characters could help make up for this. People got upset over characters such as Dark Pit, Lucina, and Dr. Mario "stealing spots" from other, more unique characters, but these clone characters are far easier to create, are far easier to balance, which leaves more time working on the new characters. And it allows more characters to get in the game which people want, even if they are just similar movesets. Perhaps work the game down to about 25 or so "unique" characters, and fill in another 20 or so characters that are similar to pre-existing characters. Maybe mix things up by having some of these clone characters take various parts of other characters movesets; have whatever new Fire Emblem swordsman is out by the time the next Smash rolls around take half his moveset from Marth and the other half from Ike. All of this puts less stress on the development team to create and balance a ton of new characters and means a more balanced game overall. Hopefully a more enjoyable game too; if there's less characters to attend to, then Nintendo is probably less likely to fall back on simply filling in a special move with a tired trope like a counter or something.
So those are my thoughts. Good? Bad? Even worse than Yoshi's grab range in Melee?