Yesterday’s screenshot from the official Super Smash Bros. updates shows a rather peculiar image of Toon Link looking quite uncomfortable in the Pikmin 3 stage. It can be difficult to decipher exactly what is going on in the screenshot just by looking at it and without any explanation. At first glance, I thought perhaps it might be a golden arrow being shot at Toon Link, in order to tease Princess Zelda’s inevitable reveal. But this is actually Link’s “KO Trail”, which is the graphical effect which appears when a character is launched in the air by an opponent towards the blast lines (in other words, the stage’s boundaries–as Smash players will know, launching an opponent outside of the blast lines will defeat them).
The Smash Wiki describes this new change in the upcoming Smash games: “The smoke trail effect produced by characters taking high knockback seems to have been replaced by a coloured trail of light representing which player will get the KO should the target not recover.” Hence the golden light which is emanating from Toon Link in the image. This leaves the question: who is about to claim Link’s KO? On the current roster on the Smash site, Donkey Kong and Pikachu have yellow backgrounds; however, it’s possible that the colour of the trail could also be determined by the player’s selected costume variant or team colour.
While there are some interesting noteworthy aspects to take away from this image, uploader of the screenshot and series director Masahiro Sakurai only seems to intend to have some fun with the picture by exploiting the golden glow. He makes light of Toon Link’s impending doom, sharing on Miiverse: “Surpass the speed of sound! Become a star!” If it means my opponent upping their score, then no thank you sir.
Though it’s incredibly easy to miss, the KO trails were actually shown in the debut trailer for the games. Check out Mario and Link launching Bowser and Fox at 1:14 and if you pause at the right time, you can see coloured trails.