Any kind of competitive multiplayer game walks the narrowest of tightropes. Maintaining balance, pace and visual readability is a challenge few smaller studios can pull off, but I reckon Roof Rage from indie outfit Early Melon might be in with a chance, with a blend of familiar elements served up with its own distinct style. It's due out this June, and there's a debut trailer full of brutal pixel charm within.
You've got the knockabout kinetic combat of Smash Bros, the lethal intensity of Samurai Gunn and a zoomed-out playfield allowing for up to 8 players at once. It's an interesting feature-set, and it does seem to have its own distinct pacing going on, largely in part due to the large environments and distant camera. Those little pixel warriors have mechanical importance, rather than just being a stylistic decision.
Early Melon are working hard on trying to implement the single most demanded feature for a game of this sort: Online multiplayer. According to their early access roadmap, online play will initially be for 1v1 play only (a significantly simpler thing to manage), with the studio aiming to expand that to 4-player online matches in time. The full-fat 8-way brawl mode will likely remain the domain of local multiplayer only. Have fun cramming 8 nerds in front of one TV, although if you do fall short, you can pad the numbers out with bots.
It's quite mechanically distinct, at least from the little bit I've gotten to play of a pre-release build. Character health seems to affect both how much hits knock you back, but also draining it completely counts as a kill, preventing it from ever hitting Smash Bros' ridiculous late-game phase, with characters pinballing off the walls. There's a surprisingly lengthy move-list for each character, although in larger brawls you'll be worrying less about special attacks and more about where you can manoeuvre yourself to get in a finishing blow or avoid retribution.
The initial early access debut will be happening on June 8th, only a couple weeks away, with Early Melon (presumably evolving into Ripe Melon by launch) estimating that it'll be six months until the final release of the game, which they intend to have more stages, characters, and hopefully some kind of single-player story mode. The first early access release does have bots to play against, at least - essential for any fighting game trying to get off the ground.
Roof Rage will be out via early access on June 8th. You can wishlist it on Steam here.