(originally posted December 19th 2014)
Both of the new Super Smash Bros games are finally out and we could not be happier. The series is loved for a number of reasons, but probably the big one is seeing which characters get the honour of becoming playable and getting the opportunity to duke it out with Nintendo’s biggest stars. We all have our preferences, so here are my personal favourites of the fifteen newcomers from the latest games.
1. Bowser Jr.
When Bowser Jr was leaked, my reaction was just ‘oh… okay.’ I mean, I wasn’t opposed to his inclusion; I just wasn’t all that thrilled to see him, especially since another (and far better) Mariocharacter was already confirmed. But once the game was out, I found myself being won over by the villainous tyke for two reasons.
The first was how he played. I always thought that if Jr was to appear, he’d have a play-style revolving around his paintbrush from Super Mario Sunshine. Instead, he fights inside his Clown Car, which I guess is referencing his appearances in the New Super Mario Bros titles (a series I’m not all that fond of). Once I actually saw how it worked, I was surprised by how much I liked it. It ultimately makes him stand out, and having the Clown Car itself be equipped with a variety of weapons like boxing gloves, cannons and a pair of drills (which makes for one the of the best Smash attacks in the game) made for a diverse moveset, making him very fun to play as.
The second reason was that instead of having seven alternate colours like the rest of the cast, you could play as the seven Koopalings. I’m not the biggest fan of these characters but putting in seven new characters as alternate costumes was something I was totally down with. They may play just like Jr but keeping them as part of one character slot (as opposed to the likes of Dr Mario and Dark Pit) meant that they were cool extras instead of being a waste of space and drawing ire from the players. This all made Bowser Jr one of the neat little surprises the game had to offer. Plus, his reveal trailer was awesome.
2. Duck Hunt Duo
The very idea of the dog from Duck Hunt being a playable character is what made many to think that the big Smash Bros leak back in the summer was fake. Sakurai wouldn’t put such a goofy character in, especially one so universally hated. Oh, how we were wrong to doubt. And, ironically enough, this pair seems to have become one of the most popular characters.
Whereas the dog probably wouldn’t have stood on his own, putting him with the duck made for a much wider moveset. Now, he could fly up in the air or have the duck deliver a mean pecking attack; there was so much more that could be done. Also, due to Duck Hunt’s use of the Zapper accessory, it was decided to have that be implemented via the dog’s Smash attacks (which are incredibly satisfying to pull off) and being able to use items from other NES games like Hogan’s Alley; he could even summon characters from that game. It was like one big throwback to those kinds of games and we all love a bit of retro charm.
But what’s probably the Duck Hunt Duo’s biggest strength is its very existence. For the first time ever, players could finally take their anger out on one of the most hated videogame characters to exist. Or they could do the opposite and see what it feels like to be the one snickering at their opponent’s failings.
3. Wii Fit Trainer
I remember when I first saw the reveal trailer for this character. My surprise turned to disbelief. That disbelief turned into anger. That anger soon turned to acceptance. And, before I knew it, I was really looking forward to seeing her in action.
Sakurai’s reasoning for including the Wii Fit Trainer was just perfect. Nobody had asked for her inclusion; nobody had even considered the possibility. So, into the game she went; a regular (though bizarrely chalk-white) human who fights by doing yoga poses, all the while speaking encouragingly. She’s just a lot of fun to play as.
Many were against her inclusion, citing that she was ‘stealing’ the spot and it was a stupid idea, which I initially agreed with but it slowly dawned on me that the only stupid thing about this was thinking it was a stupid idea. The Smash Bros series is an inherently silly series; a series where you can see Jigglypuff beat up Ganondorf or see Zero Suit Samus wearing bunny ears. Having the Wii Fit Trainer included is just a logical step forward in this mad world and I’m sure Sakurai has no regrets. I know I don’t.
4. Rosalina & Luma
I know many would have rather seen the greatness that is Waluigi be the new Mario character for these games, but my hopes were always pinned on Rosalina, due to her representing one of my favourite games but also being one of my favourite Mario characters. Yeah, backstory and personality hardly play a part in Smash Bros but it was still a joy to see her show up, kicking ass in the most graceful and nonchalant way possible.
What I wasn’t expecting, though, was seeing her come to battle with the Lumas (AKA her children) and basically putting the player in control of two characters, like an advanced version of the Ice Climbers. I began to worry that my attempts to play as her would result in failure but, to my surprise, I found myself being not completely useless with her.
She’s a character that can be surprisingly simple to understand once you play as her for a bit, but can probably be outright deadly in the hands of someone more experienced. Not to mention that despite their dinky size, the Lumas seem to be bizarrely strong. And it is incredibly satisfying to have them KO your opponents. You almost feel proud.
5. Mega Man
I don’t play Mega Man games. I have no emotional attachment to Mega Man as a character. Hell, I am terrible at playing as Mega Man. And yet I love his inclusion. Back when Brawl was still in development, Mega Man was the only other third-party character I wanted to see. I felt that if Capcom was going to get a representative, it had to their most recognised character.
Besides that, I just feel sorry for Mega Man fans. The dude has had, like, no games for years (at least no new ones). I don’t know why Capcom still keeps him around when all they seem to do with him is announce games for the sole purpose of cancelling and antagonising those who want to see a new title. With Smash though, Mega Man can once again take the spotlight and show why he’s regarded as a popular icon like Mario and Sonic.
His reveal trailer was just amazing too. Seeing him silhouetted against a full moon, jumping into battle and wrecking everyone who got near him got me hyped. And while I’m not a huge fan, I like how diverse his moves are – every one of them being a move or weapon from the main series of games – and he has possibly the best Final Smash in the game; joining forces with four other incarnations of Mega Man to blast away his opponent. In one game, Sakurai and everyone involved did more for the Blue Bomber than his own company have done in years. God bless you, Smash Bros.
The moment I heard somebody suggest that Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles should be in Smash, I was immediately on-board with the possibility. Xenoblade Chronicles only became my favourite game ever a couple of years ago when it first came out, but the notion of its main character starring alongside Nintendo’s greatest just excited me. But I was slightly doubtful. I felt that Shulk didn’t quite fit the requirements for a spot in the roster. He wasn’t a famous face like Mario but he wasn’t ridiculously obscure. He wasn’t a retro star from Nintendo’s past; I don’t think he even qualifies as a Nintendo character. And he wasn’t quite third-party either since Monolith Soft (the developers of Xenoblade) are a second-party company.
But when that reveal trailer surfaced online, I got all that I wanted and more. Adam Howden was back reprising his role and bringing that delightful British flavour to the character once more; Shulk was rocking the Monado and could alter his stats by using his Monado Arts; fan faves Dunban and Riki popped in to help with his Final Smash; the douchebag that is Metal Face would pop up on Gaur Plains to mock the players and several of the original game’s brilliant music pieces were there to ramp up the intensity.
Shulk’s inclusion was more than having him in the game; it meant my favourite game ever was being represented in what is considered the big daddy of crossovers and letting everybody else know about its existence.
I didn’t realise how badly I wanted Pac-Man in the game until his reveal trailer at E3 2014. Yeah, his parent company Namco (technically Bandai Namco) was helping Sakurai in developing the game and he was their mascot for a long time but the possibility never occurred to me. The moment I saw him in-game, however, in his familiar Pac-Man World design (as opposed to his crappy new design), sporting that familiar grin, I was left screaming with sheer joy.
Not only is he a lot of fun to play as, packing some serious punch and some neat moves involving fruit, hydrants and even the ghosts that usually hounded him in the mazes, but his very existence turned what was already an amazing game into a milestone in videogaming.
Think about it. Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man and now Pac-Man; the four biggest videogame icons of the 80s and 90s, in one game. Back in those days, the concept was nothing but a fantasy that could only be seen in fan-fics and fan-art. But now it’s real. It actually happened. Sakurai brought these gaming giants together under one roof so they can beat the shit out of each other. I don’t think it’s an overreaction to say that this made history in terms of gaming. Other fighting games come and go and people love them, but only Smash Bros can possess such a great cast of characters, from the infamous to the not so famous to the just outright weird. Viva la Smash Bros!