So, lizards like iguanas are actually newer in terms of evolutionary jump than alligators (which are still quite like their prehistoric ancestors)–so I suppose when I say that the new Smash Bros. is an alligator among the other lizards of the series, I perhaps would be more apt to say that there’s a de-evolution of the concept than an evolution of the original’s concept. How? Well, let’s examine that.
I agree with those negative Nancies who say that this game isn’t another instance of Nintendo digitally masturbating–but if it’s not “Nintendo All-Stars Super Fighter”, then just what is it? What’s the game…”about”, insofar as a fighting game can be about anything? I’m glad you asked.
SSB 3DS/Wii U is not meant to be a celebration of Nintendo’s history, but rather a celebration of video game history with a concentration on Nintendo’s place in it.
What’s my evidence for making this claim?
Article 1: The Roster
The first three games were obviously meant to be a sort of “Nintendo All-Stars Battle Royale” sort of wankfest type of kinda thing, and they achieved that in spades–indeed, even the the roster in SSB 3DS/Wii U is filled to bursting with Nintendo characters. But the inclusion of Sonic and Solid Snake in Brawl opened up the playing field to any character and any company that has a history with Nintendo, and fans clamored for more than what they ultimately got in Brawl. In Brawl, only two playable characters–one from Sega, one from Konami–were from third-party developers, one of whom (Sega) had a history of rivalry with Nintendo until it got out of the console market in the late 1990s/early 2000s. In SSB 3DS/Wii U, four playable characters are owned by third-parties, and costumes for several more (through Mii customization) are available. But who are these playable third-party characters? From whence do they come? How are they significant, and why shouldn’t I personally bitch about the Super Smash Bros. series no longer being “pure” in its “Nintendo Power”?
Well, they’re all characters who either have a place in video game history, or a place in video game history with regards to Nintendo.
- Sonic the Hedgehog, from Sega. Mario’s rival mascot is back. I’ve explained enough who Sega is, so I’ll skip to the next character.
- Mega Man, from Capcom. Back in the days of the NES (roughly 1985 through 1991), there were two non-Nintendo video games that were immensely popular to the point of making kids in your neighborhood say, “I need to buy this system myself!” One of them was Capcom’s Mega Man. Since 1987, the Mega Man series and its various spin-offs have made a home on Nintendo consoles and handheld systems.
- Pac-Man, from Namco. This character is Namco’s mascot and has been since 1980, but let’s face it, he might as well be the mascot for video games in general. Pong may have been the first truly popular commercial video game, but Pac-Man was the first truly popular video game character, and one that survived the Great Video Game Crash. Without Pac-Man, there likely would be no Mario.
- Ryu, from Capcom (the Mega Man guys). Ryu is the mascot for a fighting game series known as Street Fighter. Though Street Fighter hasn’t really been all that Nintendo-centric or Nintendo-friendly in terms of console releases, his inclusion is elementary when you consider three things. First, that fighting games are an extremely popular genre in video gaming. Second, that Capcom’s Street Fighter II is often credited with being the reason why fighting games are as popular today as they are (in the early 1990s, it took a concept that was previously dismal and unfun and made it into something worth playing). Three, that the Super Smash Bros. series is a series of fighting games.
In addition to those third-party characters, we have the following historically-significant playable characters:
- Shulk, from Monolith Soft. Shulk is a character from the XenoBlade series. While Monolith Soft is a first-party developer (they were bought outright by Nintendo), and thus that makes Shulk technically a Nintendo character, it is to be noted that he looks like a knock-off SquareSoft/Square-Enix character–like he could have jumped out of Kingdom Hearts, or any one of the post-2D Final Fantasy games. This is because Monolith Soft is comprised of former SquareSoft/Square-Enix employees, many of whom worked on Final Fantasy games up to and including Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. Thus, Shulk is indeed a sort of knock-off, and so the 3D video game revolution brought about in the late 1990s by games like Final Fantasy VII are present in him–if in spirit only.
- Duck Hunt, from Nintendo. Technically, this playable character is a pairing of the dog from Duck Hunt and a duck from Duck Hunt. Why is this significant? Neither character has been seen or heard from since about 1986. This classic character from Nintendo’s past utilizes attacks that reference various NES zapper games released around the same time, like Hogan’s Alley and Wild Gunmen.
- R.O.B. the Robot, from Nintendo. Though debuting as a fighter in Brawl, he’s been brought back to fight again in SSB 3DS/Wii U. A peripheral for the NES packaged with the system way back in 1985, the iconic robot was only compatible with two games, and was pretty much swept under the rug UNTIL Brawl.
Article 2: A Particular Assist Trophy
While some might consider this circumstantial evidence, let’s consider it in conjunction with what I’ve mentioned already and with what I am about to mention.
In SSB 3DS/Wii U, you can utilize assist trophies (described above) as you could in Brawl. One such assist trophy introduced in this game is “Nintendo Color TV-Game 6”, which is based on a vintage console released by Nintendo between 1977 and 1980. When a player gets this assist trophy, two white lines appear on the sides of the screen, and a small white square “ball” is batted between them whilst blocky white numerals keep score above.
The assist trophy…is the first commercially viable video game ever released (thanks, Atari!). It’s Pong.
Still not convinced that this game is supposed to be about history moreso than pure self-aggrandizement on Nintendo’s part?
Article 3: All-Star Mode
One of the game modes a person can play in single player is All-Star Mode. This is a gauntlet of fights that put the player up against the entire roster (minus alternate costumes and custom characters), one at a time, through a number of rounds whereby the player must dispatch with each. The order of the opponents never changes.
How are they ordered? But the year in which they first appeared–from Pac-Man in 1980, all the way through Greninja (a Pokemon character) in 2013. Years. History.
Article 4: Collectible Trophies
Though each third-party character comes with their own set of collectible trophies (some of which depict in 3D other characters from their respective companies or game series), there are two shout-outs to companies and characters that don’t have a role in the game proper via such collectible trophies. The first is a character known as Rayman, from publisher Ubisoft, and he is the star of several games that have been predominantly on Nintendo platforms (Rayman was created during the early-to-mid 1990s Super NES era). The second is a character called CommanderVideo, from indie developer Choice Provisions (formerly Gaijin Games). He’s one of the new kids on the video game block, with his series debuting on the Nintendo Wii in 2009 (before eventually being released elsewhere). Though he’s not a “classic character” from Nintendo’s deep past, he’s certainly part of Nintendo’s recent past, and may well be a part of Nintendo’s future–as is the indie scene in general. He also happens to be extremely popular and visible, as he’s already made several cameos (both playable and not) in other recent indie games (Super Meat Boy, Team Indie, etc.). I’ll return to the significance of indie games in a moment.
Article End: End of Evidence
So, again, there are a fair number of people bitching about how this isn’t so much a Nintendo game anymore as it is a “whoever we damn well feel like putting in” game. Hopefully, though, my conclusion is clear: this isn’t meant to be just a Nintendo All-Stars game like the previous entries, and each third-party character has a good reason for being in the game as related to the theme of “historical significance”. This is pure nostalgia–a looking back, with occasional looks forward. Evolution through de-evolution of concept, or an alligator among lizards. If you still don’t like it, then I’m sorry for that, but at least realize that the point of the game (this game in particular) is different than the point you thought existed originally.
That said, something is missing from this great melting pot of (still mostly Nintendo-centric) video game history.
Remember when I said in the Mega Man section above that there were two non-Nintendo video games that made kids want to purchase NES systems back in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Capcom’s Mega Man was one. The second one…was Konami’s Castlevania.
Konami representation, specifically in the form of the Castlevania main character and mascot Simon Belmont, is missing from this game. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
YOU, dear reader, can help BRING Simon Belmont HOME–TO SMASH BROS.!!
NEXT: Rock the Vote