While I don’t think Super Smash Bros. Brawl is quite as dazzlingly stupendous as most of the review community does (including our very own Game On), it’s still a great game. The graphics are Wiimarkable (i.e., remarkable by Wii standards), the multiplayer options are endless and brilliant, and the number of hidden goodies – playing on a gamer’s inexplicable and uncontrollable need to Unlock Things – even keeps players lukewarm on the game (like me) obsessively coming back for more.
One area SSBB does fall short, though, is in keeping a dense, concentrated level of nostalgia in the character roster. No doubt, there’s a shit-ton of awesome classic characters to pick from, but the lineup’s also watered down with characters that simply haven’t earned the right to share space with heavyweights like Mario, Link, or Samus – especially when greater characters are sitting on the sideline.
Case in point: StarFox’s Wolf O’Donnell? Are you fucking kidding me? How many people in the world are actually going to unlock Wolf and cry “HOLY SHIT WOLF O’DONNELL HOW SWEET!”? Better question: How many people even know who Wolf O’Donnell is?
And then there are the redundancies. Ness from Earthbound is cool, a nice nod to a great game; Lucas, though, is bullshit – not only because he lacks star power, but because he’s just too much like Ness. Same goes for the Fire Emblem crew: Marth or Ike is okay, but Marth and Ike dilute the mix. When you have such diversity in characters as Sonic, R.O.B., Pikachu, Olimar, and Bowser all in the same lineup, adding near-duplicates of characters that – let’s be honest – aren’t so interesting to begin with reeks of filler.
Oh yes: the f-word. Now you know I’m not playin’.
You’ve got to punch your own weight. Those characters make megastars like Donkey Kong look like he’s slumming by being in the game. If Nintendo had consulted me on the matter (and I have no idea why they didn’t), I’d have recommended the following characters get axed without shedding a single tear:
(Because we already have Fox McCloud.)
(Because we already have Ness.)
(Because we already have Ike.)
(Because who cares.)
(Because I want an even 5, and Because give me a fucking break.*)
As the hypothetical advisor/creative consultant on SSBB, I’m not going to just dump characters and leave gamers with a skinnier lineup. I care about the fans. So here are the five indisputably awesome and superior replacements I’d add in place of those superfluous, dead-weight nobodies:
Quit that snickering in the back and just think about it. A few images automatically pop to mind when thinking about the Mario series: Italian day laborers, mushrooms, big green pipes, and hordes of enemy turtles. So the fact not one of Nintendo’s own iconic and omnipresent Testudines has found his way into a SSB game as a real selectable character seems like plain old laziness.
Here, I’ll even start Nintendo out with some free* tips on how Koopa would work: Imagine being able to toss his shell at will, a simple risk-reward scenario where the flung shell could be the most powerful attack in the game, but would naturally also leave Koopa au natural – smaller, lighter, and thus easier to bounce out of the arena.
Since Konami saw fit to lend Solid Snake to Nintendo’s lineup, their legendary 8-bit vampire-hunting hero Simon Belmont is on the table as well – and frankly, a much better fit. Even the most diehard Metal Gear Solid fanboy has to admit knife-fighting, neck-breaking, headshot-executing Snake looks retardedly out of place standing next to Kirby. And there’s no question that Castlevania and its hero were far more important to the Nintendo brand than the Metal Gear games.
With his trusty whip, Simon would have an attack range advantage against other characters, offset by the fact he actually leaves the house bare-legged and wearing a tunic (making him a defensive lightweight). Best of all, his special attacks – boomerangs, axes, and even a magical pocketwatch that will temporarily freeze opponents struck by it – would be plentiful and powerful enough to rival even the mighty Link’s arsenal.
Bionic Commando was the greatest game to ever appear on the NES. If you disagree… well, I won’t judge you. But God will.*
For those criminally unfamiliar: Rad Spencer was the titular bionic commando, an army of one who bore a cybernetic grappling hook that he could use to swing across the landscape like Spider-Man. Yes, he’s a gritty military man, but hey, if Solid Snake is in there then Rad deserves a spot too. And maybe he isn’t as well known as some of the other characters, but he concludes Bionic Commando by blowing Hitler’s head off. What did Wario do to be in the game? Fart? I think Rad’s accomplishments have that shit beat.
Rad’s ability to grapple and swing to ledges would be insanely interesting on almost any given SSBB map. Imagine being popped off a ledge and flinging your hook out at the last second, pulling yourself back to safety. Imagine being able to flick it straight up up to instantly mount the level above you. And just try to picture Rad catching obnoxious Jigglypuff by the face and flipping her into the stratosphere.
In short: think of the win, people. Think of the win.
There were rumors Mega Man was going to appear in SSBB – wishful thinking, or evidence of talks between Nintendo and Capcom that ultimately broke down? Either way, he would have blended seamlessly with the game’s crew; far, far more popular and recognizable than even a few of Nintendo’s own (King Dedede, anyone?).
In fact, Mega Man is such an obvious candidate for inclusion, I think you’ll agree I don’t even have to make a case for him.* So I’ll just leave you with a picture that I feel best summarizes the power of the Blue Bomber.
Link’s eternal adversary in the Legend of Zelda games wasn’t always a sneering, snickering Scotsman with an Abe Lincoln beard and the complexion of a wooly mammoth just dug out of a glacier. I mean look at this jackass, look at him without your love-for-Zelda goggles just for one second:
This wasn’t the Ganon I grew up with, this was some retconned bullshit introduced into Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. But in every Zelda prior, Ganon resembles a hulking, ogre-like pig beast who led his horde of misanthropic creatures to overwhelm peaceful Hyrule, a classic fairytale-like antagonist befitting the classic fairytale-like series; a Grendel to Link’s Beowulf, if you will.*
It was strange, then, that Nintendo abruptly switched out this icon of 8-bit evil for a decidedly less interesting character; then, like a damn tease, it’s hinted at Ganon’s blue pig heritage ever since, but only in the most inexact, passing sort of way, like the Ganon puppet in Wind Waker that resembled the original design, or the boar-like variation in Twilight Princess that was similar but different.
Blue Pig Ganon deserves a better homage than such silly winks and nods. Blue Pig Ganon was the ultimate adversary in the early Nintendo years, sharing a seat in a virtual pantheon that included Bowser and Mother Brain. These years of neglect since are inexcusable.
In SSB, Ganon appears as “Ganondorf”, the redheaded humanoid variation who is essentially just a big dude with a sword (and admittedly the only Ganon many extant gamers have ever known). But that leaves plenty of room for plain ol’ GANON, Prince of Darkness and cursed bearer of the Triforce of Power, the bloated, disfigured being whose gluttonous greed was ironically rewarded with the visage of a pig.
1. You can empower and modernize Zelda all you want, Nintendo, but it's all revisionist history to me. Princess Zelda was always the helpless victim needing to be saved, and if she was half the badass you portray her to be in SSB, Link would never've had to save her elfin ass. (Princess Peach isn't disqualified on the same grounds since she was actually playable in a few games.)
2. Not free.
3. And harshly ye will be judged. Repent.
4. This is despite the fact Mega Man is essentially an Astro Boy rip-off, and was handicapped with the worst videogame box art in the history of mankind.
5. You've actually been reading these? Wow.