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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FALCON PUNCH! Or, let's talk about Super Smash Brothers. (Part 2: Three Generations)

Apparently, a day goes by very slowly in my world. Apologies for lateness.

So we've identified what makes Smash Bros. unique, but why is it good? Really, all three of the games are fun in their own ways, and in order to understand why this franchise is so successful, we'll have to look at all three.

Super Smash Brothers
Super Smash Bros. essentially took the way we looked at fighting games and gave it a revamp, a whole new twist, even- sure, there were only ten characters, but still, for a game of its size and graphical ability, that was a big deal. The damage system was completely unique, and that meant there didn't have to be a time limit to a match- you could keep fighting if you were skilled enough. Pulling stages from the fighters' locales, we were introduced to some memorable stages like Dream Land, Lylat System, and Brinstar- all of which had interactive moments that kept the player on their toes. The single player was pretty run-of-the-mill, essentially similar to any other fighting game, but the multiplayer was where it really shined. You could have up to four people duking it out on one stage- something that most fighters could not boast. It was an introduction, and a fine one, at that. However, while it was a good party game, it lacked the ability to grasp a solid single-player experience. Target tests were fun, though.

The very concept that Nintendo introduced with Super Smash Bros. is the reason it remains appealing today- take the most popular characters, replicate their movesets from their original games, and make them fight. That's not all it did, though. With the damage system, players could be flung far off the stage and had to even fight their way to get back. Realizing this, each fighter was equipped with moves that would assist them in this endeavor- adding another layer to the variety of gameplay. We had our first taste of the glory of the Falcon Punch. It was a brilliant concept and good execution, but it could potentially get better.

Which is what it did.

Super Smash Bros. Melee
I remember when this game was released, all too well. I jumped with joy when I saw the new roster- Bowser! Peach! Zelda! Ice Climbers? The entire original cast had returned too, which made me upset- had they made all four new fighters available at the start of the game...?

No. Dear god, they had not.

As a sequel, Melee improved upon the original in every way. New stages. New items. Two new modes to buff out the single player experience. Most importantly, a ton of characters. Doubled from the last game, in fact, a whopping twenty-five. At the time, that was all I really cared about- it didn't matter if they were clones or not.

Classic mode was classic, of course- you went through a series of challengers, facing off with the mysterious Master Hand in the end. But the added challenge of Crazy Hand was brought into the mix, creating a whole new final fight. Challenges were added- special fights created to test the skill of the player, often for special rewards like trophies (more on that later) and new characters. Adventure Mode allowed us to run around the world of Smash Bros. for the first time, visiting the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule, Dream Land, and more. The trials were impressive, and if you were skilled enough to make it to the final battle under a certain time limit, you were introduced to Giga Bowser, the nightmarish transformation that will always be memorable. Atop all of that, there was All-Star mode, where the player had to go head-to-head with every single character with only one stock.

Trophies added to the single player experience- with certain challenges offering rewards. Each KO made equaled a coin, and those could be placed into the vending machine to get a new trophy- many spanned a wide variety of titles that were unknown to American players, but each one was a new and interesting revelation. Multi-man melees allowed players to test their skill against hordes of polygon fighters, and target tests stayed strong.

Of course, multiplayer was just as good as ever- with new stages that featured interactive experiences like never before. There were new match types, as well- including a stamina system, all metal, tiny, and giant melee. Of course, playing multiplayer also rewarded you- it was the only way to unlock Mewtwo. The fighting mechanics were improved, but not to the point where the game became overly complex- air dodging, wall-jumping, and special smashes expanded the moveset of each character.

There were quite a few glitches that proved to be exploitable, as well, such as wavedashing and L-canceling. Melee became an expert's game- those who could master these techniques could greatly improve their performance. It was a fast game, as well- characters sped about the stages and moves were insanely quick. It was largely speed based, and therefore, slower characters became quite useless in competitive gameplay. You had to be fast and good if you wanted to win- and on the way out of Melee and into Brawl, that idea stuck- we all looked forward to seeing what changes would come from the next game.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
I remember buying Brawl the day it was released. I went home, turned on multiplayer, and picked Meta Knight.

I regretted that decision.

Brawl is completely different beast from Melee. Slower. Far more balanced. A roster that has meat to it! But it also expanded the horizons of the Smash Bros. series more than the other two games had, for two reasons- Sonic and Snake. The inclusion of third party characters has turned this franchise into something that everyone looks forward to, because now, any character is up for grabs- well, any character that can fit into the standards that all Smash Bros. characters have. (More on that later)

A massive single player experience awaits anyone who dares to try to take it on. Classic is the same, but you'll find a new lineup awaiting you each time, as the roster has been expanded even further. Adventure Mode is now a true story, though it lacks because of Nintendo's number of speechless characters. All-Star mode is also huge, with each franchise being separated into its own match, proving to be quite difficult and prolonged. Atop that, multi-man melee returns, as do target tests (but with a little less variety), and new Boss-Attacks and challenges await. However, all modes have a co-op function, in case you don't want to do them alone.

Essentially, Brawl is full of content. There's an expontential amount of material to work with in comparison with the last two games- saving pictures, videos, creating stages, collecting stickers and soundtracks... the vending machine has been replaced with a coin shooter, as well. But whereas Melee had a large amount of challenges that resulted in new characters and trophies, Brawl merely has challenges that are done for the sake of doing them- you never feel any real sense of achievement. There was challenge in unlocking new characters in Melee- in Brawl, you could literally just play multiplayer to get them.

However, that doesn't make Brawl a bad game. Every single fighter in it is completely unique- even the returning characters from Melee. Falco no longer feels like a Fox clone- though his Final Smash does- and only their Smash and Up specials are similar. Luigi feels even more different from his brother, and they share only one similar special. While Ganondorf does retain most of the moves from Captain Falcon's arsenal, he moves in a completely different way, his Smash special is drastically different, and his normal attacks now have their own twists. Of course, new characters have their fair share of variety- Olimar, Pokemon Trainer, and Ike are great examples of this. It feels like, no matter which character you choose, you have a completely different set of strengths and weaknesses to deal with. And that is good.

Many people wonder why more third party characters were not included in this game- and there's really only one explanation for that. Look at the current roster- characters like Mario, Link, Fox, and Kirby have stood the test of time. Asking for, say, Master Chief or Kratos is silly, because they have only made their mark in this decade of gaming. Hell, is it any doubt that people aren't going to see Nintendo franchise characters returning years from now? Those who are chosen for this game are selected because they are recognizable and lovable. Still, where the hell is Megaman?

As for the future of Smash Bros... well, that's what we'll be talking about in the next update. I'll share some of my ideas for new additions to the roster, and my reasoning is totally sound. Totally. Until then, fight on!

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