Written by: Ron Bricker
This week Tom Sanford "celebrates" the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl with a top 10 list of characters snubbed by Nintendo and left out of the latest title in the highly successful Super Smash Bros. series.
My life has become fairly hectic in recent weeks as I juggle a senior thesis, a film production, and stark devotion to CC2K all at the same time. Fairly bluntly, I haven’t regularly played video games in a long while, not only due to lack of time but lack of desire. Nothing seems to excite me these days. That’s all drastically changed with the arrival of Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Like a crackhead finding out there’s a new, exciting brand of blow on the streets, I hadn’t been able to concentrate or sit still, with the release within reach. I was SO excited in fact, that I instilled enough trust in my girlfriend to go pick up my copy at the store because I was slated to be in the middle of the woods filming on the day of its release (March 9, for you non-gamers in the audience). Yes, it was pretty bad, and I don’t know how I could have handled a tragic announcement last month if the game had once again been delayed.
That is, unless it were for any of the following reasons. By now, everyone has seen the entire roster for the game, filled out by a whopping 37 characters, including everyone’s favorite hedgehog, Sonic. It seems like a lot, but to those dreamers like me, the scale that something like Brawl presents itself on should be no holds barred. The inclusion of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series, thus, seems not as important when considering those characters in the world of video gaming that could serve the game’s purpose far more appropriately. Even in that case, the 2nd and 3rd tier characters from the newly included non-Nintendo characters seem more fitting than someone like “Mr. Game and Watch.” Come on, you know he’s not your first pick. Nintendo seems to be almost grumbling in its treatment of third parties. Stating that Snake’s creator “practically begged” to be in the game and almost waiting later than they should have to include Sonic shows a bit of nonsensical self-righteousness. Nintendo is fantastic, obviously, but tooting their own characters’ horns in such a way when there are, in fact, third parties who develop fun characters just as well is obnoxious. I would much rather have the option of picking a character like Gray Fox than someone like Wario with flight goggles on.
Is it, then, worth another delay to wait for these characters to be developed into playability for the current game? I would love to say no with the game’s release so close, but I can’t help but think that it’s probably not going to be until the next Nintendo console release that there will be another chance. So, all one can do is speculate on what could have been, and what better way than with a top ten list? So, without further delay by my rambling, impatient self, enjoy the top 10 characters that should have made the roster.
The list starts off simply and with a bang. Knuckles, the tough and tumble red echidna that became first playable with a game that cost me 75 dollars of birthday money in third grade, should have certainly been playable this time around. With Mario having Wario to balance out his roster of backing Nintendo characters, Sonic should have certainly had Knuckles. Sure, he would essentially have been a Sonic clone, but his strength could have given him more depth at being a slower, powerful version of his blue blur of a pal. His popularity also could have added to the roster’s actually selectable characters. As a firm believer in exciting variety, it’s difficult when you play with friends and everyone wants to be Link. Knuckles would have certainly changed that, at least for me.
Donkey Kong, Mario, and Mr. Game and Watch are all here. Why leave out the king of coin-op, Pac-Man? Just as easily, Ms. Pac-Man could’ve been included as an alternate costume, since they’d probably both have the same move set. After all, they’ve both had the same move set for going on 27 years now.
|8. Dr. Robotnik
Dr. Robotnik is only allowed to be in the game if he doesn’t go by the Dr. Eggman moniker. As long as he met that one requirement, imagine the battle between Bowser and Robotnik, facing off to find out who’s just that much more menacing? On that same note, imagine how a two on two battle between Mario/Sonic and Robotnik/Bowser could’ve been. And with a glimpse of Snake’s special move, one can only imagine that Robotnik’s ship could’ve come into play. Ahh, the geek-tastic possibilities would have been incredible.
|7. Simon Belmont
Although in recent years Simon Belmont has gone off into some boring quasi-anime mythology with too much depth taking away from his monster fighting simplicity, he once was a fixture in Nintendo gaming. His whip could’ve been a general weapon in the game, maybe being something that only his character could handle perfectly. And a Dracula’s Castle stage with spinning platforms and flying skeleton heads would’ve fit into Brawl’s stages nicely.
|6. Billy/Jimmy Lee
Ken and Ryu have nothing on the brothers of Double Dragon, Billy and Jimmy Lee. NES once hosted the best incarnation of the series in Double Dragon II, where it was cool to bash street gangs instead of be a part of one. Any further Dragon’s may not be appropriate source material for Brawl, maybe delving too much into the series’ specifics, but the brothers themselves would certainly fit. Grabbing Peach by the hair and kneeing her in the face wouldn’t be so bad, either.
|5. Crash Bandicoot
Probably the best attempt at rivaling both Mario and Sonic throughout recent video game history, Crash Bandicoot was a tornado tour-de-force to be reckoned with. Complex and animated enough to roll with the best of the brothers, who could leave out such a wonderful marsupial? The problem lies in that he’s been Sony based from his beginning, and it would be more building of video game bridges. This is obviously next to impossible, friends, as even Sonic took a great deal of teeth pulling and pride swallowing to be included. Still, even minor details like the apple power-up could be changed to one from Crash’s universe, proving even the furthest connected characters can contribute in many ways.
Bacon and eggs? Peas and carrots? Lamb and tuna fish? Mario and Luigi? Next in line is of course Sonic and Tails, the Yin to his Yang. The two tailed fox is different enough from Sonic on a level arguably more-so than Luigi from Mario, having the ability to fly and running with a bit less quick speed. His inclusion seemed almost obvious to most fans when word of Sonics’ came out, but it seems he’s been shunned. This probably also could’ve upped the ante for tag-team moves, maybe even some rescues from defeat, with Tails’ special ability making a ride available to hitch. Cute, cuddly, and fun, Tails is a sad exclusion of happiness from a game that only puts smiles on faces. Except, of course, when those faces are talking about which characters didn’t make it.
|3. Little Mac
There are scores and scores of gamers who love to attempt to defeat Mr. Dream (or Mike Tyson for those of you well older than me) with late nights of effort and passion. Sadly for you, the version of Little Mac that should’ve been included comes from the superior Super Punch Out!!, with earlier versions as secondary costumes. Sure, Mac is included as an assist trophy character, but that’s not enough. He could rival Steve Fox in the Tekken series with speedy, strong punches and a fighter’s stance. The Punch Out! series has been a dormant volcano for Nintendo since Super’s release, and what better way to advertise a comeback than inclusion in one of the biggest games of the year? He could’ve served a bigger purpose than where he’s at, and it’s a bit of a shame, because he’s not even a third party character and it could have been the easiest character on the list to include.
|2. Mega Man
Maybe he’s too far gone in a land of mythology with the X series just like Simon Belmont, but not much else needs to be said about Mega Man’s inclusion. He’s the epitome of character that should have been included. Most fans would’ve cried foul if it came down to neither Mega Man nor Sonic being included, as he’s without a doubt the closest in popularity to Mr. Hedgehog. No need to do anymore than mention the possibility for a great move set. Mix that with his vast Nintendo history, even though it hasn’t been the same in recent years, and Mega Man would’ve been a top Smash Brother. He also has ties, as do a few others on this list, to my top choice, and most disappointing exclusion.
|1. Captain N
Kevin Keene, the Game Master himself, Captain N’s inclusion in anything Nintendo ever again is a painful, harsh impossibility. He comes from a time many a Saturday morning ago when no one took video games as ridiculously seriously as they do now, in a world called Videoland. For me, he never dissipated, always being in my memory and strongly representing everything that makes Nintendo great with his constant foray into fun, adventure and excitement. Unfortunately, Nintendo frowns upon Kevin’s memory. Instead of realizing how sweet he is, they think he’s embarrassing. He’s a quick draw at the Zapper, and his power pad, in the shape of a classic NES controller on his belt, can stop time and give speed boosts. Many episodes of his show even were geared towards inclusion of third party characters, working as an advertisement at the time, but in retrospect they could just as easily have been showcases of video game’s variety.
Everything aligns for him to be a poster boy for all things Nintendo, better yet, all things Smash Brothers, maybe even all things video game, and he’s wasted and tossed into Nintendo oblivion like the memory of a forgotten inbred second cousin. Captain N is no such thing to me, and the sooner Nintendo realizes he’s not the mess they address him as, the better. Heck, even Pit got a chance this time around, and you know he’s hurtin’ to return to adventure with his ol’ buddy Kevinickus.
For some reason, his own universe seems perfectly adequate enough to hold him, without any reason to leave, even for a mass brawl of video game all-stars. Someday, though, he could be as important as the characters on the list.
The Battletoads pass the difficult test of being entertaining human-animal hybrids, and they’re no strangers to crossovers. However, they don’t leave room for enough variety when compared to the brothers’ Lee.
A personal favorite, Ninja from I-Ninja is rambunctious enough to smash and crash, but maybe a little too hyper at this point. He could have a great move set, and being voiced by Billy West is no drawback, but I can’t help but feeling like he’d be comparable to that super annoying ginger child who always comes to birthday parties in elementary school even though no one wants him to. Sometimes, though, that ginger kid can be cool, so you never know.
That’s the list, and it’s sadly a list of exclusions. Its’ top character embodies the best and worst of Nintendo. On one end, he could have been a worthy inclusion of the game, bringing all together and turning the games fun on full throttle. On the other hand, he’s become the greatest example of the immodest narcissism Nintendo carries, not able to bother itself with voices from third party developers and fans alike. They seem to have heard well enough, giving in to a certain degree, but they still hold back, stubbornly. It’s frustrating, without a doubt, because the game will still be fantastic, but it could have been utterly fantastic, instead. It spreads into Nintendo’s lack of download capabilities and even their refusal for an upgraded online multiplayer, but I digress. So, as we are all becoming Smash addicts, let’s take a time out from brawling and reflect on what could have been.