Right off, I have to admit to only being a passive, casual fan of the Smash Brothers series of games. I admire what Nintendo has done and the work they put into the games, but I just have a hard time getting interested in any kind of fighting game. It’s totally on me. I don’t have the patience to learn and master the move sets and strategy that fighting games employ. So, you can understand why, unlike most gamers, I don’t see these games as “must buy” games.
Still, even acknowledging my own disinterest, what is it about the Smash Brothers games that creates such hype? It’s more than just the fact that it’s a fighting game, which is a genre that is usually fairly popular. I think that it’s tapped into something that Marvel also realized with their Marvel movie universe. Smash Brothers is the video game equivalent of The Avengers. I won’t get very literal here, but it’s worth mentioning that you can almost match the characters up: Captain America = Mario, Hulk = Donkey Kong, Iron Man = Samus Aran, Thor = Link or Lucas (I’m reaching on this one), Hawkeye = Pit or Link, Black Widow = Sheik, etc… Yeah, these may be a stretch, but I’d already thought it out and it’s going to show up in this post.
With The Avengers universe, you have a collection of characters with varying powers and abilities. Each have their own life and background and stories to tell, and we get to see each of those. Every now and then, a character will bleed over from one franchise to another, just as a reminder that these guys all exist in the same universe. Once every few years though, these characters come together to battle a common enemy that threatens the world as a whole, and is something that they can’t individually defeat on their own.
Now, take Smash Brothers. You have a group of characters, each with their own life and background and stories to tell and each with varying powers and abilities. Every now and then, you will see an easter egg of one game turn up in another. Every few years though, these characters come together in their own game. It could even be argued that with the Subspace Emissary story mode, they came together to battle a nemesis that threatened all of their existences, requiring a teaming up of characters that wouldn’t normally interact. I realize that we’re dealing with two different mediums here, but I think each one taps into something in us that wants to see these characters that are, at first glance, very different, but who use those differences to complement one another.
The popularity of Smash Brothers goes beyond its genre and tight design and taps into the very heart of a video game fan. The series creates an excitement that can only be generated with this one game. Comic fans have the Character A versus Character B arguments. Smash Brothers allows video game fans to actually answer that question to some extent (no disrespect to comic books at all, The Avengers came long before Smash Brothers and I do realize that crossovers have long existed for the comic book arguments as well). There’s just something enthralling about pitting Mario against Bowser or Link against Samus in a physical one on one match. That just doesn’t happen anywhere else. There’s also the appeal of the physicality of the matches for characters that normally aren’t allowed to battle in such a manner. It takes what’s familiar and gives us a different side and perspective, and for Nintendo to be able to do that with characters as familiar as Mario, Link, Samus, etc… is really amazing.
All of that being said, and acknowledging that I’m in the minority here, seeing these characters appear in a fighting themed game only serves to make me want a Smash Brothers game that has a more fleshed out story mode to experience. I appreciate the Subspace Emissary, and it’s quite fun to play through, but it was obvious that it was tacked on and was never meant to be the focus of the game. Nintendo has since publicly stated that the next entry for the WiiU and 3DS would have no such story mode, or not one of the scope of the Subspace Emissary. I understand their point of view on this, even if I don’t agree with it. People buy the game to fight with the characters. Nintendo is going to focus on them first and foremost, and are smart to do so. Still, I can’t help but pine for a game that sees each character pulled into a larger conflict, with a deeper story and a more menacing nemesis. One that would allow us to see Mario in Hyrule, Fox McCloud exploring Bowser’s castle, or Donkey Kong using brute force to get through a space station from Metroid. It appears though, that I’m not going to get that, or even something close to it. It makes great business sense, and like I said, I can’t fault Nintendo for making this decision, but it would be cool to experience. For the time being, however, I suppose I’m just going to have to wait for Age of Ultron.
Brandon Nicholson is a blogger for TMRzoo.com and the founder of Just Another Video Game Blog and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3 and PS4, Microsoft XBOX One and XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Brandon provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.