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Over on the Smash Bros. subreddit a poster by the name of Revven made a post advising people not to go into the upcoming Smash Bros. games hoping to find the key aspect that makes it more like Melee (the competitive gold standard of the franchise) but to approach it on its own terms.
In order to help people understanding this point, I wrote up an analogy that’s turned out to be pretty effective, so I’m posting it here for posterity.
Imagine that Melee is pizza. People love it, it’s got all of this flavor and depth.
Then Brawl comes out and it’s chicken soup.
Obviously, a lot of people would prefer pizza over chicken soup, but then you hear some of the complaints: “What the hell is this? This tastes all wrong!” people declare. “I’m trying to pick up a slice but my hands just get all wet, and I try to eat it with a fork but I barely get anything!”
But there are people who are eager to “prove” that chicken soup is fine, and all it takes is finding and adding the right key ingredients. “Hey, it might be chicken soup now, but if we add some mozzarella and some tomato sauce, you’ll see that it’s great!” No matter what they do, though, it just doesn’t taste like pizza, it doesn’t feel like pizza, and people are disappointed in it even more.
In the end, it’s not wrong to like pizza more than chicken soup, and it might even be possible argue that pizza is a superior food in general. Hell, maybe Brawl wasn’t even a particularly good chicken soup and was just soup in a can. However, because people were unable to see or accept the fact that chicken soup isn’t pizza, they also failed to approach it on its own terms. Instead of trying to add the right seasoning that would match the flavor profile of chicken soup or using a spoon, all they had were hands dripping with broth, and a look of dissatisfaction.
Sign wa V! (The V Sign!, by Mochizuki Akira, is among the most popular volleyball manga ever. Debuting the same year as Attack No.1 (the volleyball manga in terms of notoriety) in 1968, both of these titles capitalized on the success of the volleyball boom that had began in 1964 when the Japanese national women’s team won the gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Sign wa V! even received over the years not one but two live-action television dramas. Like Attack No.1, Sign wa V! is a “sports guts” story, where intense training and passion are the keys to victory. At one point, the main character tries to smash her hand with a rock because playing volleyball might mean ruining her mom’s life but she just can’t because she loves volleyball that much.
The main reason I’m writing this post, however, is not to review or promote Sign wa V! (but you can read it online here), but to talk about a particular character and her possible influence on anime and manga. A few volumes into the series, Sign wa V! introduces a new character, Jun Sanders (pictured above). Half-black, half-Japanese, she’s characterized by an intense desire to compete in volleyball, and sensitivity over her skin color. Her name is a mix of Japanese and English, though Jun sounds similar to “June,” and Sanders is not her real last name but taken from the orphanage where she was raised. When Jun first appears, she has an intense rivalry with the main character. Curiously, in the 1969 drama she was played by an actress of Taiwanese descent.
The first sign that Jun Sanders may have had some impact on Japanese media, at least as far as I can find, is the 1974 anime and manga Great Mazinger. A sequel to the seminal giant robot series Mazinger Z, this follow-up focuses on a new hero, a new demonic threat, and a more powerful robot to fight them. In this series, the protagonist has a female assistant (pictured above) who aids him in battle using her own giant robot, Venus A. Her name is Honoo Jun (written surname first), and she’s half-black, half-Japanese, with a strong and fiery personality. Though perhaps merely a coincidence, her default outfit looks similar to one worn by Jun Sanders.
Fast forward to 1999 and the release of the video game Gate Keepers, which also received an anime and a manga. I have no experience with Gate Keepers myself, but according to plot summaries it’s about an alternate-universe post-WWII Japan with alien invaders.This series features an American character named Jun Thunders (pictured below) who, just like Jun Sanders and Honoo Jun, has relatively dark skin and long, dark hair. What makes Jun Thunders even more clearly a reference to Sign wa V! is that “Thunders” and “Sanders” are written the same way in Japanese (サンダーズ). Moreover, Gate Keepers takes place in 1969, the same time in which Sign wa V! is set (which was the “present” at the time). Also, the Gate Keepers Jun might also be a reference to the Great Mazinger Jun because honoo means “flame,” so there’s a thunder-flame elemental connection.
There might be more characters in the Jun Sanders lineage, but these are the only ones I can find at this point. If anyone has any more information or knows other characters influenced by Jun, feel free to leave a comment.
4) of the Enders
3) Death Egg
Geno is quite a popular choice when it comes to character requests for the Super Smash Bros. series, and so there is plenty of fanart out there in support of his inclusion. While this makes my drawing a bit redundant (and the special moves are all pretty much what everyone else has for Geno’s attacks), I felt that the concept of Geno as a playable character could be taken an extra step beyond simply having his moves map 1:1 with his Super Mario RPG techniques.
In particular, I had this idea that Geno could utilize the “timing” system from Super Mario RPG where pressing or releasing a button at the right time makes the characters’ attacks stronger in some way. This is demonstrated not only in the depiction of Geno Beam and Geno Blast, but also in Geno’s smash attacks. As shown with Geno’s up-smash, the idea is that Geno’s smash attacks have an additional secondary component that Geno can chain into, similar to Kyo Kusanagai in the King of Fighters series or Fei Long in the Street Fighter series. Because it wouldn’t be terribly strategic to have the follow-up be automatically better every single time, the secondary part of every Smash Attack would have its own strengths and weaknesses (like leaving Geno vulnerable if the first part doesn’t connect properly, or not hitting at the desired angle at high percentages), so it would be an active choice at all times whether or not to use the timed attack system.
Other than that, Geno would have two other main features. The first would be his space control due to the fact that many of his attacks are ranged and come in at odd angles instead of straight-on (Geno Beam shoots diagonally upwards on the ground but diagonally downwards in the air, for example). The second would be that Geno’s normal moves emphasize the fact that his body is that of a doll, so it is extremely flexible, as demonstrated in that up-smash. This would give Geno a lot of unusual hitboxes on his attacks an, or allow him to slip past attacks by suddenly collapsing low to the ground, for example.
Unlike the previous characters I drew movesets for (King K. Rool, Princess Daisy), Great Puma is much more obscure. He’s the final boss from Pro Wrestling for the NES, and notoriously difficult, if only because all the button mashing you had to do to defeat him would hurt your thumbs (unless you used a turbo controller).
The reason I decided to draw Great Puma over the other wrestlers is because he 1) is a villain/antagonist 2) represents a popular retro series 3) has that final boss characteristic of knowing all of other wrestlers’ moves, which allows him to represent the full repertoire of Pro Wrestling. Kirby is depicted as the victim because I wanted to get across how the moves would look on someone distinctly non-humanoid.
As a Smash character, Great Puma specializes in holds and throws. He not only has more throws than any other character in the game, but he has two special moves that also facilitate grabbing the opponent. His Rope Bounce is sort of like a pseudo-wavedash in that it allows him to quickly retreat and then spring forward into a grab animation. His Reversal works like Marth’s Counter but it activates only when the oppoonent tries to grab him, which causes Great Puma to grab the opponent instead. Even his Running Neckbreaker is considered a throw, which overall makes him a difficult opponent to shield against. His Flying Cross Chop is surprisingly powerful but is only mediocre in terms of stage recovery.
His Final Smash, Wild Roar, allows Great Puma to link up to three throws together. This isn’t quite the same thing as a chain grab, as that involves grabbing the opponent immediately after a throw and then repeating. Rather, this allows him to do things like Grab -> Pummel -> Backbreaker -> Piranha Bite -> Piledriver before the opponent goes flying. Also not pictured are most of his moves, such as his back-air being Fighter Hayabusa’s Back Brain Kick (Enzui Giri) and his forward smash being Giant Panther’s Iron Claw.
I changed his tights because I think they just look better this way.
Following up the concept drawing I made for King K. Rool in Smash Bros., here’s Princess Daisy from the Mario series.
While Daisy’s most prominent appearance over the years has been in the multiplayer games, for the most part I thought it’d be cooler if her attacks referenced her debut game, Super Mario Land. Each special attack is based on one of the four worlds from Super Mario Land. One notable thing is that most of her attacks have a small added effect that gives them different properties if they hit close or mid-range. Birabuto Sand does solid damage if the actual kick connects, whereas the sand portion stuns the opponent. Muda Torrent works similarly, where the uppercut hits hard but the water has something of a FLUDD effect. Easton Ganchan can transition from recovery move to bouncing projectile. Her Chai Hop, based on the Pionpi enemies from World 4, is a fairly basic move but varies her recovery options alongside her Side-B.
Ideally, this means using her would involve deciding whether or not in any given situation to fight up close or at a slight distance, and what is the best way to transition back and forth between the two ranges.
Daisy’s Final Smash comes from the Super Mario Strikers series and grants her boosts to speed and offensive power. Additionally, many of her attacks will launch flurries of mechanized soccer balls.
While “clone” characters tend to look different but share similar moves with their base counterparts, Daisy is sort of the opposite, bearing obvious resemblance to Princess Peach but having significantly different attacks from top to bottom. Daisy is often described as being more of a tomboy than Peach, and so I thought it would be cool to have this come out in her attacks. Hence, she does things like throw hooks for Forward Smashes and kicks sand in opponents’ faces. Though not pictured, I see her small animations and jumps being more athletic as well. Of course, her taunt would be “Hi I’m Daisy!”
This is how I imagine King K. Rool (from the Donkey Kong Country series) would be if he were in Super Smash Bros. I’ve got at least a couple more of these on the way, so if readers are interested then they’ll have more to look forward to.
For King K. Rool, I made it so that each of his special moves references a different game in the Donkey Kong games produced by Rare, so Krown Toss = DKC, Blunderbuss = DKC2, Helicopter Pack = DKC3, and Punch Flurry = DK64. I’ve seen lots of other people come up with similar ideas, but what can I say? It makes complete sense.
While King K. Rool much larger than Donkey Kong in a lot of the games, I wanted to make them roughly equal in size so that it comes across as more of a rivalry between two powerhouses, as opposed to the David vs. Goliath feeling of Mario vs. DK or Mario vs. Bowser. K. Rool is not quite as strong or as quick as DK, and his movements are a bit awkward, but makes up for it with some nice ranged attacks.
Krown Toss is for space control and bits of damage, while the Blunderbuss is for KO power. The longer you charge the Blunderbuss, the more (randomized) projectiles it shoots out. Helicopter Pack is highly controllable but very slow and thus an easy target for edgeguarding, while Punch Flurry is good for clearing crowds but exhausts K. Rool afterwards. He doesn’t actually punch all that much in DK64 but I figured having yet another ground pound character would be overdoing it.
His Final Smash is based on the giant leaps he takes in DKC; I imagine it being fairly similar to PK Starstorm only that K. Rool himself is also a “projectile” in this case. Of course, he would have his running attack from the first DKC.
(Note: I originally posted this to reddit Smash Bros, and am putting it on the blog for posterity.)
The game has been out for over a year. During this time, it’s widely accepted by the community that Pac-Man is bottom tier. Try as people might, no one can seem to do anything with him.
EVO 2016 rolls around and it’s by far the biggest Smash tournament ever for any game in the franchise. All of the big names are there, but one by one they fall to a mysterious masked challenger who, unbelievably, is 4-stocking everyone with Pac-Man. Strangely, he appears to be much older than the average demographic for Smash.
Upon reaching the finals, the man removes his mask and reveals himself to be Billy Mitchell. Somehow, the skills that made him the first person to ever beat the Pac-Man arcade game have translated to Smash 4 almost perfectly. At this point, people are discussing if everything they knew about the game was wrong.
However, there’s another unidentified challenger in a hoodie who, while falling to the lower bracket early on, has been tearing it up. In the finals, he also reveals his true identity: Steve Wiebe.
Upon sitting down, they both set aside their mains and go straight for what counts the most for their pride: Donkey Kong mirror match. Gamers young and old start to watch. Just after the first set, people are declaring it the greatest finals ever in any competitive game, let alone Smash.
At EVO are both the crew for a new The Smash Brothers documentary, and the director of The King of Kong. The next day, they announce their collaboration for a sequel to The King of Kong in the Smash realm. The film is released internationally and is so successful, it turns the esports documentary into the most popular genre ever.
Yesterday was the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Invitational Tournament, and during it we got to see Mega Man’s Final Smash in full. Previously, it had already been revealed that it was a combined blast from five different iterations of the Blue Bomber, but what we didn’t see is that the set up for the attack is actually the Black Hole Bomb from Mega Man 9.
I love this, because while Mega Man’s moveset in the new Smash Bros. is basically an elaborate homage to all of the games of the classic series, it was conspicuously missing attacks from the most recent retro-style games. With the Black Hole Bomb, this has been remedied. Mega Man 10 is still missing, but at least we got one step closer.
It also makes a kind of weird science fiction-esque sense that Mega Men from multiple universes and timelines would converge inside of a black hole.
As a side note, seeing Hungrybox get a kill with Kirby’s up-throw in yesterday’s final brought joy to my heart, as it means that throws have killing power at relatively decent percentages again without having to factor in elaborate follow-ups, something that’s been missing since the original Super Smash Bros. unless you count some of Mewtwo’s and Ness’s throws in Melee.
P.S. Where is Mewtwo. WHERE IS MEWTWO.