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Upon hearing Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U for the first time, I was convinced that they had brought back the original actor, Ichimura Masachika, from the film Mewtwo Strikes Back. However, it actually turns out to be someone doing an excellent imitation (with the help of a voice filter), and whose acting chops are impressive in their own right. While the new actor Fujiwara Keiji might not have the cred of being an established theater actor like Ichimura is (he’s most famous for playing the titular character in the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera), you might know him for some of the following roles:
Ladd Russo in Baccano!
Nohara Hiroshi in Crayon Shin-chan
Kuzuhara Kinnosuke (Biker Cop) in Durarara!!
Holland Novak in Eureka Seven
Maes Hughes in Full Metal Alchemist (both original and Brotherhood)
Ali-al Saachez in Mobile Suit Gundam 00
Hannes in Attack on Titan
Jake Martinez in Tiger & Bunny
I actually had my suspicions because Mewtwo makes certain sounds in the new Smash Bros. that I don’t recall from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but I chalked it up to my own faulty memory. It’s also a lot more difficult to hear because only the Japanese version has voiced victory quotes. It was the same in Melee, except you could change the language settings there to Japanese, which is how I and a lot of other people learned that Mewtwo had victory quotes in the first place.
Here are videos of the old and new voices for you to compare:
Old (ignore the skins; they’re from a mod)
And for fun, here’s a video of Ichimura Masachika as the Phantom of the Opera:
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It’s been six months since Mewtwo was announced as a downloadable character for Smash 4, but it’s felt more like a lifetime. With the vague arrival date of “Spring 2015″ and not a single image beyond a basic character model, information was scarce, and it left Mewtwo fans such as myself starving. Then came the April Nintendo Direct, which not only showed Mewtwo in action and gave an April 28th release date (April 15th for people who registered both games through Club Nintendo), but also revealed the return of Mother 3 hero Lucas as well as a worldwide poll asking who you want in Super Smash Bros. Suffice it to say, it’s been crazy.
(More on the poll in the future. Stay tuned!)
That brings us to today. As one of the many people who bought and registered both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions, I’ve had the privilege of getting early access to Mewtwo, and I’d like to give my impressions. This comes from the perspective of someone who used the character avidly in Super Smash Bros. Melee (though not so much in a high-level competitive sense), as well as a long-time fan of Mewtwo as a character.
On an aesthetic level, Mewtwo looks so much better than it did in Melee, with body proportions closer to more recent depictions (taller, smaller head, etc.), as well as much more detailed animations. Though all of Mewtwo’s moves are more or less the same as they were back in the Gamecube era, they all have an extra bit of flair that really captures the essence of the character. When Mewtwo does a back throw, it effortlessly lifts the opponent through its telekinesis and, with its eyes closed as if it’s discarded a piece of trash, launches them. The voice, which I know was a bit of a concern for people, is actually just the same as its Melee voice, veteran theater actor Ichimura Masachika. Actually, it’s literally the Melee clips re-used, only that we don’t get the option of changing the game language to Japanese and hearing Mewtwo speak actual lines. I’m not totally against English dubs, but a part of me would have been a bit sad if this had been replaced.
In terms of gameplay, the first thing I want to say is that it actually took me less time to figure out how Mewtwo is supposed to function as a character than it did for me to learn Mega Man, who has been my primary character (the spotlight will now be shared between Blue Bomber and Genetic Pokemon). Once you get a sense of Mewtwo’s attributes, including its attacks, its speed, and its weaknesses, its game plan becomes clear. Mewtwo is a glass cannon, with an overwhelmingly powerful offense contrasted by being one of the lightest characters in the game who’s also one of the largest targets out there.
Especially coming from the perspective of a Mega Man player, Mewtwo’s attacks flow together incredibly well. A lot of its attacks, namely down tilt, up tilt, Side Special (Confusion), and Down Special (Disable) are designed to set opponents up for juggles or follow-ups. There aren’t very many reliable combos from Mewtwo, but a lot of the character is about forcing 50/50 guessing situations that favor you in terms of reward, and you can do things like Confusion -> down tilt, dash attack, forward air, second jump into up air. If you’re not someone who plays and found that a bit confusing, just know that Mega Man by comparison is lucky to get more than 3 hits on an opponent while juggling.
Another feature of Mewtwo’s is that it’s actually much faster on the ground now compared to Melee, and both the range and power of its attacks have been increased. Dash attack in particularly is affected positively by this new-found speed and range, as it’s easy to catch someone landing with it, pop them up in the air, and start a juggle. Mewtwo also now sports some of the most tremendous and reliable kill power in the game. Shadow Ball has more kill power than Samus’s Charge Shot and can be spammed more reliably than Lucario’s Aura Sphere. Up Smash comes out quickly and is absurdly strong, KOing many opponents off the top at about 90%. Forward Smash and Down Smash are slow but powerful, and their weak points can be mitigated through setups such as Confusion and Disable. In particular, if you Disable someone at about 80% and charge a smash attack, they’re almost assuredly going to get taken out.
Mewtwo also eats shields for breakfast, and it’s kind of frightening to see just how effective it is at whittling them down. Many characters have attacks that can either destroy shields or do massive damage to them, but none are quite as reliable and effective as Mewtwo’s Shadow Ball. Its only real weakness is that it takes a while to charge, but once you have it at full power, it has positive effects whether it hits or is blocked, and its erratic trajectory can make it difficult to avoid through dodging. Even if it doesn’t hit anything, Mewtwo can act quickly out of the move allowing follow-ups, and for those characters that love to reflect projectiles, Mewtwo now has a properly-working Confusion that can send it right back for a game of Ocarina of Time-esque volleyball.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Mewtwo without some strong throws, and it sports some of the best around. All of them do significant amounts of damage, somewhere between 9-11%. Back throw is a decent kill move, and up throw is the strongest in its class. With a good amount of rage (in Smash 4, characters become stronger as they take more damage), up throw can KO most opponents between 120-140%. While that might not seem too impressive, and it’s actually weaker when compared to Melee, it’s important to remember that, unlike many other killing throws (which are mostly back throws), Mewtwo’s is reliable at pretty much any point on the stage, instead of requiring you to be closer to one side or the other.
That’s Mewtwo on offense. Mewtwo on defense is another matter, as it is actually one of the lightest characters in the game, even easier to KO than Mr. Game & Watch. Combined with its large frame, it takes attacks easily, and doesn’t have many moves that can keep it from being juggled. Somewhat similar to Mega Man, Mewtwo’s main game plan is to drift towards the edges to avoid follow-ups, and thankfully a combination of excellent air speed, huge jumps, and the best teleport in the game means that it can often escape. However, because Mewtwo is so frail, it sometimes doesn’t matter, as a stiff breeze can send it reeling. In other words, the basic principle of Mewtwo is to deal a crazy amount of damage before the opponent gets the chance to touch you, otherwise you’re probably in trouble. In this way, Mewtwo somewhat resembles Akuma from Street Fighter, another character known for having high damage and low health.
Regardless of how good Mewtwo is as a character in the end, the collective effect of all of this is that Mewtwo feels more representative of the character’s original concept. In the original Pokemon games, Mewtwo is among the strongest in the game, with insanely high offensive stats and relatively good defensive stats. In an effort to promote game balance, the creators of Smash 4 clearly decided to make these aspects more extreme by giving it such terrible defenses, but I think this plays into Mewtwo’s character more than what it had in Melee, which generally amount to having a few decent moves wrapped up in a bunch of terrible qualities. Now, at least those terrible qualities are equally met with terrifying potential on offense. Destroy or be destroyed.
I do find it kind of interesting that the two characters I picked are the ones that are deceptive in terms of size to weight ratios. Mewtwo is very large and extremely light, while Mega Man is much heavier than he looks. It also means that their game plans are also somewhat opposite, as Mewtwo is a very unforgiving character while Mega Man can be afforded more mistakes. Whether they complement each other or succumb to the same issues, only time will tell.
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Back in 2008 when Super Smash Bros. Brawl was released, it was a bittersweet victory. While the new game was huge, and it had a ton of amazing new characters (King Dedede! Captain Olimar!), it came at the expense of one of my favorite Pokemon of all time and my favorite character to play in the previous game Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mewtwo. How cool was it that Mewtwo didn’t hold items with his hands but with his mind? How great was it that Mewtwo was voiced by Ichimura Masachika, his actor from the original movie and also the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera? I wasn’t depressed about his exclusion or anything, but I’d hoped he would be back next time.
Fast forward a few years to the impending release of a new Smash Bros. Not only did they announce another long time wishlist character of mine in Mega Man, but 2013 was a different time for Mewtwo. While it hadn’t really gotten anything new back when its position was essentially supplanted by Lucario, Mewtwo had developed further within its own games. It received the devastating Psystrike as its signature technique. It was upgraded to have two Mega Evolutions. It even appeared in a new Pokemon movie (albeit that Mewtwo was different from the first one). Surely Mewtwo had a chance now, right?
After another year, after closely following all Smash Bros. updates looking for any hints and being taken for a ride (the Greninja trailer not only makes it look like Mewtwo at first, but also conspicuously does not feature Mewtwo as part of the background Pokemon), the 3DS game was released and the final roster revealed. The bad news: no Mewtwo. I said to myself, “It’s not so bad, I at least got Mega Man, which in a way I’d hoped for even more.” And I’ve been having a ton of fun using Mega Man, getting used to all of his odd quirks. I also began using Palutena, who is sort of like Mewtwo. I was content.
Then came Thursday and the 50-Fact Extravaganza (not really 50). Mewtwo as DLC.
I freaked. Inside, that is. I’m not the type who loses all control of himself even in emotionally exciting times. The dream is real, Mewtwo strikes back, and he has a fancy new 3D model to boot. I have my most desired dual mains. The only thing left for me to do is buy a Wii U.
Now, given Mewtwo’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U, one question still remains in my mind: how will the game implement Psystrike? Will it be a Final Smash, or will that be reserved for one (or both?) of its Mega Evolutions? If it’s a special move, how would they translate the particular properties of Psystrike, if at all?
Here’s my idea. In the Pokemon games, there are different forms of offense, Physical Attacks, which are resisted by Physical Defense, and Special Attacks, which are resisted by Special Defense. Mewtwo in those games has long been famous for having an absurdly high Special Attack stat, and so the best way to combat it would be to use Pokemon with high Special Defense. However, Psystrike flips that relationship on its head. Instead, if calculates Special Attack against the opponent’s Physical Defense, allowing Mewtwo to more effectively attack opponents that it might have trouble with otherwise. While Super Smash Bros. doesn’t have Physical and Special stats, what it does have is horizontal survivability and vertical survivability. Mewtwo’s Smash rendition of Psystrike could play off of this distinction by having it be a vertical KO move but calculate its launching power based on the opponent’s horizontal survivability (or vice versa).
The easiest way to understand horizontal vs. vertical survivability is to look at some examples. Take Bowser vs. Dedede, for instance, where Bowser is generally the heaviest character in the Smash series without modifications and is thus the most difficult to KO off the left and right sides of the screen. Dedede, while also very heavy, isn’t quite as robust in this regard. However, try to take them out by launching them off the top of the screen, and Dedede lives longer. There are even more extreme casse: Samus is very difficult to KO horizontally but quite easy to dispatch vertically, while Fox and Falco are the opposite. Thus, assuming that Psystrike KOs vertically based on the opponent’s horizontal survivability, it would mean that the move is relatively ineffective against Samus but great for taking out team Star Fox.
I also decided to try and express these thoughts in audio, just as a fun test. Tell me what you think!
So in short, Mewtwo hype all around. See you on the Battlefield.
Genshiken info aside, I’m not one to write “breaking news” posts, but I had to report this: Mewtwo will be making its return in the new Pokemon movie, titled Divine Speed (Extremespeed) Genesect and the Rival of Mewtwo.
I still consider the first Pokemon movie to be the best one by far, and a great deal of it had to do with how powerful Mewtwo is as an antagonist and as a complex character in general. In other words, I’m now looking more forward to a Pokemon movie than I have in a long time. The made-for-TV followup, Mewtwo Lives (aka Mewtwo Returns) is also quite good in its own right. In case you never saw it, the conclusion was that Mewtwo basically becomes Batman.
I originally thought that they would have Mewtwo make a return for the Deoxys movie a few years back, as both were powerful psychic beings, but it didn’t happen. That said, Genesect may be a better counterpart for Mewtwo. In the story of the games, Genesect is an ancient Pokemon that was biologically altered by Team Plasma, which makes the genetically-engineered Mewtwo fit well into the story.
Mewtwo has also had an incredible voice actor in all of his previous appearances, theatre actor Ichimura Masachika. Ichimura is probably most famous as the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera, and I hope he’s back for the new movie. If you’re wondering what he sounds like as Mewtwo, he voiced the character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. If you turn on the Japanese mode, you can hear his spoken lines when you win as Mewtwo.
I’ll leave off with some trivia. Did you know that not only is the main antagonist of the first Pokemon movie (Mewtwo) is voiced by the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera, but that the second movie’s antagonist (Gelardan) is voiced by the original Japanese Jean Valjean?
(Taken from Yaraon! Warning: NSFW banners)
*NOTE: Turns out some of the information I have in this post is inaccurate. Check the comments below for the correct information!
Shudou Takeshi, anime writer, has passed away at age 61. To fans of magical girl anime, he may be best known as the writer for Fairy Princess Minky Momo, and giant robot fans may associate him with his work on series such as Sengoku Majin Goshogun, but as for me and for millions of others all over the world, our first true exposure to Shudou was through his work on the Pokemon anime. Pokemon is undoubtedly one of the most successful anime series of all time, having penetrated popular culture down to its core along with the games on which it’s based, and while a good portion of its success can no doubt be contributed to effective marketing, underneath it all you will find a surprisingly engrossing story that can attract people of all ages, particularly in the beginning. It is Shudou’s work on those early seasons of Pokemon that helped to give it so much character and memorability.
Pokemon wasn’t always considered the evergreen franchise that it is today, and Shudou’s writing on Pokemon in those early days reflects that. Let’s go back to the very first Pokemon series, to the time when it was just 151 Pokemon; if you were to ask someone who watched the series avidly during this time to list their most memorable moments with the show, what would they say? Most likely, they would recount moments such as Pikachu defeating an Onix by activating ceiling sprinklers, Team Rocket giving their famous speech for the first time, a Bellsprout with expertise in martial arts overwhelming opponents many times its size, and a mysterious and absolutely menacing Pokemon in cybernetic armor asserting total domination over Gary Oak. What these events and many others have in common is that they not only broke the rigid logic of the Pokemon games but also created rules where there were none.
Before the games told us that Pokemon lay eggs and that Rhydon’s horn can act as a lightning rod, the anime gave us a story about how Ash’s Butterfree had to leave to find a mate and showed us that Rhydon’s invulnerability to electricity could be bypassed by attacking it through the horn. Before female main characters were an option, the anime saw fit to turn a water-loving boss character into a supporting cast member. Unorthodox creativity characterized those early seasons of Pokemon under Shudou, and while it meant that kids who believed the show’s every word tended to do poorly when playing against their friends on their Game Boys, on a storytelling level it was a complete boon. I believe that it is this dedication and relative freedom that Shudou and his fellow staffers were able to exercise is that enabled the anime to capture the imaginations of people everywhere and bring them into the Pokemon franchise. They wanted, above all else, to tell a good story.
Nowhere is this desire to entertain and inform more evident than in the very first Pokemon film. Placing Ash, Pikachu, and their companions against the formidable armored Pokemon which so soundly defeated Gary, Mewtwo Strikes Back on its surface seemed like it would be the story of Ash taking on a villain and coming out victorious, but it turned out to be far more profound than perhaps anyone anticipated. Watching the movie through a VHS fansub, I was introduced to Mewtwo, a cloned Pokemon genetically engineered to be the ultimate fighting machine. Having come into the world fully grown and told of its purpose as a living weapon, Mewtwo first destroys its creators and eventually sets out to show that clones are inherently better than their natural counterparts, or at least that’s the initial story. While perhaps even Mewtwo believes that its own goal is telling the world about the superiority of genetic enhancement, in actuality Mewtwo’s true desire is to find worth in its own existence. Ultimately, the important message to take from the film is as follows: the circumstances of why you’re in this world don’t matter nearly as much as the fact that you’re alive and have the right to keep on living.
As the man responsible for the story of Mewtwo Strikes Back, Shudou Takeshi gave us an amazingly complex antagonist in Mewtwo, by far the most well-developed character in Pokemon to date, as well as an amazingly intelligent children’s movie, and his only cues from the original games were that Mewtwo was an offspring of a Pokemon named Mew, that Mewtwo destroyed a lab and escaped, and that Mewtwo is designed to be the strongest Pokemon ever. The manner in which Shudou was able to weave these simple story elements together into an existential tale of a being cursed with incredible power is nothing short of amazing, and it is this very reason that I consider Mewtwo Strikes Back to be the best movie of the franchise, with or without nostalgia. This is also why I was so disappointed at the English release of the film back in 1999 and still am today, as it almost completely whitewashed the actual message of the movie, replaced it with a thematically inappropriate “fighting is wrong” moral. But even with such a compromised story, the light of Shudou’s script is able to shine through, at least a little.
Pokemon was and is one of my first great obsessions, and I cannot understate how beneficial my time with Pokemon has been. I have made lifelong friendships through it. I have interacted with fellow fans about it, and through those interactions established the roots of both my writing style and my approach towards anime as an artform. Without those early seasons of Pokemon, I would not be who I am today. Thank you, Shudou Takeshi. You have made my life.
Nintendo has announced plans to release Pokemon t-shirts for adults under its “Pokemon 151″ line. This means not only larger sizes, but also designs catering to older audiences as well. And I for one welcome this desire to match actual aesthetics with anime/video game t-shirts.
Anime t-shirts and wearable merchandise in general tend to suffer from the recurring dilemma of simply Not Looking Good. This is especially a problem with any sort of non-Japanese t-shirt release, as the design usually just ends up being a stock image pasted onto the front of the shirt with no regards for the overall look. It’s like delivering a punchline with no setup.
This is why I was so pleased with the Eureka Seven t-shirts that came with the DVDs. It’s like someone understood the importance of subtlety (and in some cases when NOT to be suble) when designing them.
So yes, anime t-shirt makers, please learn from Pokemon 151.
Except for COSPA and Uniqlo. You guys are swell. Most of the time at least.