Super Smash Bros and Third Party Appreciation
When Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake made their way into Super Smash Bros Brawl in 2008, it was certainly a strange sight to behold as world famous third party characters fought against a gang of Nintendo characters.
We knew what Super Smash Bros was supposed to be – a battle royale featuring only the best of Nintendo’s characters, but this inclusion of third party characters challenged that perception, and enticed fans from outside the usual crowd to pick up a copy of Brawl and check it out.
Fast forward to 2014 and the week of E3 – the time when the hype for the next in the Super Smash Bros series has hit a new level, and it’s now confirmed that three major third party characters will be appearing in the game.
One of them is a returning star, Sonic the Hedgehog, but the other two are particularly interesting – Capcom’s Mega Man, and Namco-Bandai’s iconic Pac-Man character.
What is particularly amazing to me about the inclusion of these two characters is the tone of their inclusion in Super Smash Bros – both of them are easily recognizable characters who have undergone plenty of changes over the years. From what I’ve seen so far, Nintendo is handling them with the utmost care and attention to the details which made these characters so wonderful in the first place.
In the case of Mega Man, his appearance in Super Smash Bros is for all intents and purposes, a revival of the character. Capcom has received a lot of (well deserved) flack in recent years for their lack of attention to the Mega Man character.
Outside of a Capcom supported project that began as a fan game (Street Fighter X Mega Man), there hasn’t been an official Mega Man release since 2010. In the mean time, Capcom teased a devoted fan base with the announcement of Mega Man Legends 3, only to crush the hopes of those very fans with the project’s cancellation in 2011.
Suffice to say, Capcom hasn’t been kind to the Mega Man franchise in a long time, and with their recent efforts involving reaching into the past for inspiration (Mega Man 9 and 10), all we’ve seen of Mega Man recently is for nostalgic purposes.
In Super Smash Bros, Nintendo clearly understands that nostalgic appeal surrounding Mega Man even better than Capcom, because he is loaded with wonderful nods to nearly every classic Mega Man title, particularly with his moveset.
Better yet, his Final Smash incorporates an attack from the Mega Man incarnations of the other key series in the franchise. And judging from the way the crowd at the Nokia Theatre exploded when it was finally used during the Smash Invitational, the Mega Man fans are still alive and well. They’re still waiting for a new Mega Man title, and Capcom, the ball’s in your court.
Pac-Man is simply one of the most iconic arcade titles of all time, a piece of 1980s popular culture and one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time. He’s been everywhere and done so many different things, with varying amounts of success – but nothing has ever matched that high water mark from the 80s (although wonderful games like Pac-Man Championship Edition exist).
Lately, Pac-Man hasn’t found himself involved in anything very good – Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures received little in the way of praise, and the television series the game is based off of – well, it exists. Similar to the Mega Man franchise, we’ve seen very little in the way of the character the fans know and love. Unlike Mega Man’s complete absence, we’ve just had to deal with Pac-Man morph in ways we don’t really want.
This is why his appearance in Super Smash Bros looks awesome – not only does Pac-Man himself act much like his older self, but Nintendo’s collaboration with Namco-Bandi on the game has brought a ton of referential material into the fray: whether it’s throwing fruit ripped right from the original Pac-Man, or transforming into his iconic form, this is another example of taking advantage of nostalgia.
And while we’re not far removed from the subject of a game based off a television series, that’s exactly what’ll be happening to Sonic the Hedgehog and friends in Sonic Boom. This decision has been met with a lot of worry from Sonic the Hedgehog fans, and with good reason. We’ve talked about Sonic Boom here on the Leviathyn several times, whether in article or podcast form – it’s not a direction we’re terribly interested in.
Games like Sonic Lost World are closer to our ideal of the modern Sonic the Hedgehog, who is quite far removed from the much older Sonic many of us consider to be the golden iteration of the character, but at least we’ve come to appreciate his modern form in some way.
Super Smash Bros uses that modern model, and if Sonic continues to develop in ways such as Sonic Boom, Smash may be our last connection to the Sonic we want, much like the other two stars we’ve talked about.