IT’S TIME TO WALK THE BOWSERSAUR
Just a heads up, folks, the puns are only going to get worse from here on out. What can I say, I’m a fan of hack comedy. Anyways, now we’re getting into the real meat of this series: getting mad hype, son! Oh god, do people still say “son”? Am I out of touch?
The announcement of new characters for Smash meant that it was, of course, time for wild and baseless speculation. Rumors flew about, swarming like a myriad crows above a battlefield, waiting for corpses to feast upon. Ok, not that dark, but still, you get my point. Sonic and Tails, Toad… Toad, for god’s sake. People though Toad was an unlock able character. It was a crazy time. No one knew what to think. Hell, no one knew what to know. Character names were bandied about left and right, people rallied in the streets, crying out for their favorites… and so, so many were disappointed. Sure, just as many were pleased, but come on, who wanted the Ice Climbers? Who even remembered the Ice Climbers? And it was 2001! No one knew what a Fire Emblem was! Marth was just a confusingly androgynous man, and Roy was his slightly more masculine counterpart.
But on the flipside, we finally got some more big franchise characters, like Peach and Zelda, Bowser and Ganondorf… uh… More Pokémon?
…I’m gonna stop stalling and start the article now.
The New Blood
A truly welcome inclusion to the franchise, Peach has always been a huge part of Nintendo’s pantheon of iconic characters, and Smash definitely needed female characters. Awesomely, Peach manages to be fun to play and kind of a badass, all without giving up her regal demeanor and femininity. She also massively benefits from Sakurai’s attention to detail, with attacks and moves mirroring every aspect of her playable appearances, from her usage of tennis rackets and golf clubs, to her ability to float in the air during jumps, Peach has it all. Coincidentally, she is the highest ranked Mario character, so she kinda kicks ass.
Her air game is phenomenal, because hey, turns out being able to float for extended periods of time kinda rocks. This makes her maneuver like an attack helicopter, with all of the power and savagery to boot. She uses Toad to counter attacks, which doubles as being super messed up and an awesome, awesome move. Additionally, she can use her down special, which plucks a vegetable from the ground (hey, another thing from Super Mario Bros. 2!), as an approach in order to set up ground to air combo strings.
Her recovery is, obviously, pretty fantastic, with the levitation being aided by her up special. However, because of the slow falling speed that she naturally has combined with the slow fall from her recovery move, she can be absolutely demolished when trying to get back to the stage. She also suffers from some slow attack speed on the ground, but hey, royalty doesn’t buy you everything. Still, as long as you know what you’re doing and can read your opponent well, no one can do anything to you without taking way more damage than they dish out to you.
You know what else Smash needed? Some kickass villains to play as. And so, when Bowser was announced for Melee, everyone got too excited. Finally, we would get to play as the King of Koopas! At last, we could crush our foes with impunity, using our massive claws, fangs, and horns to crack their bones and devour the succulent marrow within. AT LAST!
What a shame that he turned out to be a terrible character. Oh sure, we all had fun at first. The fire breath, the huge power… it felt great. Like a warm blanket, or heroin, or a massage. But then we all got the hang of Melee. It was a fast, brutal game, and there was no place for a slow, heavy-hitter like Bowser. He is ranked as the second-worst character in the game, and it shows. If he were just a bit faster, he might be way better, but alas… ’twas not meant to be. His up special may be great to combo with, but it kind of sucks for recovery. Honestly, he just sucks. I wish I could say something good about him beyond how fun he is. I really do. I love the big lug. But he’s just awful. Even Kirby, who is the actual worst character in Melee, is more fun to screw around with. It sucks.
Ah well. At least we got another good villain character. More on that later though.
I love you Bowser. I’m so glad you grew out of this phase.
Oh man, what a weird choice, right? Like, I guess I understand wanting a new Mario clone, but Dr. Mario is such an obscure pull. Tons of people played Dr. Mario, I get it, but as a fighting game character? Why? It’s like if Yoshi’s Cookie made an appearance as a stage, and oh my god I so want that to happen now. Forget everything that I have said up to this point. Sakurai, if this ever gets to you, please put in more weird obscure shit. Error for Smash 5, please. His Final Smash can include his brother Bagu. Make it happen.
Anyways, Dr. Mario is a full three places on the tier list above Mario, which is really strange when you think about it. He’s stronger than Mario, and he’s faster in the air, but he can’t wall jump, which… is not ideal, to say the least. He can combo better, he’s got more spikes, his projectile is better, and he’s way classier than Mario.
In short, he’s a real solid option, and he’s still fun to play. That’s a combination you can’t really ask more of. Mario definitely has better handwriting though, so he’s not completely better. God, that’s a terrible joke. Let’s just… let’s just get on with the article. Don’t look at me.
Yaaaaaaay, another badass princess! Except instead of just beating the shit out of people with various appliances, Zelda uses magic to put the hurt on people. Sounds great, right? Weeeeeeeellllll… Here’s the thing. She kinda sucks ass. She runs slow, she has a poor approach, and she gets killed pretty quickly. However, you can space and zone really well with her moves, and she does a surprising amount of damage. Her attacks come out fast and furious, and, luckily, she can turn into a much better character with a simple input of her down special.
Her specials, while great for zoning, are… situational, at best. They all have kind of weird hitboxes on them, and a lot of higher tier fighters can kind of just slip through them. To put it bluntly, Zelda suffers from a lot of issues. Still, she’s the best of the bottom tier fighters. Wow, she’s the top of the bottom of the barrel! Just like me! Good thing she turns into…
Odds are that if you play video games a lot, you know who Sheik is, or you’ve at least been sexually confused by her. Hell, I know I have. The 90s were, uh… the 90s were a weird time for all of us. Let’s just leave it at that for now.
Anyways, Sheik is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than her more traditionally female counterpart. She’s fourth in the top tier, which translates to, roughly, “oh god why is she so fast”. Seriously, Sheik is fast on the ground, in the air, when she’s beating you up, when she’s plummeting towards you like a meteor capable of hatred… basically, she’s just fast. Not quite as fast as Fox, but she’s up there. Plus, she can chain grab you to death, all of her specials are awesome for racking up damage, and can intercept most recovery moves. If you try to move in on her, chances are she’ll punish you for it, and she will punish you hard. I, uh… I need to stop thinking about Sheik for a while.
Her only real problem is that her recovery can be predicted fairly easily, but hey, if you’re even a decent Sheik player, the good news is that you’ll never have to recover because no one will ever hurt you enough to get you off the stage, because you are a god made flesh. Even Fox is made nervous by you. The dark power courses through your veins, YOUR DESTINY IS UNDENIABLE
Yeah, a badass warlock villain character! Why… why does he play like Captain Falcon? He’s holding a sword in other pictures, why won’t he use it here? What is this empty feeling in my heart?
Oh. So this is what disillusionment feels like. Neat.
So yeah, they made Ganondorf into a Captain Falcon clone. Why, I will never know, but still, he’s fun to play and he looks cool, so I’ll forgive it. Overall, Ganondorf is just a bigger, slower, heavier dude than Captain Falcon, so sure, he does play somewhat differently. Additionally, he has some different attacks, including the infamous volcano kick. Otherwise, there’s not too much to say about him. He’s slightly above average in the mid-tier, and he’s fun to play. So… that’s it, I guess.
Another strange clone choice, Young Link pretty much only exists because of the central gimmick of Ocarina of Time. Apart from wielding the early-game equipment from the game, he’s largely the same as Link. Except, of course, for the fact that he is faster than most modern forms of transportation. Despite this, he is still low tier, though rated higher than his older self, because when it comes down to it, Melee is a game about moving fast and killing faster.
He does have a few other differences, however. He can wall jump, his arrows are on fire, and his spin attack hits multiple times. Still, being, you know, a child, he’s light, has low range, and can get killed pretty easily. Poor kid.
To this day, I’m still not sure whether or not to classify Falco as a clone or a semi-clone. I guess he’s more clone than not, but… geez, it’s a rough call. Ah well. Since he’s a clone of Fox (the unstoppable God-King made flesh, the template from which all warriors were wrought), he’s in the top of the top tier, and is arguably just as good as, if not better than, his counterpart. His blaster functions the same way that Fox’s did in 64, his reflector goes out as a ranged defense option, and overall, well, he basically plays like a better version of Fox from Smash 64. If you’re more into dishing out the pain than being as fast and deadly as lightning, then Falco is the clone for you.
Falco has an insane amount of combos and tech, and I absolutely have neither the time nor the desire to elaborate upon that. Just check out stuff from the competitive Smash scene, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of material on Falco.
Now, as I’m legally obligated to say every time I bring up Falco from Melee…
*long, pained sigh*
That ain’t Falco. Wombo… Wombo Combo. Where you at.
Oh man, I flipped my shit when I unlocked this guy. Hell, I think everyone did. He crosses his arms when he leans off ledges. Mewtwo is everything I’ve always wanted to be: calm, cool, collected, an amoral psychic genocide engine crafted by science gone awry, and most importantly, has good pecs. But seriously, after the beginning of Pokémon, and more importantly, after his totally awesome turn in the first movie, Mewtwo was a hugely popular freak of science, and everyone was excited to see him in Smash Bros.
And, despite a disappointingly low tier placement, he lives up to the hype. True to his mysterious nature, Mewtwo doesn’t really fit into any character archetype, being big and heavy, yet fairly quick, and having bizarre hitboxes and animations. He has the best recovery in the game, he’s got lots of fun tricks with his specials, and, frankly, his tier placement is debatable, as you can easily get around his shortcomings with time and practice. What are his shortcomings? Well, because of his odd mix of attributes, he kind of doesn’t have a lot of survivability unless you know exactly what you’re doing at all times, and having the worst tech in the game.
However, none of this is an issue if you want to try him out. Just practice until you can make it with him. It’s definitely worth it.
And on the direct opposite end of the spectrum from Mewtwo, we have this guy. The Pokémon that absolutely nobody expected or asked for, Pichu functions as a way shittier clone of Pikachu. Somehow he’s not the bottom of the tier list, despite being nearly unplayable, but hey, that’s what happens. Pichu’s notable differences from Pikachu are primarily his speed and even lower weight, and, arguably more importantly, HE HURTS HIMSELF EVERY TIME HE USES A MOVE WITH ELECTRICITY IN IT.
But here’s the thing. Pichu isn’t quite a worthless joke character. He has some pretty strong neutral aerial combos, and a handful of competitive players say that he’s an underrated character. Plus, you know, all of his shortcomings are accurate to his source material, so that’s kind of neat.
Fun fact: A close friend and I have a self-created game mode that we play called “King of Shit Mountain”. All players are Pichu, with the maximum amount of stocks, with Pokéballs as the only item with a high appearance rate, on Pokéfloats (which, depending on what kind of player you are, is either the best or the worst stage in Smash history). Drinking may be involved at your own peril. The winner is to be treated as royalty for the next week.
Speaking of characters no one thought would be included, who the hell are the Ice Climbers? Well, turns out they’re an IP that nintendo put out on the NES way back in the day, and… now here they are, I guess. At least you don’t have to put in work to unlock them, because I can’t think of a scenario more disappointing than grinding through Melee only to be rewarded with whoever the hell these losers are.
But in all seriousness, the Ice Climbers (or Popo and Nana, if you’re nasty) are seriously awesome fighters. Their unique gimmick of being, you know, two people really gives them an advantage, as some seriously disjointed, weird combos can be performed using that to your advantage. The downside to this, however, is that should the computer “controlled” partner be KO’d, you lose about 50 percent of your fighting ability. Moves do half as much damage, you lose an effective zoning tool, and, most importantly, your recovery straight up disappears. They’ve got a good ground approach, but their air game kind of suffers, and, obviously, they’re kind of complicated to get a decent handle on.
I still don’t know if they’re related or if they’re boinking each other. Also, I think it’s hilarious that “boinking” isn’t a misspelled word according to my spellcheck. What a world.
Another case of “wait, who?”, Marth was unfairly attacked for being a character from a franchise that hadn’t yet made the jump over to America. Also, he kind of looks like a girl, and it freaked a lot of people out. But after we got over the initial shock of seeing some bishounen warrior from a “fire emblem”, we quickly discovered an awesome fighter. Marth is the third best character in the game, and is one of the most played competitively too. He has great combos, great range, a great air game, and his neutral special can be used to obliterate shields. What’s not to love?
Additionally, like most characters in Smash, he has a sort of gimmick in that his attacks do significantly more damage when they connect with the tip of his sword rather than any other part. This, of course, leads to some pretty neat gameplay stuff. You will, of course, need to learn a lot of hitboxes and move animations in order to play him to his full potential, but once that’s done, you’ve pretty much got this in the bag.
The only real problem with Marth is that his recovery pretty much blows. It’s slow, predictable, and is largely useless. Does ok damage though, so there’s that. As long as you stay on the stage and edge guard effectively (which is real easy on Marth), then you won’t have any trouble.
MAH BOI ROY
Woo! Roy is so cool! Yeah, sure, we all hated him at first because an unlock slot was taken up by a clone of a character from an unknown franchise, and was also from that unknown franchise, but man, Roy is just too cool to stay mad at. He swings his sword backwards like Starkiller and Ahsoka! If you don’t follow Star Wars stuff at all, that means nothing to you! He does the things Marth does, but when Roy does them, his sword lights on fire and explodes! He’s awesome!
Also, when the crowd chants for him in Melee, they chant “Roy’s our boy!”, which is scientifically confirmed to be, and I quote professionals here, “absolutely bitchin'”.
Now, as much as I love the guy, he does have plenty of faults. Unlike Marth, his attacks do the most damage at the hilt of the blade, which makes it tricky to land them at their full potential, and his reach is not nearly as good. He also attacks kind of slower and, surprisingly, does less damage. That’s not to say it’s all bad news, however, some of his moves hit multiple times, with his up smash being a particularly notable example (mostly because it looks cool, but also because you can do some real tricky shit with it). But mostly, I just think he’s cool. Ah well. At least he gets better in Smash 4.
Mr. Game & Watch
Last but not least, we have…. um… This guy. Look, Mr. G&W kinda gets a pass for being a significant part of Nintendo history, but jesus, of all the people to include, this guy got in? We could have had Wario 7 years earlier, damn it!
All impotent nerd rage aside, he’s actually a fun character. He does high damage, but has a low death threshold, so he’s kind of a high-risk high-reward fighter. Plus he has all kinds of unusual shit going on with his attacks, making him unpredictable and dangerous. He is, however, kind of slow when he tries to get those attacks out, meaning that you had better be good at reading people. He’s got a bad approach, but you shouldn’t have to worry about that, just play defensively and troll everyone with your specials to rack up damage.
The best part of Mr. G&W by far, however, is his air game. Good god, his air game. He has the strongest nair in the game, his bair has disjoint… basically, if he gets you up in the air, you are at his mercy. Only problem is, he’s exactly as light and easy to get rid of as a 2d character should be. But hey, it’s all worth it.
And that’s it for Melee! Next time, we’ll get into Brawl! Stick around!