What Smash Means to Me

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We’re only 2 mere days away from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s official release, and I couldn’t be any more excited to play it!

As some of you may have noticed, I have an extreme fondness for the Super Smash Bros. series, and it stretches beyond being a fun multiplayer game with a marquee cast of Nintendo characters.

For me, the series was something far greater. It was almost a cultural experience, unifying even the most distant friends and family.

People with little to nothing in common, with clashing personalities, could all play Smash Bros. together and have a blast.

Its ease of play encouraged just about everyone who watched it to pick up a controller, whether they described themselves as a gamer or not.

And because of the cross-franchise nature of the game itself, not only was it possible to play with your favorite Nintendo characters, (Team Yoshi represent!), it also led to a discovery of different games and different characters.

But enough about what the series does. Let’s get into what it means to me. To retell the story of a series that shaped my childhood, and brings me joy several years later as an adult.

Humble Origins

Every legend has an origin story, right? (And yes, for this post, I’ll call my story a legend, darn it!)

Well, our story begins a long, long time ago. It centers around a young boy, who we’ll refer to as “Candid,” and begins with Candid being raised in a gaming family.

Me being he, I was the youngest of the family, and was playing games for as long as I can remember.

But I was a notorious loser at best.

I lost games more often than I ever won them, even to the point of breaking down and crying tears. Yet I never stopped playing, and inevitably, improving.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I would be introduced to Super Smash Bros., and my legend would truly begin…

Melee and the Mysterious Gamecube

One day, on a regular weekend visit to my uncles’ house, I had discovered the magical Gamecube.

Young me was baffled by the purple box, and didn’t even realize it was a game system, let alone the latest Nintendo system at the time!

It wasn’t until one of my uncles told me what it really was that I was interested. And the games he had for it were absolutely fantastic.

There were a handful of games I could list off, but the two games with the most staying power were Kirby Air Ride, and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

I had never heard of Super Smash Bros. before then, and as fate would have it, I would start off on the most competitively loved release of the game.

In fact, I was so new to the series, and Nintendo as a whole, that I didn’t even recognize much of the roster!

The only characters I recognized were Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and Yoshi. I barely even recognized Pikachu, and vaguely knew Link.

And to my suprise, my too-old-to-hang uncles wanted me to play it!

That doesn’t mean I was the best at it, though…

The Underdog and the Rival

Ok, full disclosure: I played like a complete amateur.

Cut me some slack, though! I was still young, and here I was, playing a new-to-me console, with a weird controller, and a foreign game, with foreign rules!

As for how I played, I vividly remember helplessly chucking eggs to recover as Yoshi, and only spamming Pikachu’s Thunder and Spark moves. But in either case, once I was knocked off the stage, that was a guaranteed life stock lost.

What makes this even worse, is that I’m certain I was playing against a computer.

So when my older uncle personally decided to play against me, you could only imagine how badly I lost.

Now, he did teach me the basics, and even went easy on me while I learned the controls better, but when he decided to get serious? I could never beat him.

He played with nearly the whole roster, and just like a multi-stage boss battle, if I came close to beating him at first, he hit the berserk button and became significantly harder to fight for the rest of the match.

Looking back, I may not have known it then, but that same uncle became something of a rival to me. Even if it was entirely one-sided on my end.

Just like any good rival in any other story, he was proud of his skills, though a bit arrogant in them. He was always at least a step ahead, if not several, and even if I lost in our matches, there was always a pull to just do better.

One of those days, I would beat him, and hold my own in Super Smash Bros. And nothing would have brought me any greater satisfaction.

Ever since then, whenever I would visit that house, I made a point to play on that gamecube. I improved over time, but still just never beat anybody. It wasn’t until years later that I would be able to play Super Smash Bros. at my own terms, and boy, did it leave an impression…

Wii All Scream for Brawl!

That’s right! Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the first of the Smash series that I could play on my time…

And I have so many fond memories of that entry. Everything about it was just epic.

The opening sequence showed some of Nintendo’s most iconic and beloved characters on a long cliff, to the tune of an dramatic orchestra, complete with Latin vocals.

The roster had also gotten some buzzworthy additions, such as Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Metal Gear Solid’s Snake (people were highly shocked about that one), Pokémon’s Lucario, and a Pokémon Trainer themself, with Kantonian starters in tow.

But the absolute best part of the game has to easily be the Subspace Emissary: a campaign mode that artfully combined Nintendo’s distant character worlds with an action-adventure side-scrolling brawler, and all without a single word uttered by any of the characters.

And I didn’t even mention the stage creator yet, did I? Or the introduction of the Smash Ball and Final Smashes? But what about the fact that it finally introduced wireless multiplayer to the series?

Enter the second rival.

Family Rivalry

I don’t recall exactly when this started, but I know at least from Brawl onwards, me and a cousin of mine started playing Smash Bros. together.

We weren’t geographically close, but we would call and talk to each other almost daily. And for the longest while, we’d play on Brawl’s online servers, trash talking and trading hits across countless matches.

We’d get stupid silly about it, too, spamming custom quick chat messages assigned to taunt buttons, and just having a ball playing around.

But they weren’t a complete novice at all. As in many games, we tended to have been evenly matched, and Smash Bros. was no exception.

Back in those days, there was no telling who would win, so both of us readied up; our pride and egos on the line. Neither of us would accept defeat until the match was over, and just as quickly, we’d demand a rematch from the other.

To my surprise, even my uncles’ had gotten Brawl! So I then had two rivals: each of us seperated by miles of distance, yet united in our joy from the series.

But that same uncle who had kicked my behind three ways from Saturday in the past? Still unbeatable.

He had found a new favorite character in Meta Knight, and between playing top-tier mind games, and a rather infamous invisibility glitch with Meta Knight, he was entirely scary to play against. You’d never know which side of the screen he was coming from, and he was absolutely lethal with Meta Knight’s Final Smash.

Even with me and my cousin’s combined efforts, we still failed to beat him.

But by this time, I was far more familiar with the roster, and likewise with the controls. Gone were the days of helplessly falling to the bottom of the screen, and from here on, I had gotten a much better appreciation of the game. I had even found something of a favorite character in Toon Link!

Several years would come and pass, and a curious rumor took to the internet: Super Smash Bros. would be coming to the DS. “Wishful thinking,” I thought. But time would make a fool of us all, and flip everything on it’s head…

Super Smash Bros… in 3D?

Surprise! That rumor wound up being partially true, and came years later, in Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS.

I grew up gaming, and the one thing I loved far more than my consoles, were my handhelds. I took my DS with me everywhere, and as the years saw it evolve to a DS Lite, DSi, and then the 3DS itself, my love of portable gaming never died in the slightest.

So I was absolutely flabbergasted when the 3DS release was announced, and I followed it like a hawk.

Not only were we getting a portable Smash Bros. game, but it would be a completely new entry, with new characters, new stages, and even custom moves!

It was a nothing short of a dream come true, and the roster additions took that dream to a fever pitch. Retro gamers had a lot to look forward to with the additions of Pac-Man, Mega Man, Little Mac, and even the Duck Hunt duo!

Animal Crossing’s Villager made a surprising debut, and Bowser Jr. was a new fighter we didn’t know we wanted.

But between two other revealed fighters, I had lost my mind. We aren’t talking about the likes of Ryu, Cloud, or Bayonetta, all of whom are mindblowing, but don’t fit the chronology here.

I’m talking about my then newly-favorite Pokémon, Greninja, and my absolute favorite Mario character, Rosalina.

Now it’s Personal

Let’s give a little bit of context, shall we?

Growing up, I don’t know why exactly, but I found frogs to be a really cool creature. (I blame Frogger for that, honestly).

So, back in the early days of there being leaked pictures from Pokémon X and Y, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Froakie, the frog-based water starter, would be my top choice for a starter. And that was way before I had even seen Greninja.

Once I had personally gotten to see Frogadier evolve into Greninja, it cemented the water/dark starter as my all-time favorite pokémon. I loved the design.

Greninja rocked a very fashionable tongue scarf, making it look ninja-ish, had the strength to take down almost any foe, with the speed to outpace nearly anything, and just enough of an attitude to tie it all together.

So to see Greninja make the roster, not as a pokéball summon, but as a full fledged fighter? I had no words, but I needed to scream.

The same went for Rosalina. Rosalina was incredibly charming in Super Mario Galaxy, and having Mario read, or rather… eavesdrop, on her tale in the Comet Observatory’s library, I couldn’t help but feel respect for the orphaned cosmic traveler.

Without going into too many details on her backstory, she sacrificed everything to help someone in need, and when things don’t go as planned, she takes on a duty that was never hers. She even makes another sacrifice at the end of Super Mario Galaxy. Talk about selflessness!

Her addition to the ever-growing roster had given me two characters I desperately wanted to learn. That was my goal for the game, whenever it released. And really, isn’t that what Smash Bros. is all about? Playing with your favorite characters?

I finally had a real connection to the roster. A knee-jerk reaction to seeing characters that had meaning to me. That was the missing spark I needed, the catalyst required to vastly grow my skills to a whole new level.

I had to do right by these characters: to master their moves and show other people just how awesome they are.

But the 3DS release was ages away. All I had to satisfy my smash fever was the special demo of the game…

Smashing the Whetstone

My 3DS lived on that special demo. Even though it limited the roster to only Mega-Man, Mario, Kirby, and Villager, it became my go-to game getaway.

Smash Bros. had finally gotten portable, so I had better get used to it, the new characters, and everything else!

But why not give myself a challenge? Until I get the real game, why not push myself to beat these computers as far up the difficulty scale as I can? Besides, have I even beaten a level 9 CPU yet?

So that’s just what I did. Switching between those same four characters, I played on Battlefield over and over again. To grow my skills, I would throw myself non-stop at this endless challenge, taking on the best the game had to offer.

And my rivals wouldn’t be able to beat me this time. I would make sure of that.

Eventually, I had managed to work my way up to LV. 9 CPU matches, and went from losing to the computers, to placing 2nd or 3rd, to ruling the roost completely.

Each match against those computers had shown me new attacks and techniques I never noticed before, and each defeat challenged my strategies.

To win, I had to be open to everything, and ready to switch gears at a moment’s notice.

Versatility is crucial. Adaptability is everything.

And with the inevitable release of the full game approaching, losing wasn’t an option.

The Brightest Star

When the game had finally released, I was over the moon! Smash on the 3DS, or any DS, was something I always wanted, but never imagined would come true.

And playing with two of my favorite characters, newly added to the game, was a surreal experience.

No more surreal than the 3DS exclusive mode of Smash Run. Remember me mentioning Kirby Air Ride from the Gamecube? Imagine my surprise to see Kirby Air Ride’s City Trial mode reimagined as Smash Run, complete with Subspace Emissary elements!

…but I digress.

Once I unlocked Greninja, I rushed to see just how my favorite pokémon translated into the Smash series, and I immediately knew I found my main character.

Greninja’s signature move, Water Shuriken, could be charged, and carried fighters in it when fully charged. Shadow Sneak allowed for a quick and convenient way to avoid danger, and counter-attack instantly. Substitute has an insane amount of versatility, and Hydro Pump provided amazing recovery.

Rosalina & Luma, however, didn’t have a lot of special move use. But that was ok!

Rosalina shines with her regular attacks, most of which are further enhanced by her Luma. Playing with a character who couldn’t rely on just special moves made me that much better off! It built strong fundamental skills.

So, true to my word, I tried to learn how to play with both effectively, and practiced a bit of everything in training mode.

Since every attack does a set amount of damage, I saw which moves did what amount of damage, how many times the move coud be used in a row safely, how to link moves together, etc…

I even went character by character, and tried to see generally how much damage it would take at minimum to get a KO with Greninja’s final smash.

The resulting knowedge from that training was insane. I learned to link together about 7-8 different moves! Regular attacks, special attacks, tilt attacks, air attacks, etc… And then, to really secure the win, I learned to Shadow Sneak mid-air for some downright lethal recovery punishment.

With that serious training behind me, the time came for me to challenge my 2nd rival, and he could not keep up. He was absolutely staggered by how well I could coordinate Greninja’s attacks.

For the first time in our many bouts in the Smash series, I had pulled ahead with decisive victories. Our even-skilled matches had vanished, and my star had finally shined the brightest. Even if it had for just a little while.

My opponent contributed it all to a lucky break at first, and as the wins consistently streamed in, he had to come to grips with the fact that I improved.

I was no longer at the level we started on, and he had to catch up to meet the new status quo.

It took some time, but eventually, he too would improve, and our matches would return to a semblance of normalcy, in full HD.

SSB Wii U and the 50 Fact Extravaganza

As the hands of time marched on, we soon found ourself in the wake of another Smash Bros. release for the Wii U.

Dubbed Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U, the game would be a split release from that of the 3DS version, using the exact same lineup of characters and items.

But it wouldn’t be a mere port of the 3DS version. Nintendo wound up releasing a 30-minute video, dubbed the 50 Fact Extravaganza, to bring home what made the release so much different than the 3DS one. Even though it was lengthy, I watched it in earnest.

While nobody expected any drastic changes to the overall experience, the video was a nice heads-up to some innovative changes!

For starters, the Wii U release expanded the number of concurrent players, allowing up to 8 players to play at once, in 8-Player Smash.

We’d also be seeing some absolutely large stages, like Kirby’s “The Great Cave Offensive”, stages with layers, as in “Jungle Hijinks”, and a re-introduction of the Stage Builder.

Classic and All-Star modes would allow 2 player co-op for the first time ever, too.

And owners of the 3DS release could transfer custom fighters to the game, as well as use the 3DS as a controller for the Wii U version!

But the Wii U release also launched alongside a new series…

Little Training Buddy

Enter the amiibo.

Amiibo, stylized in all lowercase, were created around the height of the Toys-to-Life craze. Like its competitors in Skylanders and Disney Infinity, amiibo were tangible statuettes that stored character progress, levels, and in-game currency.

Unlike the competition, Nintendo’s amiibo promised far more functionality than just use with a single game, and weren’t tethered to any adapters.

For Smash Bros. specifically, the amiibo could be trained as an in-game fighter, mimicking a player’s actions and movesets, and learning from every opponent it encounters.

So, since amiibo and Smash Bros. for Wii U had released on the exact same day, curiosity got the best of me, and I had splurged on buying a Link amiibo as well.

Once I got back home, I tried out the new interactive figure, and unsurprisingly, it played about on-par, or worse than, a level 1 CPU.

At first.

Then, as it climbed the levels, something strange had happened:

I lost.

I hadn’t lost a match in a small while!

That bumbling little AI had learned enough from me to mimic how I play, and then learned how to counter the same playstyle, too! It out-Linked my Link!

It started beating me around level 36, and after that, I really had to try to even come close to winning. At level 50, that amiibo was nigh-unbeatable.

Honestly, it had been the hardest opponent I faced in those years, and every match with it was intense.

And yet, it was always learning…

By playing against a fully-leveled amiibo, I had gotten a much better understanding of individual character movesets, and knew that if I could get an amiibo down to a single life stock, or beat it outright in a mirror match, I had a very good understanding of that character’s moves.

Whenever it was time to meet up with my cousin, I made sure to bring my amiibo to up the stakes. But amiibo wouldn’t be the only new change…

A Flame Sparks a New Generation

With the arrival of the latest console release of Smash, came even more opportunities to test my skills.

Of course, this would include me playing against my two lifelong rivals. The second finally had caught up to my newfound skill, but the first…

Well, he was none too happy about Meta Knight’s Shuttle Loop being changed so much. He didn’t mind the vanishing glitch being patched, but hated that the recovery move only looped once, and wasn’t as strong as it used to be.

Besides that, as much as he loved the series, he needed more games to justify the hundreds of dollars he’d be investing into the system. An understandable point.

But to me, it was frustrating. I never intended to set out and make him my rival, but years of having an unbeatable facade made me determined to do the impossible. Now that my skills were likely at their peak, I wanted nothing more than a serious, all-out match, but that, too would have to wait indefinitely…

A decade long goal would be put on pause yet again.

But where he had been out of the running, more would take up the call to brawl.

Having literally grown up with the series, several years have passed since I first played Melee. I kindled a flame of passion for the game, growing ever stronger as the years passed by.

Now, me and my cousin were the only ones left to carry the torch of competition. And as the flames roared, the embers sparked, and burned curiosity into a new generation of players.

On my side, I had become an uncle, and my nephews craved to play Smash Bros. at almost every turn.

My cousin too had become an uncle, and his nephews would always want to play after watching us.

But his other siblings had been drawn to the game, too. Even the ones least interested in gaming wanted to play a match against us.

All of those years of competition kept the series alive in our hearts and minds, and that in turn inspired those around us to pick up a controller and play.

The game happened to transcend generations, becoming something far bigger than just us.

And I wouldn’t lose to anyone.

The Smash Ball Ultimately Comes Full Circle

Now, two days from the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I’ve come to hold the series in a far deeper appreciation than ever before.

The series has seen me at my absolute worst, not knowing how to block or how to effectively attack. It’s seen me get better acquainted with characters I didn’t understand or know about, and engrossed me into it, year after year, release after release.

The series had given me a taste of what it means to have a true rival, and the drive to never stop improving. That drive made me a better gamer overall.

The series has given me personal joy over the years; Introducing characters I’ve come to know and love, all while capturing the hearts and minds of those within earshot of the screen.

And as I look back, all the way back to where this journey began, I have to laugh. Who would’ve thought that the young kid who could never beat his uncle, who didn’t know any of the controls, and couldn’t beat games if he wanted to, would turn around and repeat the cycle for his own nephews? To become that which he set out to beat?

So what does Smash mean to me? It’s hard to say in just a few words…

It’s a work of art, unifying the most distant of us, and pushing us to ever-greater heights.

It’s a celebration of all those games that shaped us, and made us who we are today.

It’s a labor of love, made from a passion of gaming, and reflects that passion with every single character added, and every single stage created.

It’s far more than just a game, it’s a legacy. One that persists generation to generation, and never fails to leave a mark on those it touches.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve talked myself into a Super Smash Bros. fever, and the only cure for it, is to play it.

What did you think about this story? Do you have a similar story about what the Super Smash Bros. series means to you? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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