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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Super Smash Marvel 4: What Would the Newest Super Smash Marvel Game's Roster Look Like?

With three down and only one more to go, we’re almost through with the Super Smash Marvel series. There’s plenty left to go, though, with our biggest roster expansion ever in the fourth game.

Super Smash Bros 4 was released just over a year ago, in late 2014. 4 added more characters to the series than any other game, starting with 51 characters (12 more than were in Super Smash Bros Brawl); then, through downloadable content, the game added seven more characters (the last two of which, Bayonetta and Corryn from the Fire Emblem series, were announced just last week). Meanwhile, in the Marvel world, the comics were gearing up towards the huge Secret Wars event while the studio was moving from the unexpected success of Guardians of the Galaxy to their biggest release yet in Avengers 2 (meanwhile over at Fox Studios, the X-Men had just had their own huge release in the form of Days of Future Past). This is where we pick up our Smash Marvel series.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Super Smash Marvel Brawl: What Would the Third Super Smash Marvel Game's Roster Look Like?

We’re halfway through with the Smash Marvel series, so we might as well finish it off. In case you need to get caught up, here’s the original, and here’s the sequel.

First, the context we’ll be dealing with. In real life, Super Smash Bros Brawl in early 2008, the same year that the first Iron Man movie was released kickstarting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. My suspicion is that this would have had a small impact on the roster, but a definite one. I imagine there would be some extra consideration given to characters expected to be movie leads in the near future, as a way to help build them up (it also helps we’re starting to go a little deeper into the Marvel character list; without this, it might be a little harder to differentiate who would get preference). It’s also worth noting that, with a seven-year gap between games, there was actually time for new characters to be created and popularized in between installments, unlike between the first two.

Also, Smash Bros Brawl was where Nintendo began introducing third party characters to their roster, starting with Sonic the Hedgehog and Snake. I really struggled what to do with this information. In the end, I decided to ignore it, because there’s just not a particularly satisfying direct comparison, and there are still so many Marvel characters to choose from.

If you’re interested, though, I had a few attempts at mirroring this move. My first thought was to copy it literally, with other comic companies’ characters appearing. However, while that would be somewhat manageable for the two slots we’d need here, we’d be pushing it come the next installment. We’d need four (or five, depending on how well I kept my “no cutting characters” rule) different comics companies represented, and while we could do this* (say, Batman from DC, Spawn from Image, X-O Manowar from Valiant Comics, Hellboy from Dark Horse Comics, and Scott Pilgrim from Oni Press, for one set), no configuration feels like it has the same impact as “Sonic, Pac-Man, and Megaman” does. If you truly wanted to get characters that most people would know and not small cameos for hardcore comics geeks, you’d be better off sticking with to just picking DC characters; Justice League vs the Avengers gets a lot closer to that “Sonic vs. Mario” feel I’m aiming for. But again, you’d eventually be giving five to six slots out of about fifty just to DC characters to guest-star in what is ostensibly a Marvel fighting game. At that point, it feels like you might as well just make a straight-up “Marvel vs. DC” fighting game. And I thought about letting Marvel borrow other characters from within Disney, but they weren’t purchased until 2009 (and Star Wars, the Disney franchise that could most readily lend characters to this concept, wasn’t purchased until 2012). If you’d like, though, feel free to use any of those scenarios as the basis to your roster if these explanations aren’t doing it for you. 

Anyway, Smash Bros Brawl had 39 different playable characters (although several were combined into single characters, there were 39 distinct movesets). Of the 18 new characters (5 characters were cut from Melee), we had a good-character-to-evil-character breakdown of approximately 15:3 (I’m counting Wolf, King Dedede, and Wario, although I feel like you could argue with the status of the last two as well as Meta Knight). The gender makeup (which I’ve roughly matched so far as well) was 14 to 3 to 1 (ROB is a robot, so I guess genderless? Plus the Pokemon, which could be either, although I suppose all of the new additions have gender ratios that skew male, so summing those odds up probably comes out below 3…this is more complicated than I hoped). And lastly, one franchise (Pokemon) added four characters, but three of them were combined into one, plus they lost two representatives from the last game… These breakdowns seem to get more complicated with each game. I’ll try to keep each franchise to two representatives max, since there are so many mitigating factors there, although maybe there is a franchise that can justify four new representatives.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My Problem with "Secret Identities"

I’ve been reading more and more Image Comics series the last few months. I love the freedom their model allows to creators, and it pays off in a big way; series like Saga and The Wicked + the Divine are some of the best things I’ve read, comics or otherwise. Which is why I got excited when I saw the series Secret Identities (written by Brian Joines and Jay Faerber, art by Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff). The story is about a superhero team (think an alternate universe Justice League) who accepts a new member who is, unbeknownst to them, a mole working to learn their dark secrets and bring the team down from the inside. And boy, do they ever have dark secrets.

That sounds like a hell of a story to me. A superhero story with the political intrigue and backstabbing of Game of Thrones or House of Cards? Sign me up! And while the comic itself is solid, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by it after I finished. If you need a simple recommendation, I’d say it’s worth checking out if you like superhero comics and aren’t expecting some intricate political gamesmanship/Avengers mash-up. As a heads up, the rest of the review will include spoilers, so if you want to preserve the twists for when you read it, this is your last warning.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Super Smash Marvel Melee: What Would the Second Super Smash Marvel Game's Roster Look Like?

When we last left our Super Smash Marvel series, we had assembled a roster of 12 superheroes to serve as the hypothetical series’ initial installment. But where would this series have gone from there?

In the real world, Super Smash Bros Melee was released in late 2001, just shy of two years after the initial game. That’s the smallest gap between any games of the series, although in both the Nintendo game and our Marvel equivalents, there were enough characters who were near misses from the first game to tide us over without having to break into newly-created characters. The roster consisted of 26 playable characters*, meaning that we have fourteen new slots to work with for Super Smash Marvel 2.

*I’m counting Sheik and Zelda as separate characters here, partly since they were eventually separated anyway, partly because they are just one move short of being fully distinct characters. If there’s a Marvel character who had an especially compelling reason both to be on the roster and to employ this mechanic, I’ll definitely use them in this role, but don’t count on it.

One difference I would like to try and make from the real world is with removing characters between installments. After Melee, each Super Smash Bros installment would see some number of characters not return for sequels. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll try to avoid that when picking this roster; deciding who to kick off would be it’s own challenge, not to mention figuring out reasons they wouldn’t make the cut would be a little strange given how specific the reasons have been for getting rid of characters in the real games. In other words, the characters I’ll be adding here are in it for the long haul.

What are some different ways of looking at the additions to the Smash family that came about in Melee? Well, the fourteen newcomers were spread across seven different franchises, three of which were totally unrepresented in the original (and one of those three got a pair of people). The other four franchises saw three (Mario), two (Pokemon), four (Legend of Zelda), and one (StarFox) new members. I won’t be matching those figures exactly, although I tried at first; I eventually realized that Video Game franchises and Comic Book franchises are just a little too different for a direct one-to-one translation. But they do give us a good baseline to work with, though. We probably shouldn’t add more than three or four characters for any one franchise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Super Smash Marvel: What Would Smash Bros Look Like if it had been a Marvel Game?

There are few things that I enjoy more on a conceptual level than combining two very different things that I love. It was this reason that, when I stumbled across the idea of re-populating the Smash Bros roster with Marvel characters, I ran with it. What started as me idly thinking about the Marvel vs. Capcom series slowly spiraled into me building an entire roster of Marvel’s biggest heroes and villains over a series of four games in an attempt to mirror the real-life Super Smash Bros games. In the end, I liked the result so much, I decided to write down the fruits of my labor.

Let’s start from the very beginning; if we were building an original edition Super Smash Marvel, what would the roster look like? Well, the first thing to start with would be the size; we should probably stick with the twelve character roster the original game used. What’s more, they’d probably have to be a who’s who of the Marvel universe, more or less. And while Nintendo’s choices were all All-Stars of gaming, it’s also worth looking at where they were pulling their stars from. Super Smash Bros covered only ten different series, with Mario and Pokemon being the only franchises with repeats. Also, DK and Yoshi were called their own franchises, even though they’re both spin-offs of the Mario series to different degrees, so if we need to, we could pull three or four characters from one series without it being too unbalanced.

Also, since the game we’re was released in early 1999, we should probably account for which characters were popular at the time to match up Super Smash Marvel’s release date. This will be a little more relevant later in the series than with the first release, since we’ll mostly be dealing with the most timeless of characters this go-around, but it’s worth considering. Let’s go from there.