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.
Unlike Smash Bros, I didn’t cut anyone, so I only have thirteen roster slots to work with. The best place to start, again, will probably be with the villain slots. Who are the biggest villains left in the Marvel universe? I’d start that list with Green Goblin, and coincidentally, Marvel was about to move to a storyline in the comics in which Norman Osbourn would seize control of the Avengers. On top of that, he’s both (arguably) the biggest foe to Marvel’s premiere super-hero, and he even had a (rather memorable) film appearance, which would be rather big deal at this point in Marvel’s pre-studio days.
I’d also argue that Loki should get a space. While he hadn’t gotten the supercharge to his popularity that Tom Hiddleston’s performance in the movies would deliver in 2011, but he still had a place of prominence among Marvel’s villains. I’d also wager that Marvel knew they might be using him soon if their movie plans worked out, since he was one of their biggest villains they had the film rights to, and would be the obvious rival for one of their bigger heroes in Thor. I think that would be enough to push him over the edge for a definite spot.
For the last villain spot, I’ll go with Doctor Octopus. He’s up there with Green Goblin for Spider-Man’s number one enemy, he had an acclaimed appearance in a huge movie, and this gives us our two-representative franchise. Also, I think Doc Ock would provide an interesting play-style, with the extra arms and everything, so that’s another good reason to add him.
Throughout this process, I’ve repeatedly equated the Mario and X-Men franchises, given their extensive rosters. I’m going to continue that trend here; while there were no “full” Mario characters added in Brawl, there were two characters from spin-offs, Wario and Diddy Kong. Since we counted spin-offs back in the original game, we’ll count them here. So, with two slots, which X-Men are left? We still have plenty of big names, like Colossus, Emma Frost, Gambit, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and several others. I can’t really see any specific reasons to pick two of them over the others, but I’ll go with Iceman and Nightcrawler. As I’ve said before, you could probably add several X-Men here and be reasonably close to what it would have been in real life, but I’ll stick with just two for the time being.
Before moving on to the list of Avengers, I’d like to pitch two more unlikely characters. There’s a good chance I’m overshooting here and this hypothetical game would just go with more traditional picks, but if they were moved to try some more unexpected characters, this would be a direction they could go (and to be fair, Nintendo occasionally throws a few less-expected characters).
First, I’m a big fan of Runaways, so I might be biased, but I think there would be some way to fit one of the stars of the series in. To be fair, the series had been picking up awards since it began, and Marvel was even making moves towards a movie back in the day. As the leader of the team, Nico Minoru would be a good choice, although I would entertain arguments for any of the others. Second, the Guardians of the Galaxy had just been restarted in 2008. I doubt Marvel knew exactly how big they would eventually be, and they might have even not had any idea that a movie was on the horizon (I have a sneaking suspicion that they had it in mind, hence the relaunch, but no real proof of that). All that thinking ahead aside, it could be a nice bit of publicity for a new series using older characters. For a representative, I think it would be fun to go with a tag team of Rocket and Groot; after all, Smash Bros has the Ice Climbers as a fighting pair, and we still don’t have an equivalent to them.
That leaves us with six more slots for this game, so I’ll return to some of the Avengers I threw out last time: Vision, Falcon, Dr. Strange, Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers, War Machine, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch. In fact, that list is only one more than the number of remaining slots. It’s tough to decide which one to cut from that list, but if I had to…I think I’d go with War Machine. If nothing else, I’ll point to comic book appearances as my hard tiebreaker, although I could be open to arguments against that decision. That gives us 3 new villains, just like in the real game, a 10-3 men-women ratio that’s roughly in line with the game, no franchise with more than two new characters… All in all, this seems like a pretty well-balanced group of newcomers.
Our additions in Super Smash Marvel Brawl:
Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers
Rocket and Groot
Returning characters: Spider-Man, Venom, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, The Thing, Daredevil
Beast, Phoenix, Magneto, Dr. Doom, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, She-Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Black Panther, Silver Surfer