Smash Bros Character Checklist: The Star Fox Series

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So the Smash Bros Switch announcements at E3 2018 have come and gone, and the new game has a title: Super Smash Bros Ultimate! And the game looks absolutely fantastic! With every character from past Smash Bros games making a comeback, and a few new faces introduced as well (Ridley Confirmed! Called it!), this is going to be the best Smash game ever.

But after everything was said and done, I was left with a problem: My Star Fox character pick was de-confirmed during the presentation!

Granted, the return of Wolf is something to be celebrated. But how to proceed when the character you wanted to show up in Smash is definitely not gonna be in Smash? Well… let’s talk a little about what could have been! There’s no harm in that!

(Plus, I already made the little image to go with the blog post. Might as well use it, right?)

What character was I going to pick? None other than the galactic menace himself, Andross!

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For the past few Smash Bros games, Andross has appeared as an Assist Trophy, taking the form of the giant head seen in the original Star Fox on SNES. And from a brief look in the newest Smash Bros footage, this looks to be the case again. Now imagine a world where he ISN’T a giant floating head, and instead a monkey-man on the battlefield himself..

Andross is of course a man of science, commanding an army from the shadows while preparing the most devious of weapons to destroy his foes. So using all sorts of gadgets to fight would be his forte, of course. I can imagine him summoning an orbital laser or two to attack the ground, and doing things like calling in flying drones and robots to do his fighting. Having a character that indirectly commands OTHER characters would be impressive. Sort of like the Rosalina and Luma team, only much more devious!

And his Final Smash of course would be… well, turning into a giant monkey head! But More like the one from Star Fox 64, rather than the original version seen in Smash now.

And well, that’s really all I have to say on the subject. It feels a bit silly to go into a ton of detail with a character that’s not going to happen. But my picks for the Character Checklist can still hold true for the future: whatever other Smash games may happen way down the line, maybe Andross can show up there instead!

I suppose I could have SOME hope of his inclusion, still. The big Andross head in smash right now is pretty different from the more modern incarnations of the character. If there can be three whole Links playable on the Smash Roster, why not have giant head Andross AND ape Andross in the game together as well?

But as it stands, It’s most likely not going to happen. Oh well, maybe next time! I still have a ton of fun speculating and suggesting what might happen in my favorite game series. So even if a character I pick gets de-confirmed or not (poor, poor Waluigi…), the Character Checklist will continue onward!

For right now though, that’s all from me. Sparky is signing off!

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Becoming a Tennis Ace (Mario Tennis Aces First Impressions)

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Since the days of the Nintendo 64, the Mario sports titles have been some of my favorite games. I have a lot of fond memories of playing Mario Golf and Mario Tennis with my family, and Mario Super Sluggers on the Wii is the best baseball game I have ever played. I’m not really into sports in general, but that doesn’t apply when it comes to Mario.

The next entry in the Mario Tennis series, Mario Tennis Aces, is set to launch at the end of June. And to celebrate, Nintendo decided to do a special online demo event, similar to what the did with ARMS and Splatoon 2. The Mario Tennis Aces: Online Tournament Demo (catchy name, right?) gave all the eager fans a chance to play the game together before the release date. And I decided I’d like to talk a bit about it!

Like with my ARMS first impression, this will be divided into a few categories, which will then be divided further into a list of pros and cons. So let’s get started!

  • Graphics and Music

Pro: I love the way this game looks. It’s super pretty and colorful, just like you would expect a Mario game to be! And the new tennis outfits that have been given to some of the characters look super good. After all, playing sports in a plumbers cap and overalls never really did make much sense.

Pro: The music is also really great. There are only so many tracks available in the demo, but they’re all wonderfully put together. I can’t think of a track I haven’t liked!

Con: I don’t have too many negative things to say about this game in regards to its graphics and music. Then again, I’m generally pretty easy to please when it comes to this sort of thing.

I guess one thing I could mention is that while the likes of Mario and Peach now all have appropriate tennis garb, some of the characters still have their normal clothes (or lack of clothes). Toad and Yoshi almost look out of place with their regular designs, and I feel like something could have been done to make them look more in line with the sport. Or would giving Bowser a tennis visor look too silly?

  • Gameplay and Control

Pro: There’s a lot that’s been done to give Mario Tennis Aces a unique feel over its predecessors. Most of the time, the gameplay of a Mario Tennis title would feel basic. You move around and use two buttons to smack a tennis ball back and forth until someone misses, and that’s it. But this time around, the four face buttons on your Nintendo controller are all responsible for using different kinds of swings, giving you more variety and strategy when it comes to how you play your game of tennis.

I’m not sure how this compares to the last couple Mario Tennis titles (Mario Tennis Open for the 3DS and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash for the Wii U), since I haven’t had a chance to play them. But as far as this game is concerned, it’s a neat and welcome change to otherwise standard gameplay.

Pro: The strategy of your Tennis game goes much deeper than your controller’s face buttons, however. All characters are now equipped with a shiny new energy gauge and all sorts of fancy new skills! These skills are called Zone Shots, Zone Speed, Trick Shots, and Special Shots.

The R Button (or ZR Button) allows you to use your energy gauge to perform Zone Shots and Zone Speed. Zone Shots are performed while standing inside a Star Icon on the floor of the tennis court (which basically indicates where the tennis ball is going to land). Using a Zone Shot pauses time and brings you into a first-person view, allowing you to aim your shot in any direction you want and launch it off at high velocity, almost guaranteeing a point being scored (or losing a point, since it’s pretty easy to send the ball sailing out of bounds as well). Holding down the R Button will let you use Zone Speed, which slows down time and lets you move to a spot where you can precisely counter your opponents moves, including their Zone Shots. Countering Zone Shots comes with a risk however, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

Using the Right Analog Stick (Or double-tapping the X button while holding the Left Stick in a direction) let’s you perform a Trick Shot. Trick Shots let your character move rapidly in the direction you point them, allowing you to catch balls that are sailing by you or are on the other side of the court. Performing a perfect Trick Shot is also a good way to build up your Energy Gauge, but messing up your shot could actually cost you Energy instead.

Lastly, Special Shots are performed by pressing the L Button (Or ZL Button) while your Energy Gauge is full. They are, more or less, a guaranteed Zone Shot that can be performed at any time, as long as the ball is in your side of the court. They also come complete with super fancy animations that are unique to every character, and are just pretty awesome to look at in general.

One final thing to not about Zone Shots and Special Shots is that they can be used to break your opponents racket. Tennis rackets have a 3-Point health bar, and smashing the Tennis Ball right at your opponent and forcing them to counter your shot can drain one of those hit points (or all of them, in the case of a Special Shot). Once their supply of rackets is gone, they can no longer play and you get an automatic victory. But of course, with proper timing, a Zone Shot or a Special Shot can be blocked, and they can be immediately countered with another Special Shot. If your shot is blocked, it basically renders your attempt to break your opponents racket null and void. And your racket is just as easily breakable, so learning the timing for blocking these shots is critical! Using Zone Speed to slow things down helps a lot when it comes to blocking.

Con: With as long as I rambled on about about the new mechanics just now, you can tell there is a lot to learn when it comes to mastering your tennis game this time around. There was always something beneficial and satisfying about the simplicity of the previous Mario Tennis games. While playing the demo, there were moments where I had a difficult time trying to break that mindset of the simple gameplay I was used to, forgetting I had so much more to work with. So I can see where changing up the gameplay as much as it has been could be an issue for old AND new players.

Though at the very least, the devolpers thought of this outcome. You can also play the game with simple rules as well, making it more like the original Mario Tennis style. I’m not sure if simple rules can be applied to all of the full releases content, but having the option for some basic tennis fun is welcome.

  • Online Play

Pro: Of course, the entire point of an online tournament is to play online with people. I had never played an online-compatible Mario Tennis beforehand, so playing the game with people from around the world was a new experience for me.

The tournament feature itself was well thought out. Rather than being placed into a tournament bracket and being forced to play games until you lost one, you were free to play and stop playing whenever you felt like it. Your tournament progress would be saved until the next time you played, where you would be randomly matched up with another player who was at the same point in the tournament as you were. For example, if you were in a semi-finals match, your opponent would also be at the same spot in their tournament, so you were both on even ground. I liked that a lot, as it didn’t tie you down to dedicating your time towards a long gameplay session. I’m not sure if this is how it will work in the full release as well, but it would be nice if they carried this over to the main game.

Con: Unfortunately, that’s where the nice things I have to say about the online play have to stop. I’m usually not super critical if a game has poor online, since I don’t play games online a lot. I much prefer single-player games and local multiplayer. But holy crap, the online play in Tennis Aces is garbage.

Of all the matches I attempted to play, I didn’t end up playing many because of how bad the connections to my opponents were. I did not get a single game in where the lag wasn’t unbearable. I’m talking a full second of time between you pressing a button and your character actually performing the action. There was constant stuttering, and I was essentially unable to properly play because I couldn’t control my character right. It was BAD. Where the ARMS demo provided me with some of the best online play I’ve ever experienced in a Nintendo game, the Mario Tennis Aces Online Tournament was by far the worst.

Granted, I have gone on record before saying that I have terrible internet (a problem that should hopefully be fixed in the upcoming months). My connection problems could have completely been my fault. But I have NEVER had such a consistently awful time trying to play a game online before. I can play Smash Bros and Mario Kart with little to no issue, and I play Team Fortress 2 quite regularly with minimal problems. Also, It could have also just been an issue with the Demo in general. Maybe the full game won’t be quite as bad, and maybe things will improve once Nintendo Switch Online launches later in the year. But overall, I’m probably going to be avoiding playing this game online.

  • Conclusion

Overall, Mario Tennis Aces feels like a natural evolution of the the series’ core gameplay and the Power Shots in Mario Power Tennis. But rather than just smacking a ball back and forth, or mashing a button to perform an Offensive and Defensive Power Shot, there’s a lot of strategy that goes into building a managing your energy gauge and using it to change the course of the game. Will you want to use your Zone Shots or Zone Speed as much as possible? Will you risk using your energy to try and master the timing of Trick Shots? Or will you conserve your energy and save up for a guaranteed Special Shot? And will your strategy revolve around playing the game like normal and scoring as many points as possible, or will you try to shake your opponent up by forcing their hand and attempting to break their racket? The amount of options available to the player is staggering when compared to previous Mario Tennis games, and I loved every second of learning these new mechanics. It’s truly an evolution of the series!

True, the actual online component of the Online Tournament was pretty terrible. But overall, I’m really happy with the way Mario Tennis Aces has turned out, and I’m definitely going to pick up the game once its released! Maybe to fill in the time, I could even play some of the other Mario Tennis games I’ve missed out on as well. I do love me some Mario Tennis, after all!

The quality and updates that have gone into Tennis Aces also has be really hopeful for what else could come from the Mario Sports titles. Could we perhaps get a new Mario Golf of Mario Baseball in the same kind of vein? I’m really excited thinking about the future for the series, and I really hope everyone else is too!

But for now, I think I’ve gone on long enough. What did everyone else think of the demo? Do you like the gameplay changes that have been put in place? And did you have the same terrible time I did trying to play the game online? Let me know through some comments! I really want to hear your thoughts on the whole thing!

Until then, Sparky is signing off. I’m off to play some more tennis!

Smash Bros Character Checklist: The Donkey Kong Series

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You could say that Nintendo owes a lot of their success to a gorilla. If not for the original Donkey Kong arcade game in 1981, the world today might not have the Super Mario series. And if there were no Mario, Nintendo might not be the household name that it is.

Of course Donkey Kong himself has had plenty of his own adventures without the plumber’s help. Even though he’s a regular cast member of Mario spin-off titles such as Mario Kart and Mario Party, DK has a well recognized game series of his own. They take the form of several arcade and Game & Watch outings in the 1980s, and the beloved Donkey Kong Country series that began in the 1990s.

Since he has his place at the origins of Nintendo’s video game empire, it’s no surprise Donkey Kong was one of the characters picked to be in the original Super Smash Bros. He and his little buddy Diddy are now mainstays of the series. But surprisingly, they’re the sole representatives of the Donkey Kong games, even though the series has a rich supply of characters to choose from.

Dixie Kong was intended to be a playable character in Super Smash Bros Brawl, and was meant to be teamed up with Diddy Kong like in her game of origin. However, that idea didn’t pan out, and Dixie has remained on the sidelines to this day. That being said, there’s always hope for her to make an official appearance as a playable character in Smash, and she has plenty of support behind her. However, my choice for a playable Donkey Kong character is someone a bit more… villainous!

Who’s the meanest, greenest crocodile you’ve ever had to face in a series of brutal Super Nintendo games? Why, King K. Rool, of course!

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The cry for the King of Kremlings to be playable in Super Smash Bros is a strong one. I know I’m not the only one who would love to see him make an appearance on the roster. We got at least a LITTLE close when he was turned into a wearable costume for the Mii Brawler character. But as the main antagonist of the Donkey Kong series, K. Rool absolutely deserves a full playable spot in the next Smash Bros.

While heavy-weight, brutally powerful characters sporting fangs and claws are no stranger to the Smash Bros roster, K. Rool has a lot of points of inspiration for his moveset that could set him apart from the likes of Bowser and Charizard. He’s used plenty of projectile weapons before (including his own crown, which behaves like a boomerang for whatever reason), giving him some potential long-range options that other big characters lack.

King K. Rool has fondness for different personas as well. In several of the games he’s made an appearance in, he’s taken on different names and likenesses, and he changes the way he fights accordingly. In Donkey Kong Country 2, he took up the guise of Kaptain K. Rool, wielding a giant blunderbuss. In Donkey Kong Country 3, he became Baron K. Roolenstein, sporting a helicopter pack for easy maneuverability. And in Donkey Kong 64, he was heavyweight-champ King Krusha K. Rool, emphasizing his brute strength. Any one of these disguises can be used as inspiration for K. Rool’s moveset (as well as inspiration for alternate costumes, perhaps?).

Throughout all of his games, King K. Rool has shown himself of strong, durable, agile, smart, and wildly creative, leading to all kinds of potential for him in a Super Smash Bros games. They only issue with including him is that in more recent games like Donkey Kong Country Returns and Tropical Freeze, he’s been set aside for other villains to take his place. It’s been about 10 years since he’s had a starring roll in a Nintendo game, the most recent of which is Mario Super Sluggers. But even though he’s not as prominent of a Nintendo villain as he once was, I’d say it’s high time he made a comeback! Here’s hoping he finally shows up again in the next Smash!

So what do you think of my pick? Do you think K. Rool deserves a shot at Smash glory, or are other Donkey Kong characters more worthy of the spot? Let me know what you think!

But for now, I’d say that’s all for me. Thanks a lot for reading, and be sure to be on the lookout for the next entry in my Smash Bros Character Checklist! This is is Sparky, signing off!

Smash Bros Character Checklist: The Mario Series

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I. Freaking. Love. Super Smash Bros. Ever since I first saw that glorious commercial for the original game on Nintendo 64, I knew I was in for something amazing. To this day, Super Smash Bros remains my favorite video game series, and each game just keeps getting better.

To many gamer’s surprise, Nintendo announced the return of the series on the Nintendo Switch almost out of nowhere the other day. Everyone knew it was going to happen at some point, but I don’t think anyone expected an announcement for a Smash Bros game to happen before E3. The trailer was just a small teaser, and didn’t tell us much, aside from the addition of the Splatoon Inklings to the character roster. But regardless, it was enough to get the hype train rolling once more, and get everyone speculating about who’s going to make the cut in Nintendo’s next huge crossover fighting game.

Topping the character roster from Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Super Smash Bros for Wii U will be no easy task. The duo of games, collectively known as Smash 4, had a huge 58 character roster, with 8 additional fighters being represented as alternate costumes for existing characters. Smash Bros for Switch promises to be gigantic, and everyone has their own thoughts on who’s going to be joining the fray. And of course, that includes me.

So I’m starting off what I’m calling the Smash Bros Character Checklist, where I talk about characters I would like to see join the battle! I’m going to be going through the existing represented Nintendo games, series by series, and discussing who I think from that series would make a good addition to the cast. These aren’t going to be detailed analyses of what the character’s complete move-sets would be or anything; just my general thoughts on what the characters would play like, and why I think they should be included in the game. And starting us off, of course, is the Mario series.

Now, the main series Mario titles already have plenty of representation in the Smash Bros titles. There’s Mario and his Doctor counterpart, his brother Luigi, the lovely Princess Peach, and Mario Galaxy’s Rosalina. We also can’t forget the big baddie Bowser and his son, Bowser Jr. If you count the fact that the seven Koopalings also serve as Bowser Jr’s alternate costumes, that brings the total Mario characters up to fourteen. I think most agree that the Mario series has plenty of representation at this point, so adding more characters almost seems a bit silly.

But… there’s someone missing, isn’t there? A main series Mario character, often playable in games, that isn’t among the other main characters? Why, it’s Toad of course! It seems strange to have every other Mario character under the sun, and not include one of the longest running characters in the series as a Smash fighter. Though there is the small problem that Toad serves as one of Princess Peach’s special moves. So why not make the playable Toad a different Toad? Make it… Captain Toad!

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Starting off as a minor supporting roll in Super Mario Galaxy, Captain Toad and the Toad Brigade grew into characters of their own. The sometimes cowardly treasure hunter is now a mainstay of the series, with his own title game that’s soon going to be re-released on the Nintendo Switch. He would be a perfect fit to represent his Toad brethren in a new Smash Bros!

Like other playable Toads before him, I envision Captain Toad as a quick character with a good deal of strength behind his attacks. Though he would most likely sport the poor jumping ability of other Toads as well. Considering he doesn’t have a jump button at all in his game, maybe he should invest in a smaller backpack for his Smash Bros debut?

He would be a lot like Little Mac in a way. But in order to differentiate him from the small-stature boxer, Captain Toad would sport an arsenal of tools from his treasure hunting expeditions. He would have his pickaxe handy for Smash Attacks, and he could even borrow Princess Peach’s vegetable-picking attack for his Down-B Special (perhaps he could occasionally unearth heavy treasures, instead of vegetables, in order to deal extra damage?). The Captain could even make use of his headlamp for a Neutral-B Special, charging the light up to temporarily blind his opponents.

His alternate costumes would be easy to come up with: give him colors representing the other members of the Toad Brigade! He could even have an alternate costume that turns him into Toadette, similar to the gender-swapped costumes of Robin, Corrin, and Wii Fit Trainer. That way you could have another character added to the game, without taking up a spot in the character roster. Plus it would add to the number of female characters in the game as a whole.

Overall, I think Captain Toad would be the perfect choice to fill in what feels like a large hole in the cast of Mario characters represented in Super Smash Bros. He can be a modern AND classic Nintendo character rolled into one! Here’s hoping the development team feels the same way as I do. I’d love to see him make it in!

So what does everyone else think of my choice? Would Captain Toad make a good Mario representative, or do you have another character in mind? I hear that Paper Mario is a popular choice, and there’s always characters like Princess Daisy and Waluigi (though would Waluigi count as a Wario series character? That’s something to think about…). Either way, tell me what you think! I’d love to hear fellow Smash-Fan’s thoughts on the matter!

I’m planning to continue the Smash Bros Character Checklist in the future, so be sure to look out for posts on other characters and franchises I think would be a perfect fit for Super Smash Bros!  Until then, keep on playing! Sparky is signing off for now.