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August 23, 2013

Top 12 Most Unexpected Super Smash Bros. Characters

The success behind Super Smash Bros. and its franchise lies in a simple idea: How can we get the biggest Nintendo stars in the same game and make them fight like mad? Masahiro Sakurai found the answer pretty quickly, and the rest is history. The original Super Smash Bros., for the Nintendo 64, contained 12 characters, 4 of which were unlockable. The sequel that came out for the GameCube had a roster twice the size of the original, with 25 characters. Then, when the Wii came around, the fans rejoiced at the announcement that a new bigger, better, faster, stronger SSB was coming out. The result was Super Smash Bros. Brawl, with a cast of 35 characters.

And now, the new console generation will also get its moment of Smash, with a new game coming out in a few months. This new game will be available both on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, and it's almost sad that I won't be able to play it with my puny Wii. Three characters were announced for this new installment. First of all, MEGA MAN! This had been hoped ever since the reveal that Sonic was playable in Brawl, and finally our friend the fighting android enters the Brawl scene. Who else? The Villager from Animal Crossing (odd choice, but he seems just as cool as all the others; besides, we needed an Animal Crossing character) and.... Wii Fit Trainer. THIS is the most unexpected choice. Nobody – or almost nobody – would have predicted such a character in the next Smash installment.

However, this is not the first time that the team behind SSB makes bizarre choices of characters to add to the roster. Even back in the times of the first Smash game, there were fighters that nobody would have expected. In fact, had the hype been this great back in the times of the N64 game, everyone would have tossed around their hypothesis for the roster. And people would have been surprised more than once over the course of three games; in fact, they would have been surprised 12 times, if not more. Here are my picks for what were the most unexpected new characters in the first three games. Remember, I consider every character on this list by the game he/she showed up in first.

12. Captain Falcon (SSB)
Back with Super Smash Bros., most people felt like the game would contain only characters capable of putting a fight against the others. For some, the roster was going to contain eight characters. Others believed the roster would have more characters than that. After all, it is Nintendo, with a large history in video games ever since the NES era, and even before that with card games.
Gamers would have never thought that a racer would be part of the group. That's why Captain Falcon was a surprise to everyone. This unlockable character would appear all of a sudden in the game and reveal his arsenal of crazy moves. FALCON... PUUUNCH! More than a few had to look up where he came from, and found out that he was from F-Zero. What's that? ...A racing game? How odd.
Games went on, and Captain Falcon is still loved as a fighter in the series... but he's still the only one from his franchise. When will another F-Zero character race into battle?

11. R.O.B. (SSBB)
Unlike pretty much all the others, R.O.B. wasn't exactly a character, but instead a gadget robot that could be used to play a very small number of games. It's like all those Wii accessories that are used for just two or three games in your collection and then go back to collect dust on the shelf. So, not only wasn't he actually a character, he had a use for very few games.
So, when R.O.B. was announced as an unlockable in Brawl, it didn't seem right. It was unexpected, but just hearing that this robot was in Brawl was puzzling in its own right. But Sakurai isn't the kind of man to play cruel tricks on us (except maybe the stupid tripping mechanic), so he told his fans the truth. Not only that, but R.O.B. actually has a major role in the Adventure Mode; in fact, it's this role that opened him the door to battle. All I can say is: Domo Arigato, Mister R.O.B.oto, and welcome to the Brawl!

10. Young Link (SSBM) and Toon Link (SSBB)
I'm counting them as the same on the list, because, well... if it isn't obvious! ...Joke aside, though, when Young Link appeared in Melee, it came off as a surprise. It felt normal for the adult Link to appear in the game, because he was famous and it was, physical-wise, the best one fit to participate. So when Young Link was introduced, with a set of moves way too similar to the older Link, it just felt like a lighter clone.
Sakurai took note of those clone characters (well, kinda) and replaced Young Link from Melee by... Toon Link, which was introduced in Wind Waker. While he did have a different moveset, Toon Link had moves still a bit similar to adult Link. Still, Toon Link came off as a surprise again, not only because it was completely unexpected, but people heard well when Sakurai told them “no more clones” and were expecting the worst. Luckily, it seems Toon Link was just different enough to pass the “not a clone” test.

09. Pokémon Trainer (SSBB)
Pokémon is one of Nintendo's best cash cow franchises, so of course a lot of Pokémon would make it into the game. However, Poké-fans out there would bet on a Generation Mascot (as was Pikachu) or a Pokémon able to fight through. A Fighting-type Pokémon wouldn't have been a surprise; nor would have been a legendary Pokémon. That's why the surprise was relatively big when Pokémon Trainer was announced for Brawl.
The Trainer (Also known as Red in some circles) has to be played carefully, as you need to switch between three Pokémon among the starters of the first generation (namely, Ivysaur, Charizard and Squirtle). So, not only do we get a character from the Pokémon series that is NOT a pokémon, but we also get technically three Pokémon in one? GENIUS! Having three Pokémon as the same fighter is fun, but it also covers another detail: Hadn't it been a three-in-one, nobody would have thought about, say, Ivysaur or Squirtle alone on the roster.
And it's hard to tell if someone in the Pokémon fandom had even thought about this smart idea of a three-in-one. A rare case where the concept was more unexpected than the character.

08. Dr. Mario (SSBM)
Dr. Mario cures illnesses and destroys viruses, how would you have expected someone like this to enter the battlefield? The result was a Mario clone in a doctor coat and shooting pills instead of fireballs. Needless to say, he got booted off the sequel. And that's pretty much all we need to say. Nobody expected Dr. Mario, because nobody would see a big difference with Mario. There are fighting game clones out there less obvious than this one. Needless to say, he was removed in favor of characters with more creative movesets.

07. Ice Climbers (SSBM) and Pit (SSBB)
Super Smash Bros made it a mission to bring back characters from an era long gone. Hence why Mr. Game And Watch showed up in Melee. The Ice Climbers, however, showed up out of nowhere. Well, granted, they had their game on the NES, but that's all we knew them for. They had never appeared again, which made them a very unlikely choice for a Melee character. In the end, they became a gimmick character due to their duality and the need to learn to play as a team.
As for Pit, he appeared in Brawl after a long time spent waiting for his time to shine. Though, to be fair, after the Ice Climbers showed up in Melee, fans started looking for more obscure characters, that had only one or two games on Nintendo consoles. The only difference is that Kid Icarus had two games and a much bigger cult following than the Ice Climbers. And yet, both became Smash fan favorites. That's why I've put them under the same number. In fact, the Kid Icarus series came back stronger than ever with Uprising for the 3DS!

06. Solid Snake (SSBB)
When third-party characters were announced for Brawl, the hype was GIGANTIC. Everyone and their brother had an idea of a third-party character that would make it into Brawl: Rayman, Crash, Sora, Cloud, and that's not even covering the tip of the tip of the iceberg. However, almost everyone expected Sonic, because he was quite obviously going to show up; after the Melee hoax (which claimed Sonic and Tails were unlockable in Melee) and Sonic's Olympics competitions with Mario, it was inevitable.
But while some people thought Solid Snake would be in Brawl, it still took many off-guard, especially those who thought Nintendo would keep it to more family-friendly mascots – or, you know, use third-party characters who have a history with Nintendo, even if it's because of a particular cartoon (Captain N). Oh well, we got a cool non-Nintendo character in Brawl now. Oh wait, two actually. And three in the fourth installment. Maybe more.

05. Marth and Roy (SSBM)
America has a strange history with Fire Emblem. The series was pretty much unknown to America because it stayed in Japan. However, when two of the best known Fire Emblem protagonists were announced for Melee, America fell off its chair and complained that the two had hardly ever been seen in its territory. Which American could have guessed those two???
As a result, the Fire Emblem franchise became famous in the rest of the world, and we have Melee to thank for this. Sadly, Roy didn't come back for Brawl, being replaced by Ike (and this was to be expected, as the Fire Emblem series is large enough and more characters from that series could appear). But those two were the pioneers of Fire Emblem in Eagle Land. And every American pre-Melee fan of Fire Emblem out there was happy. And now, all the post-Melee fans of Fire Emblem are happy too.

04. Lucario (SSBB)
Poké-fans noticed quickly that Brawl was very centered on the fourth Pokémon generation, as was the original Smash game with the first and Melee with the second. However, while people did expect more playable Pokémon fighters, they probably didn't expect Mewtwo removed and Lucario added. True, Lucario is a fourth generation mascot, but he's not a Legendary, so it was kind of unexpected. Or rather, it was unexpected to see him and see Mewtwo taken out.
Lucario was still welcomed in the family. However, for all those out there who moan that Lucario stole Mewtwo's place (as I used to), hear this: Originally, Mewtwo was planned for Brawl, as part of his coding is in the game. Seems he was taken out during programming. Sorry, don't blame Lucario, folks; blame Sakurai on that one.
By the way, I bet a penny that the fourth Smash game will be centered on the sixth generation. The bets are off!

03. Pichu (SSBM)
Another Pokémon entry in a row? Oh well! I said it earlier, Melee had quite a few clone characters, and it was a major complaint of the roster. That's not why Pichu was unexpected; he was unexpected because in the Pokémon franchise, he's already a weakling! And the development team decided he was strong enough to fight against the likes of BOWSER and GANONDORF?
Nobody saw it coming, and for a good reason. And Pichu will remain a lame character, as his whole gimmick is that he hurts himself when using electric attacks. He was nothing but a weak clone. In my opinion, he sucked. And, my opinion again, it's a good thing he didn't come back for Brawl.
Wow, I kinda feel sorry for the little guy now... Eh, he's better away from battle.

02. Ness (SSB)
Again, the expectations were high for the original Smash game, but no one knew who or what to expect. Ness comes from the Earthbound series, which was unknown to most Americans. Yet, Ness appeared in the first Smash Bros. like he had always belonged there.
He quickly became a fan favorite, opened the American market to Earthbound (or at least made many discover the series), and gave hours of fun to people in front of their TV screen. He is also one of the reasons one of my favorite Nintendo characters, Startropics' Mike Jones, will probably never be in Brawl: His moveset would be too similar to Ness. Well, I got the PK Warrior for the moment. Even two, with Lucas; however, he was less surprising, as there had to be more Earthbound characters in Smash someday...

01. Jigglypuff (SSB)
You knew this was coming. Jigglypuff has become a hardened Smasher due to showing up in all games so far. Back in the first Smash, while hypotheses ran wild (not as wild as now, though), nobody would have thought that the pink puffball would be playable. Again, just like I said earlier: Many Pokémon had more chances to be there. Mewtwo had more chances to be there. Back then, over 15 Pokémon had a better chance to be there!
Jigglypuff did gain a following by... um... following the protagonists of the Pokémon anime (and painting their faces with a Sharpee when they fell asleep during his/her show), yet arguably this isn't a sufficient reason to include a weak-looking Normal-type in the game. Pikachu was the generation mascot, as well as the main Pokémon in the anime, and he was in all the merchandise, so he was justified. But whaddya know, Jigglypuff proved that she (It has ¾ chances to be a female, ¼ to be a male) was a fierce fighter who could KO opponents just by falling asleep. Jigglypuff is the ultimate example of a joke character that becomes lethal when played right. Unexpected, out of everyone's suppositions, laughable in looks but dangerous in an expert's hands... Jigglypuff will forever be the most unexpected character to have appeared in the Smash series.

Daaaaaaaaaaaww.... How can you say no to that cute little ball?

Well, I hope you liked the list. I'll have another one in about six weeks, so I'll be taking your suggestions for a future Top 12.

Next week, I'll need guts! I'll need to be strong! Arguably one of the worst Mario games ever released!