This post contains spoilers, so click through the jump to read. =)
We’re under a day away from the 3DS release of Super Smash Bros. 4 and I feel like ranking my excitement levels for its characters. :D Let’s run it down!
I love secondary heroes and Shulk is the exact antithesis of that, so I’ll probably never play as him unless it’s required to unlock something. In a Xenoblade fight (story-wise, not gameplay-wise), everybody else is useless compared to him, making him the Goku or Sailor Moon of Xenoblade except even more overpowered (yes, more overpowered) relative to his universe and with loads less personality than either. I do look forward to Kirby eating him and gaining ultimate power, though!
48. Mii Fighters
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Shulk are the Mii Fighters. It’s one thing to have Miis competing in a go-kart race where the winners depend on their vehicles, or competing in a game of tennis, where Super Mario and Bowser can’t use their full strength because of the constraints of the game. When Miis are somehow punching out Samus and Ganondorf, though, um… Nope, I’m afraid I don’t understand how that works. x_x Even if I did, though, I’m not all that interested in undefined characters. =P
47. Wii Fit Trainer
Speaking of undefined characters, the Wii Fit trainer! Normally I really love Masahiro Sakurai’s offbeat character choices, whether it’s the Ice Climbers, Mr. Game & Watch, or R.O.B., but all of them do have at least some established abilities. The Ice Climbers can jump high and smash things with hammers, Mr. Game & Watch seems capable of anything, and R.O.B. is mostly boosted by cameo appearances in games like Star Fox 64 or even F-Zero GX. The Wii Fit trainer is invented from scratch, which is admirable, but I can’t suspend my disbelief long enough for her.
46. Zero Suit Samus
Her shoes are so wrong for her character and her outfit that it honestly boggles my mind. x__x Whose idea were they? And in a game about famous characters, why would you change one of those characters’ outfits? The world may never know. I played some Zero Suit Samus in Super Smash Bros. Brawl but dropped her after a while because I consistently had trouble finishing opponents off. That could change if her knockback strength has been improved, but speaking as someone who’s creating an RPG with a fashion system, I could never, ever play that outfit. =P
There’s exactly one genre of video games that I don’t understand how to play: real-time strategy. I’ve tried them and I just don’t get it. I don’t know what I’m doing. Warcraft, Starcraft—and, even for the small RTS influences it has (commanding an army and allocating resources in a real-time setting), Pikmin. That carried over to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, in which no character’s moveset baffles me more than Olimar. I sunk hundreds of hours into that game and never got any closer to knowing how to play him—and, all else being equal, I have to assume that he’ll be no different now. Nothing against him! Just not my character.
Villager is the last in the line of credibility-stretching newcomers (Shulk, Mii Fighters, and Wii Fit Trainer), but with her, at least her moves are sourced from her own games. For that fact alone, I like her a lot more than her other counterparts. Having played Villager in the demo, though, I don’t fully understand how she’s supposed to score KOs outside of one move—I can have wacky fun times playing as her, but getting someone off-screen is beyond me. It’s slightly easier than Zero Suit Samus, but not much. Perhaps, like Olimar, she’s simply not my type of character.
43. Little Mac
I’ll give Little Mac a chance, but as someone who generally prefers heavily aerial fighters like Luigi, Kirby, and Jigglypuff, I fully expect him to end up below Villager. For my style, if I’m not jumping then I’m not really playing. =P Jumping is the game. Air is the game. If Little Mac wants to stick to the ground, then… I’ll just have to see. I do hope he turns out well! I’ve never played Punch-Out for any serious length of time, so I have no attachment to the character, but that didn’t hold back Marth, Ice Climbers, or others.
The Disney Princess of the Mario universe—or galaxy—may have magical powers, but all things considered, I don’t find her too enchanting. As a fan of the Ice Climbers in past entries, I do expect to enjoy her two-character gameplay, but sometimes sheer disinterest in the character herself can overcome that. It probably doesn’t help Rosalina’s case that I’ve been rooting for Daisy and Waluigi with sports-themed movesets for two games now and the newcomer princess got into Smash before either of them.
Yoshi stars in one of the greatest platformers and certainly the greatest puzzle platformer of all-time, Yoshi’s Island, but put him into Smash Bros. and I have no clue what I’m doing with him. He’s the opposite case from Rosalina: I love the character in his own series and I’d be hard-pressed to care about him less as a fighter. Maybe things will turn around for him with any changes in the latest Smash entry, though—I’d definitely like that to be true!
Sonic is another fast blue character in the vein of Zero Suit Samus who I couldn’t score KOs with in Brawl. Hopefully that’s been resolved, but either way, it’s mild confession time: I’ve never been that into Sonic games. Well, Sonic games other than Tails Adventure on the Game Gear. (Hey, if Tails ever gets into this series, I’ll be excited to play as him!) Where Sonic differs from Zero Suit Samus is a greater iconic status; even if I don’t personally get into his games, I understand their significance in history and, by proxy, Sonic’s significance as a character.
Link feels massively stronger in the demo than his past incarnations, like a powerhouse who also happens to have projectiles, but he’s just a touch too heavy and slow for my liking and his recovery still leaves something to be desired. Young Link and Toon Link have always been my preferred versions and I expect a repeat performance—not only in Smash terms but also in the Zelda games, where younger Link is always more animated and entertaining. Still, I’m glad that when I face off against enemy Links, he’ll feel like more of a threat.
Like Mewtwo before him, Lucario rides the line between characters who I understand how to play and characters who I don’t; I always felt like I was improving but never perfectly comfortable. Pokémon is one of my favorite video game franchises, so any of its characters can only fall so low, but on the other hand, humanoid Pokémon have always weirded me out just a little bit. =P I’m sure I’ll play Lucario sometimes since he does have a cool factor, especially visually, but not too often.
Ever since Peach’s dress hitbox in Super Smash Bros. Melee seemed almost as ridiculous as Snake’s knee hitbox in Brawl, she’s been a character who I always wanted to understand how to play. As my go-to character in Super Mario Bros. 2 and a party staple in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, I have a lot of love for Peach—I even badly want a Super Princess Peach 2—but since I swap between playing many characters, full mastery of her floating heights has eluded me. We’ll see if that can change in her latest battles.
Years of Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament results have done their best to ruin Fox for me, but at the end of the day, he still feels fluid, intuitive, and decently powerful in each Smash game. And, more importantly, I can still recite countless Star Fox 64 lines from memory. Nothing can take that away from him! (More lines from Falco than Fox, admittedly.) I do sometimes wish his moves were a bit more tilted toward sci-fi fun and less toward hand-to-hand combat since there’s a whole futuristic world left mostly unexplored.
Mario is to Nintendo what Shulk is to Xenoblade: he overshadows everything and possibly to the company’s detriment. With that said, he’s probably the character I play most effectively in the demo. His moves are insanely smooth and intuitive, making him an absolute combo machine, almost like I’m playing Brawl Minus or some other Brawl hack. I can’t rank him any higher, though, because I have at least some attachment to every character above this point.
34. Duck Hunt
Yes, Duck Hunt dog, I even have some attachment to you! I’ve watched enough streams of Super Smash Bros. 4 by now that this duo seems like a rather campy character (in the sense of camping and zoning, not campy as in cheesy), so I don’t know whether I’ll play the dog very much, but one thing’s for certain: after laughing in players’ faces for thirty years, vengeance will be amazing. One does have to wonder, though: why is a duck teaming up with a dog who collects the corpses of ducks who have been shot?
Funny story: even though Ike is the powerhouse swordsman of Smash Bros., I had to restart Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance because somehow his Strength stat had only gone up once by the time he was level 12 or so, so he just couldn’t do damage to anything. Anyway, although he’s not usually my type of character, the massive improvement that I see from Bowser in Smash 4 leaves me really eager to see how Ike has been improved. He was surprisingly competent in laggy online environments, but how will he fare now in (hopefully) smoother ones?
As the heaviest of Brawl‘s Pokémon Trainer characters, I struggled the most when playing Charizard because he felt somewhat stiff and clunky. Again, though, Bowser seems so much stronger that I look forward to the updated handling of a similarly heavy character like this. Charizard’s moveset always had potential with some minor tweaks and I’m going to trust that cutting Squirtle and Ivysaur allowed the team to focus their efforts and make this single Pokémon much more viable.
Continuing in the viability tradition, Zelda’s another character who could use some improvements. I’ve always wanted to see her in her own game—and no, the CD-i doesn’t count—because of how great Peach’s playable appearances have worked out, but since that hasn’t happened yet, Smash has been her haven and I’m only waiting for her to reach her potential in this context. Early reports from people playing Japanese copies aren’t too positive on her, but until I play the game for myself, I’ll hold out hope that they’re simply missing something. =P
30. Lemmy (Bowser Jr.)
The Koopalings have always felt to me like criminally underrated characters—no pun intended—and I’m really happy to have them here not only for their own characters, but for beefing up the villain side of the roster. The fact that their movesets are based on the clown car from Super Mario World makes them even cooler. All that aside, they look a bit challenging to figure out, but I’m more than willing to give them an honest effort. (Why Lemmy’s picture, by the way? I like all seven of the Koopalings, but Lemmy and his rainbow hair are my favorite. :D )
29. Meta Knight
Meta Knight is one of the coolest characters ever and Kirby is one of my favorite video game series, but I didn’t fully grasp how to play him even in Brawl when he was so strong that people considered banning him. Despite being an aerial fighter, his horizontal air speed doesn’t match with the characters I like to play, making him a sort of halfway-perfect character for me. I’m guessing that he’s been weakened in the newest Smash Bros., but I’d peg him right toward the middle of my character preferences just like he was then.
It’s been ten years since a 2D Metroid game and seven years since a Metroid in general (remember, friends, Other M never happened), but at least Samus lives on as a fighter. Projectile-based play has never been my style, so hearing all early indications that her close combat abilities have been improved is very welcome news to me! I’ve never been especially talented with Samus in any Smash incarnation, but residual love for the character keeps me playing as her every now and then for fun and usually having a good time doing so.
Opposite of Samus: I consider myself quite competent when playing Pit, but his young-upstart-trying-his-best personality doesn’t do anything for me. =P If ever a character made me wish that Super Smash Bros. Melee‘s Japanese voice option hadn’t been cut from Brawl, this is the one! Nonetheless, another air-based character fits my style well and his changed moves in the fourth game seem mostly for the better. He was an overall well-balanced character last time around and hopefully that’s still true now.
Pikachu would have ranked several spots higher if he hadn’t been playable in the demo. He feels mostly like his Brawl counterpart except weakened significantly, making him another character like Sonic and Zero Suit Samus who I struggle to get KOs with. Unlike those two, though, I know Pikachu pretty well from past entries and can pile on the damage pretty well, so he’s still a fun character pick even though I don’t expect to make him one of my go-to characters for serious competition.
25. Dark Pit
Early consensus is in that Dark Pit is better than Pit in every way that matters—and that does look true from what I’ve watched. It’s like he loses nothing but gains power. Personally, though, I’m not too concerned about his gameplay since Pit was already perfectly fine and I wouldn’t care if Dark Pit had exactly the same moves; I’m just assuming that as a character he’s a lot less off-putting. =P No, not “more likeable!” Just less off-putting. There’s a key difference.
24. Diddy Kong
Aside from starring as the title hero of one of the greatest platformers ever made, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Diddy was a well-balanced blast with good all-around talents in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Unfortunately, his abilities have taken a hit now with only one banana that disappears random quickly. Hopefully his sheer mobility and speed can overcome that and make him a staple character for me again, but I’ll definitely have to adjust.
In Super Smash Bros. Melee, Ganondorf was one of my top five character picks: powerful but not even especially slow, I had lots of fun playing him even though he was a Captain Falcon clone for no particular reason. In these two most recent games, though, it seems that they’re committed to keeping Ganondorf as a slower yet more powerful character. That didn’t work out in Brawl, but like with Charizard, Ike, and others, I have some hope for him again in Smash Bros. 4.
Wario sits pretty high on the list of characters who don’t play how someone would expect, but in my case that works out for the best! The character himself has always seemed incredibly silly to me (and not like Waluigi where the silliness wraps around back to awesome because it multiplies by -1 twice), but in Smash Bros. I love his floatiness and aerial mobility and I’m looking forward to playing Wario every now and again once more. I do wish, considering that his main outfit (not shown) is his WarioWare incarnation, that they’d incorporated a bit more of that into his moveset.
Ness was one of the most satisfying characters to me in the original Super Smash Bros., then dropped straight off the map in the next two games. All the videos I’ve seen with him so far look like he’s back in form with some needed power boosts, which bodes well! After all these years, Ness’ gameplay and movement styles have still remained unique in the series; in any Smash Bros., now or ever, he feels fresh and distinct on the roster. I did prefer playing the faster and flashier Lucas, but Ness is no slouch in his absence.
As the new Pokémon competitor, Greninja has a lot riding on its shoulders and doesn’t look like it’ll disappoint! Substitute was probably my favorite move choice for Greninja’s Smash incarnation as far as actual Pokémon techniques go, but the downward air kick gives me so many fond memories of the Suplex power’s kick in Kirby Super Star, so that’s my choice for top move over all. =) My only fear and the main reason I haven’t ranked Greninja higher is that I wonder if it’ll be another fast character who has trouble finishing out a KO.
Sheik looks to have regained some of her old Melee glory back, but unfortunately that doesn’t quite extend to having moves with massive KO power, putting her in about the same boat as Greninja. The main difference is that I have a lot more attachment to Sheik as a character; even though Greninja was my starter while Sheik didn’t do anything great in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, she does have two Smash Bros. games behind her building her up. =P A fast and fluid character is all I’m looking for.
18. Toon Link
With his floaty nature and great aerial presence, Toon Link is the major exception to the rule of my tastes leaning against projectile users. His bombs and boomerang feel much smoother to me than his older counterpart because of his faster running speed and greater vertical leap—and although his moves are weaker than Link’s, I’ve usually enjoyed that because it allows him to rack up damage with successive hits at close-range. Overall, I have fun playing Toon Link either from a distance or from afar, which almost no other character can claim.
Before he was revealed, I would have completely opposed Pac-Man’s inclusion, but then Masahiro Sakurai worked his old magic and gave him a zany moveset built from material insanity. Bravo! I still have no real attachment to Pac-Man as a character, but hey, he’s way out ahead of fellow mascots Mario and Sonic on my list and I can definitely see myself playing him a lot as a for-fun character. Even I can like projectiles if you have an interesting rotation of them with different properties.
Speaking of zany, R.O.B. is one of the wackier inclusions to enter the series not because of his moveset, but because of who he is—originally a peripheral who only made in-game cameos here and there before finally reaching playable character status in 2005′s Mario Kart DS. I’m so glad he’s here, though, because he’s another heavily aerial projectile user. Like Toon Link except with more emphasis on the air and slightly less on the projectiles, which is all I could ask for other than superior close combat abilities. =)
Plain and simple, I’ve had great fun playing Marth for two Smash Bros. games running, but all indications and videos are that he’s been weakened significantly. Still, his fundamentals are so solid—namely good reach to all his attacks—that I think he can only be hurt so much no matter what they do to him, so I still have a lot of hope that I’ll be able to keep him as a solid character in my rotation. I’m not going near his Amiibo until I have the game in my hands to find out for sure, though!
Falco, by all accounts, has been nerfed even more dramatically than Marth… …but I also like him more than Marth, so that goes a long way to compensating. Falco was one of my top three in Super Smash Bros. Melee, so he’s fallen a lot and could fall even further if he simply doesn’t perform in battle, but I could never give up on him until sinking at least a few hours into trying to get a handle on whatever his new strengths and weaknesses are.
I’ve always liked Bowser as a character because I feel sorry for how he can never succeed. Like Wily E. Coyote, Lex Luthor, or Team Rocket, it doesn’t matter how creative or intelligent his plan is; Mario will always foil him. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to play him well in previous games—but nothing sells me faster than watching talented players on livestreams cleaning house with him in Smash Bros. 4. In this game, characters typically survive at very high damage, but not so against Bowser. I’m really looking forward to putting the Smash in Smash Bros.; it looks like nobody will do it better than Nintendo’s top antagonist.
12. Donkey Kong
Until I’m actually playing Bowser to confirm his brute strength firsthand, Donkey Kong will still rank above him as a powerhouse character since I’ve always felt comfortable with his gameplay in every Smash game. Despite his simple and straightforward fighting style, DK consistently feels satisfying and surprisingly smooth. As far as heavy gorillas go, he’s shockingly competent in my favorite domain: the air. Backward kicks for days in Brawl and even Melee…
I always hoped for Lucina in Smash Bros. rather than Chrom, but that was mostly because I didn’t think there was any shot of getting the character I truly preferred: Robin! Swords and magic in a single character sounded like a blast waiting to happen no matter whether it came from Fire Emblem‘s Robin or Golden Sun‘s Isaac (or Matthew). Seeing her in action, though, she seems more tilted toward magic than evenly balanced, but overall I have great hope for all the potential fun in her varied moves.
10. Mega Man
The combination of my disdain for projectiles and early reports of people having trouble figuring out how to play Mega Man had me worried, but actually I find him very easy to grasp in the demo! There is a catch, though: his KO potential isn’t amazing outside of the best meteor smash ever (Hard Knuckle) and one of the series’ most unique moves (Air Shooter), each being pretty easy to see coming. I’ll love to try working around that and making him something special, though, and it’s almost a lock that I’ll be buying this guy’s Amiibo.
I wouldn’t have been especially interested in Palutena before her reveal, but her gameplay looks like what poor Zelda could only dream of in terms of balancing power with range. Her custom moves being more specialized than other fighters’ also catches my interest; as someone who plays many characters for variety’s sake, sometimes it would be nice to simply tweak one character’s core. =) (I badly wish each playable Pokémon had similar custom move setups to mimic that series.)
8. King Dedede
Still and maybe always my favorite heavyweight, King Dedede is a penguin who can puff himself up to float and is therefore one of the greatest video game characters of all time. <3 His new side special move sends Gordos bouncing forward at variable speeds and heights, reminding me of the final boss of Donkey Kong Country 2, and hopefully his back air continues to be incredible. Altogether, Dedede at his core is a powerhouse with projectiles and (limited) flight to back it up. I expect him to deliver!
7. Mr. Game & Watch
Mr. Game & Watch is an odd being; despite being two-dimensional, he might have the most three-dimensional abilities of any character since he’s apparently capable of adapting to any situation or game concept he’s thrown into. His Smash incarnation is slightly less versatile due to not having any decent projectile game, but thankfully that’s the type of gameplay I care least about. I love his ability to chase opponents into the air vertically like almost no one else and don’t see that changing. =)
Dr. Mario. Falco. Young Link. Toon Link. Pichu. Somehow it almost always turns out that I’m better with or at least enjoy playing clone characters more than originals—and since I already had great fun playing Marth, I’m expecting something even more with Lucina! She has an earnest chance to move even higher and become my top-ranked sword fighter, but only time will tell. For now, without having played Super Smash Bros. 4 yet, a faster Marth sounds like all I could ask for in theory.
Despite being more awesome than Mario in every conceivable way, for some reason poor Luigi gets little respect from his own company. =( Only in Smash Bros. do I get to correct the injustice and smack Mario in the face! In all seriousness, Luigi’s a highly aerial fighter who had a great sense of flow in Brawl, but his most noteworthy flaw was trouble getting in close. With the addition of custom moves, hopefully his fortunes can turn around and bring this overlooked brother up to speed.
4. Captain Falcon
The man. The myth. The legend. …while Captain Falcon’s showing in Brawl was rather disappointing, no one can forget his Melee performances, back when he put on a show of style like no other while kicking, kneeing, and punching faces in! I’ve seen more than enough Smash 4 streams of Captain Falcon play to know that he’s mostly back in form aside from the unfortunate continued absence of jumping momentum. It’s been a six-year drought, but the Captain is once again ready to be everyone’s hero in white and pink.
3. Dr. Mario
What’s worse than being nerfed to oblivion in like Captain Falcon? Being cut from the game entirely. The trajectory and bounce of Dr. Mario’s Megavitamins made him quite a contender in Smash Bros. Melee, would have done the same in Brawl, and look to do the same in Smash 4. Despite my disdain for standard Mario, what’s greater than a fighting doctor with a victory pose where he waves around his stethoscope like a ninja staving off enemies with a katana? Inherently silly. Inherently stupendous!
The control scheme of Kirby Super Star is a spiritual predecessor to the Super Smash Bros. series and the game itself—especially its expanded DS remake—is bar none my favorite 2D action title. For those reasons and because he’s a cute pink blob who has surprising strength, Kirby is the first character I pick in every Smash game when I run through Classic mode. While I doubt he’ll ever return to the extreme powerhouse he was in the original Smash, I always hope he’ll get closer and closer.
As the original “why are you in the game?” character choice with the original most-bizarre-move-in-the-game, Jigglypuff is an unlikely story who represents two of Smash‘s finest traditions, leading to later roster inclusions like Mr. Game & Watch, the Ice Climbers, and R.O.B. More importantly to me personally, though, she’s the empress of air combat in Super Smash Bros. Melee and therefore my top pick. All videos from people playing the Japanese copy are positive indicators that it’s time for her resurgence!
From left to right, top to bottom, below are my predictions for my character choice preferences in descending order. We’ll see how the slots change as my play shapes up!
Edit: Here are my updated rankings after ten days of playing the game:
49. Shulk (+/- 0)
48. Zero Suit Samus (-2)
47. Mii Fighters (+1)
46. Alph (-1)
45. Wii Fit Trainer (+2)
44. Little Mac (-1)
43. Villager (+1)
42. Palutena (-33)
41. Meta Knight (-12)
40. Rosalina (+2)
39. Link (+/- 0)
38. Peach (-1)
37. Pac-Man (-20)
36. Lucario (+2)
35. Mario (+/- 0)
34. Diddy Kong (-10)
33. Pit (-6)
32. Dark Pit (-7)
31. Fox (+5)
30. Zelda (-1)
29. Duck Hunt (+5)
28. Ike (+5)
27. Luigi (-22)
26. Falco (-12)
25. Sonic (+15)
24. Mr. Game & Watch (-17)
23. Samus (+5)
22. Greninja (-2)
21. Donkey Kong (-9)
20. Lemmy (+10)
19. Ganondorf (+4)
18. Mega Man (-8)
17. Pikachu (+9)
16. Sheik (+3)
15. Dr. Mario (-12)
14. Charizard (+18)
13. Robin (-2)
12. Marth (+4)
11. Toon Link (+7)
10. Lucina (-4)
9. R.O.B. (+7)
8. Bowser (+5)
7. Ness (+14)
6. Wario (+16)
5. Captain Falcon (-1)
4. Yoshi (+37)
3. King Dedede (+5)
2. Kirby (+/- 0)
1. Jigglypuff (+/- 0)
Top three pleasant surprises:
Yoshi (41 -> 4), Charizard (32 -> 14), Wario (22 -> 6)
Top three unpleasant surprises:
Palutena (9 -> 42), Luigi (5 -> 27), Pac-Man (37 -> 17)
Top three characters who exceeded my expectations but still went “down” in my rankings just because a large number of other characters exceeded my expectations:
Lucina (6 -> 10), Robin (11 -> 13), Greninja (20 -> 22)