An analysis of the characters of Smash Bros Brawl

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Donkey Kong

First Appearance: Donkey Kong (1981) or Donkey Kong Jr. (1982)

There is a bit of controversy here.  Donkey Kong first appeared at the same time as Mario, in 1981, however, during Rare's reinvention of the franchise in the 90's with Donkey Kong Country, it is explained that the original Donkey Kong is now known as Cranky Kong and the Donkey Kong of this generation was originally Donkey Kong Jr. 

"He's the leader of the pack, you know him well. He's finally back to kick some tail. He's bigger, faster, and stronger too. He's the first member of the DK crew!" So speak the words of the DK rap, one of the background songs to the Donkey Kong levels.  Donkey Kong is another returning veteran to the Smash Bros scene.  He is one of the most satisfying characters to play, tapping into the primal joy one experiences when punching someone in the face.

Special Moves: 
B: Giant Punch- This move is great fun.  Always have one ready to go.  When you are punching, anything that hits you during your punch will not knock you back (but the same can not be said for the poor suckers on the receiving end).  You can charge this the same way Samus charges her beam cannon, and a shield or a roll can save your progress for later if someone tries to interrupt you.  Punch everything.  That is Donkey Kong's answer to all life's problems, and its worked pretty well so far. 

Side B: Head Butt- Also great fun, but this move is very slow.  Basically you head butt someone into the ground.  They're stuck there, for how long depends on how much damage they've already taken.  Immediately follow up with your charged Giant Punch (remember how I told you to always have one ready to go?) or a forward smash attack and watch them go flying.  

Up B: Spinning Kong- Okay...not a great move for recovery, as it goes more horizontally than vertically, but in a pinch you can use it to clear people out when you're being swarmed (that happens a lot when you're Donkey Kong). There is a bit of lag when you finish, so be careful.

Down B: 

Hand Slap- Donkey Kong freaks out and throws a fit, slamming the floor in anger. It can be quite a defensive move, blocking some projectiles, and punishing those rolling little twerps that are running circles around you.  Use it sparingly, and you'll take people by surprise.  Just be careful, as it also tends to lag when you try to end it.

Move Set Score: 3/5  A great B, a situational forward B, a very poor up b, and an average down B puts Donkey Kong in the 'good, but not great' category of special moves.

Weight: 5/5 One of the heavyweights, Donkey Kong does not dodge hits, he absorbs them.  And then he hits back, only harder.

Speed: 2/5 I almost gave him a 1/5, but he IS slightly faster than Bowser, sooo....he's still really slow.  You won't hit very often, you won't dodge very often, but it takes a lot to knock the big monkey man out and very little for him to do it to his smaller adversaries.

Strength: 5/5 Yeah if he hits you, you're gonna feel it.  Even if its not his Giant Punch, his smash attacks are all very lethal, and his a moves are great for juggling or just sweeping people out of the way.

Final Smash: Konga Beat-  2/5 Again, I hesitate to give this a 2, but if you have a good sense of rhythm (or play a lot of Guitar Hero), and you are on a small stage this move can be effective.  On large stages or if you do not have the volume up high enough, its fairly useless.

Closing Thoughts:
Overall, Donkey Kong is very fun to play.  However, he can be very frustrating as well.  He tends to be the biggest target on the level, so, intentionally or no, you are going to feel like you're being ganged up on a lot.  Attacks will hit you whether they were aimed at you or not.  In a one on one match, Donkey Kong does very well, because he can focus on one wily little opponent at a time.  In a free for all...just watch your back and be prepared to fly into a rage.  Luckily, that is Donkey Kong's mentality anyway so you'll channel the character better.  Don't think.  Punch people. Punch items. Punch bombs. Slam the ground when you're upset.  Beat your chest in defiance.  Watch King Kong to get into character. Have fun and just enjoy the simple pleasure of physically dominating all comers.

Overall Score: 3.4/5
A bit above average, and a lot of fun.  Donkey Kong does require a bit more skill than some characters, but at the same time  you can play a lot stupider without paying for it.  If you want to just freak out, punch things, not focus too much on defense, and occasionally walk off the edge of a screen with a screaming Princess clutched in your massive hands, DK is your man.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


First Appearance: Donkey Kong as 'Jumpman' (1981)

Mario.  The iconic face of video gaming.  Quite possibly the most famous fictitious character in the world, more easily recognized than Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny combined.  Mario is the veteran of veterans.  Mr. Game & Watch may be older, but Mario has rescued more princesses, jumped over more obstacles, and charged his way through more video games than any other character in Smash Bros (perhaps in history?).

Mario, of course, has been in all three Smash Bros. to date, and it would be unthinkable not to have him in one.  Like in all games that feature Mario, from Super Mario Bros. 2 to Mario Kart to Mario Tennis, Mario is designed as the 'balanced' character of Smash Bros.  Easy to use and perfect for beginners, he is supposed to be the 'no strengths, no weaknesses' jack of all trades.  Does he live up to this role?

Special Moves:

B: Fireball- 

Besides jumping, this is Mario's most recognizable move.  Mario sends fireballs bouncing along the ground towards his foe.  Annoying, these little balls of fire do not do much damage, but serve to disrupt and discourage his foes.  It is a very basic ranged attack, and a great opener to throw your opponents off guard as Mario comes charging in.

Side B: Cape- You gonna get caped! This move is fantastic, probably the best of Mario's b moves.  In the hands of a master, it is devastating.  Not only can he use it to deal damage, it also reflects projectiles.  Pokeballs reflected in this way actually change ownership, becoming Mario's cute little engines of doom.  Thrown items, weapons, boomerangs, energy attacks, soccer balls, basically anything with the exception of Final Smashes can be reflected in this way.  Finally, the cape is used to turn enemies around, causing no end of disorientation and putting you in a great position to attack from behind.  A true Mario master will learn to use the cape, and use it often.

Up B: Super Jump Punch- At first glance this move seems useful only for recovery, but it actually knocks an opponent quite a bit up and out when they are damaged enough.  I was able to get a few KO's this way, climbing to the top of a stage and punching them so high they disappeared off the top of the screen.  You also steal their lunch money, which, while not offering any mechanical advantage, is a real slap in the face.

Down B: 

F.L.U.D.D- What the heck?  F.L.U.D.D.??  This is where Mario starts to lose points from his former position in the upper ranks of 'average'.  His old down B has been replaced with this monstrosity, a sad attempt at promoting the debacle that was Super Mario Sunshine.  Nintendo, we get it, there was a Mario game for the Gamecube.  Noone liked it.  You've redeemed yourself with Mario Galaxies.  Let the F.L.U.D.D fade into obscurity.  Okay, so how can we make this move useful?  Remember, you have to keep it charged to get the full effect of it.  It does 0 damage but pushes people backwards.  "So what?", you may interject, "they will just jump back." Indeed...but it does have rare uses.  Let's say you are trying to get back to the ledge but Ike is guarding it with a huge sword.  Turn the firehose on him like he was a protesting hippee and you'll clear some safe room to land.  Let's say you are guarding the edge and someone uses their 'up b' move to get back?  Push them away with the F.L.U.D.D.  It doesn't do any damage and therefore they don't get another use of their 'up b'.    That being said, you can be a great Mario player and never use F.L.U.D.D.  Charge it up in case you see an opportunity to use it, but don't stress about it too much.

Move Set Score:   3/5
We have a b, an excellent forward b, a decent up b, and an almost useless down b.  Good job, Mario.  You have an average move set.

Weight: 3/5 
A solid medium weight, as any Mario Kart player could have told you.  After playing Mr. Game & Watch, he seems remarkably resilient, though he is by no means a heavy weight.

Speed: 3/5
Neither slow, nor fast.  Is up B is not particularly acrobatic, though it gets the job done.  Another trick is using the cape to gain a little forward momentum to recover.

Strength: 4/5
Mario's smash attacks are solid.  The addition in Melee of a ball of flame on his fist has given him incredible knockback.  His up smash and down smash are heavy hitting as well, with the down smash having the additional advantage of hitting enemies on both sides of you, great for catching those pesky rolling opponents.  His charging dive his tough to interrupt, and his air attacks are not shabby either.  They are all easy to use and dangerously effective.

Final Smash: 1/5

Here is where Mario falls flat on his face.  Seriously...this move looks awesome and was great fun to watch on the game trailer, but its completely useless.  It is incredibly hard to hit an opponent with it, as Mario stops for a moment to cheer in impotent joy before throwing the flames.  This gives your opponents a chance to jump out of the way..roll out of the way...prepare to sidestep it...this slow moving ball of flame tends to only connect when you throw it into tight corridors that certain levels provide.  If you DO manage to connect you will do a whopping 22 damage and....that's it.  Very rarely, the flames will carry your foes off the screen, which I believe is how the move is supposed to work.  Any halfway intelligent opponent will manage to avoid this, however.  Basically, the game with Mario is to get the smash ball so that no one else can use THEIR final smash.

Closing Thoughts:

On a whole, Mario lives up to his role as the 'average' character.  In fact, if you turn off smash balls in the game options, Mario is a solid character.  Average and above average in everything, he is an easy character to pick up for new players and, with his cape, a rather dangerous opponent in the hands of a seasoned player.  You will soon have people too scared to throw items at you or use projectiles, which is a very big part of a player's attack repetoire.  Sadly, however, Mario's lack of a decent final smash causes him to lose points in the long run.  Still, he's a fun, and iconic character to play, and one that I enjoyed.  Perhaps its just 80's nostalgia, but I always find myself rooting for that plucky little plumber.

Overall Score: 2.8/5

Though numerically average, there is something to be said for Mario's ease of play.  He requires a lot less investment to excel than the lighter weight characters (Mr. Game & Watch) or the more complicated play styles of the more advanced characters (Captain Falcon).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mr. Game & Watch

First Appearance: Ball (1980)

Mr. Game & Watch is an enigmatic figure created from a primordial substance that can take many shapes.  It is for this reason that his kind were harvested to create the Subspace Army. Mr. Game & Watch has no concept of good or evil. 

What we have here is a mysterious character with an alien mindset, and this is reflected in his play style.  

Special Moves: 

B: Chef -  As a projectile, this move does not enjoy great range, but it does serve to provide a sort of disruptive shield against air attacks.  Very useful for edge guarding.

Side B: Judge- The range on this move is very short, making it only useful in rare instances.  Most of the attacks do not do much damage, and because its random, you're almost always better served by using one of Game & Watch's smash attacks.  However, if you're feeling cocky, you can play the odds and try for number 9.  Its very satisfying when you connect with it.

1 - 2% (12% to self whether it makes contact or not)

2 - 4% with barely any knockback

3 - 6% knocks opponent behind G&W

4 - 8% knocks opponent backwards

5 - 12% (electric shock)

6 - 12% (fire element)

7 - 14% regular hit that drops an apple

8 - 9% (freezes opponent for about a second)

9 - 32% 9/10 times the opponent is KOed outright

Up B: Fire- Perhaps the best up b move in the game.  Not only does it damage people hit by it (and thus helps you break smash balls that are floating high over head), but it also keeps you up and safe when other smash attacks, hammers, or stars are causing havoc on the ground.  With this move, you can chase enemies off the edge of the level, smash them into oblivion, and float safely back to solid ground.

Down B: Oil Panic-This move has its uses, though it is very situational.  You can use it to absorb energy projectiles including PK Thunder, laser bolts, Din's Fire, the Charge Beam, etc. It does NOT work on physical projectiles such as arrows, bombs, boomerangs, thrown items, etc.  Just using this move is usually enough to discourage your enemies from harassing you with ranged attacks, especially the ever annoying Ness and Lucas barrages.  Seldom will they give you the chance to fill the bucket full of projectiles, but assuming you manage to absorb three, this move deals a lot of damage and knockback to whoever is unfortunate enough to be caught in the resulting oil spill.  The amount of damage it deals depends on how powerful the projectiles caught in the bucket are. 

Move Set Score: 3/5 

Incredible Up B, decent b and down b, worthless forward B.

Weight: 1/5  

Mr. Game & Watch might be the lightest character in the game.  His greatest weakness, it does not take much damage to take out this little guy.  Turns out that when you only exist in two dimensions, you don't have a lot of mass.

Speed: 4/5  

While not the fastest character, Mr. Game & Watch enjoys great speed, and his agility is amplified by his excellent recovery move.  

Strength:  4/5

Mr Game & Watch enjoys some powerful smash attacks.  His forward smash is a great KO move with excellent range, catching his enemies on fire with his torch.  His down smash, a pair of hammers attacks both sides at once for excellent knockback.  His upward smash is fairly useless, however, with short range. His dash attack also is fairly useless with little knockback.  His air moves have high priority, and his tilt down A (manhole) and tilt forward A (chair) are also very useful for disruption.  His grab has very short range, and should only be used sparingly.

With these moves, Mr. Game & Watch should not have any problem racking up kills.  

Final Smash: 5/5                      


Octopus- Mr. Game & Watch is very good at chasing down smash balls, so get used to seeing this monstrosity a lot.  The Octopus is best in small levels, and can be fairly useless in large levels (like many final smashes).  The Octopus lasts a long time, giving you a chance to kill enemies multiple times or at least kill them once and damage them again when they return.  The tentacles are difficult to dodge, and his double jump can help him reach great heights.  Of the Final Smashes that involve chasing down your enemies, this is undoubtedly the best.

Closing Thoughts:  

Like most lightweight characters, Mr. Game & Watch requires a bit of skill to use effectively.  The price for failure is high, and thus his learning curve is a little higher than some other characters.  

On the upside, his bizarre style can work in your favor.  Because of his low frames of animation, he is a difficult opponent to read.  Human opponents will be unable to tell what attack you are throwing at them until it is too late.  Fighting Mr. Game & Watch can be a frustrating thing...even his light weight can be turned his favor psychologically.  The thought "If I could just get one good hit on him he'd be dead!" will be running through your opponent's heads, perhaps pushing them into a hasty mistake.

Overall Score: 3.4/5

A formidable opponent, and one that is often underestimated.  His light weight, short grab range, and lack of a real projectile make playing him more difficult, but he can be devastating in the hands of a seasoned player.


About Me

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I'm a French teacher with a penchant for over-thinking things in pop culture, likely stemming from grad school. I over-analyze movies and video games because I no longer have to explicate French novels.