Well, you can't expect these types of projects to succeed all the time. Even so, to coincide with the upcoming one-year anniversary of Brawl, I decided to finish my "History of Smash Bros. Speculation" series and post it here (alongside other blogs).
In the last instalment, we saw the game announced with a few surprises in tow. Not long after, cryptic statements helped contribute to the thoughts, the battles, and the pain. I revealed my own involvement in the dreaded online character cults. And after 6 months and two trailers revealing pretty much bare bones information, silence reigned….
March 28th, 2007
It had been months since our last update. No news, no interviews with important information, nothing. Those impatient little dimwits cried about it for days on end. “Why, Nintendo, why?” they whined. Every convention/other opportunity was seen as a chance for Brawl tidbits, but nothing came, not even a firmer release date.
The first major Brawl-related news bit of 2007 wasn’t even about Brawl directly. On this day, it was announced that, after over a decade of rivalry, Mario and Sonic would finally appear together in one game, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.
Of course, after months of debating 3rd party involvement in Brawl (where everyone from Mega Man to Kingdom Hearts’ Sora were seen as candidates, and reason was tossed out the window and impaled on broken glass), some saw this is a major break. Sonic discussion was mandatory, and its oligatoryness made it seem like a background element to all the other discussions. Even so, here’s a chance to get some info, because all the interviewers asking about this game has GOT to bring up Smash Bros.
And they did, and we got…nothing. ‘No comment’ from one, as should be expected. However, the other interviewed rep made the statement “That’s not on the cards right now”, something to carries a bit more meaning to overanalysts, despite lacking any. Some saw this as a sign that Sonic wasn’t going to make it, and proclaimed repeatedly. Others, mostly those whose denial was based on fanboyism rather than logic, cried back. It was par of course for Smash Bros. discussion. And it would be a bit longer before this one would be locked.
This provided a decent enough break from the monotony of months-old speculation, but it soon went back to “Which characters should return LOL”. Thankfully, it wouldn’t be long until the next miniscule moment of enlightenment.
Of course, Brawl was the subject of April Fools jokes. How could it not? None of those jokes were particularly good, but they were there. They were about all we had at the time.
Then came my next contribution to the Smash masses. While perusing NSider against my better judgement, I stumbled upon a thread linking to a Korean site with a scan from Corcoro Comics, one of Japan’s premier comic magazines. This scanned showed a page with some Brawl art and text nearby, and some translators determined that the mag would have a feature of the game in next month’s issue. I quickly broke my cyber exile from Smashboards and posted the thing. Excitement swept the land. It appeared everywhere. Of course, the vagueness of the magazine’s text led many to believe, wrongly, that there would be a new character revealed. Such are the actions of simpletons. Even so, it all made some level of sense, as Corocoro had spent a good time before the release of the newest Pokemon games revealing some of the new critters before anyone else. We’d just have to wait and see.
Around the same time frame, we got a rather bizarre break from Hideo Kojima himself. At some convention, Kojima was asked about Smash, to which he replied that he and Sakurai had played the game not long ago, and Kojima claimed “It feels really complete” and “If they released it right now, they’d sell a million copies”. These statements, of course just compliments from a friend, were taken deadly seriously by many message boarders.
We had been hearing that more information was coming. We prayed for that information. And then we got eventually got it.
In mid-May, the Smash Bros. Dojo website was taken down and replaced by a countdown of around a week. “Oh boy!” We all thought. “We are getting new stuff, finally!” Conveniently, this came at the same time we learned the CoroCoro thing was a bust. And so we waited, and waited for that time. In the meantime, there was anti-comedy afoot: the ‘Japan Time’ note contained on the page became a meme at places like NeoGAF, and like all memes at NeoGAF, it was driven into the ground like a drill.
I remember when the day came; I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. For that reason, the fact that the actual site update didn’t come until 2 AM probably wasn’t the best for me. And when the update came…
I can’t say the first posts on the Dojo were received very well. They had waited a week, and were expecting quite a bit, and what they got was…introductory posts. Not unexpected or illogical, but not what they were building up to. I mean, the world held its breath for 6 months for this news!
The reaction was not really outright disappointment, but rather something a bit lukewarm. The early posts did give some fuel to the fire, though – mainly through the Musicians post, which was incredible on its own. It got some pretty early speculation going on, but unfortunately based on wrong connections – the site listed the major games that the composers had worked on before, and this led to people thinking that Brawl must feature content from some of those games in some way (apparently the idea of ‘freelancing’ eluded them that moment). It died out pretty quickly, I thought, although some people (even IGN) held on to the belief that the hired musicians meant something to third party participation until the very end.
The first three weeks of the Dojo were basically getting us into the idea of the Dojo. There wasn’t really much in the way of exciting new stuff during that time; some new items, some new special moves, some fun new concepts (I thought moving and shooting was pretty damn swell), a new stage…but that was pretty much it for most of the first month or so, and people complained (especially when the game explained basic concepts like Recovery), as they are wont to.
The major updates for that time period were the explanations of the Final Smashes (the super moves from the first trailer) and the controller options. The former solved a mystery that had been in our minds for a year (and to think, some people had been convinced that the absence of the final smashes in the second video meant they were cut out or were ‘just for show’), and spurred another tournament player item/no item firestorm. The latter was very important, as it explained that all the compatible controllers were usable in the game (solving the mystery of what controller would be used in the game and ending another dumb forum argument), as well as told us that there would be customizable controls, which was great (and would be expanded upon in future updates, neither of which were met with much fanfare, strangely). Of course, this would also lead to tournament players claiming that anyone using any controller other than the Gamecube one would be ‘gimped’, but you take the bad with the good sometimes.
After the initial month of mostly recapping and basics, the updates really started picking up in the last month of June, when we finally got a new (but old) character in Zelda. Updates started becoming something to really look forward to, and the constant stream of whining ceased for the time being. Plus, E3 was right around the corner, and who knows what could go on there…
One final note for this month: the trend of misunderstanding or questioning interpretations of the posts began pretty early on. I must admit, I didn’t quite grasp the concept of rolling crates in the beginning. Other sources of confusion: the phrase “but once” in the Final Smash update, the explanation for aiming the Cracker Launcher, the naming of the Ridley song as ‘Metroid Boss Battle’ (did it mean Ridley was a boss?), and Wario’s ‘new martial arts that other characters cannot even see’. These ones were more minor confusions, but future posts had people questioning the translation or what the actual sentence means, mostly so they can construe it to their whims.
July started with a bang and never really let up until months later. The first update of the month told us about ‘Assist Trophies’, a feature that was well-received but nonetheless controversial. It let characters that would otherwise not be in the game in any major capacity get their chance in the spotlight, but what would your reaction be if a character you were gunning for as playable was only in the game as an item? This would be brought up again and again in subsequent months as excitement and disappointment came with each newly revealed Assist Trophy. Like the previous month’s entries, there was some confusion with the concept – for example, did your character disappear when they used it? The only evidence was in how some screenshots were framed, but that was it.
The rest of the week was up to snuff as well: the return of Bowser (and his awesome final smash) and a new stage was swell stuff. And the next week, we got the return of the Bumper from the original Smash Bros.! All this, though, was lead-up to E3.
Now, one thing to remember: it had been announced earlier that the E3 we knew and loved was no more, to be replaced by a more conventional series of announcements and demonstrations (which was entirely reasonable, considering the needlessly bloated carnival E3 really was most of the time). This meant that there really was no way there would nearly as much mayhem in the Nintendo booth as there was last year. Even so, we waited in anticipation to see what Brawl info we could get.
What we got was a short movie, which was perfectly okay, and a release date, December 3rd, which was great. We scoured the video looking for any new elements not yet revealed on the Dojo, which consisted entirely of Donkey Kong, who appeared on the site the next day. Despite the small feeling of E3, I think most of us Smash fans were reasonably satisfied by it. Plus, we now knew where to mark our calendars.
The last update of the week was also a doozy: an Animal Crossing stage. This of course led discussions into a possible AC character, as the stage had to mean SOMETHING (in fact, no it didn’t). This would also be a source of debate until the end, as people could not, COULD NOT, give up the possibility of a playable AC character (even the ones who were clearly in the background of the stage, like Tom Nook). Some of the names they came up for the generic human character were pretty kooky as well – Animal Crosser? Doesn’t sound particularly family-friendly.
The rest of the month was good fun, but nothing that caused a massive stir. We got some more characters that were half-new (Yoshi and Zero Suit Samus), a couple of stages (the Rumble Falls stage was the cause of a minor spat in which people who thought the Ice Climbers could only have one stage design immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were out because Rumble Falls was in that mould), more Assist Trophies, and other such nonsense. The major potboiler was a mysterious update, bordered in black, which explained things about ‘this world’ and ended with an ominous message and a screenshot of a weird robot thing. I think most people guessed this was a teaser for the ‘beefed up’ Adventure mode mentioned before (the fact that it was in the section titled ‘Mode A’ helped that along a bit), but that didn’t stop some from coming up with crazy theories (for example, that it was actually teasing the online mode, and the ominous messages were talking about punishment for cheating or other such drivel).
Before we move on, one more thing: the so-called ‘Icon Theory’ (which may have had its roots earlier) was solidified in July. The ‘Icon Theory’ was basically checking the image name of the series icons presented in the top left corner of the updates, arranging the icons into a list based on how their names were numbered, and using that list to determined how many series are represented (have icons) in the game. Really, out of all the methods we had for trying to figure out stuff ahead of time, it was probably the best one, although there were arguments over how the order of the list worked (in the end, there was an order, but not that orderly an order). It became one of those integral things posted on most message boards over the coming months as new icons were revealed, and was another source of hope and disappointment for many.
The first update in August was late for some reason. This would be common in August, but it also meant good things – it usually signalled something big. And the first update in August was big – our first completely brand new character in over a year, Ike. The shot heard round the Internet; the beginning of a new frenzy.
Not to be outdone, the last update of the same week solved the mystery of the black update by revealing the new Adventure mode, titled ‘The Subspace Emissary’, and featuring a big story, sidescrolling action, and cutscenes, cutscenes, cutscenes! Now a whole new sector of speculation came to be, and it was out the gate trying to figure out what those enemies were, or where that stage is from (although they ended up being completely original, we were still under the impression that the stages and enemies could be game-based), or trying to figure out the whole plot (is Meta Knight the villain?). Subsequent updates in the same month introducing the names of the villain group and introducing the concept of bosses (which, like the Assist Trophies, gave another avenue for fans to speculate character choices) added to the magical mystery of this new mode. Of course, some of the obviously hyped-up language used to describe the adventure mode (“And we fit it on one disc!”) would ultimately come to bite it in the ass, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The rest of August was likewise filled with surprises and wonder. Two more brand new characters appeared within weeks of each other, and one more returning character (Peach, who actually appeared earlier in the Subspace Emissary video) filled the ranks. The two new ones were not without some level of controversy, but then again which ones were completely beloved upon arrival? (There actually were, but those come later). Pokemon Trainer, the second new character of August, was pretty well-accepted, although his game mechanics weren’t entirely clear on the outset. The big thing was the diehard Poke-fans wondering why his name wasn’t Red, the ‘canonical’ name for that particular Pokemon Trainer blah blah, nobody cares. The third new character, Diddy Kong…well, not everyone likes him very much. He’s a kid sidekick after all, and those tend not to be fan favourites. Even so, I can’t say no to monkeys, and he looked fun, so I was on his side from the beginning. The controversies were generally pretty small, and subsided rather quickly.
The characters and Subspace posts held the entire month, with the rest of the updates were okay, and included some new stages, Assist Trophies, and the like. It was a great way to cap off a great summer for Smash Bros. information, and would keep the people satisfied over the next month, which quieted down a bit.
After an incredible August, September seemed almost quaint. Which isn’t to say that there were no exciting announcements that month; quite the opposite, actually. But the announcements based on gameplay barely ever stirred the base like new characters did, and there were no new characters that month.
Let’s start with the important stuff: the major features debuting in September were the Online mode and My Music. After months of wondering if the game was going to be online at all (even though that was the main points of making it in the first place), the announcement was one of the most well-received of all, even though the very first post about it mentioned all the features (friend codes, limited communication, possibility of lag) that everyone would be bitching about when they finally got the game. But hey, it was online!
My Music once again opened up another avenue for speculation, or at least opened it up more so. The site had been offering music samples since day 1, and people speculated on music as they normally would. But with My Music, it was evident that the actual soundtrack would be even more epic than originally thought, and people upped the ante on their music guesses. All in all, a very nice feature, although its inclusion did cause some ruckus by those who wanted completely custom soundtracks (which I just don’t think makes sense for this game) so they can play their (almost certainly bad, they’re gamers, after all) tunes over their battles.
The rest of the month was generally typical, but good. Two of the characters featured that month were already known – Meta Knight (who for his three month absence was actually being thought as a possible secret character) and Snake (whose update, finally showing us his special moves and a general idea of how he plays, was previewed a day earlier at a conference at the Tokyo Game Show). The third was a bit surprising to some – the return of the Ice Climbers. Being characters who aren’t from an essentially popular franchise, some thought they were expendable (which they aren’t), and the rumours from the previous year indicated they could be gone and replaced. Well, if that dumb rumour hadn’t been killed and forgotten by then, it was when that update appeared. Good riddance to Internet garbage.
Some of the other updates that month got some responses – Mario got FLUDD as a special move, the Special match options returned, we got to look at some the new enemies in the Adventure mode (killing most ideas that they were being culled from other games), and some amusing Assist Trophies (including Lyn, a Fire Emblem character with a following that mourned her obvious non-playable status). The month capped off with an oddly symmetrical week (two returning game modes, two final smashes, and an Assist Trophy in between).
And now, the stage was the set…for the big stuff.
After taking a sort-of break in September, things went back into full swing in October, bringing in three all-new characters and a bunch of other stuff.
The new characters were an exciting lot – the first day we got Mother 3’s Lucas, much to the joy of those raving lunatic fanboys at Starmen.net (who actually stated beforehand that they had sources who indicated him being in the game, among other things that would also come to pass), and later in the month we got the awesome King Dedede, a crowd pleaser. Lucas created another bit of controversy – since he looked similar to Ness, and since the Japanese Melee website mentioned that the developers had thought of replacing Ness with Lucas had Earthbound 64 (the original version of Mother 3) been released, we wondered if Ness was replaced by Lucas, or would return. The description on the page “Can he surpass even Ness” was interpreted as indicating both. This was a major argument for months, as Ness fans looked for hints that he’d be back and detractors (which I must say I was a part of, not because I didn’t like Ness, but because based on the information provided, I thought he and Lucas were too similar) torn them down. It was a cycle that did not end until the game came out.
But neither could surpass the mania inspired by the character confirmed between them – Sonic.
It came as a surprise announcement in the middle of the night – Nintendo held a conference, announced a bunch of stuff, and showed off two Smash Bros. videos, one making all our wishes come true by showing Sonic battling it out with the rest of the cast. After months of wondering whether or not he’d make it, we got what we wanted, and it was glorious.
The two videos actually showed a lot – it was our first footage of ‘up-to-date’ gameplay, including the new character head boxes beside the damage meters (which were confirmed in the Online post), and a couple of attacks, taunts, and some slipped new stages in the background (Norfair was the main one, but it also appears that a secret stage, Spear Pillar, was also shown). So, aside from Sonic, we actually got quite a bit on that day. And we were to get even more, because alongside the announcement came playable demos for the press.
Yes, soon videos of people actually playing the game surfaced, and we basked in the glow. What we didn’t learn from the videos, we definitely got from the demos – special moves, changes in characters, stages, final smashes, Assist trophies, items, game mechanics, etc. etc. The week after, players who could make it to E For All got the same demo, and thus we got non-press reactions. E For All also had some footage of the Adventure mode, which added to the speculation for that as well. In any case, the impressions were generally good, and no one was bitching about things as of yet (although the beginnings of it were well in place. Everyone was just a little bit high on the moment to care that much). With E For All, however, also came impressions and things learned from the game that were…less than true. All the public demos would garner fake information, and some of it was even accepted for quite a while.
Of course, all these goodies came at a price…it was soon after announced that the game was delayed until February 9th, 2008. Strangely, the reaction to this wasn’t all that bad…I think, at least getting a real glimpse of the game was enough for people. Plus, we could see we were getting a pretty content-filled game, so maybe we just knew it was going to be worth the extra two months.
Not to be outdone, the Dojo posted numerous things that weren’t even in the demo – three new stages, many returning game modes, Snake’s hilarious Codec conversations (which sparked some minor debate about how they would be handled in the game, as in, would they interrupt it?), and of course Dedede. We also got news of lots of co-op modes, including Adventure, Target Test, and Home-Run Contest, which was much appreciated. The Target Test even included the first mention of the (decent but somewhat limited) replay saving feature, which added to the fun. We also got the Stage Builder, another new feature that blew minds, although it would eventually cause nitpicking. On a lesser note, the return of Classic update, which talked about collecting coins, created some mystery about what the coins would be used for (which wasn’t ‘shopping’, as the update put it).
All in all, October was a good month. But was it too good? Would following months live up to it? Well…
November starts a period I like to call ‘The Great Whining’. How so? After all the features revealed in October, alongside the demo, people kept expecting their desire to be fulfilled daily. But the Dojo still had to catch up on a number of things revealed in the demo, and that consisted of a good chunk of the month. This alone caused people to whine about how boring the updates were getting, because they knew this stuff already. The rest of the updates didn’t help, as there were no new characters all month (one of the main reasons for moaning, and a defining feature of The Great Whining), and the thing was pretty much basic feature-heavy.
Although updates like the ones on the return of character entrances, multiple taunts, and the colour varieties were good, they lost impact because of the demo. And the others, on things like the new handicap options, widescreen mode, and Training were a tad underwhelming for the audience. Even some features that should have sparked some interest, like the Spectator mode, were met with hostility for no reason other than boredom-induced groaning.
Although new final smashes, Assist Trophies, and music appeared throughout the month, they were never met with much enthusiasm (maybe because they were never exciting unto themselves for most, but rather were swept along with other great things). Some of them even caused bitching – a joke-y comment about ‘wouldn’t it be cool if Gray Fox was playable?’ turned into a torrent of ‘why wasn’t Gray Fox playable??’ despite all common sense. The Great Whining affected all things.
It wasn’t until the very end of the month that we got some better stuff – the return of Events and some stages from Melee, but once again the excitement was stifled but general ill-feelings at that point. After so much greatness, it felt so weird for everyone to be sort of miserable. December wouldn’t necessarily fix that, but it was a better month over all.
One more thing: we got an update explaining Lucas’ special moves, which only furthered the “Will Lucas replace Ness?” debate. The update itself referred to Ness in the past tense, which contributed to the replaced side, but Lucas’ moves being different contributed to the for returning side. Of course, the debate would rage on for a few months more.
Remember when this was the release date? Yeah, other people did as well. Even so, it wasn’t that much of a downer for people. Considering the frustration with the updates at that point, though, they really couldn’t get any worse off.
December was an improvement, though, in that there were a lot more exciting updates and general new stuff. There were still things that were scoffed at for being too technical – the options menu and online ‘sharing’, for example. But we also got some good things, too – Co-op Events, for example, the Coin Launcher mini-game, the Trophy stands concept, Kirby’s new hats, and other things. Some things even inspired some conversation and/or controversy!
The With Anyone/Basic Brawl update should have been rather tame, but it included the information that ‘most’ of the characters would be unlocked through the Adventure mode, which was an interesting development (the first real mention of the presence of secret characters, too, which no one thought wouldn’t happen, but worth mentioning all the same) The aforementioned Options update, although generally unappreciated, did unveil some of the other menus in the game, giving more ideas for how things in the game worked.
When the earlier online updates this month were posted showing the demo character select screen, some began to think that was the starting line-up, despite lacking some crucial characters (Kirby, for example, and Wario). With the ‘unlocking’ conditions mentioned earlier, they figured that the game would go Tekken and have tons of easily unlocked characters, whether they made sense as unlockable or not. Everyone pretty much ignored them, and the screen changed later when the full default select screen popped up.
One of the more controversial updates was “Overalls Wario”, the revelation that Wario would get his classic look alongside his WarioWare gear. Many people were hoping for alternative costumes for all characters, but this update, which said “But Wario alone is special” killed that idea cold. Some still clung to the possibility of a mistranslation, but nope, everything said the same thing. Oh well.
Strangely, there wasn’t that much of an outcry when two characters that had decent support as playables, Waluigi (why, I don’t know) and Stafy, were revealed as Assist Trophies. People usually got upset about these things, but there was hardly a peep. Must have been that ol’ Christmas spirit they were feeling.
There was also the Frigate Orpheon stage, which ended some dumb conspiracy theory about the developers of the game having some sort of grudge against Metroid Prime, apparently evident because of the lack of Prime-based content (they even nitpicked Samus’ design in the game, saying it looked more like the design in Super Metroid) and because in an interview with the Metroid Prime 3 team, they said no elements from the game were ‘borrowed’ from them for Smash.It was great that the Dojo once again shut people up.
Outside the Dojo, there was one important news item. After the announcement of Sonic, people were hungry for more third party characters. I mean, the site said they’d have two or three in total a year ago, didn’t it? The leader of the pack when it came to support was, as one would guess, Capcom’s Mega Man. I mean, he’d work perfectly, and be so fun (the people who said he’d be a clone of Samus obviously never played a Mega Man or Metroid game).
But alas, it was not to be. In an interview with MM creator Keiji Inafune, he was asked if Mega Man was in Brawl. Inafune said that “Nope. But wouldn’t that be great? Nintendo should call me, make it happen” (of course, not exactly like that). For most, this was all that needed – the game scheduled to be released in two months, not enough time for it to happen. Of course, there were some who refused to stop believing – “He might be throwing us a red herring!” they yelled. But we all knew the truth – there was no Mega Man in the game. Maybe another third party character would show up…
Before the beginning of the New Year, the Dojo announced it would be taking a weeklong break. People whined about it, but it might have been a good idea for poster and reader, giving us a week to relax and think about all that happened over the past year, while preparing for…the final countdown.
And that’s where 2007 ends. In the next instalment, get ready for massive revelations, mad ‘prophets’, and the truth, finally revealed.
DUMB ARGUMENTS AND OTHER DUMB THINGS:
-Some posters on a website that shall not remain nameless, NeoGAF, whined about the quality of music being posted on the Dojo. They thought it was too MIDI, wanted more orchestration, yadda yadda you get the deal. Some geniuses among them began to theorize that the samples were, in fact, not the real thing, but rather just an ‘overview’ of the song, which would end up being orchestrated. Yeah, think about the logic of THAT.
-Oh IGN, IGN, IGN…devoted much time and effort to keeping up with the latest news, but contained that air of fanboy prattling that makes me dislike the site so much. Their weekly ‘stories’ where they listed a group of possible characters became a staple, but not one that was read much.
IGN’s biggest contribution of bull to the speculation field, though, came from a statement where they nudge nudge wink winked us into thinking they had the inside information that were to be more third-party characters other than Sonic, and more than we were thinking. This turned out to be completely false, but thus is the quality of IGN’s rumormongering. How’s that new Kid Icarus announcement coming along?