Monday, February 24, 2014


Super Smash Speculation

Man!  New Super Smash Brothers!  Everyone wants to know who's going to be in it!  When Brawl came out, I thought they'd run out of reasonable candidates for new characters, but they sure have been proving me wrong!  Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Mega Man, Little Mac -- all totally awesome!  Who are they going to announce next!

Let's not worry about that!

Let's also stop ending sentences with exclamation points, it's not that big a deal.

What's on my mind right now is... who's coming back?  Not everyone from Melee came back for Brawl -- so who's going to make the cut this time around?

While there's still some time to make some idle speculation, here's how my expectations for the new Smash games are looking.

Yoshi, Ness, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon

These are probably my safest picks for returning characters.  They've been in all three games so far; why stop now?

Bit odd that Yoshi is the only non-secret character in all three games who hasn't been announced yet, but I figure they're just waiting for that new Yoshi's Island game to come out so they can add to the hype.

Ice Climbers, Sheik

Also safe bets.  Sheik particularly, with Zelda already returning and all.

Mr. Game & Watch, Ganondorf, Falco

Getting into iffier territory.  Mr. Game & Watch has retro cred, but it's hard to tell what that counts for.  I for one hope to see him again, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him cut.  Ganondorf is safer, being from the Zelda franchise.  Falco?  A strong probably.  If they pick only one Star Fox character to go alongside Fox himself, Falco's the most likely pick.

Mewtwo, Roy, Dr. Mario, Pichu, Young Link

Here's a curious idea.  Could any of the characters who didn't appear in Brawl reappear for the new game?

Young Link is right out with Toon Link replacing him.  Pichu is unlikely; he was always sort of an oddball character to begin with.  Roy's appearance in Melee was kind of a stunt to begin with, marking the first time a character debuted in Smash Brothers before his regular series; I don't think there's enough interest to resurrect him.  Dr. Mario is particularly unlikely, although I wouldn't rule out an alternate costume.

Of these five, Mewtwo is the one I'm most interested in speculating about.  He remains an iconic Pokemon, especially with his reappearance in Pokemon X/Y.  Unlikely, but not impossible.

Wario, Zero Suit Samus, Ike, Pokemon Trainer, Meta Knight, Snake, Lucas

Now we're getting into some serious speculation territory.  The characters who debuted in Brawl are probably the most likely to be dismissed at this point.  Who's safe?  Who isn't?

Zero Suit Samus is a safe bet.  Samus is in, and I've seen screenshots that suggest she has the same Final Smash as before.  And male gamers love their eye candy.

Pokemon Trainer seems like a safe bet, though it wouldn't surprise me if there was a different trainer or if he/she had different Pokemon.

Wario seems pretty safe, being a fairly unique Mario-universe character, particularly with the news that Ashley is going to be an assist trophy this time around.

Ike and Meta Knight?  Kind of iffy, maybe.  They don't seem to mind switching up the name on Marth's plus one invitation; we might see a character from a newer Fire Emblem game this time.  Meta Knight is cool and popular, but are there too many "floaty" characters already?  Probably safe, but we'll see.

Snake and Lucas are the most likely to be left out.  Snake is third-party and not exactly a perfect fit for the scenario.  Lucas is a relatively unknown character from one of Nintendo's least popular franchises; we're more likely to see Ness than Lucas, and it's hard to say if they want to give Mother two whole slots in the roster, especially for a character who plays like a clone.

R.O.B., Wolf

I'm leaning toward safe.  R.O.B.'s become something of a Nintendo icon lately.  They're more likely to cut Wolf before Falco, but I think the fans care enough about the Star Fox series to justify bringing all three characters back.

And Finally...

Any unannounced characters I'd like to see?  Well, at varying degrees of plausibility:  Simon Belmont, Waluigi, Miis, Stanley the Bugman, Phoenix Wright, Professor Layton, Elite Beat Agents, Cooking Mama, Haggleman, Custom Robo, Bowser Jr. -- I could go on.

But we'll have to wait and see.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The Animal Crossing End Game

Why do we keep playing Animal Crossing?

When you first start Animal Crossing -- any game in the series -- there really are quite a lot of long-term goals available to you.  You can plant trees and flowers, fill a museum, buy a bigger house, collect furniture, acquire a wardrobe... But despite Nintendo's proud boast that Animal Crossing is a game you can play forever, you will eventually hit a point where you feel like there is nothing left to do.  Maybe you didn't achieve every goal, but you've covered everything that's interesting to you.  You've got the biggest house, the best furniture, a costume that you never want to change, and yet the game doesn't end.  What keeps you going?  Why play a game with no objective?

Well... why do we play any games?

When you're playing, say, Super Mario Brothers, your stated goal is to save the princess.  So you travel across the worlds, step on all the angry mushrooms along the way, and figure out how you're supposed to drop Bowser in the lava this time.  Princess Toadstool is free, and the day is won.  So what do you do?  Sit around and revel in the hard-fought peace you've won for the Mushroom Kingdom?

No!  You start a new game, of course!  The princess goes right back into her cage, and we do it all over again.

It's not about the destination -- it's about the journey.  As the player, we are not motivated to play the game because we want Princess Toadstool freed, even though there might be a cool cinematic at the end.  We play the game because we love bouncing on platforms and stomping on goombas and flying around and stuff.  The adventure isn't a means to an end; it is an end unto itself.  In the end, any reward the game gives us isn't as important as the fun we have playing it.

Animal Crossing does expect you to reach "the end" and then stay there.  Every village that's created becomes a unique, sort of organic entity.  Starting over just because you've accomplished all of your goals almost feels like you're killing a living thing.

If you approach the game from the perspective that it's not about the destination so much as the journey, then you can make the argument that you basically start over every day.  Yes, every day is about performing the same fetch quests, catching the same fish -- but then, every video game is like that when you play it over and over again.  The difference in Animal Crossing is that, even as you're playing the same game every day, the environment grows and evolves around you.  Seasons change.  Characters move in and out.  Shops change their stock.  Every day the same game in a world that's always changing.

So Animal Crossing is sort of about divorcing yourself from that idea that you're playing to accomplish something.  It's about appreciating this tiny world in your hands for what it is instead of chasing after a carrot on a stick.

To a certain extent, I think the people who get the most out of Animal Crossing are the people who can buy into the make-believe.  We sort of learn, as gamers, to try and look for the underlying systems in games, the variables that we have to manipulate to get the effects that we want.  But this is a game that wants you to role-play in the purest sense.  It rarely even breaks character itself; your character creation isn't handled by some menu-based system, but by chatting with a cat on a train.

I've been playing New Leaf.  Apart from opening up The Roost, I really don't have any goals left for my town.  But I still drop in as much as I can.  I browse the shops now and then.  I sell off the fossils I find.  But most of all, I log in to see what the critters in town are up to.  I know there's really nothing cool to get for moving packages around or leading people over to my house, but it doesn't matter.  I enjoy it for its own sake.

This might be the version I take to the grave with me.


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