How 'Super Smash Bros.' Created The World Of Today
Remember when old Marvel sold all of their most popular characters to movie studios right before they learned they could make a pile of money off of them? Fun times. That error forced Marvel studios to start small and begin making movies starring B-Listers no studio wanted to put in a movie. We're talking about making movies about characters like Iron Man and Thor – yes, those were B-listers not even 15 years ago – until they had enough money to rebuy all of their properties. We've reached such a point of stagnation in entertainment that the most profitable thing a studio can do isn't come up with new and interesting characters that would make sense in our times or even subversions of old ones, but see how many popular characters from possibly incompatible properties they can cram into a movie. That sounds a lot like Nintendo's mega-hit Super Smash Bros.
It all began with Roger Rabbit
It's hard to accept that our favorite characters have flaws too, but we know damn well that a pre-'90s chance encounter between even the ever-friendly Mickey Mouse and any character from the Warner Bros. roster could only result in a slapstick battle to the death. Then, 1988 saw the release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the animation and live-action crossover masterpiece that starred a forgotten character and made it peace ambassador in a world where Disney and Warner Bros could happily coexist because director Robert Zemeckis delivered on the promise of giving characters from the two ever-warring studios the exact same amount of screen time. It grossed over $350 million dollars, so much that we won't even bother saying how much more that would be in today's just-as-fake but somehow weaker money. That kind of success would immediately force today's Hollywood to just replicate the formula until nobody could stand it anymore, but old Hollywood valued artistic integrity over a quick profit, right? It didn't, it's just that Roger Rabbit just wasn't repeatable.
But the first coming died out quickly
We give modern-day Hollywood a lot of crap because they seemingly can only rebrand and re-sell the same dumb Star Wars crap over and over until consumers realize they're being ripped off (still hasn't happened. check out Andor, it's as great as every other Star Wars thing ever made!!!), but that's not an entirely new thing. They did try to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was Who Framed Roger Rabbit by once again mixing animation with live-action in films like Cool World.
But Roger Rabit was such a labor of love, such a milestone in cinema and animation in general that all copycats ended up looking weird and off-putting. Like, let's take a look at Jessica Rabbit. She's totally not real, yes, but the film's actual camera work and dynamic shadows make her presence in the real world so believable that it's only just a little bit weird to have the hots for her.
Meanwhile, Holli Would, the femme fatale from Cool World looks just like what she is, an overtly sexualized cartoon.
Then there's Space Jam, which also made use of a lot of Warner Bros. characters,
1990 also gave us Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue, another ambitious crossover where characters from various studios got together to warn kids about drugs. The whole thing sucked ass even if you forget it was presented by the original President Bush and financed by Mcdonald's, which kind of made it look like they just wanted kids to overlook the fact that fast food kills way more people than licking Kermit the frog.
Mixing animation with live action proved mostly a nightmare not worth having, and the idea of crossing over a bunch of popular characters in the same film just for the sake of it wasn't worth it. Replicating Roger Rabbit was impossible… for movies, at least.
Sega actually had the idea before Nintendo (but didn't quite get there)
The cool thing about gamers is that developers just have to lay the groundwork with fun maps, mechanics, and characters. The players will build their own fun around that without the need for out-of-this-world animation and direction. Sega had the really cool idea of doing a crossover featuring many of the most popular Sega characters of its time in Fighters Megamix. it was crazy. We could play as characters from Virtua Fighter, Fighting Vipers, and even a car from Daytona.
There was even a cop that just shoots the opponent in the face
We could even play as the (famous?) AM2 palm tree logo.
Sega picked the right tone by going for “extra wacky”, but ultimately Fighters Megamix was just another fighting game with nothing really new about it, and one that didn't break corporate frontiers. Games like Marvel Vs. Capcom and especially Mugen did that better. For those unaware, Mugen is an open-source fighting game that's a crossover of basically every character in existence. Do you wanna see Goku avenge the millions of deaths Ronald McDonald blamed on drugs since 1990? Have at it
We're not joking when we say it has every character.
But Smash Bros. is a different thing
Nintendo cracked the code
Super Smash Bros. wasn’t just another fighting game or a cash grab under the guise of a massive crossover (even if it might have looked like it at first).
On top of its (still comparatively small) all-star cast of characters, SSMB still boasted the most fun and original gameplay mechanics of its time. The developers took special care to provide each character with a unique set of incredibly fun moves and swapped the traditional health bars of fighting games for an intentionally not very useful damage meter that only told players more or less how likely their characters were to get blasted off the map when hit by an opponent.
Even though it took some cues from Fighters Megamix,
The Super Smash Bros. series provides arguably the most fun we can get out of a party game, a pretty big deal considering it dates back to 1999. It got so big that the third game in the series began incorporating characters alien to the Nintendoverse.
Multi-brand Crossover events used to be rare, now they're the most desired thing
When Nintendo came up with SSMB in 1999, Hollywood had been stale in regards to doing crossovers. Even comic book events like Superman vs. Spider-Man were a once-in-a-lifetime thing back in the day (if that even happened at all).
The wider entertainment industry took a while to notice, but there's no way that the continued success of the Super Smash Bros. series didn't inspire Hollywood to once again go crazy with crossovers that pit famous characters against one another not because of some grand noir plot, but simply for the fun of it. Marvel's most successful movies of recent times, Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, Avengers Endgame, and Spider-Man: No Way Home are basically Super Smash Bros-like fan service. No Way Home is an especially awesome achievement because taking it off the ground required Marvel and Sony to agree on something, so basically take the amount of work they had with Roger Rabbit but applied to bureaucratic stuff. Here's hoping movies will soon learn that all corporate frontiers must be consumed by the brosification of the world. Games already know that's the way to go:
Crossovers are just shamelessly ripping off Super Smash Bros.
Sony tried something similar to SSMB with Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, but it wasn't either original or close enough to Super Smash Bros.' magical formula, and that's why you're just now remembering it ever existed.
Weird, because Sony already had their own original and successful “brosified” creation. That's Kingdom Hearts, a game that ditches the all-out battles of SSMB, opting instead for a much more Sony-Esque epic narrative that brings together characters from Disney and the Final Fantasy series.
Warner Bros. didn't want to risk it, so they made Multiversus, a game that's straight-up Super Smash Bros with the WB roster. This broke the final barrier – people are no longer afraid of admitting that Super Smash Bros. is the most powerful IP when it comes to all-around fun.
We can barely wait until they make Multiversus vs Super Smash Bros.
Top Image: Nintendo