A Tale of the Knight and the Racer
(Welcome to Part One of a three-part retrospective chronicling my experiences with Nintendo’s iconic Super Smash Bros. series. Parts Two and Three will be rolled out in the coming weeks, so if you enjoy the piece, be sure to stay tuned for future entries!)
I’ve never been particularly skilled when it comes to Super Smash Bros.
That’s not to say I’m not competitive; I am. Losing an 8-player free-for-all is as frustrating as losing a heated 1v1 on Final Destination. No matter the occasion, no matter the people I’m playing with, I want to win.
While I was straight trash-tier in Melee (Link main), and totally lukewarm at Brawl (Snake), I came the closest I ever have to being skilled during the short-lived reign of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. I use the word “skilled” pretty loosely, as it’s not like I competed in local tournaments or—hell—even succeeded in my run for the title of “best in my friend group.” In terms of my own skill level, however, I was the best I’d ever been at Smash… and I have a gruff knight and a buff racer to thank for it.
An Unlikely Muse
For the first few months of Smash 4’s life cycle after the 3DS version launched in fall 2014, I didn’t have much of a preference towards any particular character in the game. Little Mac was quick and packed a powerful set of ground moves, and I remember lamenting the lack of Snake in the game, but other than that, I had no strong feelings about any new additions or surprising omissions.
That changed in early 2015. At the time, my 20-year-old self had been consumed by a game that, like Smash 4, saw release in 2014: Blizzard’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. An addictive card game, Hearthstone was a massive time sink for me, then a self-absorbed college sophomore. It was also an impressive black hole for my wallet.
My favorite hero in Hearthstone was—and still is, bless me—Uther Lightbringer. An elderly man, clad in golden armor and sporting a large, luscious beard, Uther was the epitome of justice. Everything about him, and the Paladin class he championed, was about fairness, from the Equality spell that set all minions’ health to 1, to the Divine Favor card that let its caster draw enough cards to even their hand with their opponent’s, to the way that he bellowed “Justice demands retribution!” upon a click of the relevant emote button.
I had developed a love for Uther’s affinity for justice, to the point that I made it to Legend rank with the Paladin class at the tail end of 2014. That is to say, I made it to the top of the competitive ladder right at the end of the college semester, right at the beginning of the holiday season, and, most importantly, right after Super Smash Bros. for Wii U launched.
A Change of Heart
Fast forward a couple weeks. The holiday break has come and gone, and fellow students have returned to campus en masse for another semester of grueling tests and being turned away at the door of a frat house at 2am on a Wednesday. Many have come bearing newly acquired gifts. Others have come armed with tales of their kooky aunts and uncles.
My Nintendo-loving, SNES-toting roommate? Naturally, he comes back with a Wii U and a copy of the newest Smash Bros.
For a few days, we tested out the playing field. He and I were both familiar with the characters—we had enjoyed many intense matches of Smash Bros. in our dorm room, squinting at our 3DS screens—and for a little while, it had seemed like not much had changed. Little Mac was still powerful on the ground. Snake was still a no-show. And, still, I didn’t have a main.
Then, one evening, something clicked. I was playing a series of 1v1s with my roommate when I stumbled upon a particular character in Smash for Wii U that spoke to me. A character who had the speed of Mac, the swagger of Snake, and the power to level playing fields with his knee and elbows of justice.
Of course, the person I’ve described can be mistaken for no other.
Show Me Your Moves!
Captain Falcon had everything I needed from a Smash Bros. character. He could zoom around stages, snatching unsuspecting foes with his slippery grab. He could land quick back airs and dash attacks. And, of course, he had God-like finishers with his side smashes and forward air.
He was fast. He was powerful. And, like Uther, he demanded retribution through justice.
I settled on Captain Falcon almost immediately after that night, and didn’t look back. That next summer, following months of college antics and lengthy study sessions, I spent countless nights indulging in Smash for Wii U with friends and family. And, for countless nights, Falcon always fit like a glove.
I didn’t always win. Heck, I almost never did (damn you, 8-player clusterfucks). But unlike my time playing past incarnations of Smash, each match of Smash 4 cultivated a fervor—a certain fire—that, till that summer, I’d never before felt. My passion for Falcon and his moves went above and beyond any connection I’d ever had with Snake in Brawl or Link in Melee.
After years of what felt like treading water and going through the motions with Smash Bros., I finally felt at home.
In the Name of Justice
In the spirit of those who play Smash competitively, I decided to bring my passion for Falcon full circle by choosing a character skin and coming up with a display name.
Though Falcon has several strong color schemes (his classic look is iconic, as is his pink and white outfit), one in particular stood out the moment I first browsed through his character skins. A beautiful, bright-gold variant. Ornate and majestic, as if Captain Falcon were King Midas, or Ra the sun god, or even… a powerful knight from a distant kingdom.
I had found yet another way to bring Falcon closer to Hearthstone’s shining stalwart of justice. With little hesitation, I created a set of default controls in the game’s options (tap-jump off, you cowards) and set my name to Uther. The rest was history.
For the next four years, I stuck with Falcon, and he stuck with me. Seemed like a fair exchange to me.
So fair, in fact, that I’m sure the real Uther Lightbringer would’ve been proud.