12 Smashing Facts About the Super Smash Bros. Video Games

Farley Santos, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Farley Santos, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Super Smash Bros. debuted on the Nintendo 64 in 1999 (first in Japan in January, then North America in April, and then Europe in November), and since then it has grown into one of the most popular franchises in gaming. It has sold more than 40 million units with its six different releases, and it still makes fans go absolutely bonkers each time there is an announcement about the series. In a way, Smash Bros. is like the Fantasy Football of gaming: a fighting game acting as a glorified Nintendo commercial that, in effect, exposes players to some of the company's lesser-known entities (like Earthbound and Kid Icarus). Thanks to it, the series boasts an abundance of quirky facts and details from its impressive 20-year run.

1. Super Smash Bros. was first referred to as "Pepsiman" during development.

image of Pepsiman
Takashi Hososhima, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

During the early stages of development, a small team of people led by Japanese designer Masahiro Sakurai worked on a prototype for a new kind of fighting game. Since Sakurai had not yet gotten the approval from Nintendo to use their characters, the original build featured some primitive polygonal figures, prompting the team to refer to the game as "Pepsiman" due to the similarity between them and the old marketing campaign mascot that Pepsi used in Japan during the 1990s. (Pepsiman, incidentally, also had his own videogame on PlayStation.)

2. The lead designer of the series voices King Dedede.

Hailing from the Kirby franchise, King Dedede is one of the few characters in Super Smash Bros. voiced by someone different than the character's original actor. Instead, he was voiced by none other than the creator of Super Smash Bros. himself, Masahiro Sakurai. His dialogue is mostly comprised of strange laughs and brawny grunts, but it is entertaining to know the lead designer of the series is the voice behind that sinister penguin, mischievous smirk and all.

3. There was an entire website that revealed new information on the latest game every day.

Masahiro Sakurai, creator and director of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series, welcomes the crowd at an event in 2014.
Masahiro Sakurai, creator and director of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series, welcomes the crowd at an event in 2014.
Bob Riha, Jr./Nintendo, Getty Images

Back before the release of the highly anticipated Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008, there was a special fan page that generated hype for the game. This "Smash Dojo," as it was called, delivered teasers and new bits of information about Brawl every day until the game was released, varying from little screenshots to new character announcements, all provided by Sakurai himself. One of the dojo's most memorable reveals, which they dropped about two-and-a-half months before Brawl was released, was that Sonic the Hedgehog would be a playable fighter. As one might say today, it broke the internet.

4. The soundtrack for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate features over 24 hours of songs.

The music that accompanies video games can become just as integral to culture and iconic as the game itself (is there a single person who wouldn't recognize the Super Mario Bros. theme?). But for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which was released at the end of 2018 and quickly became the fastest-selling Nintendo Switch game ever, the music team went above and beyond: Ultimate boasts more than 800 songs from over 25 different gaming franchises, whether you're in the mood for the heroic orchestration of Zelda or the more futuristic-rock of Splatoon. In a way, Ultimate is like a greatest hits soundtrack that just happens to have a full-fledged game included, too.

5. The Master Hand can be unlocked.

Easter eggs are commonplace in all realms of pop culture, gaming included. The Super Smash Bros. series, thanks to the sheer number of characters and properties being represented, is filled with hidden secrets to find. One of these comes from the 2001 game Super Smash Bros. Melee, which was actually discovered many years after the title's release. It revolved around unlocking the game's primary antagonist, the Master Hand, as a playable character. If done correctly, the player can seize control of the sentient hand and can use it to eradicate opponents with ease.

6. The Ice Climbers are the only characters to have been cut after appearing in multiple releases.

Depending on who you ask, the Ice Climbers are either the greatest ally or a most feared adversary when it comes to combat. Nobody would argue, though, that their exclusion from the Wii U iteration of Super Smash Bros. was enormously disappointing, especially considering they'd appeared in multiple games already.

According to Sakurai in an interview in Eurogamer, the characters were cut because they were too complicated for the hardware of the Nintendo 3DS. Both versions of the game (for Wii U and 3DS) were being released in 2014, so Sakurai chose to remove them entirely so that one version wasn't viewed as having less content. Because of the brief absence of the Ice Climbers duo in that series, the announcement that they were returning for Ultimate—along with every other character ever featured in the history of Super Smash Bros.—was a delightful surprise.

7. Solid Snake was added to the game because of a friendship with the creator.

Designer Hideo Kojima at a gaming event in 2008.
Designer Hideo Kojima at a gaming event in 2008.
Rene, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Helmed by director Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid is one of the most innovate franchises in video games (who could forget the boss battle that featured the enemy breaking the fourth wall and literally reading and commentating on the saves of your memory card?). The debut of its main character, Solid Snake, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, however, was a surprising one. Considering the character's background consists largely of M-rated titles involving plenty of gun violence, Snake was a clear outlier from the more cartoonish and family-friendly Nintendo image. Apparently, Snake's addition to the series came after Kojima—who is a close friend of Sakurai's—"practically begged" to have the character included because his son was such a big fan.

8. The announcer from Bill Nye the Science Guy is the narrator in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Most '90s kids will remember the eccentric educational TV series Bill Nye the Science Guy, and it turns out that show's announcer also voiced some Super Smash Bros. characters. In an interview with Smashboard, voice actor and comedian Pat Cashman said that even though he didn't know much about the game beforehand, he knew that it would look "nice on my resumé to say that I was the announcer on what was one of the most popular video games on the planet."

He worked hard to make the announcer voice "big and bombastic," but in one recording session, he recalled he had been seriously dialing up his line-readings only to realize nobody was there. "I remember one time when I was really going for it. Way, way over the top. I remember thinking, 'Man, I am really killing it! This is the best I've ever done!' My arms are waving, I'm jumping up and down, spit flying all over the mic, my shirt's getting sweaty," Cashman said. But then: "The producers, the engineer—everybody had taken a break and were gone. What I thought might have been my best Brawl announcer performance ever had an audience of one: me."

9. Meta Knight and Bayonetta are the only characters to have ever been banned.

Video game character Meta Knight
Everette Murrain, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Considering how in-depth the series's history of characters are and how vastly different each of them operate from one another, there was bound to be some controversy and complaints about certain fighters being unfair or poorly balanced. In this case, the sword-wielding Meta Knight, who first made his debut in the 2008 entry Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the gun-toting, majestic acrobat Bayonetta, who made her debut in 2014's Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, were both barred by the official Super Smash Bros. fighting-game community for use in official tournaments.

10. The developer also created Kirby.

A Kirby video game cartridge
Bryan Ochalla, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Before they masterminded Super Smash Bros., designer Sakurai and developer HAL Laboratory worked on everyone's favorite spherical alien: Kirby! Back in 1992, HAL Laboratory—which took its name not from the antagonist computer HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but because "each letter put them one step ahead of IBM"—released Kirby's Dream Land for the Game Boy, the first of the franchise that starred the titular pink poof (but not yet with his signature copy ability). Kirby would go on to appear in more than 20 releases across a variety of Nintendo consoles.

11. It spawned some fan fiction that is the longest known work of English literature.

While fan-fiction is certainly capable of being just as entertaining as the original it's mimicking, not many can come close to this epic started by fanfiction.net user AuraChannelerChris in 2008. With over 4 million words, "The Subspace Emissary's Worlds Conquest" is more than three times the length of the entire Harry Potter series combined.

12. James Bond was once considered as a possible playable character.

Likely because of the success of GoldenEye 007 for Nintendo 64, the world's most famous secret agent was at one point considered as an addition to the Smash Bros. roster. Unfortunately, due to many legal issues surrounding the usage of the character and his likeness, the prospect of having James Bond fight against Bowser or Peach while sailing through the air with his rocket-belt was never realized. As Sakurai told the Smash Dojo, "Showing realistic guns = no good! Character uses an actor's likeness = no good! Since the original game is based on a movie, getting those rights = no good! He's Rare’s property = no good! Blocked on all fronts."

We suppose one could say that the idea was shaken, but not stirred.

Pod Search, a Search Engine for Podcasts, Can Help You Find Your Next Binge-Listen

Milkos/iStock via Getty Images
Milkos/iStock via Getty Images

Having too many options definitely seems like the best problem to have when it comes to picking your next top podcast obsession, but that doesn’t make it any less overwhelming. To streamline the hunt, try Pod Search—a website and mobile app that has all the information you need in order to choose a winner.

As Lifehacker reports, the user-friendly site is organized in several different ways, depending on how you’d like to operate your search. You can browse its list of about 30 categories, which range from “Storytelling” to “Crime & Law,” and each has a set of subcategories so you can get even more specific. If you trust the opinions of the general public, you can choose an already-popular podcast from the “Top Podcasts” tab. Or, if you like to be the first to recommend the next big thing to your friends, you can pick a program from the list of new podcasts.

Pod Search also has a handy tool called MyPodSearch which will pretty much do all the work of choosing the perfect podcast for you. All you have to do is check whichever categories interest you and add any additional keywords you’d like (which is optional), and MyPodSearch will deliver a list of podcasts personalized for your tastes. This is great for people who have wide-ranging interests, a proclivity for indecision, or both.

Each podcast has its own landing page with a description, audio samples, places you can listen, website and social media links for the podcast, and a list of other podcasts from the same producers. You can also create an account and bookmark podcasts for the future—so, hypothetically, you could have MyPodSearch create a personalized list for you, bookmark them all, and then have a binge-listening itinerary that’ll last you until next year.

[h/t Lifehacker]

8 Fun Facts About Muppet Babies

The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

Before prequels were a thing, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies imagined a world in which the felt-covered characters of Henson’s Muppets franchise—Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, and Fozzie Bear among them—met up as children in a nursery. Left to their own devices, the animated cast led a rich fantasy life while in diapers. For more on this 1984-1991 show, including why it’s so hard to find anywhere except YouTube, keep reading.

1. Frank Oz didn’t really want Muppet Babies.

The idea to infantilize the Muppets came from Michael Frith, a longtime collaborator of Jim Henson’s, in the early 1980s. Frith believed that regressing the characters could allow them to impart moral or educational messages to children already familiar with them. But Frank Oz, a Muppets performer (Miss Piggy) and film director, argued that the Muppets needed to maintain their subversive edge. It was Henson who found a compromise, suggesting that younger versions of the characters appear in a dream sequence for 1984’s feature film The Muppets Take Manhattan. The response to the scene was overwhelmingly positive, and Henson soon teamed with Marvel Productions and CBS for an animated series that began airing in September 1984.

2. Skeeter was the result of a gender imbalance on Muppet Babies.

Most of the principal Muppet Babies cast was made up of recognizable characters, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf, Gonzo, Animal, Bunsen, and Scooter. But Frith, Henson, and producers Bob Richardson and Hank Saroyan decided that the babies were skewing a little too male. Aside from Piggy and their caretaker, Nanny, there were no female characters. To balance the scales, they introduced Skeeter, Scooter’s twin sister, a brainy problem-solver.

Skeeter has made only fleeting and sporadic appearances in the Muppet franchise since, leading to speculation she might be caught up in rights issues between CBS and the Jim Henson Company, which was purchased by Disney in 2004. Fortunately, the somewhat murky situation appears to be at least partially resolved: It was recently reported Skeeter will resurface in the new computer-animated iteration of Muppet Babies, which is currently airing its second season on Disney Junior and has been renewed for a third season.

3. One of the major creative forces behind Muppet Babies was Moe Howard’s grandson.

In 1985, Muppet Babies writer Jeffrey Scott received a Humanitas Prize from the Human Family Educational and Cultural Institute for an episode of the series which the Institute declared did the best job of any kid’s show that year to “enrich the viewing public.” The episode centered on the group fearing one of them might be sent away. The prolific Scott actually wrote all 13 episodes of the first season. His father, Norman Maurer, worked at Hanna-Barbera Productions and got Scott’s foot in the door. His grandfather was Moe Howard, founder and head Stooge of The Three Stooges fame.

4. The Muppet Babies live-action segments were a result of budgetary constraints.

A hallmark of Muppet Babies is when the cast finds themselves thrust into scenes from famous films, a Walter Mitty-esque bit of fantasy fulfillment that blends live-action sequences with animation. According to Frith, devoting a portion of each episode to clips wasn’t entirely a creative choice. By inserting clips, producers could save money on animation. It was also easy for Henson to secure the rights to popular films like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark because he was friends with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. While some believe those clips are the reason the show isn’t available to stream—sifting through the legal entanglement of reairing the segments might prove costly—that’s never been confirmed.

5. Muppet Babies never explained what the Muppets were doing in that nursery.

Given time to reflect, it seems odd that the Muppet cast would find themselves in a nursery without being supervised by their own parents. Speaking with the Detroit Free Press in 1987, Michael Frith said that the situation was purposely left vague. “I really appreciate the fact that they don’t [ask],” Frith said of his kid viewers. “Is this a day care center? Is this a foster child home? The more we talked about it, the more we felt it should just exist. The kids accept it.”

6. The voice recording sessions of Muppet Babies included copious farting.

Speaking with CNN in 2011, actor Dave Coulier (Full House) recalled that recording sessions for Muppet Babies sometimes involved flatulence. Coulier, who portrayed Animal and Bunsen, among others, said that “lots of fart humor” punctuated the recording studio. “In one scene, Fozzie [played by Greg Berg] and Animal had to climb a ladder,” he said. “As Animal was pushing Fozzie up the ladder, they were making [grunting] sounds. In mid-scene, Greg Berg farted. I looked at [actor] Frank Welker and we couldn’t contain ourselves. Uncontrollable laughter ensued. I was literally on the floor of the studio laughing.”

7. There was an offshoot of Muppet Babies called Muppet Monsters—and it never aired in full.

Following the success of Muppet Babies, CBS and Jim Henson decided to expand on the Muppets' potential as Saturday morning stars by creating a 90-minute block in 1985 titled Muppets, Babies, and Monsters. (Muppet Babies often aired consecutive half-hour installments for an hour total.) In addition to regular Muppet Babies episodes, the program featured another half-hour of Little Muppet Monsters, which featured puppets of new Muppet monster characters named Tug, Molly, and Boo. The three appeared in a framing device that introduced animated segments of adult Muppets. Only three episodes aired out of 15 produced, reportedly due to both Henson and CBS being unhappy with the finished product and Muppet Babies standing strongly on its own. The remaining episodes have yet to see the light of day.

8. Muppet Babies was turned into a live stage show.

To further incite their juvenile audience and monetize their popularity, the Muppet Babies franchise eventually wound up live and on stage. Muppet Babies Live! debuted in 1986 and featured performers in oversized costumes dancing and acting to a prerecorded track. In one skit, the cast appeared in a Snow White homage. In another, Rowlf became Rowlfgang Amagodus Mozart and played the piano. The arena show toured the country. Hank Saroyan, one of the animated show’s producers, wrote the stage show. The performer for Baby Piggy, Elizabeth Figols, also appeared in a live production of Dirty Dancing. The show ran through 1990.

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