Nintendo has always been known for their large back catalogue of memorable characters. Mario, Link, Kirby, Samus, etc. They all were characters that gamers grew up with and have come to know and love over their very long gaming careers. Of course, with fandom comes curiosity and debate. Several fans always argued over questions like "Who would win in a fight: Mario or Link?" or "Could Kirby kick the crap out of Donkey Kong?" This is why on January 21st of 1999, industry giant Nintendo did something really special with its catalogue of characters. They released Super Smash Bros for the Nintendo 64. Smash Bros was a four player fighting game that featured 12 of Nintendo's most recognizable mascots. It isn't a big surprise that the Smash Bros franchise became one of Nintendo's biggest sellers of all time. After two more installments and Wii U and 3DS versions on the way, the hype behind this series is incredible. Personally, Smash Bros has always been one of my favorite games. I don't know what it is but cross-over fighting games just get me excited. For some reason, I always enjoy speculating about character rosters and stages whenever a new game like Marvel vs Capcom or Injustice: God Among Us get announced. Since the time between each entry in the series is so long, I found myself trying to look for alternatives to Smash Bros. After much searching, I found some very obscure and even hilarious Smash Bros clones. This is why I decided to put together this list of some of the most interesting Smash Bros clones that I found.
Jump Superstars/Jump Ultimate Stars (DS)
If I was asked to find the Anime Equivalent to Nintendo when it comes to memorable characters, it would definitely have to be Shonen Jump. Many of you may not be familiar with the Shonen Jump name. This is partially due to Manga being a somewhat niche market in the States. Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump is a manga publication in Japan that is responsible for some of the Anime world's most popular series. Dragonball Z, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh, Bleach, Shaman King, One Piece, etc. All of these superbly popular series got their start in this magazine. The magazine was so popular that it even got a US equivalent that is released every month. With so many popular franchises, it is surprising that the series didn't get a cross-over fighting game any sooner.
The Jump series received two entries: Jump Superstars in 2005 and Jump Ultimate Stars in 2006. Both of these titles are absolutely fantastic and are some of the best games for the DS. The first game in the series pit fighters from 27 of Shonen Jump's most popular series together. The sequel increased the number of represented series to 41 and added online functionality. Although this is technically a Smash Bros clone, it features very different game mechanics. Unlike most fighting games, which allow you to select your fighter from a Character Select screen, Jump has you create a "deck" of different comic panels. This is a Manga-themed game after all. Your "deck" is a 4x5 block that appears on the DS' touch screen. During gameplay, you can touch different panels on the screen to either change characters or summon characters to help you. Comic panels range from one to eight squares. One square panels are "Help" characters which have certain status effects when used during battle. Two to three square characters are "Support" characters which come on to the battlefield and attack your opponents (Similar to Smash Bros' Pokeball item). Four to eight square panels are the actual fighters you can choose from. By playing through the game's story mode and completing various missions, you can unlock more powerful versions of each character. The more squares each panel is, the stronger the character will be. Unlike Smash Bros, which revolved around knocking your character off of each stage, you have a set amount of health that is indicated by how vibrant the colors in your character are. Right before you are about to die, your character will appear to be almost completely black and white, just like how they were in their original manga. The saddest part about Jump Superstars/Ultimate Stars is the fact that it will never come to America. This is due to the licensing nightmare that this game would cause the publisher. Good thing the DS is region free. Check this one out.
UPDATE: Although it is not a Smash Bros clone, J-Stars Victory Versus was just announced for the PS3 and Vita. This is a spiritual follow-up to the Jump series that ditches side scrolling gameplay for tag-team 3D brawling. Currently, the only four characters announced are Naruto, Goku (DBZ), Luffy (One Piece) and Toriko. Not much is known about the game, but more information should be coming to the Official Website soon.
Battle Stadium D.O.N. (Gamecube, PS2)
Somebody at Shonen Jump must really like Super Smash Bros, because in 2006 Battle Stadium D.O.N. was released for the Gamecube and Playstation 2, the same year as Jump Ultimate Stars. Unlike the innovative mechanics in the Jump series that made you feel like the Overlord of the Manga world, Battle Stadium plays a little more like a conventional party brawler. Battle Stadium's character roster is a little more focused than the chaotic action of Jump. D.O.N. is an acronym that stands for Dragonball Z, One Piece and Naruto. Since these are three of Japan's most popular anime series, it makes sense to put them in a fighting game. And it works for the most part. The gameplay is a lot of what you would expect from your typical Smash Bros clone. You can punch, you can throw, and you can block. Instead of a conventional health bar, Battle Stadium uses a bar at the top which tells you who is doing the best in the match. The farther to the right you get, the worse you're doing. If you do well for long enough, you can even get a "Burst" which will increase the strength of your attacks for a short period of time. Unfortunately, Battle Stadium implements a lottery system which is used to unlock characters. With my time playing the game, I could not even unlock one of the many hidden fighters. Beyond this and the overall mechanics being a little shallow, it's still a fun game. It's worth checking out if you can find a way to play imports on your console.
Ragdoll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic (PS3)
Ragdoll Kung Fu is a really weird game. I would say that it is actually one of the strangest game on the list if it weren't for one entry later on in the article. Rag Doll Kung Fu was one of the earliest game to come out for the Playstation Network. It features plastic dolls that resemble stereotypes from old Chinese martial arts movies. No memorable characters here, just somewhat offensive caricatures. The best thing about Rag Doll Kung Fu (Besides the theme song. Damn, is it catchy), are the physics. This game features a very good physics engine on par with the likes of Little Big Planet. In fact, that's what this game should have been: a Little Big Planet fighter. What's so bad about this game? Well, the fighting just feels weird. You do all your attacking by swinging your fists with the analog stick. It kind of works but it feels incredibly awkward. This game does offer some creative modes like "Capture the Fish," where you need to grab a fish and throw it into a basket. There is some fun to be had but it isn't enough to save the game from being incredibly bland. Part of the appeal of Smash Bros was the cast of interesting characters. This game has absolutely none of those. This game just isn't that much fun. You would be better off spending your time and money elsewhere.
Digimon Rumble Arena 1 & 2 (PS1, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox)
Okay, don't roll your eyes just yet. I know a fighting game based on the alleged "Pokemon Clone" doesn't sound very promising, but Digimon Rumble Arena is actually a pretty fun, albeit shallow brawler. There were two entries in the series: one on Playstation and another on PS2, Gamecube and Xbox. In this game, you have a conventional health bar like many fighting games. The thing that makes this game unique is the ability of your fighter to "Digi-volve" during battle. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the series, each monster can transform into a bigger and more bad-ass version of themselves for a short amount of time. The better you are doing in a match, the more opportunities you will get to transform. Each fighter can transform up to two times (with the exception of a few hidden characters which are permanently in their final forms). Whenever you lose a life, you will also be downgraded by one stage. The combat is rather shallow but I had a good deal of fun with the game. If you are looking for some cheap fun, check it out. If only Nintendo would do something similar with the Pokemon franchise.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Smash Up (PS2, Wii)
I have a confession about TMNT: Smash-Up: I have not actually played it. I have a good deal of research about the title for the sake of this article though. TMNT: Smash-Up is ironically made by some of the same developers behind Super Smash Bros Brawl on the Nintendo Wii. It essentially is a blatant Smash Bros clone that simply puts in TMNT characters in place of Nintendo's mascots. Seriously, the gameplay is almost exactly the same. The main problem with the game is the blandness of the character's move sets. You won't see any charging energy blasts or fireballs like you do in Smash Bros. Each character plays somewhat similarly to each other. The game also fails to capitalize on the nostalgia behind the TMNT franchise. You won't be seeing any classic cartoon skins or old school Krang here. It's strictly based on the new television series and movie. This may be somewhat disappointing for long time fans. You can unlock Ubisoft's own Raving Rabid as a playable character though. If you are a fan of both TMNT and Smash Bros, check it out.
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, Vita)
My heart truly goes out to the team at Superbot Entertainment. They were specifically formed to make Sony's answer to the Smash Bros franchise and I don't think they had any idea how much hate and cynicism would be targeted at their game. Yes, they tried to do something new with it instead of outright copying Smash. Yes, it does not necessarily have every character that everyone wanted to be included. No Crash, No Spyro, No Cloud, etc. It is kind of sad though, because Playstation All-Stars is actually a really deep game. It is even deeper than the game that it drew its inspiration from at times. In case you aren't familiar with PSABR (Not that most people are), I will explain the premise. This game features 20 (or 24 with current DLC offerings) of Sony's most popular characters. Well, some of the roster are their most popular. The rest are kind of... obscure. Toro, Fat Princess and Nariko aren't necessarily blockbuster characters. The goal of the game is to beat on your opponent until you fill up a Super Meter. Using a Super is the only way for anyone to die in a match so you need to strategically use your three levels of Super Attacks to get the most amount of points. The reason this game is so sad is that nobody played it. This game was barely hyped up and had such a large amount of hate behind it from the gaming community that Sony actually fired Superbot and turned future DLC duty over to Sony Santa Monica. PSABR is a really fun game. If you were ever a Sony fan, give it a try.
Dream Mix TV: World Fighters (PS2, Gamecube)
I saved my personal favorite for last. This one isn't my favorite, because it's a good game. Oh no, this one is my favorite because of how bizarre the character roster is. Dream Mix TV: World Fighters is an unlikely mash-up between game developers Hudson, Konami and Japanese toy manufacturer Takara. Takara are behind such toys as Transformers and Beyblade. This game includes such all-star mascots as Solid Snake, Simon Belmont, Bomberman, Optimus Prime, Master Higgins, that kid from Beyblades, Japanese Chibi Baseball dude, Easter Island Head, Japanese Barbie, Chibi Peach Ninja that throws cats and birds, Fat Naked baby that throws dice at people that sometimes turn him into a smaller baby that makes him move faster but do not give him any further helpful powers. Oh, and wolf dude from Bloody Roar. Uh, what? If anyone can find a stranger character roster in a fighting game, I will personally give you $100. Other than the curiosity behind by the character roster, this game honestly isn't too great. Character movements are very stiff and characters only feature a couple different moves each. Instead of a health bar, this game is all about collecting hearts. Yup, hearts. At the beginning of each match, tons of heart tokens will drop on to the stage. You have to run around and grab as many as you can before your opponent does. Then you beat on the other player to steal their hearts. If they lose too many hearts, their...heart will fly out of them and they will grow into a tiny version of themselves. If you can grab their "heart" before they can get it back, you win. If they recover it, you will have to knock it out of them again. It's very strange and can be fun for a little while. Although fun, after you unlock all the hidden characters and stages by playing the arcade mode, there really isn't much to do. Unless you have a friend daft enough to play it with you that is.
Smash Bros is a phenomenon that has created one of the most passionate and dedicated fan bases in the world. There are tournaments, mods and even player created balancing (and unbalancing) patches for the game. Although none of these games listed are nearly as good as the game that they were based upon, sometimes it is fun to take a look at the obscure once and a while. After all, we could use something else to play while waiting for the next iterations to be released. If I forgot to mention any Smash Bros ripoffs, let me know in the comment section. For more gaming articles and news, keep coming to the Jetstreame blog.