Check out part one of this story here.
You’d think that, once I hit college, I would have replaced my insatiable lust for gaming with girls, booze, pizza, parties and the like. But my mom always said that balance in life was key, and I got fairly adept at balancing them. Sometimes, with a bit of practice, you could engage in all these activities at the same time. I even got some studying in sometimes! Now that’s balance.
My university comrades were just as much into Smash Bros. as my high school friends. The game doesn’t care where you live. It’s a universal language; a common denominator across all borders. It didn’t take long for Randy Rose, David Rathbun and Fuzz (don’t ask me his real name) to find me and brawl for hours on end.
Randy Rose is my most talented friend. He’s good at everything: school, music, video games, being handsome, cooking, socializing. That kind of resume usually inspires insane jealousy and hatred, if not for the fact that he’s a really nice guy. All of this translated into Smash Bros., except for the part about him being nice.
Have you ever played against somebody who uses Sheik and knows what they’re doing? Unbearable. I couldn’t even see half of the stuff he launched at me, and he was always learning new tricks to beat us. One time, I stupidly asked the boys to pause the match while I went to do… something, I don’t remember. “No problem, Henry!” Ahh, that Randy. What a guy! Such a gentleman! Upon returning and resuming the match, they had positioned Kirby in front of an about-to-explode bomb, resulting in a lot of people who weren’t me (Kirby) laughing their asses off.
Randy was always down for Smash, as long as his schedule permitted. That kind of disciplinarian aura was rare, but it was sorely needed. Four-player Smash was always that much more enjoyable, because we knew that most of us had done our studying and it was time for a break. If Randy wasn’t there, Randy was studying and that reminded most of us that we were there to get a degree. We should probably go study. (After a few more games.)
David Rathbun, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, is the meanest man alive. I’ve never seen somebody that consistently stares at you with the eyes of a cold-blooded killer. It’s unnerving. Oh sure, he pretends like he’s the kindest person on the planet by helping anybody who asks, or cleaning up without asking for anything in return, or being one of the best friends I’ve ever had, but that’s just a facade. I can’t believe this man isn’t in prison.
He plays as Fox, true to his sly nature. Oh, I’ll just stand back here and blast you with my laser, all day, everyday. What’s that? You want to come over and try to hit me? Nope, I’ll just use my insane speed to run away and not face any of the consequences of my actions. Think Ned Flanders-meets-Bobby Fischer. He’s an insanely nice, smart, gifted psychopath who will one day run off to Iceland and defeat the Russians. Or something like that. He’s about to become a father, so I imagine his priorities might lie in Nova Scotia. I’d ask him, but I’m afraid he’d stare at me without saying anything until I cowered away in shame.
If I had to pick one person who epitomizes my experience with Smash Bros., it would be Fuzzy, or Fuzz if you’re feeling like addressing him officially. Fuzz, as you would guess, can be an odd fellow. He wore the same outfit pretty much every day for the five years we went to school together: green hoodie, black pants. Long hair. Big, unkempt beard. Missed about 80% of his classes and had to take seven courses at the end of his fifth year, but still somehow managed to graduate despite us playing about 400 matches against each other in Melee. I’m so, so happy Rock Band wasn’t around while we were engaged in higher learning. None of us would have graduated.
Fuzz played Jigglypuff. Always, always Jigglypuff. He chose Jigglypuff to annoy me, as he did and does many things to annoy me. This is what really close friends do: they start to make you wonder why you’re friends in the first place, until you realize that you can’t imagine your life without them. One-on-one, Fuzz would beat me with Jigglypuff seven or eight times out of ten. It’s a wonder why I even agreed to continue playing against him. Our rivalry would reach its peak at a local anime convention. Sackville has a population of about 5,500 people, so this was a very small convention indeed. However, one of the major attractions was a Smash Bros. Melee Extravaganza, one tournament held on Saturday and one held on Sunday. I missed going on Saturday, probably because I slept in until 7 p.m. only to have Fuzz come home looking like he’d seen a ghost.
“I went to the anime convention. There was a Melee tournament. There’s one tomorrow too, we should go.”
How’d you do?
“I made it to the finals and lost to a ten-year-old girl.”
I laughed uncontrollably.
“She was really good!”
I was still laughing.
“Come tomorrow and you’ll see!”
The magic ten-year-old Ness prodigy never showed up. The tournament group gathered, larger than the Saturday group I was told, in a small classroom with a smaller TV as the fighting grounds. The tournament was set up; all our roommates were there: Randy, Dave, me and, of course, Fuzz.
I looked at the bracket and my first match was against… a bot. My friends and I laughed. They put me against a lowly bot? This was insulting. I decided to have a little fun with the tournament organizer, a terrified-looking young chap, by acting like I wanted to forfeit out of fear. I could feel his eyes bulge out when I beat the bot in less than a minute. I’m a jerk.
I continued my reign over the Kingdom of the Jerks by beating a kid of no more than 12 in the next round. Very cheaply, might I add. I do not fight with honor. Fuzz was on the opposite side of the bracket, dispatching others with relative ease. Thankfully, there was still no sign of this mysterious ten-year-old, otherwise I would have had to make fun of Fuzz even more.
So, the finals! Fuzz vs. Henry. Of course, Fuzz picked Jigglypuff, and I swore softly. History was not on my side. The fallen fighters and onlookers crowded around us, eager to see the championship bout. This was the first video game tournament I’d ever been in. I tried to channel the skills of Jimmy, the wunderkind from The Wizard, but I’d never been to California, and Fred Savage wasn’t around to encourage me. Only David Rathbun’s dead gaze through his signature scratched glasses motivated me to concentrate. I needed a miracle, and it was sent in the form of the stage being randomly selected as Hyrule Temple. This was a stage that subdued Fuzz’s style of play. It would be harder for him to kill and juggle me in the air. One-hit kills, something Jiggly had that Kirby didn’t, were much harder to do when I played like a rat and hid in the catacombs. That was where I took the conflict, and it was there we battled.
It was the craziest match we’d ever had. Every time one of us died, we were well over 150% damage. Every time somebody thought they had landed the killing blow, the pink blob bounced off the roof, off the side and onto the solitary platform, still alive and waiting for the counterattack. The crowd was getting into it too. Ooohs and aahs permeated the venue. The tension was high. I’m sure Fuzz and I sarcastically quipped to each other, but we weren’t focused on trash talk. Just winning. After all, the prize was a ninja scroll poster, the adulation of tens of fans and the pride of being the very best at Melee (on a Sunday, at a small anime convention in New Brunswick).
Many counters, defenses and blows were exchanged. Our damage was getting into the 200s. This was ridiculous. The masses were getting anxious. Finally, finally, I faked a jump attack and smash-attacked to the right. Somehow, I won. Jigglypuff sailed off into the distance. “Jigglypuuuuuuuuuuuuuuff!,” it wailed. That stupid, sleepy, pink, happy ball has killed me so many times, it should be in prison. There was a round of applause for both contestants. High-fives were exchanged all round. One guy in the audience wanted to shake my hand. It felt magnificent. Sharing the experience with Fuzz felt entirely appropriate.
The poster remained on our wall, along with a few typical university poster mainstays, until we moved out. I couldn’t take it with me back home; I felt it belonged in Sackville, the place where the four of us bonded over discovering new combos and possibilities every time we played.
I wish I could tell you that we all get together once in a while to play another round of Smash, but that’s just not the case. Sometimes Kasim will make his way back from Ontario and we might get a quick game in, but trying to organize around everybody’s lives is nigh-impossible. Eric resides in Vancouver with his wonderful wife and less-than-wonderful cat. David Vallance pilots the ferries to and from the mainland, and even gave me a tour once! (He is better at ferrying than Smash-ing). Dobbo is still in town, but we mostly play Dota these days since he lives in the boonies.
Randy and David Rathbun are both expecting their firstborn shortly and live many, many miles away. Fuzz is in Calgary, in the same boat as me, trying to figure out what to do in life. Maybe we should just meet up when the new Smash Bros. for the Wii U comes out and let the answers come, as they so often did in the past.