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LONG BLOG

Challenger Approaching: The Babes of Bionis

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Xenoblade Chronicles. It's a game I've already written about at length. It seemed destined for obscurity when Nintendo announced that it would not be released in North America. Operation Rainfall rescued our dreams, and it would go on to be called one of the best JRPG's in recent history. Xenoblade Chronicles now has a New 3DS port, an upcoming sequel, and a roster spot on the latest Super Smash Bros. in the form of its lead protagonist, Shulk.

Xenoblade Chronicles was the last game I played before purchasing Super Smash Bros. on Wii U. I was excited to pick Shulk, and even more excited to learn how fun he is to play. Shulk is now my most played character, replacing Link was my main. With all this going on, I couldn't help thinking about what else the game could have to offer Super Smash Bros. It is a first party title, after all.

The main order of business is what other characters would fit well on the SSB roster. Besides Shulk, there are six other playable party members and a small handful of enemies that could all qualify. As I pondered and considered, and considered and pondered, I came with the perfect way for the three female protagonists to fit into Smash. I did not set out just to focus on the ladies, but the more I thought about it, the more I feel that the other men would be too generic. The girls have unique abilities that would allow them to stand out more among Smash's colorful roster.

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Xenoblade Chronicles, especially regarding the character known as "Seven." If you haven't finished the game or don't want anything spoiled, I suggest coming back to this at a later time.

WHO ARE SHARLA, MELIA, AND FIORA?

Fiora was a plucky young lass with a big heart and a knack for sarcasm. She was the younger sister of the war hero Dunban, good friends with local lunkhead Reyn, and had more than a little romantic inkling for Shulk. She mostly occupied her time with keeping her friends' Y chromosomes in check, but was a pretty formidable fighter in her own right. On that fateful day, Fiora had life in a basket and a bright future ahead of her.

That future would be seemingly cut down when her hometown was attacked by a hoard of robotic insects called Mechon. In the ensuing battle, Fiora would make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends. This act of heroism ensured the survival of the colony for the time being, but left her loved ones broken hearted. Fiora's death motivated Shulk and his friends to set out on a journey to discover the secrets of the Mechon and have their revenge.

They weren't travelling very long when they met a woman named Sharla, who was having her own fair share of problems. Sharla's hometown had also been attacked by Mechon, leaving it almost entirely destroyed. Sharla had become the de facto leader of a small group of survivors. For once, fate seemed to be on Sharla's side, as Shulk and Reyn quickly helped her rescue her brother, liberate the seiged town from Mechon, and begin reconstruction. Through facing adversity, they formed a powerful bond, and Sharla offered her services as a field medic to our heroes on their journey.

A little later in the game, the party crosses paths with Melia. Melia is the princess of the High Entia (elves with wings on their heads.) When she met Shulk in the forest, she quickly teamed up with his group. Shulk and his friends assisted her with the drama of being royalty (including quelling a coupe) while Melia helped them gain access to a nearby ruin. It was in exploring this ruin where the group would uncover an ancient secret. A sudden Mechon attack at this time would pile on the surprises even more: Fiora was still alive.

Her body had been taken back to the Mechon headquarters and forcibly converted into a cyborg to be used as weapon. To make matters worse, she had seemingly been possessed by the consciousness of some other being, whose motives were not exactly clear. This same Mechon attack would leave the king, Melia's father, dead. These events became the catalyst for a permanent alliance between not only Melia and the group, but every race on Bionis into one massive army.

Through their perseverance and determination, the group would eventually rescue Fiora. They would help her to recover her own mind, and she in turn would bring to the party a whole host of new abilities granted by her mechanical body. However, in rescuing her, they learned the most terrifying truth of all. They were not only fighting for their own survival, they were caught in the middle of a battle between two gods!

Fiora is thought to be dead for much of the game. To avoid spoilers, fans usually refer to her mechanical form by the name "Seven," referring to the fact that she is the seventh full time party member.

With Sharla's medical skills, Melia's mastery of magic, and Fiora's cybernetic weaponry, all three women are valuable asset in battle.

HOW WOULD SHARLA WORK?

Sharla's role in Xenoblade is the the party's healer. The majority of her capabilities involve healing and buffing her companions. From the offensive line, she mostly just takes pot shots at enemies with her rifle between healing blasts. Sharla is not much of a fighter in Xenoblade. Her limitted attacking and almost exclusive use of long range tactics don't lend themselves very well to a fighting game.

That doesn't mean that she can't have a role in Smash, however. The same traits that make her ill-suited for fighting also make her an excellent choice for an assist trophy. Upon being summoned, Sharla would run or jump to an out-of-the-way corner of the arena and then proceed to do exactly what she does in Xenoblade. Every couple seconds, for the duration of her stay, Sharla would fire off a random action from Xenoblade. Most of these would be weak attacks or minor healing spells. Occasionally she would throw out a Heal Blast, which heals a great amount of damage, or even a Heal Round if in team mode (heals the entire party.) A shield bullet could protect the player, or a cure bullet if they are stunned or something.

HOW WOULD MELIA WORK?

In Xenoblade, Melia has the lowest HP. In Smash, this would translate to Melia being a very light character. The good news is that Melia would be great in the air. Combat in Xenoblade has no jumping, but it stands to reason that if it did, Melia would be quite good. The High Entia race has strong ties to flying beasts, and the wings on their heads are a defining physical characteristic. At least one other High Entia is shown to be able to fly with those wings. Smash Bros. would be Melia's opportunity to shine in the air, with quick reflexes, spot-on control, and maybe even multiple jumps.

Of all the playable characters in Xenoblade Chronicles, Melia has the most unique offensive capabilities. She is the group's only magic user, which manifests in a summon and release combo attack that makes her play style siginificantly different from any of the other party members. In addition to her regular specials, a good portion of Melia's arts have her summoning an elemental spirit. This spirit takes the form of a little ball that hovers around her head. As long as this elemental is present, Melia and any party members close by gain some kind of buff or special ability. In all, Melia can have up to three active elementals at a tiime, and can stack multiples of the same one.

As long as at least one elemental is active, Melia can release them as attacks. The little balls become magic projectiles, that not only do damage but also usually have some other kind of effect on the target. As Melia uses these attacks, it fills a gauge that grants her the use of even more powerful special moves when it fills up.

Melia's attacks in SSB would work very much the same way. For summoning, Melia would take a page from her stablemate, Shulk. The player would use the n-special button to sift through different icons to represent different elementals. Whichever one they stop on, Melia summons that element and gains a buff. How many she can have at once and whether or not they are stackable would be subject to balance testing, but I'd like to keep it authentic at three. They would also wear off after a little while and probably need some recharge time. When the player wants to attack, a simple down special would release the elementals as projectiles, probably in reverse order.

With the mechanics down, the big question becomes which of her elements would be featured and what would their effects be. Melia has six summons in Xenoblade, which isn't unreasonable for Smash as long as they are balanced properly. Here's a list of what they are and how they might funciton in SSB:

BOLT
Summon: In Xenoblade, Bolt increases the power of magic attacks. In Smash, that would mean basically increasing itself, which would be weird. I'm changing it to increasing movement speed.
Release: A very fast moving electric projectile with high damage and low knockback.

FLARE
Summon: Increases physical attack power
Release: Medium speed projectile that explodes on contact like Samus's missile or Link's bomb. Explosion can damage other enemies if they are close enough.

AQUA
Summon: Heals small amounts of damage over time. A single one doesn't do much but stacking them increases the effect.
Release: Medium speed projectile with medium damage. After hitting an enemy, a big bubble "boomerangs" slowly back toward Melia. Characters can grab it to heal a small amount of damage.

WIND
Summon: Improves jumping by way of increasing height, directional influence, decreasing landing lag, and maybe even add an extra jump.
Release: Fast projectile with low damage and respectable knockback. When it hits, it bursts outward in a large wind vortex that can damage other characters as well.

EARTH
Summon: In Xenoblade, Earth increases physical defense. In SSB, this could translate into Melia taking less damage, knockback, having increased shield strength, or being stronger against certain attacks. It could even be a combination of these.
Release: A slower projectile with medium damage. In Xenoblade, an enemy hit with Earth becomes poisoned. I don't think there is a Smash equivalent, so one could be added in, or it could be changed to a different effect such as Bury.

ICE
Summon: See above. The Ice elemental in Xenoblade increases Melia's magic defense. Since there isn't really "magic" in SSB, it could be changed to some other defensive capability. Probably whichever of the effects described above that doesn't end up in play.
Release: Melia shoots the Ice downward. When it hits the ground, it creates ice spikes that damage characters who touch them. If a player takes a direct hit from the energy ball, they suffer medium damage with high knockback.

The other part of Melia's offense would be her topple combo. She has plenty of other attacks besides these, but there are two in particular that fans, myself included, love due to their usefulness. Spear Break, which is a powerful jab with her staff, and Starlight Kick, in which she runs toward an enemy and does a sort of spinning dropkick. If both attacks are done in quick succession, it forces the target into a type of stun called Topple. Spear Break would be great as a side special or side smash. Starlight Kick could be Melia's up special, or a side special if Spear Break was used for a smash attack. Just like in Xenoblade, this combo could lead to either stun or paralysis if used properly.

For a Final Smash, I think the best contender is Melia's Mind Blast. This is one of the moves activated by the Summon/Release gauge I talked about above, and is one of her most powerful moves. Not only is it useful in game, but one of Melia's shining moments in Xenoblade comes when lays out a very powerful antagonist in a cutscene. Mind Blast has Melia spraying gold energy in a large cone shape. It does a respectable level of damage, but on top of that, it also inflicts Art Seal, which prevents a target from using their special moves.

In Smash Bros., I can see it initally functioning like Samus's FInal Smash, with a shorter but wider range. When it's done, any opponents who took damage from it but aren't knocked out would also be inflicted with Art Seal, complete with Xenoblade's icon for it hovering around their heads. This woudl prevent that character from using their specials for a short time five to ten seconds, depending on how much exposure they had to the blast. I would not completely disable the special moves; most characters use them to recover from falls and move around, so that would just be cruel. I would just prevent those attacks form doing damage, or making them fail if they have some kind of energy or projectile.

I honestly feel that if done right, Melia has a lot of potential to be one of the most creative characters in Smash. The way I outlined it may make her a bit overpowered, but I think that if the makers stuck close to Xenoblade's gameplay elements in designing her, she could be a lot of fun and stand out quite a bit among the rest of the roster.

HOW WOULD FIORA WORK?

In her cybernetic form, Fiora is also one of the more unique characters in Xenoblade. In a game where most people fight with fantasy weapons or magic, FIora has electricity and laser blasts. Hey two main draws are ability to shoot energy beams, and her drones, which are remote-controlled robotic saber boomerang things. Yeah, I know. These two concepts alone could give the makers of Smash a lot of room to craft a character similar to Fox or Samus without having to rely on her actual in game attacks as a basis.

But let's say they do stick closer to her in-game mechanics. In Xenoblade Chornicles, there's a passive battle mechanic called Tension. It raises and lowers depending on how well a characters is doing in battle, and having high Tension can give you bonuses like an increased critical hit rate. It's useful but fairly inconsequential for most of the game, until Fiora comes along. Fiora has a couple attacks that tie directly into her Tension level.

In SSB, Fiora would have a Tension meter similar to Little Mac's Power Meter. It would raise and lower depending on how she does in battle. During this time, Fiora's n-special would likely be Double Wind, a sword attack with moderate damage and descent knockback that boosts Tension when it connects properly. When her Tension is topped out, as indicated by her portrait being on fire like in Xenoblade, Double Wind becomes Final Cross.

Final Cross is a very powerful move, and if not for the Tension system, I'd probably designate it as a Final Smash instead. Fiora levitates off the ground and shoots a series of red lasers at the ground in a cone shape, similar to Master Hand's blue laser fingers. Each one does high damage and has a good degree of knockback. If a character takes enough damage from the attack without being KO'ed, the attack leaves them stunned. In order to keep things fair, once the attack is done, Fiora's Tension would probably drop back to neutral.

Fiora is one of the few Xenoblade characters who has a lot of different possibilities for an up special. Air Fang is a sword attack that begins with an upward slash. That's a little too boring, though. Fortunately, many of her moves in Xenoblade begin with her levitating upward and attacking from the air. In that regard, it wouldn't be out of character to start an up special with Fiora shooting skyward, then hovering in place while she does an attack. There are any number of options for what this. My personal pick would be Mag Storm, where Fiora generates an electric purple force field that would damage anyone who touches it. Maybe she could slightly hover from side to side while performing it. Mag Storm could also be a down special.

There is a whole smorgasbord of options for her remaining specials. Anything that involves an energy field or laser blast. She could do some sword moves, like Double Blade (basically Shulk's back slash) or Shutdown (causes enemies to fall asleep.) She could also deploy her drones to slash out in front of her or spin and come back like Link's boomerang.

Assuming Fiora's Final Smash isn't the aforementioned Final Cross, it would likely be one of her drone talent arts. In her original game, this attack changes based on what kind of equipment she has. My picks for SSB are Sword Drones, in which she deploys four remote controlled blades to slash the crap out of anything in her way, and Cannon Drones, which is a huge plasma beam. The latter would be similar to Samus's Final Smash, or Lucario's Kamehameha from Brawl. I'd probably base it on Lucario's because a.) That's closer to what it looks like in Xenoblade, and b.) That was one of my favorite Final Smashes in Brawl and I'm ticked that they changed it.

On the presentation end of things, Fiora is a lot of fun to speculate about. Her into animation would have her landing as the Face Nemesis then jumping out of the cockpit. She also has a ton of battle quotes in Xenoblade that I'd be sorely disappointed not to hear in Smash. It's not that Melia doesn't have battle dialogue, but Fiora's voice acting and girlish charm makes hers a lot more memorable. Just listen to her. There are dozens and dozens of potential taunt and win quotes in there. I'd be giddy to hear "Alrighty!" or the sheepish, "Yay! We win!"

As a little bonus, I think it would be neat to include Fiora's human form as an alternate outfit. That said, I don't know how they could accurately portray her that way and keep the same moveset. The meat of her attacks in this blog stems from her cybernetic body. In human form, Fiora just fights with knives. It wouldn't make sense for her to be able to shoot lasers.

Then again, I guess it doesn't make sense for Mario to be able to shoot fire in his basic outfit either, so whatever. I'm not going to think about it too hard. No matter what they did, if Fiora got into Super Smash Bros., I would be a happy laddy.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

Slim but possible. A heck of a lot more possible than Kane or Sub-Zero. Xenoblade is a Nintendo game, after all, and it already has some representation in the Smash Bros. series. The problem is that I just don't think it's popular enough to warrant much more than it already has. While it does have a huge cult following, it's mostly just that: a cult following.

To put it bluntly, if Xenoblade Chronicles was popular enough to warrant a whole cast of characters in the Smash roster, it probably would have happened already. Earthbound is a far more popular series and after four games, it still only has two roster slots in Smash. And one of those is pretty much a complete clone. It's possible that Xenoblade could become more popular with time, but if it ever does get to the point where it gets more recognition in Smash, then Nintendo will likely be looking to future installments like Xenoblade Chronicles X instead of digging into the original. 

The other hurdle is that sadly, I don't think Melia and Fiora are popular enough characters to become playable even if Xenoblade did get more slots in Smash. Fiora is a walking spoiler and Melia doesn't have a particularly commanding presence in the game anyway. Compare that to their male castmates: Riki is practically the series mascot and already has a few appearances in Smash; Dunban is immensely popular in the fandom to the point where there is a Mii outfit for him in SSB4 as DLC; Reyn is a contender for deuter- or at least tri-tagonist and his antics have reached meme level. Out of all of the party members in Xenoblade, those three would be the most likely. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against them as characters. I just feel it would be disappointing to get another generic swordfighter like Dunban when we could be graced with a cool new magic system from Melia.

Like I said, though, it's far from impossible. Xenoblade is a Nintendo game. All the ground work is there. All it would take would be a little muse from Sakurai or another team member for it to happen. I also find some optimism in the Smash Fighter Ballot. Cruising Xenoblade fansites, I see a lot of people writing in Fiora. I highly doubt she's getting as many votes as Goku or Ridley, but all it takes is a spark. So if you're a Xenoblade fan like me, head on over there and cast your vote. And keep your fingers crossed.  

So here ends another issue of Challenger Approaching. Thank you for reading, and if you've been following the series, extra thanks for your support. If you haven't, why not start now? And by the way, if you don't know much about Xenoblade Chronicles, it's a pretty good game that you might want ot check out if you like RPG's. You can check out my thoughts on that as well.

Thanks again. Until next time, stay thirsty my friends.

 

 

 

Psst! Hey! Do you like my writing? Want to read more of my stuff, as well as some stuff by other great writers? Head on over to this little website. I post most of my stuff there a week before anywhere, and there are a few other great writers there as well.

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About Adam Pone of us since 10:34 PM on 04.28.2013

My name is Adam. I've been gaming as far back as I can remember, ever since the NES my parents owned when I was a wee lad. Writing has been a passion of mine for almost as long, and I've made quite a hobby out of combining the two pastimes.

I have a very wide taste in gaming. I'll give just about anything a shot, regardless of age, genre, or hardware. I like to think of gaming as an entertainment medium in the same vein as literature and film rather than a simple toy.

When I'm not writing or playing, you might find me in church, in the woods (probably on a four wheeler and/or carrying a gun), or in my room playing my guitar.