This month’s Band of Blogger post is all about Heroes and what it takes to be a good one. The tricky thing about this prompt though is that it could apply to just about any video game at all and I’m sure I could make a compelling argument for why my Commander in Elite Dangerous is an exemplar of 34th Century heroism. There’s so much material that I could go with that my mind is completely blank, likely do to all of the potential options trying to get from my subconscious and make its way to the forefront of my mind. I guess what I could do is talk about which Nintendo characters are heroic and which aren’t! I’m going to go with the playable cast of Super Smash Bros for this band of bloggers prompt: It’s not necessarily a top-10 but the list is robust and varied.
(Who among you are the most heroic?)
Mario, otherwise known as Super Mario, is best known for his daring rescue of Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser, the King Koopa. Saving a Princess sounds like a very selfless and heroic past time but it’s difficult to overlook the fact that Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser with a suspicious level of frequency. There are also little details about Mairo’s exploits that are suspect once you look at them a little more closely; for instance, Mario has a history of animal abuse. Many Yoshi’s have been kicked into bottomless pits so that Mario can reach the end of multiple levels. There’s also a penguin who lost one of its young because of the callus actions of the infamous Jump-Man. Most damning though is how often Mario and Bowser engage in friendly outings with Princess Peach. There’s nothing wrong with polyamory and there’s nothing wrong with living a kinky lifestyle but Mario, Peach and Bowser's intricate kidnap/rescue roleplays could be doing untold damage to the livelihood of Peach’s subjects and is absolutely doing damage to Bowser’s.
Donkey Kong is an interesting case of a former victim who’s found comfort and safety on an island home he’s literally made his own. The problem with Donkey Kong though is that he isn’t really much of a hero either. What spurs DK to action is the wrongdoing of others to DK specifically. Donkey Kong’s quest started when King K. Rool stole his banana hoard. Donkey Kong wasn’t playable in the two subsequent SNES titles but in the Nintendo 64 standalone game, Donkey Kong was absolutely more heroic: He rose up to save his friends from the clutches of King K. Rool. The rest of DK64 is a struggle between the Kong family and King K. Rool, who’s trying to destroy their island and steal their bananas. Donkey Kong Country Returns and Tropical Freeze show off a much more heroic Donkey Kong though, as he faces forces that are actively trying to invade and change the landscape in a way that affects more than just DK, his friends and his family. When he needs to be, Donkey Kong is a fairly heroic character!
Link is an undoubtedly heroic figure in all of his incarnations. He can almost always be trusted to save Hyrule from the forces of Demise and its mortal incarnation, Ganon. The first and latest incarnations of Link see him in a world already ruined by the influence of Ganon. By the end of those adventures, the world hasn’t been restored but the corrupting influence has been repelled. A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds and, Twilight Princess show Link defending Hyrule from alternate versions of itself and the magicks that would make the two worlds fold into each other. Adventure of Link sees Link trying to restore Princess Zelda, the ruling party of Hyrule, back to a living state while also trying to avoid a cult bent on resurrecting Ganon. In Ocarina of Time, Link is shown the consequences of what will happen if Ganon is allowed to take a seat of power in Hyrule. In Majora’s Mask, Link saves a single town from a collapsing Moon and in Wind Waker, Link rescues his sister from a giant bird...then he saves the whole of Hyrule from Ganon and his cabal of Moblins. Link is the fated hero of Hyrule but he strikes me as the kind of character who would fight for what is right and for those who can’t fight for themselves, even if he didn’t know he was the chosen hero of time and whatnot...even his Skyward Sword incarnation, I guess.
(The Dweebs of Time, The Sea, and the Wild)
Samus of the Metroid series is difficult to classify when it comes to heroism. Being a bounty hunter, the implication is that Samus doesn’t have any allegiance at all. If they still existed, I would believe that Samus wouldn’t take any bounties that would affect the Chozo but I could see her taking up bounties posted by a Space Pirate organization in a post-Ridley environment. Her actions have been mostly positive though: Destroying Mother Brain was an absolute positive and a blow to the Space Pirate organization...at least it seemed to be the first time but they both came back for Metroid 3. The eradication of the Metroid species seems like a good thing at face value but it led directly to the population of X-Parasites to boom. Samus has the capacity to be a great hero and she’s faced all kinds of adversity but it’s hard to classify a bounty hunter as a real hero.
Fox McCloud is a man, on a team, doing a job where the end goal of said job just so happened to be the end of a war and the death of a strange, huge, ape head. Fox has a similar problem to Mario’s though in that his adventures are so similar, it’s easy to see each new one as a dramatization of the previous incarnation. There aren’t any motifs that would confirm this assertion though so I’ll just assume Fox has failed to defeat Andross at every turn but on the plus side, by defeating the Aparoid Queen Fox was able to save the galaxy from a very insectoid variant of The Borg. Fox choosing to be a military pilot was based in his desire to be like (and I guess avenge) his father which, as far as motivation goes, is more noble than say, choosing to chase after bounties to get through the day. What ultimately keeps Fox from being considered a hero though is the fact that he’s very blatantly a furry. Only villains and fiends are furries.
Yoshi isn’t someone I see as being heroic but if it wasn’t for Yoshi, babies Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong and, Wario might have perished. Kirby is an odd duck; a savior of his homeworld and friends from all kinds of cosmic entities and mega corporations but his motivation is what makes me see Kirby as being the odd one out. More often than not, what spurs Kirby to action is someone interrupting him during a meal or a nap. His actions absolutely make him a hero but it’s funny how he’s not even aiming to be heroic. Then there’s Pikachu, who absolutely isn’t a hero but who can potentially be part of a team to defeat a flamboyant team of thieves or environmental terrorists or whomever else. In the context of the games, Pikachu is a tool to be used or ignored by whichever Pokemon Trainer choses to catch or breed it.
(I prefer Raichu to Pikachu too)
If I had to rank them, I would say that Link is the most heroic of the original Smash Brothers line up, followed closely by Donkey Kong. Motivation aside, Samus can take the gold medal for keeping the Space Pirates at bay and cleaning up her own mess where the X-Parasites are concerned. Yoshi and Kirby have absolutely done heroic deeds but I don’t think they can even really comprehend what it means to be a hero since one is an animal and one is an infant. Then there’s Pikachu and Fox: A tool and a filthy, filthy, furry. If I were to go into detail about the anime and movies than I could talk about the merits Pikachu does have and the heroic deeds he’s taken part of like...I dunno, babysitting Togepi and talking but since I’m talking about Pikachu as a video game character, he gets nothing because he provides nothing.