Guys, can you feel it? That excitement in the air? The pretty colors everywhere? Little kids, giddy with glee? People putting up a big pine tree? That's right. It's that time again, and you all know it. It's time for
THE NEW SUPER SMASH BROS GAME! YEAH! Are you excited? I'm not, because I don't own a Switch yet, but it's cool to think about.
Oh yeah, it's also Christmas time. I am excited for that. I adore Christmas, everything about it, the whole season. One of the things I love the most is the television. There are so many Christmas movies and Christmas specials and Christmas episodes to fill a stocking with. My favorites, though, are the Rankin Bass ones. If you don't know, Rankin Bass is the company that makes all those cheesy stop-motion Christmas specials, like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. There are tons of those, and love them all. Heck, I've seen some of them so many times that I can recite the dialogue from memory. With their colorful characters and catchy cantatas, what's not to love? If you're not familiar with them, head over to this article by Destructoid writer CJ Andriessen. He gives a pretty good rundown of them there, and far more hillariously than anything I could write.
Now, with these things on everybody's minds, it's inevitable that millions of gamers everywhere would start asking a very simple question: what would it be like if there was a Super Smash Bros style party fighter based on the Rankin Bass Christmas specials? (I know what you're thinking and yes, millions of gamers.) Well fear not, my friends, because I'm here to answer that question for you. This hypothetical game is what I like to call, Rankin Bass Holiday Smash Up Brawl.
Before I get started, it's important to note that this game is based around these specials only. Not generic Christmas figures (otherwise I'd include Scrooge, Krampus, and the Nutcracker.) Nor does it include characters from other Christmas shows (sorry Cousin Eddy.) Nope, this game is strictly based on the Rankin Bass Christmas characters.
When the original Super Smash Bros came out on the Nintendo 64, it had a very simple all-star roster. Eight characters drawn from the most recognizable game series' on the planet, plus four hidden characters as a treat for fans. They were obvious choices, being practically Nintendo's mascots. With that in mind, there are some really obvious choices for who should be in Rankin Bass Holiday Smash Up Brawl as well.
2) Young Santa/Kris Kringle
This is Santa as he appeared in that yule tide classic, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. Basically the origin story of Santa Claus. While the regular Santa character woudl probably fight using magic or toys or something, this version would be a much more physical fighter. The spry, young Kris Kringle is so lively and quick that he can climb buildings, jump across rooftops, go up and down the chimney, and outrun the Burgermeisters minions with no problem. He would be a straight up brawler.
Rudolph is an obvious choice. He's one of the most prolific characters in the Rankin Bass catalogue, having appeared in three Christmas specials (four if you count a cameo in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, and five if you count the early 2000's CG Rudolph movie, but screw that one.) 1964's Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was the first Christmas special that Rankin Bass made, and was one of the first Christmas specials ever, so without Rudolph, none of this would be possible. Being a flying reindeer, Rudolph would of course be quick on his feet, and the glowing red nose could make for some cool lasers or something. Rudolph would basically be the Rankin Bass equivalent of Fox.
Why weren't you at elf practice?! Because I was busy fighting! So we have Santa, a reindeer, and now we need to round out the trifecta with an elf. There are several elves in the Rankin Bass pantheon, but I think Hermy is the most recognizable. He'd probably fight with dental instruments or something
Another Rankin Bass staple, Frosty has three appearances on his resume, one of which co-stars Rudolph. Interestingly, two of those specials are traditionally animated rather than stop motion. Frosty isn't much of an action star, but he has one recurring ability that could prove useful in combat. He slides around on his belly. He zips around so well that sometimes the kids even ride on him like a sled.
6) Jessica Claus
Santa's beloved wife. Jessica is the Peach to Santa's Mario. She plays pivotal roles in both Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus. She also shows up pretty much any time there's a scene at the North Pole. I don't think it's necessary to include two versions of her here like with her hubby, but it would be an insult not to have Mrs. Claus show up.
7) Jack Frost
This might sound like an odd one. Jack Frost doesn't have th esame marquee value as the other characters in this section. That said, he has three appearances in the Rankin Bass canon. That's nothing to ignore. He first showed up as the villain in Frosty's Winter Wonder Land, made a token appearance in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, and finally got his own special in the aptly titled Jack Frost. He'd make a cool lightweight character with ice powers. And yes, that pun was totally intended.
8) The Miser Brothers
And now we get to the VIP's. You didn't think we'd forget these guys, did you? They're the most important! Heck, I'd play a game that was based around just these two. They have the best scenes in all of the Rankin Bass filmography. Snow Miser would be similar to Jack Frost, true, but if 9 out of every 10 Smash characters can use a sword, we can have multiple ice powered characters in a Christmas game. Plus Heat Miser roasting your chestnuts on an open fire would make a good contrast to the other snow-themed characters.
So those ones were obvious. In Super Smash Bros, it didn't take long before Nintendo started digging deeper. It started with Captain Falcon and Ness. By the time Smash 4 came out, they were givign us characters like the Villager from Animal Crossing and the Wii Fit Trainer. Um, I'm not complaining but, okay then. So with as rich a catalogue as Rankin Bass has, there are plenty of other options to fill up a game roster. Here are some of my picks:
If you haven't seen Nestor the Long Eared Christmas Donkey - and I don't blame you if you haven't, it's not played very often - Nestor's whole schtick is that he has really long ears. In the Christmas special, he uses them to save the baby Jesus (seriously.) In RBHSUP, they would make the perfect weapons for whipping, grabbing, or maybe spinning like a helicopter to chop his enemies.
2) Yukon Cornelius
We already have Rudolph and Hermy, so why not finish off the trio? Yukon himself if thicker than peanut butter, so he would be a heavyweight. He could fight with his pickaxe and his trusty dogsled team.
3) The Winter Warlock
Winter Warlock would be slow. The guy can barely walk, after all. But he would make up for it with powerful magic. I should point out that just because he has the word "winter" in his name, that doesn't mean that his magic is ice based. He would not be another Jack Frost/Snow Miser character. The Winter Warlock opens up the possibility for all kinds of magic attacks. Personally, I'd like to see his haunted tree servants get worked in somehow.
Crystal is Frosty's wife. I don't know if she would work as a stand-alone character. Maybe she could be an alternate outfit for Frosty himself.
6) Professor Hinkle
Speaking of Frosty characters, here's the villain from the original Frosty the Snowman special. He's a magician. The children use one of his old discarded hats to bring Frosty to life. When he realizes that his hat is still magic, he tries to get it back. The guy is grade A asshole. At one point, Frosty and a little girl named Karen are lost in the woods. This jerk locks them in a greenhouse, causing Frosty to melt. The movie kind of plays it off, but imagine that scenario from the little girl's perspective: you are lost, alone, and your only friend in the world is slowly and painfully dying in front of you. It must have been like the ending of The Walking Dead Season One, with Lee and Clementine. That's why I would include Professor Hinkle, just so I could beat the crap out of him.
7) SD Kluger
SD Kluger is the mailman who narrates Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. Most of these movies have narrators; Burl Ives, Andy Griffith, Buddy Hacket, Angela Lansbury. You could include any of them. My favorite was always this guy, SD Kluger (SD stands for Special Delivery) voiced by Fred Astaire. He'd fight using mail, and his little care thingy. Maybe he could take a page from a fellow holiday-movie-postman and use a mail bomb like Sinbad in Jingle All the Way.
The bad guy from Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. He's basically an evil Santa. He's included because we need more villains, and he'd probably work better in a game than the Burgermeister Meisterburger.
9) Kubla Kraus
Another villain. This rough, tough Cossack is responsible for terrorizing the town in Jack Frost. He rides a mechanical horse and has a little puppet. He would obviously be a heavyweight, bashing and throwing his enemies around. As a reference to his extremely catchy villain song, his alternate outfits could have him turning into a Pharaoh, a Rajah, or a Shogun.
10) Sir Ravenal Rightfellow
Okay, now we're getting really deep. This guy is a minor character from Jack Frost. He has like two minutes of screentime in total, if that. So why did I pick him? He's a knight. He has one of the few instances of actual combat in all of the Rankin Bass canon. If you're going to make a game about fighting, it makes sense to include the one guy who's an actual fighter.
11) The Thundercats
You read that right. Did you know that Rankin Bass made more than just Christmas specials? They made some Easter specials as well as a Lord of the Rings adaptation. Most notably, though, they also made Thundercats. I didn't even know that until I started researching this blog post! Just like Nintendo included ROB, why not throw in Lion-O or Mumm-Ra to spice things up and add some variety to the roster?
12) The Cowboy Who Rides an Ostrich
Because why the hell not?
Okay, okay, I know I said this was going to be strictly Rankin Bass. I stand by that. Even Nintendo has some third party characters, though. It started with Snake and Sonic, and now it's gone all the way to Cloud and Bayonetta and Pac Man and whoever else. So we can bend the rules here just a tiny bit.
1) Buddy the Elf
Elf has been a Christmas staple for 15 years now. Buddy is a classic character. That said, his inclusion would be more so that the next character doesn't seem so out of place.
2) Walter Hobbs
That's right, Buddy the Elf's dad! Why would I want him here? I'm actually less interested in Walter Hobbs as a character, and more interested in James Caan as an actor. For Walter, I'd love to draw on Caan's other characters for a move pool. Imagine throwing knives at somebody, bashing them in the head with typewriter, or ordering a mafia hit on Rudolph.
A Christmas Story is one of the most beloved Christmas movies ever, so it only makes sense to give little Ralphie a chance. Whether he's bumrushing his enemies like Scut Farkas, or shooting their eyes out with his Red Ryder, there's definitely a way to make him work. It's absolutely obligatory to include two alternate costumes: his white cowboy suit, and the Pink Nightmare bunny pajamas.
4) The Snowman from Santa vs. The Snowman
I finally get to talk about this one! Santa vs. The Snowman was a Christmas special that aired on TV one time when I was a kid. I taped it and made a point to rewatch it every year. Eventually it got a theatrical release, believe it or not, though people still don't seem to remember it. It's about a lonely snowman who tries to steal a recorder from Santa's workshop, so the elf police throw him off a cliff. The snowman gets pissed, builds an army, and attacks the north pole. The entire second act is a battle between the snowman and the elves. It's full of visual puns and shoutouts to other action movies, like the "Mistletoe Missile" and igloo walkers like the AT-STs from The Empire Strikes Back. The thing is so ridiculous that I can't help but love it, and I'd love to recreate the battle in a video game. Also, when you're done reading this, you should go watch Santa vs. The Snowman on YouTube.
Since Nintendo doesn't seem to want to include him.
Ever since the original Super Smash Bros ended its arcade mode with a showdown against Master Hand, the series has included a few non-playable boss characters to test your skills against. Brawl's Subspace Emmissary mode had a whole slew of them. It only makes sense to include a couple here, as well. There's no shortage to choose from, but I think the best options come from Rudolph's rogues gallery of giant fiends. I'm of course talking about The Bumble, and the giant vulture, Eon the Terrible.
Who doesn't love a good assist trophy? That's where Nintendo's extensive encyclopedia of characters really gets to shine. It's reserved for fighters too obscure to get a full on roster slot. We could easily fill up a list of trophies from the minor characters in the Rankin Bass films. Here are some suggestions.
1) Snip and Holly
Jack Frost's loyal friends. They are responsible for creating and placing the Christmas snow. In our hypothetical fighting game, they would show up on a cloud and chuck ice blocks at your enemies.
2) Mother Nature
In The Year Without a Santa Claus, even Mrs. Claus knows not to screw with her. She would deal with your fighting the same way she dealt with the Miser Brothers' fighting: by summoning lightning bolts to blast the crap out of everyone.
The little drummer boy who soothed the crying baby Jesus with his drumming. Aaron would do the same here, marching the arena and putting people to sleep.
I don't know what he would do, I just like him.
Any elves. They could be Hermy's peers from Rudolph, or the red-clad Jingle and Jangle from The Year Without a Santa Claus, or even the old Kringle family from Santa Claus is Coming to Town. No matter which ones you choose, a game about Christmas needs more elves. Grab the right trophy and these guys will show up to start delivering toys and items to the battlefield.
6) The Water Pistol that Shoots Jelly
Jelly is sticky! Imagine this little guy showing up and blasting your foes with purple goo to slow them down or leave them stuck in place.
7) Miles Finch
Miles Finch takes a break from all that action he's getting to deliver a devastating running dropkick that leaves your enemies more vulnerable than a peach.
With a huge cast of characters, it's only natural to have a big selection of unique environments to stage our kerfuffles. I won't go into too much detail here. Obvious, snowy locations would reign supreme. Santa's workshop, a snowy forest, a snowy town; they show up in like all of these movies. It would be important to mix it up a bit so things don't get stale. I think it would be cool (heh) to have a stage where you fight on a giant sleigh as it cruises around the world on Christmas Eve night, sort of like the Corneria level. Different version of Southtown would be nice, as well as Heat Miser's castle for a change of scenery. The circus from Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July could spice up the monotony of ice levels as well. You could also include a desert, since at least three Rankin Bass shows have one, and maybe fight on the back of Big Ben as swims around the Archipelago of Last Years.
All that said, there is one area that would be absolutely vital: inside the clock tower from Twas the Night Before Christmas. That is one of my favorite Rankin Bass specials, I just couldn't think of any other way to include it. A bunch of sad mice don't lend themselves well to a game about fighting. Players would jump on pendulums and twisting cogs as Albert the mouse ran around in the background trying to fix it in time to play that really catchy song.
Wow, I got really carried away with this. I could keep going on, but this has already turned into more than just the short gag that I was intending it to be. Oh well. If you made it this far, thank you for reading! I hope enjoyed my nerding out. I also hope you enjoy your new copy of Super Smash Bros Ultimate. That said, if you happen to get bored of that, be sure to keep an eye on the TV listings. The Rankin Bass Christmas specials may be cheesy, but they're a great way to bring about some Christmas cheer.