This next article is old. Straight from back in the days of Zoozo. In fact, I'm gonna let you hear my dusty 8-track copy.
This was something I was working on a year ago that I eventually lost interest in. I'm posting it here in a somewhat incomplete form because why not? Hope you enjoy it, anyway.
I'll give you a second to pick up your jaw.
Before you start suspecting me of some sort of Modest Proposal work of satire, let me state outright that, yes, I'm actually serious. I think Popeye ought to be included in the next iteration of Smash Bros. You need a reason? Well, buddy, I got 10!
Well... probably about 6. But there's no "Top 6" option here at Negative World, so I'm padding it out and adding some jokes.
#10 It No Longer Matters That He Wasn't Created At Nintendo
I admit, if I'd suggested Popeye back when we were speculating about the Brawl roster, it would have sounded ridiculous. Up to that point Smash Bros had only featured Nintendo characters that had been developed in-house. Back then, you could argue that Popeye had no business in Smash because he wasn't created by a Nintendo employee. It'd be a fair point.
But all that changed the moment Snake hopped out of that box and told us it was showtime.
Snake: Not a fan of HBO, apparently
So, just what the heck was Snake doing making a cameo in a franchise that had always celebrated the history of Nintendo?
A lot of noise was made about Snake getting his start on the NES, but that's not really true. As most any geek can tell you, the original Metal Gear wasn't really an NES game - it was first released on the Japanese MSX-2 computer and merely ported to the NES (and infamously botched, at that). While it's true that most Western gamers first became aware of Snake through the NES Metal Gear, that's a pretty tenuous reason to include him as the first crasher at the first-party Smash Bros party (tongue twista, ha ha!). Among famous non-Nintendo video game characters from that period, surely Mega Man, Simon Belmont and Bomberman are more closely tied to the NES hardware. Why Snake and not them?
Well, we know the real reason Snake was included: Metal Gear is a hot property and Masahiro Sakurai and Hideo Kojima are friends.
"If you were my friend, I'd put your furry persona in Smash Bros. Call me."
But Snake looks like Mario himself compared to Sonic the Hedgehog. Yeah, the fans demanded it, but I think we all know the Blue Blur made the cut entirely for the irony factor. Sonic isn't just a character who got his start on a non-Nintendo platform, SEGA created him specifically to destroy everything Smash Bros celebrates.
Of course, since SEGA ultimately failed, it's easier for everybody to kiss, make up and leverage each other's mindshare for maximum profitability vis-a-vis popular IP cross-pollination in synergistic markets. No harm done. But seeing Sonic in Smash Bros is a bit like watching that footage of elderly Union and Confederate war veterans shaking hands at Gettysburg.
Dixie Does What Uniondon't.
My obvious point is this: If Sonic and Snake can make it in Smash Bros without there being a meltdown in Nerdcular Reactor 5, then I think Popeye is absolutely fair game. His credibility as a Nintendo character is much better than either of theirs, that's for sure.
Yes, that says Nintendo at the bottom, kid.
#9 Confront the Popeye Influence on Everything You Love
I'll get to that Popeye arcade cab in a bit. We're only at number 9, after all.
First, let's look at how Nintendo even got to make that game in the first place. Well, they'd already shown promise with a previous project, a little game you might have heard about called...
For all of us Nintendorks, that's the Big Bang. It's the moment lightning struck the primordial soup. It's God saying into the darkness, "Let there be light... and then a lot of other stuff, taking place over billions of years of history, eventually leading to the invention of a machine that takes your quarters, one that a lot of people will play with and then, eventually, get sentimental about." (Lesser known fact, that was also the moment when God created the run-on sentence.)
The point is, historically-speaking, Donkey Kong is the most important game Nintendo ever produced. Beyond its undeniable quality as a piece of software, it was the game that introduced the world to the most recognized character in the history of the medium.
Burnio, the Fireball
No, of course I'm talking about Mario (I refuse to be one of those stubborn asses who insists on calling him Jumpman in Donkey Kong). This first story starring the beloved plumber is necessarily simple - Donkey Kong has kidnapped Pauline and Mario has to rescue her, all while avoiding hazards at a construction site. Easy enough.
But that simplicity obscures a secret: Donkey Kong is really a Popeye game.
Or at least it was originally conceived that way. It's an easy connection to make if you're looking for it: Replace Mario with Popeye, DK with Bluto, and Pauline with Olive Oyl and you've got one darn serviceable game of Donkey Bluto.
This isn't some crackpot conspiracy theory from the loneliest, borediest corners of the interstain, either. The source is no less than Shigeru Miyamoto, himself.
That link goes to an interesting interview where the Elvis of Game Designers discusses his history with Mario. Here's the relevant portion:
Iwata Asks said:
Iwata: So that was the big turning point in your development as a game designer?
Miyamoto: Right... I sketched out ideas for five games. At this point, Nintendo was the licensee for Popeye.
Iwata: Yes, the company was releasing Popeye playing cards and Popeye Game & Watch titles.
Miyamoto: That's why at first I asked if I could make a game using Popeye. The basic concept of Popeye is that there is the hero and his rival who he manages to turn the tables on with the aid of spinach... So I sketched out a few ideas for games using Popeye. At that point, Yokoi-san was good enough to bring these ideas to the President's attention and in the end one of the ideas received official approval... And that's how Donkey Kong came about.
Iwata: But originally it was going to be a Popeye game.
Miyamoto: That's right. But while I can't recall exactly why it was, we were unable to use Popeye in that title. It really felt like the ladder had been pulled out from under us, so to speak...
Iwata: So basically Donkey Kong and Mario came about once the ladder had been pulled out from beneath you.
Now, I don't want to overstate how close we got to Popeye being the biggest video game character of all time. I don't quite have the imagination to summon a world where we're playing "Super Popeye Galaxy", "Popeye Kart 7" and "Popeye and Wimpy: Bluto's Inside Story". That's not the point I'm trying to make.
The point is, Miyamoto envisioned Donkey Kong by thinking about the character dynamics in Popeye. The success of Donkey Kong, particularly through the creation of Mario, set the ascendancy of Nintendo in motion. And the ascendancy of Nintendo is what gave us Smash Bros.
Popeye, then, is a seminal influence on Nintendo. The DNA tests are in. Maury Povich is here to tell you:
Popeye is Mario's Dad.
#8 The Press Would Pay Attention to It
Here's the scenario:
You're at E3, surrounded by the usual brown shooters and stuff when, hark!, there be noise at yon Nintendo booth!
Why, yes, it's the expected announcement of a new Smash Bros game. They're calling it Smash Bros Groinkick (Working Title). Check it out, Little Mac is a new challenger. Well, that's been a long time coming. Looks like we're going to get Waluigi, Tom Nook, Andy from Advance Wars and a scaled-down version of Ridley. All legitimate reasons to get excited about the new Smash. And look... Mega Man! All riiiiiight!
Now, you'd probably be totally stoked by all of those announcements. So would I, quite honestly. But we're Nintendo fans and, for us, even Birdo would be an exciting addition to Smash. Looking at that list again, even with Mega Man on there, don't you think it'd be a little predictable?
Or, to put it another way, how much do you think Snake's inclusion in Brawl got people outside of the usual Nintendo fold talking about Smash? I'm willing to say it was a big ice breaker. Why? Well, partly it was the shock of a third-party character turning up - and a popular one associated with rival Sony, no less. I'm sure no new surprise character announcement could top that. However, if you examine the core of the Snake phenomenon, it really comes down to Nintendo doing something unexpected. Just adding some new game characters to the roster, even if they are popular third party characters, probably isn't going to have the same effect. That's just business as usual for Smash, at this point.
But slip Popeye in there and everyone's going to say "WTF?" He's the only character I can think of who has both the visibility and credibility to be in Smash, but who would still absolutely blindside the entire floor at E3.
You want outsiders to talk about Smash? Put Popeye in it.
#7 Think of the Assist Trophy Possibilities!
The Popeye Universe is nothing if not colorful. (I'd like to believe I'm the first person to ever use the phrase Popeye Universe).
Just thinking about it, you've got Olive, Wimpy, Swee' Pea, Bluto, Alice the Goon, Jeep, The Sea Hag... any of these would make great Assist Trophies.
#6 King Features Ought To Give Nintendo The Rights For A Dollar
Look, I don't know what the rights issues would be for bringing Popeye into Smash Bros. They might be complicated. But in a perfect world, there's no reason why King Features should want to hold back on this. Popeye in Smash would be the biggest thing to happen to Popeye since he grew a son in that weird 80s cartoon show. Right now, no one cares about Popeye. But if he had a successful appearance in Smash, he could be set for a comeback.
#5 Think of the Level Possibilities!
The four levels from the original Popeye game are basically already Smash arenas. Just look at them:
Nice bucket feature on this one. Sea Hags throwing beer bottles. Fun!
Sakurai himself might have come up with that see-saw.
We already have a level with a ship in it, but does it have 8-bit diving vultures? I think not.
Also, imagine the music on these levels. The original Popeye song is a classic and would be a given. How fun to play Smash to a fully orchestrated version of the Popeye song?
But even the old school music from the arcade game is pretty good, for its era.
It may be repetitive, but they were clearly going for a 50s rock n' roll vibe, and that'd translate very well to full instrumentation. Add in some of those classic arcade sound effects and I think you have something worth including in Smash.
#4 It'd Be Worth It Just For The Arguments It'd Inspire
A Smash Bros trailer at E3 would cause hilarious chaos. You'd have a lot of geeky geeks who'd outright laugh at the idea, only to be corrected by even geekier geeks who know their Nintendo history and who would see the genius of it. Yeah, I'm calling it now. Popeye in Smash would inspire geek-on-geek violence, something that'd be good for Smash (and probably good for civilization as a whole).
Okay, I'm not going to lie to you, I didn't have anything written here so I just threw this one together in like 10 seconds. -K
#3 Behold the Greatest Item in the History of Smash
You know it's true.
#2 Popeye Is What He Is
And what he is, is a guy who goes around beating the crap out of everything he sees.
Is that important for Smash? I oughtta punch you in the face just for asking.
An illustration: I personally love Animal Crossing and I'd really like to see K.K. Slider or Tom Nook as a playable character in the next Smash. I make no apologies for that. Let's be real, though. It'd be pretty out of character for either of those characters to show up in a game that's all about violence, wouldn't it? Animal Crossing is one of the most heartwarming, bucolic games ever made. To see Nook going after Princess Peach with an axe - I mean, I still want to see that, don't get me wrong, but even I admit it's a little incongruous.
Popeye on the other hand? Punching an electrified rat wouldn't even make that guy's diary entry for the day. I've seen him punch a giant vulture so hard in the face that it turned into a roasted chicken (or possibly roasted vulture, now that I think about it.) I've watched him pummel a two headed giant without breaking a sweat. Violence isn't just his middle name, I'm pretty sure it's also his last name.
Popeye Violence Violence. He comes from a long line of Violence.
For goodness sake, he's a sailor. This is not just a hobby for him. It's his job to be violent. He gets paid for it. Violence is the only reason anyone ever cared about this guy. Your grandpa, grandma, father, mother, brothers, sisters, various uncles, aunts, cousins, teachers, friends and Internet Top 10 List writers all watched Popeye cartoons because they wanted to see the man throw down on something. Pow! In the face! Roasted chicken! Beating people up is Popeye's whole appeal.
Basically, he's perfect.
#1 This Game Deserves Recognition
Seriously, have you played Popeye? It's still a lot of fun to this day.
The 1982 Popeye arcade cabinet was not only a big hit for Nintendo, following up their success with Donkey Kong, it was one of the earliest games designed by Shigeru Miyamoto himself. Think about that for a second. Here we have one of the earliest arcade games designed by the great Miyamoto - one that was successful, popular and is still well-loved to this day - and it has no representation whatsoever in Smash Bros.
That's just silly.
Sure, the character not only predates video games, he predates video. Possibly games! (Note to self: Check sources). But the fact that the character isn't strictly a Nintendo creation is really secondary at this point. Popeye was an important, seminal Nintendo game. I think it deserves the recognition it would get with an appearance in Smash.
Well... that was an article I wrote. Not as strong a case as I'd wanted to make originally, but sometimes a man can't be bothered to put more work into something. Especially when it's clearly a lost cause.
Still... I stand by my original thesis. Popeye for Smash Bros. Who's with me?
Kris, c'mon.. You're thinking of the classic Sindbad the Sailor cartoon where Popeye is capture by the giant vulture (which is actually a Roc, or rather "the mighty eagle" named Rokh). He is taken to a volcano and you think he is dropped in. HOWEVER, a whirlwind across the water reveals that Popeye has indeed survived, and the volcano with his help has produced a hefty game bird meal.
Had this on VHS, watched it all the time. Got it from Jiffy Pop for free. (This seriously has to be one of the best classic cartoon episodes ever in every regard.) Man, I could do a Top 10 on this episode.. This should be required watching. Holy crap, do you guys remember this? I'm laughing like every 11 seconds, haha. Popeye just keeps talking through everything. Pure Gold, this guy. "Hey, how did you get in here?" Wimpy is hilarious. "Luncheon." Why is this episode almost 80 years old and better than anything released since then?
I'm pretty sure it's the King Features Syndicate, who published the original comic strips that Popeye appeared in. But I'm not positive that they're still in control of the property, or if they're owned by some larger conglomerate.
My feeling is that, whoever owns it, should be actively trying to get Nintendo to put the character in Smash. It'd be a big boost for any Popeye product they wanted to come out with.
Actually, Nintendo should just buy Popeye. Problem solved.
Awesome Top Ten, Kris, I enjoyed reading your article and very good reasoning behind such a decision. Of course, I was well aware of Popeye's place in Nintendo history, and as strange as it may seem for him to be a selectable character for the upcoming Smash Bros. game, it sure would make sense now, wouldn't it!
I've recently realized that Popeye is probably the reason that I love spinach so much. I'm not sure, though. Kind of a chicken/egg thing.
Regardless, old Popeye cartoons are awesome, and I miss them. The Popeye game was great, too. I played it quite a bit in the arcades, and I'm pretty sure that I had the 2600 version. Also, that Robert Altman-Robin Williams movie was so weird (although Shelley Duvall was perfect!).
In conclusion, I wholeheartedly support this motion.