I listen to the main theme one last time as I exit the building. I should be ten minutes early in case the machine decides that it hates me and wants to have an issue. Thankfully, we’re at the point in the night where it’s the morning; the point where the person working at the subway station will just let you pass if you tell them the card isn’t working. Once I get on, I check my phone to make sure at every step that I’m going to the right series of places, and I’m able to do so without much noise from the few other passengers. The only other man on the subway has a red and white parasol, so I assume he is also a Smash Bros. fan, very upset that the item has not yet returned after Melee. Friends were unable to join me at 3:00 AM on the Philadelphia subway station to begin my trip to the heart of the east coast which glows red like a big apple, but they kindly give their blessing and demand to hear all about it when I get back. The mission: infiltrate New York City and Best Buy 1880 Upper West Side to finally play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate! Nintendo will be touring the game around a series of Best Buy locations in mostly metropolitan areas for the next month, starting the day I write this, September 8.
Megabus’ pick up location says “30th Street Station”, which is a bald-faced lie. It’s a block away from 30th Street Station. Then again, I just started college and this is the first time traveling somewhere major on my own, so maybe this is a common occurrence. Maybe “Best Buy 1880 Broadway” is a codeword for a burned down Circuit City on the other side of town. Arriving at the designated time and the bus still not being there, a surge of fear and paranoia go through me that it has already departed, but, though late, it shows up. I am the only person on the bus looking forward to where they’re going, too excited to sleep. Nintendo and Best Buy have had a history of doing showcases together, beginning in 2013 with playable demos of that year’s holiday sellers, including Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, DKC Tropical Freeze, and Zelda Wind Waker HD. That occurrence became a relationship when they did a similar event promoting Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U the following year, which, being a Smash Bros. related event in the Northeast region, I, of course, dropped everything to get to as early as possible. I remember lots of things about that day, but particularly, the name Isaiah… but that’s a story for another time. Will today hold as much adventure? I will make sure of it.
What begins as a walk quickly becomes a run as I hear the theme once again after stepping off the Megabus, joyous for what the day has in store! A new Smash Bros. entry is just upon the horizon, and not only is Snake here, the phantom main that I missed so dearly in Smash For while ROB continued to stay by my side, but everyone is here; nobody will be forgotten anymore. The song finishes, and I realize this is not an optimal strategy.
If it was for anything else, I wouldn’t care about being at the front of the line. Making it at 6:15 AM, I was tenth, the earliest (pictured on the far left) coming at 5:15. I may not be the first, but I am one of the first, and that’s enough. I introduce myself and speak to the other fans in line with me, who are excited to hear that I will be writing about this on Source Gaming. The event begins at 10:00, but the sun comes out quickly from chatting with those just as dedicated (aka empty-scheduled) as I am. We talk about our favorite characters and characters we hope to become our favorites. I talk to a very kind mother standing nearby brought by her son, reaffirming in my mind how thankful I am to my own that she was nice enough to drive my younger siblings and I an hour away at 6:00 AM four years ago. People are playing music on their speakers and gathering around smartphones to look at trailers for the new game and matches from the old ones. YouTubers Blakinola and Chibo conduct interviews outside and prepare their equipment inside for videos on their channels further covering today’s event.
It takes a lot to stop the determined strut of a New Yorker, which only further proves the magnetic power of Smash Bros. as people off the sidewalk constantly stopped to ask us what we were waiting for. This at one point included an unstable homeless man who directly spoke to me, saying that he would “kick Jesus’ ass” and then cried and insisted on hugging me. He then did the same thing to another gamer five spots down from me and forced the both of us to hug each other as well. He was no doubt the second drunkest person I had ever met at a video game event, but that’s a story for another time.
Any time there is an event that you care about, especially if it involves a media-related appearance, expect it to start about thirty minutes later than posted. Everyone remains excited, but the excitement is becoming more restless. The mother takes a recount of the line and passes two hundred, informing us that the line wraps around the block. One of the tensest periods you can experience is when staff members walk outside every two minutes and everyone in line is holding their breath that they will say it’s finally time to come in. Oh, and also, like… war, I guess. I’m just lucky to be here and about to try Super Smash Bros. Ultimate against my better conscience, fully aware that it will only be enough to intensify my appetite for more.
“ARE YOU GUYS READY?!?!”
The crowd goes wild. We are each given Nintendo wristbands depending on if we choose to participate in either free play or exhibition (of which everyone chooses the latter). The color corresponds with our time slot, as thirty-two players are taken in with each hour-long time block. It is finally time to infiltrate the enemy fortress, which is a metaphor I feel more confident in making once our group makes its way in and discovers that the Smash Bros. Ultimate setup is located multiple levels underground. Arriving on the floor which has no more floors to go to, a small and straight series of stanchions lead directly to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It still resonates with me how powerful that made the moment feel: a narrow path leading directly to the screen, which is no longer what we admire from afar, but right now, in this moment, it is also staring straight back at us. It beckons me. The feeling is not lost on others, either. Before the day’s first match has begun, the line is radiating with not only excitement, but the joy that comes from it as the “Everyone is Here!” trailer plays. Though the iconic tagline is present, the titles of each character are not. Is it possible that this will be the game’s final intro? Of course, me being me, and having enough space to do so, I recreate Snake’s appearance in a goofy bit of theatrics as people laugh and cheer.
In this state of heightened senses, the words of the staff are gospel. Nintendo Brand Ambassadors, Best Buy employees, and even a few employees directly from Nintendo of America are eager to brave through today, as today begins their nationwide Best Buy tour. There are three setups; enough to accommodate twelve players at a time, though the most plainly visible screen will rotate in use between four player and two-player matches. Players are instructed to stand away from the monitor so the nearby cameras can pick up all the action, which as a byproduct allows all of the other gamers in line to cheer as they spectate. After waiting for the first few attendees to go, a staff member takes me and a select three other members of the line with them. The matches are timed at 2:30, items on, any stage, four-player matches. The first match is a practice round, but the winner of the second match gets to face another free-for-all winner for two more one-on-one matches under the same conditions. At this moment, I realize that it is absolutely imperative that I win this second match so I may continue playing. Grasping the Switch Pro Controller within my hands, my heart is beating as I am finally able to select the character that every night I could feel the movement and attacks of, even when they were not there… the character whose absence lingered. And, after waiting so long to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, what do I think of it?
Look, what can I say? While I could talk about the mechanics and where I think it will lead the metagame, or what characters will be announced next, or really anything rational, the milestone that is the first match is such a visceral experience that it transcends everything else. I did not have the same experience playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as other members of Source Gaming or really anyone who has covered it in great detail. Under these circumstances, where you have lots of prior knowledge but no prior experience, where the fuse is short and the clock is ticking, and you must prove yourself, the experience is unlike any other and will not happen again. It is a near-indescribable sensation when you have knowledge of how the series plays but nothing in terms of the feel of this specific title. You are not playing Smash Bros. Ultimate, but rather the idea, perceptions, and expectations of Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Thankfully, having played the series for such a long time and having practiced Snake in Brawl for weeks and months leading up to the new game, I am able to win the first match. We return to Battlefield for our second match, and I wish that these were longer, not just because I want to play the game as much as possible, but also because in a two and a half minute game, nothing is guaranteed and tables can turn in an instant. Sudden Death. I barely scratch Mario with Snake’s long-reaching dash attack, but a scratch is fatal in Sudden Death. A wave of relief washes over me and I remain standing, my sympathies going out to those three lost souls now washed away by the tide to the back of the line outside the store. (To my surprise, there were actually a few people who did this!) It was time for more battles: one and one, both one-on-one. I feel I had an exceptional first match.
During the second match, I accidentally SDd, and focusing on KOing an assist trophy did not help mend my foolishness, either. It may be more useful in a free-for-all, but in a one-on-one match, landing a KO on an assist trophy adds to your score, but does not detract from your opponent’s. I lost the second match, and I did not get the hat. I did get a promotional set of buttons, and a promotional poster, but I did not get the hat… but that’s okay. I did not travel exactly 100 miles and wait 4 hours for a hat. I traveled exactly 100 miles and waited for 4 hours so I could play Smash Bros for exactly 10 minutes and then leave. My mission has been accomplished. After talking more with some friends and the staff, I listen to the main theme one last time as I exit the building.
One of the only groups not present at the event was, surprisingly, Nintendo World Store NY employees, which I learned after taking a small trip over to the healthily populated shop. It’s great to see so many kids here; boys and girls of all different ages, ethnicities, and languages, with glowing faces shining on the characters they love. It is a very nice place, but it is also slanderous. The Mario amiibo statue has the cuts of the Smash logo improperly aligned on its base, but my instinct to bomb the building is repressed when I come across an excellently designed and not at all ridiculous Nintendo branded black-on-black T-shirt.
Upstairs in one of the store’s iconic historical displays, ROB sits upon the top shelf, and the irony hits me that after all this time, I technically was still missing one of my favorite characters, but now, there is not much longer to wait. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is now exactly less than two months away from bringing joy to adults and children across the globe, and after the first match, I’m counting down by the minute for the second.
This article was written by jedisquidward / jedisquid / Bailey Meyer. You can find him on Twitter here. He loves playing all of the Smash Bros. games and is looking for players to fight in Ultimate. His mains are ROB and Snake.
Latest posts by PushDustIn (see all)
- Straight from the Source: Koji Igarashi on Castlevania in Smash, Bloodstained - October 16, 2018
- Sakurai Discusses Isabelle, Echoes, and Newcomers - September 26, 2018
- EVERYONE IS HERE, Waiting in Line at Best Buy - September 17, 2018