This is Part 3 in an ongoing series about my 53-year-old mother’s attempts to play video games. Part 1 can be found here, and all other entries can be found by clicking the “Your Mom” tag, to the left.
I chose Super Smash Bros Brawl as one of the games for her to play, because we hadn’t done a fighting game yet, and Smash Brothers is pretty straightforward and easy to pick up. I also knew that it would have lots of characters in it that she’d recognize from seeing me play Nintendo as a kid.
I started the game up for her, and put her in Classic mode on Easy. She saw all the different character choices and asked me if different ones had different strengths. I told her that they all had different moves, but that she should just pick someone who she recognized and liked, and that she’d be fine. She decided to go with Mario, and started the game.
As the game started, I explained that her goal was to try and knock the other player off the screen, and the basic controls. However, she had a hard time figuring out exactly what she needed to do. “There’s so many things on the screen; I can’t tell who I am.”
This round was taking place on the Pirate Ship level, which has several environmental hazards. My mom kept falling into the water and being swept away by the current, because she couldn’t jump out in time. As the round progressed, one of the CPU opponents accidentally killed themselves, and her CPU ally killed the other one. “So, really, Donkey Kong killed the other guy while I was just kind of standing there.”
Her next round was against Pokemon Trainer, who sent out Squirtle. “I don’t understand this turtle and what he’s doing.” After winning a couple more rounds, she made it to the first “Break the Targets” bonus level. I explained the whole “Triple Jump” concept to her, and she managed to use it well enough to get 8 of the 10 targets in the time allotted. Additionally, the time without any enemies allowed her to get more practice with the controls in general.
After a couple more fights, her skills had visibly improved. She lost to Team Fox, and got a game over, but when she retried, she beat the level in one life. “I’m getting the hang of it…”
In a later fight against Luigi and Peach in the Mushroomy Kingdom 1-1 Level, she recognized the level layout. “I get it… each of the landscapes are the games that the characters are from.”
In one of her fights, she managed to pick up the Smash Ball and use her final smash. “I had some pretty fancy artillery there for a minute. I have no idea how I got it.” I explained that it was from an item that she picked up, and that it gave her a super move.
Eventually, she got to a level where she had to fight Metal Snake. He gave her quite a bit of trouble, and she had to continue a few times. On one try, she got him up to 360%, but she lost before she could actually knock him out of the arena. Finally, she managed to knock him out. “Yeaaaah! Man, that sucker wouldn’t go away. Whoo, man, that was stressful.”
After another battle, she made it to the final match against Master Hand, which is a completely different kind of fight from the usual matches. “I don’t know what to do to him.” Through a bit of trial-and-error, she found that her coin-jump move worked fairly well, but in the end she still lost. She was having a hard time dodging his attacks, so I pointed out that her block button could help. Armed with this knowledge, she manages to beat him on her next try.
While watching the credits, she asked me how she did. I told her that she was pretty good for a first-timer. “Especially because on the first five layers, I didn’t know what I was doing.”
On her second playthrough, she decided to try playing as Snake, because he was such a tough opponent when she fought him. She asked if he controlled the same, and I explained that the buttons would be the same, but that he would do different moves.
With Snake, she had a lot of fast wins. The only tricky part was when she was fighting on the Rumble Falls stage, which scrolls upwards. She had a hard time keeping up with the scrolling, and kept dying as the screen scrolled too far past her. Eventually, by focusing on her jumping, and just surviving, she did manage to win.
When she made it to the metal-character round, her opponent was Falco. When looking at his character portrait, she decided: “Falco looks a bit like a Jayhawk.” She lost against him once, but managed to win on the second try. “These metal characters are hard.”
One of her later matches was on Summit, an Ice Climbers stage. “Oh dear. He’s slippery anyway. His center of gravity is higher than Mario’s.” Despite falling off the stage once, she still managed to win.
After a few other rounds where she easily won, she made it back to Master Hand. “Already? That was easier this time. Okay guy, let’s see what you’ve got.” She only had one life remaining at this point, so despite putting up a good fight, she does eventually get a game over. After 3 retries (including one where she died while he was at 2HP), she did finally manage to win.
We decided that’s enough smashing and brawling for the time being, and I asked her what she thought of the game. “Personally, it’s not my kind of game. For me personally. But for someone who likes Mario Brother kind of games, this would be a lot of fun. In fact, it’s playable for someone who’s not very good at Mario Brothers. This is more fun than Mario Brothers. And with enough practice, I could get pretty good at this. It’s within my realm of hand-eye coordination to do this. Although, it does make my hands tired, cause of my arthritis. But it’s probably because I was pounding on the buttons.” She laughed and added, “It gets kind of tense.”