Super Smash Bros. Brawl turned 10 years old this week — a major milestone for one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, your opinions on the game itself be damned. (I’m still a fan.) While the Wii game may not have aged well for many players, Brawl shook up the Nintendo fan service-laden, crossover fighting series with two monumental inclusions: third-party characters on the roster.
Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog entered the fray in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, breaking Smash’s tacit rule of “Nintendo characters only.” But if you were online back in the day when Nintendo revealed the fighters — first Snake at E3 2006, then Sonic in October 2007 — you remember that the pair broke the internet, too. Nintendo fans aren’t only fans of Nintendo, after all; for Solid Snake to return to Nintendo consoles in a Smash game, of all things, was huge. Sonic’s inclusion? Even bigger.
You might remember the Smash Dojo, the site that all of us die-hards who were beside ourselves with excitement would regularly check for teases and reveals for Brawl. The Smash Dojo was where Masahiro Sakurai, the director of the Smash series, would unveil new characters with little fanfare on some random Wednesday afternoon. It’s where we found out that Sheik and Zelda were unique characters this time around. It’s where we learned about Assist Trophies.
But Snake and Sonic were deserving of their own special reveals. And on Oct. 10, 2007, when the Brawl team was ready to show off Sonic — dropping a trailer during a closed-doors Nintendo event, from which Japanese fans relayed information live to forum users — the internet responded in kind.
Looking back on the reactions when fans found out about Sonic, a highly requested character, is ... really nice, actually. See how freaked out NeoGAF users were immediately after Sonic was revealed:
Even outlets like IGN couldn’t help but editorialize their reporting on Sonic’s appearance in a Nintendo game — the first time when he could actually fight against Mario. This felt especially exciting after the soon-to-arrive Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, which would bring the franchises together for the first time ... except with the title pair as friends, not foes. Anyone who grew up defending their Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis against the other was understandably peeved about that one.
“It’s the announcement we’ve all been waiting for, and now that it’s here we can hardly believe we’re actually seeing it: Sonic has arrived,” reads the opening to IGN’s article on Sonic’s Smash Bros. debut. The lede epitomizes the sentiment around bringing Sega’s unofficial mascot into Nintendo’s universe.
Remember that this was before Sonic fans turned against the character, even as 2006’s reviled Sonic the Hedgehog lingered on their minds. Sonic wasn’t a name people bristled at yet, and especially not in this context.
It’s hard to say whether Sonic’s entrance into Brawl made up for the other half of the Smash Bros. news that came out of Nintendo’s event: that the game would be delayed several weeks, until Jan. 31, 2008 (in Japan; it came out Feb. 10 stateside). There’s a YTMND joke that shows how vertiginously polarizing the two announcements were when paired back to back; even Sakurai sounded disappointed in himself for having tainted the good news with the bad in a 2009 interview.
Sic transit gloria; not everyone feels as fondly about Sonic’s appearance in Brawl these days as they did when he was first revealed. The character was low-ranked on the game’s tier list, and his involvement in the marquee Subspace Emissary campaign was minimal. But it’s nice to look back at those golden moments of surprise, overwhelming excitement, no matter how long it lasted. It’s rare for a reveal or news story to sweep everyone up so dramatically these days, outside of the usual E3 pressers and such. Thanks to Sonic and Smash Bros. for the memories.