Presenting The Grindies: The only way to give love to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

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As of the time that this sentence was written, my Nintendo Switch tells me that I’ve logged 22 hours and 14 minutes – with 10:52 of that time spent purely fighting – on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

(Oh, by the way: Robbie and I totally podcasted about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate this week. You should give it a listen. You should also listen to our other episode from this week.)

Through that time, my fighting roster had grown from the stock eight fighters – Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Kirby, Fox and Pikachu – to the robust 74 characters promised as the game was headed toward release.

At approximately 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13, Incineroar was unlocked while Dark Samus was under my control. The grappling Pokemon was the final default character that had yet to appear on my fighter-selection screen.

Incineroar, welcome to the club.

This achievement was met with a few select curse words and a sense that I had achieved a good video-game thing. With 90 percent of my gaming time going to sports, that sense sometimes escapes me when going through the motions on Madden NFL or NBA 2K games.

After 552 fights – as per my Switch, though it felt like roughly 275 of those bouts were my efforts to unlock Incineroar, Palutena or Olimar  – that’s no longer the case.   

The grind is dead. Long live the grind.

To anyone who said that the unlocking of 66 characters* was a bit much, I only have this retort: “You’re wrong. Stop being wrong and embrace the grind.”

(*-OK, so three of those characters – the Mii fighters – are revealed when you create them, but who actually uses the Mii fighters on purpose when playing Super Smash Bros.?)

Grinding out the unlocks, while forcing myself to step away from my personal Holy Trinity of Smash (Ness, Jigglypuff and Kirby) to actually defeat other fighters was a wholly satisfying experience.

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Mind you, I didn’t own a Wii, Wii U or Nintendo 3DS, so while I had played Super Smash Bros. through those generations when visiting friends, the last copy of the game to get its mail sent to my house was Super Smash Bros. Melee, on the GameCube.

In just over six days from its release, I had affirmed a few things:

  • My good-faith reasoning to purchase a Switch on its release date – March 3, 2017 – knowing that a Smash Bros. title was eventually going to happen.
  • That I still love the series and its purely glorious cartoon violence.
  • Ness is still cheap as hell to use and Jigglypuff is still an absolute hammer.
  • I will still react with many swears when unfurling a combo or smashing a fighter off stage/screen. (Or having the same done to me)
  • While I learned that I can get into using a diverse cast of fighters, I’m a Ness Main through and through.

OK, time for a confession: So, I hadn’t started the single-player mode named “World of Light” yet. While that was also a path to unlocking fighters, I wanted to play through that mode/story without the pressure of unlocking some Fire Emblem or Starfox fighter that I was hardly going to use just for the sake of completion. My paths to completion are going to be kept separate to optimize replayability, dang it!

Now, my Switch tells me that I fought 210 battles using Ness and 80 more using Simon Belmont of Castlevania fame, who became my unlock ace when tasked with needing a second, third or lord knows how many tries to unlock a new fighter.

But this is about learning to love other fighters, so without further delay … I present to you, The Grindies. An award show that can only come off the top of my head with the knowledge and experience that is earned through spending the better part of a whole week, obsessively battling through and unlocking every fighter that Nintendo won’t eventually make me pay to use. These are my opinions and only my opinions, but you should impress your friends and make them your opinions, too. 

Again, without further delay …:

Category: The absolute worst to unlock.

The Grindie goes to … Incineroar.

Yes, the most recent is the worst, but with justification. It took me more than a few instances of getting tossed around like a rag doll to learn that I can’t just stand and brawl. Even when I had figured out a solid strategy, I’d get caught once and hammered into oblivion like the damage I had inflicted barely mattered. Sending him off the screen in roughly my 487th try was akin to beating BattleToads or winning the Stanley Cup on NHL ’94 with Ottawa.

Also nominated: Olimar, Dr. Mario and Roy.

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Category: Most satisfying unlock.

The Grindie goes to … Ness.

Seriously, anyone who knows that I’m a true mark for EarthBound (or Mother 2 in Japan) will have it figured out as to why I’m a Ness Main for life. Aside from being incredibly cheap once you know how to properly spam attacks, Ness is the protagonist from EarthBound and helped save the world in 199X, as per the Mother series canon. So he’ll smash you with a yo-yo and save the world … Would love to see Ryu do that.

Also nominated: Lucas (from Mother 3), Jigglypuff and Inkling.   

Category: I’d main with you.

The Grindie goes to … Simon Belmont.

As mentioned, Simon kind of became my unlock ace when I was done trying to figure out how to combat the more difficult fighters to add to my select screen. He’s not necessarily overpowered, at least at the levels of Bayonetta, but dude’s got a whip and if you time/spam that attack correctly … You might win a few battles without an opponent even getting a chance to lay a finger on you.

Also nominated: Corrin, Daisy and Diddy Kong.

Category: Why exactly are you here?

The Grindie goes to … Bowser Jr.

I’m pretty sure that Bowser doesn’t even like Bowser Jr. While there are many fighters that I might use once or twice just to get a feel for, Bowser Jr. – or the many variants of Bowser’s children that you can select like you would an alternate costume – just feels like he’s there because reasons. He’s cheap, but not all that effective if you have enough skill to beat the CPU past a level of 2.

Also nominated: Any Fire Emblem character not named Corrin, any StarFox character (fight me) and R.O.B.

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Category: Wish you were here.

The Grindie goes to … Tecmo Bo Jackson.

Fellow sports gamers, admit it: You’d wreck all sorts of shop if given Tecmo Bo Jackson on Super Smash Bros. Tecmo Bo was Smash Bros. before Smash Bros. was an actual thing. The visage of the then-Los Angeles Raiders running back hammering through defenses and even dragging those lucky enough to catch him is enough to generate warm memories or cold-sweat nightmares for anyone who had Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES. The NFL licensing can be worked around if Bo is given a slightly altered uniform to fight in and I feel like Bo Jackson would love the idea that his video-game likeness could be used to truck Pac-Man or Mario on his way to Smash glory. Smash has given us Pac-Man, Mega Man and Sonic … Now give us a crossover that we’d all embrace.

Also nominated: Pablo Sanchez and I guess I’m required to say Waluigi. 

 

Category: Best assist trophy.

The Grindie goes to … Nintendogs.

OK, the Nintendogs assist trophy – a curious puppy who gets close to the “camera” overlooking the fight area – won’t help you fight like others do … But he’s such a good boy. Such a good boy. Look at those ears! Do you want scratchies? Look at the good boy! Who’s a good boy! You’re the good boy! … Oh … I’ve been waylaid off the screen. No matter, 13/10 … Would lose again.

Also nominated: I guess I’m required to say Waluigi.

Category: If only there was …

The Grindie goes to … A Smash Bros. league mode.

OK, so this would be a sweet addition to the game. In my head, it would form to be almost like a World Cup of sorts with round-robin play breaking into bracket fighting. The tournaments feature is a step in the right direction, but a fully immersive league with a season would be fantastic fun. 

Also nominated: I guess I’m required to say Waluigi.

 

It’s Time for the Best Dressed Game in Football

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via CBS Sports

Each season, college football saves its final weekend of regular season football for one of the game’s most iconic rivalries. Dating back to 1890, the Army/Navy game has been a staple of the college football calendar, with the two sides meeting a total of 118 times. Navy leads the all-time series, but recently, Army has been the one celebrating victory between the United States most prestigious military academies.

There are several traditions surrounding the contest, many dating back decades that highlight this fierce rivalry. One of the most iconic traditions is following the conclusion of the game when both teams remain on the field to sing their respective alma maters. What makes this tradition noteworthy is the winning school always sings second, while the losing side goes first.

One of the more recent traditions that has become a staple of this century long rivalry has been the uniform battle between the sides. Every year, both Army and Navy release a special uniform set to be worn for the game, with the new threads honoring the history of the respective service academies. For example, last season Army honored the historic 10th Mountain Division while Navy paid tribute to the legendary Blue Angels flight team.

Today, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Army and Navy will meet on the gridiron for the 199th time. Those decades long traditions will all be on display from pregame to the alma maters at the end. Included in those traditions once again is the fashion matchup between the two prestigious institutions with each side bringing the goods for fans to enjoy.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what both Army and Navy have to offer when they meet on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.


Navy

Starting off with the designated visiting team, the Navy Midshipmen representing the Naval Academy from Annapolis, Maryland.

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via @NavyAthletics

As the away side Navy will be wearing the standard road white color accented with the traditional blue and gold colors of the Naval Academy. You will surely notice their logo is prominently displayed on both the helmet and shoes. The uniform is a nod to “Bill the Goat” the official mascot of the Midshipmen.

Bill the Goat is also an actual goat that is housed on the Naval Academy campus and will in all likelihood be making the trip to Philadelphia for the contest. Bill is one of the marquee symbols associated with the Navy football program and it feels right that he is finally getting his due.

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via @NavyAthletics

While the helmet and the shoes will be the most obvious places to look if you want to see the logo during the game, Navy will also place the logo on players’ gloves. Each glove will feature a part of the logo but when put together will display it in its entirety.

This uniform set is a great tribute to one of the most iconic symbols associated with the Naval Academy but the uniform still contains several other more traditional elements of the Navy football program. Along the the traditional Navy colors,  the Navy “N*” is visible on the shoulders with the globe and anchor logo being placed on the left hip.

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via @NavyAthletics

Bill the Goat has a long history, dating back well over 100 years, outdating the rivalry itself. His story and how he came to be a symbol of the Navy is best explained by the Academy itself.

“The Navy Goat mascot came to be in 1893 when officers from the USS New York, a United States Naval transport ship, gifted a goat named El Cid to the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy appointed this goat the honorary mascot for the fourth-ever Army-Navy game, in which Navy beat Army in a momentous victory. To commemorate the win, the goat was appointed team mascot and became a valued symbol of the Navy football program.”

To find out more history about Bill the Goat or the uniforms themselves, you can head on over the Navy Athletics website where they have a good explainer on the mascot and what went into the making of this year’s uniform design.


Army

Switching sidelines, we turn our attention to the Army Black Knights representing the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

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via @GoArmy

Black is a traditional part of the Army football color scheme but red is most certainly not. However, there is a very good reason for it being a prominent part of this year’s Army uniforms.

Known as the Big Red One, the Army 1st Infantry Division was the first permanent division of the United States Army and played a vital role in helping end the First World War a century ago. Honoring the legacy of the 1st Infantry Division and their efforts in ending the Great War, Army will wear these special Big Red One uniforms when they take on Navy later today in Philadelphia.

The most distinguishable part signifying the Big Red One on the uniforms is the division insignia located on the crown of the helmets in the form of a red colored “1” along with the words “BIG RED ONE” on the right side of the chest.

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via @ArmyWP_Football

On the both shoulders of these special Army uniforms you can see a black lion type design that is given a high gloss effect to stick out from the normal black the uniform consists of. This symbol is highly significant to the 1st Infantry Division as it pay homage to the “Black Lions of Cantigny” who were the first United States regiment to win a decisive victory during the country’s involvement World War I.

Another nod to the Division’s efforts during WWI can be seen on the back of the helmets being worn against Navy, where a WWI era flag decal will be featured. This flag features 48 stars, the number of states at the time of the conflict in 1918.

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via @ArmyWP_Football
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via @ArmyWP_Football

In total, seven regiments making up the 1st Infantry Division will be honored with special emblems are branch insignia worn by the players on the field. These emblems can be seen on the neckline of the Army uniforms.

It took almost three years of fighting before the United States became involved in the Great War, but when President Woodrow Wilson made the decision to send troops to Europe to fight, the Big Red One was formed.

“President Woodrow Wilson promised the Allies he would send “a division” to France immediately, but the Army had no such divisions. The United States quickly ordered four infantry and three artillery regiments from the Mexican border in Texas to Hoboken, N.J., to board transports to France. That group of seven regiments joined together to officially form the “1st Expeditionary Division,” later the 1st Infantry Division, under Brigadier General William L. Sibert on June 12, 1917.  With more than 28,000 men, the “Big Red One,” as the division was later nicknamed from its shoulder sleeve insignia, was twice the size of either the allied or German divisions on the Western Front.”

To unveil the uniforms, Army dropped a slick video recreating a battle scene from the trenches of World War I in France.

To learn more about the 1st Infantry Division and the uniforms created to honor them, Army created an entire website dedicated to the Big Red One, detailing the history and significance of America’s first permanent military division.


When Army and Navy meet later this afternoon in Philadelphia, it will mean much more than just who wins and who loses. The young men playing will someday be fighting on the front lines to protect all that we hold dear as Americans.

For 60 minutes, they will do battle with one another while dressed to honor those who came before them. Someday in the near future, the battle will no longer be amongst one another, but against an enemy who wishes to bring only harm to them and their country.

These young men are the future military leaders of our great country and will be sacrificing their lives to protect our freedoms, they earned this day. That’s what makes this game so special. Consider taking even a small amount of time during your Saturday afternoon to tune in and check out one of the greatest sporting spectacles the game of football has to offer.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 PM and the game will be broadcast live on CBS.

Best of luck to both the Cadets and Midshipmen. May the best Academy win. Don’t forget, winner sings second.