A Salute to Cheap Characters

A bizarre love letter to the game breakers: from the spam monsters to the unassuming joke characters who become deadly in the right hands.

By Mel Turnquist. Posted 08/15/2014 13:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

They’re the bane of the diehard gamer’s existence. They’re the harbingers of frustration, the maidens of annoyance, the reason for thrown controllers and ruined friendships. These are the cheap characters, a much reviled aspect of video games that comes in many varieties. Others have talked about how terrible they are and why they should never be used. But how about we take a look at them and appreciate their existence instead? For all their cheapness and annoyance-bringing, they do serve as a valuable aspect to gaming, whether or not you want to believe it.

So what constitutes a cheap character? That’s in the eye of the beholder.

Some define a cheap character as a character who is ridiculously overpowered. Playing against the character is like bringing a knife into a gunfight. This is a character who is regularly banned in fighting game tournaments due to its unfairness. Some of these characters include Akuma in the Street Fighter series and Meta Knight in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. You could also include the Dragon-type Pokémon in any Pokémon game prior to Pokémon X and Y who got some grounding to earth thanks to the creation of Fairy-type Pokémon.

Others look to a character who may not be overpowered, but has that one move that is harmless upon first blush but are dangerous to face due to their extreme spammability. I tend to call these ones Spam Monsters. This is usually the type of character that a lot of newer players tend to choose. It’s not a bad idea for them to use these characters since they tend to be easier to handle, but they can be super annoying to play against. From Pit’s Angel Ring move in Super Smash Bros. Brawl to Balrog and his dashing punches, these are the moves that cheapen a character worse than anything else, regardless of how good they may be otherwise.

And then, there are the unassuming cheap characters. These are guys/girls that are considered straight up joke characters. They’re terrible stat-wise, they’re not much fun to play with for most, but in the right hands, they’re dangerous. A lot of folks who figure out these characters use it to their advantage. Through this can come some awesome moments but mostly a smattering of cheapness that makes its way through. These type of characters include Dan Hibiki, Jigglypuff (in Smash Bros.), and Wobbuffet in Pokémon. This may not seem so cheap to some folks, but the troll factor that some folks go by would consider them cheap.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl Pit vs Link

So despite all of the badmouthing that tends to go alongside these characters, you must be thinking to yourself that I must be nuts to defend them. Perhaps I am nuts to defend them, but I will still do so. I think that these cheap characters have their place in these games regardless if it’s a fighting game, a first-person shooter, an RPG, or any other genre that tends to carry these type of characters. I’d concede that they should be banned in serious-business gaming tournaments, but that doesn’t mean that they should be banned altogether. We can’t have Stop Having Fun Guys take over our gaming experiences, anyway.

First off, these cheap characters are actually nice introduction characters for a lot of newer players. For those who want to learn the game’s mechanics without succumbing to loss after loss after loss, using the ridiculously overpowered characters is actually a good way to navigate through the game a few times through before you are able to get the hang of it. Fire Emblem actually does a really good job of this. In the beginning, you’re given one guy who is already very overpowered who serves as a tank as you level up the rest of your characters. Frederick and Seth serve as these characters. However, the developers were wise to have his leveling bottom out just in time for the rest of your characters to be up to par. This is a great way to reel in newer players. That being said, sticking with that cheap character throughout the whole thing is a legitimate concern. After all, it’s more fun when you challenge yourself once you know what you’re doing.

Also, the cheap characters are excellent tools for trolling, especially to that one person who is being such a braggart about their skills. In the department of the mundane, there are very few things in life more satisfying than wiping the smirk off someone’s face by owning them with a cheap character. Seeing them do the monkey dance and throw a little fit over it is not only hilarious but also a nice way to take them down a notch in humility. This is not something I condone doing at all times, but let’s face it– there are those jerks out there who need to be cut down to size. And they’re going to get mad anyways– why not just use a cheap character to make it worth your while? Bonus points if it’s a supposed joke character.

The biggest reason why I think cheap characters are worthwhile is quite simple. It’s supposed to be fun. Video games aren’t supposed to be serious business, with the exception of legitimate tournaments. They’re made to entertain, to de-stress, to basically just be fun. Cheap characters may frustrate some but it’s part of the package. Why on earth should we cater to the rules of the No Fun Police in the comfort of our own consoles or handheld devices? Cheap characters add a little variety to the game and make things much more interesting. Besides, how boring is it if you only play one certain way the entire way through? Enjoy the cheap characters for what they are!

So here’s to the cheap characters. Whether they’re lethal joke characters, spam monsters, or ridiculously overpowered. Even if they’re not suitable for serious tournaments, they at least keep the gaming experience more interesting. And after all, why shouldn’t gaming be fun and interesting?

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