25 years ago

Mr. Game & Watch had seen better days. Lots of better days. Days that involved him rescuing people from burning buildings or running a service station or delivering presents by jumping across floating turtles. All of those odd jobs were better than being smashed flat by a megalomaniacal glove by far. Not that being smashed flat was much of a bother when one is already two-dimensional, but the handheld veteran was definitely hurting.

"That was simply too easy." Master Hand gloated, a trickle of laughter mixing with his cold, inhuman voice. "You are old, Game & Watch. Your simple tricks cannot defeat me."

He lifted Mr. Game & Watch into his palm in victory. "You'd need an army to defeat me. And I know that you have no such thing at your disposal. Consider it a personal favour to you that I let you live. After all…" he murmured, "…I've always been a fan." He then flicked the venerable hero into the abyss with nothing more than one finger. A last burst of sadistic laughter followed as the Flatzone native hit bottom.

Mr. Game & Watch dusted himself off. He let out a pained beep as he cracked his back. What could he do? It had taken all of his strength just to fight his way to the Final Destination, and by then he was in no shape for a battle. Master Hand was right. There was no way he could take him on all by himself. It would take several allies – and powerful ones, too.

A thought crossed his mind. As the Ancient, he held the keys to the various dimensions of the Nintendoverse. Dare he use them? The dimensions had never been breached before… but these were desperate times.

And desperate times call for desperate measures.

"I have a bad feeling about this, Mario." Luigi shuddered, looking around nervously. "Are you sure this is the place?"

"That's what the note says." Mario nodded, looking around. By all appearances, this part of the Mushroom Kingdom was no different from any other, but their invitation specified this particular set of co-ordinates, and judging by the tone of the letter, they couldn't afford to turn it down.

"Donkey gettin' hungry." Donkey Kong grunted as he stood beside them. "Hope they got bananas where we goin'."

"Yoshi!" Yoshi nodded in cheery agreement, licking his lips.

This quartet had been invited, by name, to a meeting that was of the "utmost importance". Whoever had sent the invitation to the Mushroom Kingdom had refused to disclose his or her identity, but the note nonetheless made it plain that this was no joking matter, and that all would be explained upon their arrival. And so they stood in the middle of an ordinary-looking field, waiting for whatever it was to pick them up.

"…Maybe we're too late." Luigi suggested. "You'd think that we'd have…"

Suddenly a cool, unearthly wind washed over the area. Dark clouds swirled, blocking the sun, and the ground began to tremble. And then, before their very eyes, a shimmering portal appeared; a gateway to another world.

"I'm guessing this is our ride." Mario said at last. "C'mon, guys! Let's go!" he leaped into the portal.

"What? You're just going to…" Luigi stammered, even as Donkey Kong and Yoshi hopped in.

"C'mon, Luigi!" Mario's voice echoed from beyond the portal. "You're gonna miss your ride!"

Luigi shivered slightly, but then he closed his eyes and dove into the portal just before it closed. "I really don't think this is a good idea…" he muttered as he disappeared, leaving his plane of reality far, far behind. As soon as Luigi was gone, the portal shimmered and vanished, leaving behind no trace of the four heroes.

An eternity flashed by within a heartbeat, and the quartet suddenly found themselves in the middle of a surreal series of metal structures drifting in space. "What is this place?" Mario asked.

POW! Suddenly a flaming fist shot forth, knocking Luigi off his feet. The four turned and saw a tall, muscular man standing before them, clad in a racing suit with a stylish helmet and visor. "I've been dragged halfway across the galaxy into this nutty place, and I don't even know why." He snarled. "And this is just the thing to help me loosen up the old tensions. Now get up! I'm going to get some answers around here, even if I have to beat them out of you!"

SOCK! A boot to the face sent Captain Falcon staggering backwards. "Lay off my brother, mister." Mario warned as he flipped backwards and landed back on his feet.

"Oh, you want some, too?" Falcon retorted, rubbing his jaw. He bolted forward, tackling Mario to the ground. "Glad to oblige, shorty!"

Donkey Kong, Yoshi and Luigi would have joined the battle, but more fighters kept popping up, seemingly out of nowhere. And none of them seemed to trust anyone else.

Donkey Kong suddenly found himself on his back, a boot pressed against his throat and a blaster pistol trained between his eyes. "Speak quickly, monkey." Fox McCloud hissed. "Who's behind all this? Where's Andross?"

"ARRRRGGHH!" the big ape roared, grabbing Fox by his ankle and throwing him aside before the vulpine mercenary could react. Fox rolled as he hit the ground, firing from a crouched position.

Yoshi spun around and found himself tied up with some sort of chain. A green-clad warrior stood before him, a long elegant blade aimed at his throat. "What manner of beast are you, dragon?" Link demanded. "If you choose to engage me, you shall fall."

"Yum!" Yoshi purred, snagging the sword with his tongue and yanking it out of Link's grip. The Hylian hero tackled Yoshi to the ground as the two began grappling for the sword.

Luigi backed away from the fights nervously, only for a large, round, pink creature to suddenly jump at him. "Jiggly!" it squealed.

"YAAAAAGHHH!" Luigi screamed in terror as he fainted dead away.

"Puff!" Jigglypuff fumed, until she looked up and saw a similar-looking pink creature riding overhead on a shooting star. "Jiggly!" she cooed, jumping up and grabbing hold of the star as it flew by. Unfortunately, this extra weight caused the both of them to crash to the ground.

"Pika!" A small yellow rodent screamed, summoning a crashing thunderbolt down upon the area.

"Hey, whoa!" A small boy answered in kind, using some strange mental power to dissipate the electricity.

Captain Falcon had Mario by the lapels, when he felt somebody tapping his shoulder. As he turned to see who it was, he ended up with a metal fist smashing into his face. He glared at the unfamiliar sight of Samus Aran glaring back at him. "You got a death wish, pal?" Falcon asked. "Bring it on!"

"CEASE!" a mechanical voice suddenly demanded. All 12 characters stopped the fight and turned to see an odd-looking robot before them. It had a flat, rectangular head sporting two glowing circular eyes, and its forked arms were held in front of its squat body. "I speak on behalf of the one who has summoned you here, and I shall explain all. I am R.O.B."

Fox McCloud gave the robot a curious look.

"I assure you that the name is a mere coincidence, Captain McCloud of Lylat." R.O.B. replied.

"Hey, wait. How do you know my name?" Fox demanded.

"My employer knows you all." R.O.B. replied. "Yourself… Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Donkey Kong of the Mushroom Kingdom… Link of Hyrule… Samus Aran of Zebes… Kirby of Popstar… Pikachu and Jigglypuff of Kanto… Ness of Onett… and the famed Captain Douglas Jay Falcon of the F-Zero racing circuit… all of you are, in a sense, his children. He has watched you from your earliest adventures, and that is why he has hand-chosen the twelve of you to save the universe in this most trying hour."

"Hmm." Mario's sense of heroism had been piqued. "What's the situation, R.O.B.?"

R.O.B.'s eyes glowed gently, projecting an image of a monstrous gloved hand before them all. "This is the Master Hand. He seeks nothing less than the total dominion of all known universes. He is vastly powerful, but you twelve have the capacity to defeat him. You must work together to overcome him." There was a general stir of consternation by this point.

"I'm not so sure about this…" Luigi muttered.

"I'm not a team player." Falcon sneered.

"I distrust this strange machine." Link declared.

"You expect me to fight alongside a monkey?" Fox was incredulous.

"I don't do charity cases." Samus grumbled, the first time any of them had heard her speak.

"Pika?" Pikachu asked.

"Hey, hey, hey! C'mon!" Mario suddenly piped up. "If the only way we can beat this Master Hand is together, what's the point of arguing about it, right?"

"Who died and made you king, Moustache?" Captain Falcon challenged.

"Nobody." Mario shrugged. "But let's be reasonable, guys. Once Master Hand finds out about us, he'll want to destroy us anyway, right? So let's hit him hard when we have surprise on our side, so we can all go home! We've got a shot at him, so why don't we take it?"

The dozen heroes paused to think.

"What you say is logical." Link admitted.

"This is our best chance to save the day." Ness added.

"Let's get this over with." Samus nodded.

"Oh, fine." Falcon snorted. "But I'm not in this for anybody but me, you got that?"

"Sure thing." Mario nodded. "Let's go!"

And the twelve warriors headed down the long path to the Final Destination, where the Master Hand lay in wait.

Even a quarter-century later, Luigi remembered that day well. Mario's little speech was far from inspirational, but he had a knack for bringing folks together under a common cause. That day they had started out as suspicious strangers, and ended their journey as… friends. Partners. Teammates. Brothers. Super Smash Brothers. And now everything seemed to have come full circle. Once he had been the most reluctant, fearful Smash Brother of the lot. Now, God help him, he was expected to lead them into battle.

They were standing before Smash Central, now, in the centre of that lonely metal construct that gently floated through the endless astral sea. The tranquillity of the place of would not last much longer. Came the dawn, and Giga Bowser would arrive.

Everybody was lined up, bold and ready. Samus was poised and deadly, her weapons ready to fire at an instant's notice. Raichu was wearing those ski goggles on her forehead, bouncing up and down on her heels as electricity primed her muscles for action. Yoshi looked from side to side anxiously. Popo looked utterly miserable without Nana at his side, but he wasn't about to give up. Link and Zelda stood somewhat close to each other; unnoticed by the others, Zelda slipped her hand into Link's and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Young Link looked weary but ready for a fight. Fox was calm, Falco bored, and Kit determined, if slightly nervous. Roy had his sword out in a defensive position. Toad was shadow-boxing. Diddy sat impatiently astride Rambi, who snorted and panted with an equal lack of patience. And Doshin towered over everybody, a gentle smile on his face. If he knew he was about to fight to the death, he certainly didn't look it.

And, far from the action but still involved, were Dr. Mario, Mr. Game & Watch, Professor E. Gadd, and Fawful. They would be the witnesses of this final clash between the…

"I knew you would show up this time. It's so typical of you all."

Luigi spun around in shock. Suddenly, Giga Bowser had just… appeared. He hadn't appeared in a flash or an explosion, and he hadn't dropped from the sky and caused the area to shake. All of a sudden, he was just… there. The other Smashers were shocked as well, but they refused to panic. Panicking would be playing into Giga Bowser's designs. They had to stand firm.

Terror gripped Luigi to his very core in a way it hadn't in 15 years. Everything he had ever feared was now back, live, in person, and in living colour. Giga Bowser was bigger, stronger, and somehow even more terrifying than he had been a year previous. Bowser, while frightening, always had a boorish sort of charm about him. No such luck here. This was a heartless, homicidal monster plucked, literally, from Mario and Luigi's darkest nightmares.

Nightmares… many years earlier, Luigi, Mario, Peach and Toad had been attacked by a nightmare demon known as the Ninji. The Ninji had trapped them in a world of dreams, a living nightmare. The world was crawling with hideous creatures; ghoulish phantom masks, flame-breathing three-headed serpents, raven-faced sentinels, and sentient fireballs. The four of them nearly lost their minds to the darkness, but their willpower had proved stronger than the Ninji had expected, and they fought back. Their fight culminated with a showdown with Wart, a subconscious reconstruction of Bowser. Upon destroying him, they freed their minds from the Ninji's influence, clearing their minds of the horrors within. It later surfaced that Bowser had sent the Ninji to haunt them as revenge for his first defeat, which explained the presence of some of Bowser's minions within the world of Subcon.

And speaking among the Smash Brothers years later, it was revealed that Link had also experienced an adventure in his dreams. And so had Kirby. But when you fight your nightmares, it is always an internal battle, and one that you must fight alone. Fighting your nightmares without? And with innocents at stake? How could anybody prepare for anything like that?

The reality of the situation hit Luigi like cold water to the face. I can't do this. He realized at last. I just can't. When it comes down to it, I just can't do this. I'm not Mario, and I never will be Mario. Mario could handle this. Luigi can't.

While Luigi was gradually crumbling, the other Smashers stared as Giga Bowser greeted them, coyly. "My, so many Super Smash Brothers have turned out to welcome me! You've even recruited some fresh blood, I see! Things have changed, haven't they? Is your eye alright, Link? Pichu? Is that you? My, you've grown! I hope your leg isn't causing you much pain, Dr. Mario!"

"Enough pleasantries." Samus growled. "Let's get him right now."

"Well, that's just it, Samus." Giga Bowser replied. "There are so many of you against only one of me… so, I decided to make this more fair. Tatanga! Come forth!"

"Greetingz!" Tatanga cackled as he popped out of nowhere.

"I trust you are all familiar with Tatanga, the Mysterious Spaceman?" Giga Bowser gloated. "I invited him to join me because, as you may know, he commands the Four Legendary Elemental Kings. Introduce the Smashers to your friends, will you, Tatanga?" he asked.

"It would be a pleazure, Lord Giga Bowzer." Tatanga snivelled. The starry sky darkened ominously.

"Fire!" Tatanga yelled. Suddenly, a massive flame-breathing lion-headed Sphinx appeared from a wall of blame. King Totomesu roared, causing the area to tremble as his ponderous body crouched for battle.

"Water!" Tatanga shouted, summoning a vicious-looking seahorse beast upon the crest of a tsunami. King Dragonzamazu raised his head and uttered a garbled ululating screech.

"Earth!" Tatanga continued, heralding the arrival of King Hiyoihoi, who exploded from the ground in a shower of stones. The massive Easter Island statue made no sound, but his towering presence spoke volumes.

"Air!" Tatanga cried. From deepest space came King Biokinton, his true form shrouded in clouds. He hovered above the battlefield nervously.

"And, of courze… Zteel!" Tatanga concluded, leaping up into the cockpit of Pegazu, his hovering cannon-studded spaceship. "I love you, Pegazu." He cackled maniacally.

Throughout this terrifying spectacle, nobody noticed Luigi creeping his way to the back, barely able to even stand up. Two decades of lurking fears had become screaming, tangible reality. If he stayed here he would die. What right did he have to lead the Super Smash Brothers into certain death? He couldn't do it. He just couldn't do it. Better he wasn't here at all.

"What are you doing, Luigi?" Toad whispered him, startling him out of his self-flagellation.

"Tell them I'm sorry, Toad." He choked out. "Tell them they're better off without me. This isn't my place to lead them. Mario could do it, but I couldn't."

Luigi crouched down, tears streaking down his face. He waved his arms and summoned a green warp pipe from the ground. He would jump down and hole up in a world far, far, far from here. He would exile himself from the Nintendoverse forever for his failure. The Super Smash Brothers would be better off without him anyway.

Luigi was just about to jump in when another of Giga Bowser's rants caught his ear. Even as he tried to ignore it, the sheer audacity of it was something he could not brush off.

"Isn't it sad to see the absentees amongst the once proud ranks of the Super Smash Brothers?" Giga Bowser lamented with a mock sadness in his voice. "So many good Smash Brothers have gone to their graves since last we met…"

Luigi felt something rise within him. He was not going to have Giga Bowser desecrate Mario's memory like this. He didn't venture into several foreign cities around the globe to rescue Mario from Bowser for this. He didn't enter a haunted mansion crawling with evil spirits for this. The thoughts actually strengthened his resolve, when he really thought about it. I did do all that without Mario's help, didn't I?

"…So, I decided to bring along approximations of all the deceased Smashers." Giga Bowser continued. "I can fill in for dear old Bowser, of course, and I have brought along facsimiles of the others."

Luigi blinked. Facsimiles? He didn't mean…

"Show 'em what you're made of, Mario!" Giga Bowser commanded, and a hideous Mario doppelganger, made of a watery paint substance, flipped onto the scene, carrying his magic paintbrush.

"So THAT'S what happened to that silly old paintbrush!" Professor Gadd muttered to himself.

"Check this out, losers!" Shadow Mario taunted, waving the paintbrush around. From it came five blobs of paint that coalesced and, before the Smash Brothers' very eyes, began to transform into replicas of the other fallen Smashers.

"This Kong's… one heck… of a guy…" the fake Donkey Kong slurred.

"Pi… ka… chu…" the artificial Pikachu rasped.

"Show me… yer moves…" the pseudo-Captain Falcon muttered.

"Humans and Pokémon can NEVER be friends." the paint-borne Mewtwo droned.

"Hahahahahahahaha!" Laughed the imitation Ganondorf.

"I'm a Pokémon Master!" Croaked out an ugly kid with a baseball cap who stood next to Pikachu and flashed the peace sign.

Giga Bowser glared in annoyance.

"Heh… ignore that last one." Shadow Mario muttered, smacking the kid with the paintbrush handle, transforming him back into a paint splatter.

Luigi clenched his fists in anger. Despite his fear, there was no way he could run away now. He would not allow his late friends to be mocked so. He sent the pipe back underground. Maybe he'd die here, but he didn't care. This was something he simply had to do.

"I think now our numbers are a little more fair." Giga Bowser gloated. "It's more of… a melee, if you will. Ready to begin?"

"Well, Fearless Leader?" Falco asked.

"Let's go!" Luigi shouted.

"You guys take care of the peanut gallery here." Samus muttered, locking down her weapon systems. "Leave Giga Bowser to me. I've got a score to settle."

"We all do, Samus, but…" Luigi began, but already the sullen bounty hunter had sprang into the air, curled up into a tight sphere, and rocketed towards Giga Bowser like a living projectile. "Okay, fine." He conceded, knowing that at this point there was no arguing with her. He turned to the others and spoke quickly. "Doshin, you watch her back. Link, I'll leave the paint Ganondorf to you. Zelda, try to rescue Peach. Roy and Young Link can handle that rock monster. Diddy and Popo should take on that lion. Raichu, take on the cloud creature. Yoshi, try to get that paintbrush away from Shadow Mario. The Star Fox team can take on Tatanga. Toad, get Pikachu. Leave the rest up to me."

The paint abominations approached, cackling malevolently. "Go! Now!" Luigi yelled. At his command, the Smashers sprang into action as only they could.

Doshin lumbered forward, a gleeful grin on his face, as he raced off to aid against Giga Bowser. "Show me yer… GAAAAAHHHH!" the paint Captain Falcon croaked as the golden giant stomped on him on his way by, reducing him to a sorry little paint splatter.

Samus Aran burst back to her true form at Giga Bowser's massive feet. The two rivals stared each other down. "Remember me, you filthy sac of biological waste?" Samus snarled.

"Of course I do." Giga Bowser mocked. "How could I forget the one who sobbed like a little girl when my minion killed that imbecile Falcon?"

"I was wondering when you'd bring him up." Samus spat. "Let's go see him right now. I'll show you the way."

Just then Doshin the Giant arrived, his massive form matching even the gargantuan Koopa's. In all, he looked more a match for the evil turtle.

"Bah." Giga Bowser snapped, tossing a black 64DD to the ground. "Jashin! Take care of this pest!" he commanded.

There was a flash of light, and suddenly a second giant was standing on the battlefield. He rather resembled Doshin, although his skin was red and he had the look of a demon about him. He grinned savagely and tackled his kind yellow counterpart to the ground.

Doshin's smile vanished rapidly.

"Looks like your giant will be busy during this fight." Giga Bowser taunted.

"I don't need him or anybody else. I never have, and I never will." Samus declared, springing towards her opponent. "Let's end this right now!"

"I'm going to enjoy this." Giga Bowser replied, matching her attack in kind.

"Charge!" Diddy Kong hollered, astride his trusty rhinoceros. Rambi let out a thunderous roar as he lowered his head and crashed forward.

"You stand no chance against me. I am the ultimate…" the paint Mewtwo began before the pugnacious pachyderm's deadly horn splattered him to Kingdom Come.

"Hey! Wait for me!" Popo huffed, trotting behind as Diddy continued his rampage towards King Totomesu. There was a roar, a crash, and suddenly an unconscious rhino went hurtling over his head, landing with a thud at the steps of Smash Central. Diddy, luckier than Rambi, had jumped clear to avoid Totomesu's mighty blow at the last second, activating his jetpack and rocketing clear. He swooped down and fired at the flame-breathing griffin, but to little effect. Only a quick aerial manoeuvre saved him from being roasted alive.

"I can beat that thing!" Popo said to himself. His icy abilities were the best bet to defeat such a fiery foe. "Diddy, hang on! I'm coming!" he shouted. If only Nana were here, he'd…

"GAYAYAYAYAYASHAAAAA!" King Dragonzamazu shrieked suddenly, blasting towards the little Inuit in hopes of downing an easy target.

"Aaaaah!" Popo screamed as the massive seahorse's mighty jaws closed around him. "I'm not giving up that easily!" he declared from inside the beast's mouth. He had to keep on fighting, if not for his own life, for everybody else's.

Feeling an odd sensation from within his mouth, Dragonzamazu froze. Literally. A thick coating of ice suddenly snaked its way across his body, rendering him immobile. Unable to even stay upright, the frozen behemoth fell to the ground with a crash. One blow from Popo's mallet knocked the beast's jaws open, allowing the male Ice Climber to clamber out. "Phew. I did it." He huffed before jogging hurriedly towards his primary target.

"Ho boy. I'm in trouble." Diddy muttered as his jetpack began to sputter and lose altitude. King Totomesu's volley of flaming projectiles were bearing even closer, scorching the very air around him.

"Diddy! Hang on!" Popo yelled as he approached the firefight. A glancing blow knocked out Diddy's thrusters, sending him plummeting to the ground, smoke trailing from behind him.

"PIKAAAAAA!" a voice shouted. Without warning, a bolt of lightning blasted into the little Ice Climber, sending him hurtling clean out of the arena. The paint Pikachu snickered in sadistic delight, until Toad ploughed into him at Mach II, splattering him hither and thither.

But it was too late for Popo, as he hurtled out of the arena, and into the cold, endless void of space. Normally, Nana would have thrown a grappling line to him and reeled him to safety. But alone, there was nobody to catch him when he fell. Just endless blackness…

"Yum!" Something warm, wet, and sticky suddenly wound itself tightly around Popo's torso, and he felt himself violently jerked back to solid ground. Popo opened his eyes and found himself entangled in a friendly dinosaur's tongue.

"Thanks, Yoshi." Popo sighed.

"Yoshi!" the cheerful dino chirped in response.

King Totomesu roared victoriously as he prepared to turn Diddy into barbecued ape.

"Yoshi! Throw me!" Popo yelled, getting a sudden idea. In less than two seconds he was gobbled up, instantly digested, and encased inside an egg. It was far from a pleasant experience, but it was all worth it when Yoshi then picked up the egg and hurled it towards the towering griffin with all of his strength.

"Eat ice, you big bully!" Popo yelled as he exploded from his ovoid prison and fired a concentrated stream of ice at his opponent. Totomesu turned a fraction of a second too late… and ended up frozen solid, unable to summon so much as an ember.

"Wow! Thanks, Popo! I owe you one for sure!" Diddy cheered.

"We'll worry about collecting debts later." Popo nodded. "Lets get these goons!" he shouted, holding his mallet aloft as he led Diddy and Yoshi back into battle.

"Blast it! Blow up already!" Falco snarled, unloading another clip of laser fire from his blaster into the hovering Pegazu.

"Falco, save your energy." Fox sighed. "We've been firing at that thing for the last ten minutes now, and we haven't even made a scratch. It must be ray-shielded."

"And Tatanga's aim is getting more and more precise." Kit added. "We're too small to be tracked by his targeting computer, but he nearly got us with that last volley of lasers."

"Eat thiz, meddling animalz!" Tatanga hooted, firing another blast at the three pilots.

"Activate reflector shields!" Fox yelled. The three turned their personal reflectors on as one, the lasers bouncing off harmlessly and scorching the ground.

"That was too close." Falco grumbled. "If only I had an Arwing, I'd show that punk who rules the skies!"

"Falco, you know we can't do that." Fox patiently explained. "Whatever causes this area to connect to so many dimensions wreaks havoc with our flight navigational systems. We wouldn't even be able to get them off the ground."

"Hmm. But what if we didn't have to fly?" Kit suddenly looked thoughtful.

"Looks to me like you're hatching another crazy scheme, kid." Falco replied. "Let's hear it."

Kit pressed a few buttons on the communicator on his wrist. A beam of light ascended from the stars above, and coalesced to form the shape of a shiny new Landmaster tank.

"Whoa! Where'd this come from?" Fox gasped.

"I had Slippy put this thing in orbit in case I needed to call it down." Kit shrugged. "Under the circumstances, I'd say we need this."

"Well, what are we standin' around jawin' for?" Falco leaped up into the top hatch. "Let's show this punk what the Star Fox Team can do!"

The three space heroes hopped into the tank and started the engines. "It will take more than that toy to ztop me!" Tatanga yelled, firing a full blast at the sturdy but slow vehicle.

"Right back at you, Tatanga!" Fox yelled, firing a fully-charged blast with the precision of a practiced marksman. The two laser bursts struck their respective opponents simultaneously. Pegazu shuddered violently before going down in flames. The Landmaster nearly shook itself apart, violently battering its occupants around.

"Is everybody okay?" Fox asked, rubbing the lump on his head.

"Geez! This never happens in the sky!" Falco grumbled, clutching his now broken wing. "This is why I hate ground battles!"

"Well, Tatanga's down." Fox sighed. "Let's see if we can't put this wreck to further use."

"I'd say no, Dad." Kit replied, urgently. "Look!"

Warning lights flashed throughout the tank's interior, and thick, oily smoke was pouring from nearly every crevice. "This thing's gonna blow!" Fox yelled. The three clambered out of their wrecked vehicle and retreated to a safe distance.

"Get out of here, Falco." Fox ordered, brandishing his blaster. "Come on, Kit. Let's keep going!"

"Ah, give me a break, Fox." Falco muttered as he retreated to the sidelines, still holding his broken wing. "I've walked away from worse than that!"

Meanwhile, the badly wounded Landmaster limped its way over to the frozen form of King Totomesu, before finally overloading, taking out the massive sphinx in a flaming inferno.

Princess Peach sat in her spherical prison, her mind in a whirl. Helplessness. It was like a disease to her. She utterly hated, loathed and despised feeling so cripplingly helpless. She had spent far too much of her life sitting around waiting for somebody else to help her. Each time it had happened she had sworn it would be the last time. She thought it would be the last time when she heard of Bowser's death, but once again it happened on the day that Mario was torn from her without her being there to even say goodbye. And now it was happening all over again. Helpless. She hated it with a passion far beyond anything her gentle demeanour would ever indicate.

The Super Smash Brothers were fighting Giga Bowser. They were fighting for their lives. They were fighting for her life. And either way it didn't matter. If they defeated Giga Bowser, she would still be forced to watch one of them die to free her. And if they failed…

Do not despair, Princess. A soft, deep voice gently touched her mind. If even your unshakeable faith is broken, all is already lost.

Peach blinked. She recognized the voice, but it couldn't possibly be him. "Where are you?" she softly demanded.

Right in front of you, of course. The voice replied. And then, before her eyes, the sphere shimmered slightly, and two angular eyes were staring into hers. Only one creature bore those eyes and that voice. The one creature that Peach despised more than any other.

"Mewtwo." She muttered, her voice cold.

I regret that we meet under these circumstances. The voice echoed sorrowfully in her mind. This was not my…

"Shut up, Mewtwo!" the Princess snapped back. "How dare you even show your face before me? Have you come to gloat about what you did?" Before Mewtwo could respond, she continued her verbal assault. "You killed the Koopas! You killed hundreds of others! You took over Donkey Kong's mind and killed him! You killed Pikachu! You killed Mario, Mewtwo! You killed Mario and stole him away from me!" the normally demure princess was near hysterical. "You stole everything that made my life worth living! When you took Mario from me, Luigi retreated and became like a stranger to me! Daisy lost her faith and ended up joining the very villains she once fought! You even took the joy out of running my kingdom! And now, if the Smash Brothers win, you're going to kill one of them just to free me! What more can you steal from me, Mewtwo?" she demanded. "You can't break me anymore! You've already shattered me beyond repair!"

Princess, I… Mewtwo softly replied.

"I hate you, Mewtwo." Peach whispered softly. "I've loved everybody I've ever met to some degree – even Bowser – but I hate you with everything in my heart. I'll never forgive you for what you've done. Ever."

Mewtwo made no response. The eyes before her were only a psychic manifestation, and thus could shed no tears. The two sat in uncomfortable silence until finally Peach's curiosity could no longer be denied. "Why did you do it?" she asked, her voice broken. "Why did you do all of this?"

She saw the eyes appear to soften for a moment. My knowledge is incomparable. His psychic voice finally replied. But for all my knowledge it is clear that I lacked the wisdom to match it. I thought that throwing my lot in with Giga Bowser would help me reach my potential. Instead, it only made me more a monster than ever before.

"What…?" Peach asked.

Shortly after we defeated him, he contacted me in secret. Mewtwo explained. He fed my ego with the possibility of accumulating cosmic power. He used my psychic abilities to feed off of others to strengthen me. In my arrogance, I thought that it would be easy to defeat him once I had reached full power. Instead I was but his pawn. By eliminating his assigned targets, I was in fact assuring that there would be none to contest his own power. Including myself.

Peach briefly heard a touch of emotion in the flat, smooth voice. By the time I confronted the Super Smash Brothers, I was mad with power. Everything seemed to be going my way. I was furious that the Smashers opposed what I saw as my birthright, and I attempted to crush them. But for all my might, Giga Bowser had never intended me to win. He knew that I would fall, and that I would take several Smashers with me. It was only when Donkey Kong tore my very spirit apart that I realized I had been betrayed.

"But how did you end up like this?" Peach asked.

I was rent asunder, but Giga Bowser managed to save a small part of my consciousness. The core of who I am. Mewtwo explained. He used magic to transform me into this… abomination, for he has planned this battle many years in advance. I pleaded for him to allow me the release of death, but he has kept me around for his amusement. I am but a powerless husk now, and can only await my inevitable destruction.

"Mewtwo…" Peach whispered.

I am as much a prisoner as you, Princess. Mewtwo concluded. We each receive the fate we deserve. When the spell is broken I shall perish, and you will be free.

"You don't know that, Mewtwo." Peach sighed. "Nobody knows anything anymore."

That is far from the truth, and you know it. Mewtwo rejoined. The Super Smash Brothers will triumph on this day, as they always have. And you shall be freed, Princess. The love your friends have for you is beyond that of any other Smash Brother. You are their very heart, and any of them would lay down their lives for your sake. I am unworthy of such love.

Peach wasn't sure how to respond. She was about to speak again, when suddenly the paint-sentry guarding them burst into flame and exploded, splattering dark goo everywhere. "What…?" Peach gasped.

And then before her eyes was the smiling face of an old friend. "It has been so long, my dear sister-in-arms." The Hyrule monarch whispered.

"Z-Zelda?" Peach nearly wept at the sight of her longtime friend and ally before her.

"Hush." Zelda soothed. "It should not prove difficult to free you from this hideous contrivance. I can..."

"No!" Peach suddenly cried. Zelda looked at her with confusion in her eyes. "Zelda, don't… if you do… it'll kill you, Zelda. It's the only way the spell will be broken. Please, Zelda." Her voice shook. "Not you… I couldn't live with myself if you died because of me…"

Tears trickled down Zelda's cheeks, and yet there was a gentle smile on her face. If it were possible for her to embrace the other woman, she would have. "Princess, I am destined to perish on this day one way or another." She explained. "And if I am to die, I can think of no better way than to give my life for yours. No better way."

"Zelda… I'm not worth it…" Peach pleaded.

"Of course you are, my beloved." Zelda replied. "And I know you would do the same if our positions were reversed."

Suddenly a hideous shadow loomed over both women. "Zelda, look out!" Peach screamed. Giga Bowser now towered over both of them, Samus lying in a crumpled heap behind him.

"Hey, stop talking to my prisoner!" the massive Koopa boomed. "Visiting hours are over!" he punctuated the final word with a blast of flame from his mouth. Zelda would be incinerated for sure if she had not summoned a magical force field to protect her, but even then she was scorched. As Giga Bowser's flames subsided, Zelda took the offensive, repelling the field from her body in a burst of energy, knocking Giga Bowser back slightly. Even this effort caused her head to crackle in pain.

"You've weakened, my pretty thing." Giga Bowser taunted. "The old magic isn't what it used to be, hmm? I, on the other hand, have only become stronger." He lunged forward. "Let's check your reflexes."

The massive Koopa loomed darkly over Zelda, inches from crushing her. She had only one option, and thus she took it. Giga Bowser's impact with the ground caused a massive crater and shook the entire arena, but Zelda was not beneath him, having vanished in a puff of smoke.

And two heartbeats later a Sheikah warrior drove a flying kick into Giga Bowser's forehead.

Three heartbeats after that, Giga Bowser was on his feet, and in half a heartbeat a spiked hand with diamond-sharp claws was swinging towards Sheik's throat. In the other half of the heartbeat, Sheik had dodged the claw with a backward flip, using the momentum to deliver a pinpoint blow to Giga Bowser's solar plexus. The exact instant Sheik's cloth-wrapped feet touched the ground, her chain lashed out at her assailant's feet, just missing a pressure point on the gargantuan turtle's ankle.

To normal people such as Peach, the battle was impossible to visually follow. Giga Bowser was fast for his size, and Sheik was nearly invisible to the naked eye, merely a human blur. Each flip, kick, chop and tumble was masterfully executed.

And each movement wracked her body with indescribable pain.

It had been years since Zelda had been forced to transform into her more physical alter ego, and the strain on her body was enormous. Zelda had no longer kept herself in her well-toned physical condition as she had in her youth, and rerouting every spark of magic within her to tighten her muscles, harden her bones and pump adrenaline through her brain nearly drove her mad with agony. Her heart felt as though it would burst at any moment, her throat was raw and bleeding, and she had to physically fight to keep the bile in her stomach, but she never held off the attack for an instant. She had absolutely nothing to lose, and Giga Bowser needed to be stopped regardless of the cost.

When Giga Bowser blasted another fiery salvo at his elusive prey, Sheik had leaped out of the way before the first licks of flame had made their way past his glistening fangs. She instead leaped over his head and navigated a pinpoint landing on the sparse area on his shell that did not consist of barbed spines. She lashed her chain around the behemoth's throat and pulled with all her might. Her lean but muscular arms swelled to the point of bursting as she used all of her strength to choke the very life out of his hideous form. But her strength was no match for his, and his clawed fingers suddenly seized the chain and yanked it hard, sending her flipping over his head in a trajectory that would leave her inert on the hard ground with a shattered spine.

Only Sheik's reflexes saved her, letting go of the chain at the last moment and controlling her descent, forcing herself to land on her feet, every inch of her ankles and calves burning in protest. If time seemed to slow when she was Sheik, it now appeared to grind to a halt, as Giga Bowser's face was now inches from hers. With almost inhuman speed her arm tore through the air, sending a volley of deadly needles at the beast's bloodshot eye.

The monster reared back with a roar, clutching his eyes painfully with both hands. Sheik allowed herself only the luxury of exhaling before she rolled towards the flailing Koopa, driving her hand hard into his ankle, hitting the nerve she had missed with her chain. Giga Bowser staggered, stumbled, and was on the verge of falling…

And Peach, not a part of the pulse-pounding duel, could see Sheik's one mistake with maddening clarity. Giga Bowser's pained thrashing was a ruse, designed to distract his opponent from his trump card. Even as Sheik struck at the monster's feet, his massive, club-shaped tail was swinging around to strike her from behind. Four spear-like spikes glistened at its tip.

By the time Peach's scream escaped her throat, it was already far too late.

Sheik was a warrior, proud and strong. But a strangled cry tore from her very soul as she was speared clean through her chest and stomach. With a crashing bellow of triumph Giga Bowser whipped his tail around the other way, and Sheik's body was thrown free, flopping limply to the ground. One last shimmer and the last of her strength ebbed and vanished into the vapour. The strong, nimble body of Sheik, last of the Sheikah, vanished forever. And in its place was that of a beautiful woman, her royal gown stained with the sickening hue of blood. Her blood.

Queen Zelda, of the Throne of Hyrule, lay on the ground as very life trickled out of her body from the wounds in her abdomen. Her heart trembled and fluttered, and her lungs strained to hold a breath. Death itself loomed over her, as real and dangerous as the cackling, bloated form of her murderer.

Link screamed like he had never screamed in his life. He was a living avatar of Courage itself, and Giga Bowser had pierced clean through the one dent in his resolve.

The artificial Ganondorf took delight in the Hero of Time's anguish even as they continued their duel. "And now you must make that most terrible decision, as all heroic fools must." He taunted. "You must choose between defeating me and rescuing that precious princess that makes your heart burn so." He smiled blackly. "And you know that you shall fail, regardless of which you choose."

Link did not respond verbally. He simply acted. Pulling a bomb from his pouch, he thrust the explosive into the paint-Ganondorf's chest, letting it get stuck in the thick paint. He then took advantage of the temporary confusion to break off, running towards his fallen lady with all of his speed. He didn't even bother looking back when the fake Ganondorf screamed and exploded in a shower of paint globules.

Giga Bowser stood inches from Zelda's inert form, cackling as he heard her struggling to breathe. "Don't worry, dear Princess." He crooned. "I'll be sure to give you a nice cremation, as fits royalty as yourself. Consider this your pyre." He prepared a blast of fire that would finish Zelda off for all time.

Just as he exhaled, however, Link came flying in, shielding Zelda's body with his and holding his trusty shield up, deflecting the flames from them. The shield grew red-hot under the strain, and Link grimaced as his hand began to burn.

"Link…" Zelda's voice was barely a whisper. "Leave m-me…"

"Never!" Link shouted, suddenly throwing the shield, the flaming projectile exploding when it connected with Giga Bowser's face. Without giving the beast so much as a second to react, Link hurled his boomerang, the sharp metal edges gashing the fiend across his face. Link drew the Master Sword and struck a defensive position.

"You were always very stupid, Link." Giga Bowser snarled. "Always sworn to oaths and duties at the expense your own means. The girl is of no use to either of us now; nothing you do will save her!"

"That does not matter." Link choked out. He swung at Giga Bowser in a wide arc, the Koopa deflecting the blow with his wrought-iron armbands. "By my blood…" he swung again. "By my word…" he clouted Giga Bowser across the chin with the hilt. "By my very life..." He swung the blade around, locking it against Giga Bowser's arm as they strained against each other.

Now it was a pure match of strength. "You… will… not harm her…" Link grunted as his hands shook.

"EVERMORE!" he suddenly screamed, whipping his blade around and driving it clean through Giga Bowser's chest. The two combatants froze on the spot, both astonished, both awestruck, both caught up in the thought that, after all of the pain and suffering, it was finally over…

But it was not to be. Giga Bowser growled and yanked the sword backwards, throwing Link completely off-balance. To his credit, he did not so much as cry out as his arm was broken by the whiplash effect, but the sickening snap was all too audible. He fell before Zelda, his right arm clutching his now limp left arm, and a sharp piece of debris pierced his leg. The fall also broke his bowstring, but Link cared not in the least. His right arm reached behind him and pulled the last of his arrows from the quiver. With the practised aim of an expert marksman, his throw was straight and true, the arrow hitting its mark on the beast's throat. The giant Koopa reared back, gagging and choking.

But it was too late. Forcing himself around with his one good arm, Link saw that Zelda was nearly gone, flickering like the last glow of lamplight. Her skin was as pale as chalk, save the horrible redness that flowed from both sides of her mouth. Her eyes were clouding over. He grasped her limp hand in his, feeling her pulse fade. He blinked back the tears from his own eyes even as his vision blurred. "Zelda… my Queen… my lady… my friend… my love… I-I am… so sorry." He couldn't hold back a sob. "So sorry…" He had failed. When it had truly mattered, he had failed in fulfilling the one duty he held above all others.

Zelda made a small sound. She was at her last breath, and her throat was choked with blood, and yet Link knew what she had said. He had felt it in his very soul. I love you.

"ROMANTIC FOOL!" Giga Bowser roared, drawing the sword from his chest as though it were nothing. He spitefully snapped the arrow in half with his other hand. "Are you so arrogant that you think that these trinkets will stop me?" Already his wounds were beginning to seal. "Let me give you a lesson in combat, BOY." He spat, raising the Master Sword high. It was a hideous blasphemy to see the sacred blade used by such a creature.

Link couldn't move. He couldn't stand. He had exhausted his weapons. The reason he lived was dead in his arms. It was only now that it had finally hit him – this was to be his final battle as well. Through the corner of his eye he saw Young Link watching this scene in horror even as he battled. Link had to smile. Hyrule still had a hero; one younger and stronger than he. With that knowledge, it was silly to be afraid of anything such as death. Closing his eyes, he pulled Zelda's body close and bade a whispered farewell to the world of the living, which he had selflessly served for some four decades.

"Whosoever lives by the sword…" Giga Bowser intoned, "…Shall doubly DIE by it!" he roared, bringing the elegant blade down. It speared through Link and Zelda both, joining them in death just as closely as they had been in life. And now nothing could ever separate them again. Although none of the combatants could see it, two shimmering golden spirits smiled and ascended into eternity, leaving this realm behind. Together forever.

The Koopa fiend let out a sadistic cackle at his triumph. "Not even the Hero of Time could stop me! And now I… what?" he gasped as the Master Sword suddenly began to glow, even as he still grasped it…

Suddenly he fell back, screaming with mindless agony, clutching his hand in an effort to stop the pain. The magic of the Master Sword had sent a powerful backlash through Giga Bowser's body as retribution for the abomination he had committed with it.

And Young Link saw it all.

The Triforce of Power burned brightly on his hand, although he didn't notice it. Fed up with dodging the bouncing Ganchan rocks, the younger Hylian leaped forward, striking the top of King Hiyoihoi's head with strength he had never before possessed. The living statue cracked and crumbled to a pile of rubble, and Young Link was already sprinting towards the howling beast that had struck down the two people he loved more than any other, his tears feeding, rather than extinguishing, the fire in his eyes.

In an instant his hand grasped the hilt of the Master Sword, and he pulled it free from the bodies of his fallen friends, pure hatred in his eyes. He grasped the mighty sword – Link had allowed him to use it from time to time, but he was far more comfortable with his Kokiri Sword – its shimmering blade glowing, as though protesting the innocent blood that dripped from it. Giga Bowser was finally shaking off the ill effects of the spell when an avenger in green sprang towards him like a bolt of lightning.

"Die! Foul beast!" the elfin warrior screamed, slashing at the monstrous Koopa's abdomen again and again with frightening ferocity. "You shall pay for every drop of blood you have spilt!" Already reeling from the pain, Giga Bowser, was, for the first time in this fight, on the defensive. "Every loyal Smash Brother you have killed will be avenged ten times over!" Young Link yelled. Giga Bowser attempted to deflect the blade with his armbands again, but Young Link was nearly insane with rage. Altering his swing, his blade tore through scaly flesh and rock-hard bone. Giga Bowser screamed and clutched where his right arm once was.

The pain being too much for him, the massive Koopa fell to his knees, his head lowered. Young Link stood over him, his sword raised high. "Death awaits you, monster." Young Link rumbled in a voice that sounded more like Ganondorf's than his own. "And then all will know that I am all-powerful!"

Yes, Link. Kill him. Slay him now and face your destiny. Once he is dead, all will fall before you. Hyrule, and all of the Nintendoverse, will be yours.

And then Young Link finally realized how bloodthirsty he had become. He stared at the emblem on his hand with understanding. The Triforce of Power is not a blessing. It is a curse that will claim anybody, given time. Without Courage and Wisdom to temper it, absolute Power is a corrosive. And even Young Link was not immune to its curse.

For one terrifying moment, Young Link saw himself in another future. He saw himself slay Giga Bowser, surrendering to the Power. And then he went on to slay all the others. Nobody could stand in his way, not even the Super Smash Brothers. Blood and fire marked his trail, until he had conquered all. And he laughed in triumph, and in that horrible moment he looked just like Ganondorf. No. Worse than Ganondorf.

"Why are you hesitating, boy?" Giga Bowser demanded.

Ignoring the whispers of the Power, Young Link forced himself to stand down. The emblem faded and vanished from his hand. "It will do me no good to defeat you if I become a monster myself in the process." He choked out at last. "I will best you, Giga Bowser, but I shall do it with my own strength." He aimed his blade forward. "You have lost an arm. Surrender now if you do not want to lose the other."

"Surrender? I think not." The villain retorted, rising to his feet as his strength returned. "This only proves how little you know of herpetology." Even as he spoke, Young Link saw the severed stump of his arm begin to twitch.

"No…" Young Link gasped. "Impossible…"

It was a miraculous process. From where the Koopa's arm once was, life began to return. Flesh, muscle and bone emerged, grew, and twisted. A small, weak arm began to form, which then grew stronger and more muscular. Within a minute, the new arm matched the old. Giga Bowser flexed his fingers with renewed strength.

"How can this be?" Young Link demanded.

"Regeneration." Giga Bowser rumbled. "My rate of healing is far beyond that of any other living creature. Given time, I can recover from any wound. Even from a single cell, if I need to." He clenched his fists. "I would love to see you try and stop me." He grinned. "I highly doubt you can re-grow lost limbs."

Witnessing this entire scene, Luigi despaired. Giga Bowser would keep coming back no matter how many times they hurt him, and he would easily win a war of attrition. What edge could they possibly have against a foe that can heal from any wound?

"The pill!" Luigi suddenly gasped. He broke into a run towards Young Link and Giga Bowser. Maybe with the pill, they would be able to…

SPLAT! His train of thought was interrupted by something wet and sticky slapping him across the face. "Going somewhere, bro?" Shadow Mario sneered, twirling his paintbrush.

Luigi cracked his knuckles. Facing Giga Bowser was important, but this was something he couldn't ignore. "Take off my brother's face." He demanded.

"Now, that's an odd request." Shadow Mario taunted. "Bad day, little guy?"

"I'm not even joking. Take it off!" Luigi repeated, firmly. "You are NOT my brother."

"Says you!" Shadow Mario retorted, socking Luigi across the face. "Don't deny it, Luigi. We're family."

"We're not!" Luigi insisted, swinging at Shadow Mario, who nimbly jumped out of the way. "You are not Mario!"

Shadow Mario bopped Luigi on the top of the head with the end of the paintbrush. "Look, Luigi. Just because you're jealous of me doesn't mean you…"

"NO!" Luigi finally yelled, snatching the paintbrush away.

"Hey, give that back!" Shadow Mario yelled.

"I'm not playing, Junior." Luigi snapped, breaking the brush in two over his knee.

"…What did you just call me?" Shadow Mario asked, a dangerous edge to his voice.

"Bowser Junior." Luigi said slowly and calmly. "That is who you really are."

"My name…" Shadow Mario growled, "…is MARIO!" he swung wildly at Luigi, who calmly dodged his punches.

"No!" Luigi yelled. His gloves burned with green flame. "Enough of playing dress-up! Time to face who you really are!"

"Stay away from me…" Shadow Mario hissed.

"No more of this sick game!" Luigi declared, shooting a stream of green fireballs at Shadow Mario.

Shadow Mario screamed, though not in pain, as the paint melted away. "NOOOO!" he screamed. "Don't do this to me! I'm your BROTHER!"

Finally the paint was gone. And standing before Luigi was a lanky, adolescent Koopa. "I HATE YOU!" he roared. "You have to ruin EVERYTHING, don't you?"

"Junior, listen to me." Luigi said firmly, holding Junior by his shell. "You are not Mario. Your name is Bowser Junior, and Bowser was your father."

"LIAR!" Junior spat. "Giga Bowser is my father! Princess Peach is my mother! And YOU are my no-good brother! Why do you have to ruin everything? Why can't we be a family?"

"You're in denial, Junior." Luigi replied. "You can't make a better life for yourself pretending to be somebody else."

"I AM NOT BOWSER JUNIOR!" Junior screamed, hysterically. "Junior is a LOSER! Bowser always said that Junior never could measure up to his expectations! I'm not Bowser Junior! I HATE BOWSER JUNIOR! I wish he was dead, dead, DEAD!"

He began hyperventilating, his knees growing weak. "I'm… M-Mario…" he sobbed. He fell to his knees. "I'm a hero… I saved the Mushroom Kingdom… everybody loves m-me… they love me and I'm a hero and I saved the day…" He tucked himself into his shell, sobbing loudly. "I hate Bowser Junior… he's worthless… I k-killed him… because he's worthless… I…" he lapsed into unintelligible whimpering.

Luigi could only stare at the pitiful state of his enemy. Part of him wanted to reach out and help him, but he knew this was neither the appropriate time nor the proper place. Looking up, he saw that Giga Bowser now held an exhausted Young Link in his massive hands. Time was of the essence.

"What a fool you were to give up on the Triforce of Power." Giga Bowser taunted. "Now you will pay for your weakness."

"Hey! Giga Bowser!" Luigi yelled, amazed that he was able to speak. He was still as terrified of the monstrous turtle as ever, but somehow he had found the courage to approach him. "C'mon, Giga Bowser. Put the kid down. I know you'd much rather have a piece of me, right? C'mon!" he suddenly had a burst of inspiration. "You're not… afraid of me, are you?"

"I hate all of the Super Smash Brothers." Giga Bowser leered. "But in your case I'll be glad to take care of you first." He suddenly threw Young Link away, who fell unconscious as he hit the ground. "Clumsy me." The beast snickered.

"Oh, you're going to pay for that." Luigi muttered. Fighting every impulse to flee, he instead made a flying leap – right at Giga Bowser's face.

As expected, the titanic terrapin seized the lanky plumber in his massive hands. "Dumb move." He hissed, not noticing that Luigi was struggling to free one of his hands. "You know, Luigi, I was created with your brother in mind." He added. "I hated him, and I hated Bowser. I'd have killed them both with my bare claws, but as we both know, my patsy Mewtwo did that dirty work for me."

By now Luigi had freed one hand and, pretending to be struggling in vain against Giga Bowser's vicelike grip, was instead fishing in his pocket for the pill.

"So, it's nothing personal, Luigi." Giga Bowser concluded. "You're only a second-rate Mario, but under the circumstances you'll have to suffice. After all, you can choose your friends, but your relatives you're stuck with." He cackled and prepared to devour Luigi like a bite-sized morsel.

"I am not…" Luigi whispered, for the first time in his life, "…a second-rate Mario." After a lifetime of second-guessing himself, that really felt good to say. With Giga Bowser's cavernous mouth looming before him, tossing the pill down his throat was an easy shot.

Giga Bowser lurched. "What! What was that?"

"Compliments of good old Dr. Mario." Luigi replied.

Suddenly Giga Bowser dropped Luigi to the ground, the fight forgotten as he wheezed and sputtered. Within him, a very nasty surprise had been planted. Three surprises, in fact.

Within the giant Koopa's stomach, the capsule dissolved, revealing three mischievous little creatures. One blue, one red, and one yellow.

"Okay, boys." Chirped the blue one, who somewhat resembled a rabbit. "You know what the doc said. Let's 86 this bum and collect our reward."

"I'm gonna enjoy infectin' this one." Barked the red one, who rather resembled a bulldog. "We haven't done any decent infectin' in years."

The yellow one, who sort of resembled a hermit crab, said nothing, but gestured meaningfully.

"Yellow's got the right idea." Blue nodded. "Let's go to town, boys! We infest tonight!"

"Yeah!" Red agreed. "Let's show 'em why they call it germ warfare!"

And the three malignant little organisms then dove clean through Giga Bowser's stomach lining, Red and Blue hooting like kids on a waterslide. "I love this job!" Blue yelled.

The viruses spread quickly; there was a good reason Dr. Mario kept tabs on their growth and was constantly working to create new antibiotics for them. Giga Bowser clutched his head and stomach and howled in agony, his scales going from a golden brown to a corpse-like blue-grey. He retreated into his shell, but that was not enough to stop the infection from spreading. As Luigi watched in a mix of triumph and horror, the shell began to melt before his very eyes. A sickening stench filled the air as Giga Bowser's very molecular structure broke down, leaving him nothing more than a puddle of thick green plasma on the ground.

Luigi took a moment to turn away and reacquaint himself with the breakfast Mr. Game & Watch had prepared for him earlier.

"I warned him." Dr. Mario grumbled from the sidelines.

"BEEP! BEEP!" Mr. Game & Watch replied.

Meanwhile, the remaining forces on the villains' side reared back in fear, for without their leader the tide had turned against them.

"You're the man, Luigi!" Toad shouted.

"Well..." Luigi blushed. "I guess I did all right, for a…"

Suddenly a hideous skeletal arm burst from the plasma, bony talons snaring Luigi clean off the ground. The assembled heroes gasped as some hideous… thing pulled itself to its feet. It was a massive reptilian skeleton, with green slime dripping from it like blood and red fire burning in its hollow eye sockets. It was all that remained of Giga Bowser, but it seemed that it was still more than capable of fighting.

"Don't… count me… out of a fight… just yet." The fiend slurred in a hollow voice. "I don't know… what you just did to me… but it… taxed my regeneration powers… to the limit."

"I was, uh, kinda hoping it would be enough to stop you." Luigi admitted.

"FOOL! I am the all-powerful Giga Bowser!" the malicious pile of bones croaked. "I will heal from this, in time. Time… is on my side." He pulled Luigi towards his face. "And your time… is at its end!"

Luigi was trapped, exhausted, out of tricks and seconds from death. All the other Smash Brothers were still tied up with their other fights, and even if they weren't, there would be no way for them to get to him in time. This looked like the end of the line.

But as Luigi fell within death's grasp, he looked up to the heavens for a sign of hope, and he received a prompt response. Two glowing objects were soaring towards the area at top speed, like shooting stars. But no shooting stars moved like these. Who were these mysterious rescuers?

"What in blazes…?" Giga Bowser snarled as the two glowing arrivals blasted into the atmosphere.

"Drop the plumber, bonehead!" one of the newcomers shouted, swooping in. Luigi now got a better look at him. It was a young man decked out head to toe in high-tech combat armour, his face obscured by a monocular visor. He blasted around on high-powered rocket boots and had several devices attached to his arms. He levelled his arms and fired two bottle rockets that exploded on impact, rocking Giga Bowser's body backwards and forcing him to drop Luigi. Before Luigi could so much as touch the ground the mysterious combatant had scooped him up and rocketed him to relative safety. "Glad I'm not late, Luigi." The man smiled. "I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

"Who are you?" Luigi asked. The voice was vaguely familiar, but…

With a sudden scream, King Dragonzamazu burst from behind the combatant, wrapping his powerful tail around him to crush him. "Let go, you overgrown fillet!" his victim growled as he tried to free himself.

"Hold on!" Luigi yelled. "I'll get…"

"No, just stand back." The high-tech warrior replied. "Eat this, bottom-feeder." He quipped, pressing a button on his wrist. Suddenly the entire suit crackled with electricity. The giant seahorse shrieked one last time before flopping lifeless to the floor, twitching slightly before lying still.

Meanwhile, the other new arrival came swooping down, surfing on a Warp Star. Swinging a sword, he ploughed clean through King Biokinton, causing the malevolent cloud to explode and vanish in a puff, several roasted chickens tumbling to the ground in its wake.

The Warp Star rider then jumped down and faced off against Giga Bowser, side by side with the other newcomer. That mask… that cloak… that sword… "Meta Knight?" Giga Bowser demanded. "That's impossible! Meta Knight died years ago! I saw to it! And what are you doing here, whoever you are?" he demanded of the other fighter. "Only the Super Smash Brothers are allowed here!"

"We ARE Super Smash Brothers!" the taller one remarked, pulling off his visor. "We just grew up a little, that's all."

"Ness!" Luigi gasped.

"You did a good job of breaking my psychic powers," Ness pointed a finger at Giga Bowser, "but you'll never break our spirit!"

Meta Knight nodded, and then pulled off his mask to reveal his face.

"Hiii-iiiiiii!"

"Kirby!" Giga Bowser hissed. "You should not have come back. Now I will destroy you as well."

"Big talk, turtle." Ness shot back. "The Smash Brothers already have your army on the ropes, and now we're here to finish the job!"

"Game over!" Kirby squeaked.

"Take your best shot!" The skeletal fiend roared as the star-faring duo blasted towards him.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mario was doing his best to examine Samus. Yoshi had quite heroically dragged her all the way over to the sidelines while Giga Bowser was distracted by his battle with Zelda. "I'm a doctor, not a mechanic." The medical Mario grumbled to himself as he did his best to perform an examination, despite his unfamiliarity with her Chozo armour. Either way, it looked bad. Several broken ribs, a separated shoulder, torn cartilage in the left leg, what appeared to be a fractured cheekbone, and that sparking jagged hole in her hip that had sparks of electricity pulsing from it didn't look too healthy either. But he had to admit that her suit contained excellent heat protection – Giga Bowser's flame had scorched her paint job something awful, but her skin wasn't burned in the slightest.

Finally, the female bounty hunter stirred, wrenching her head painfully aside and coughed up some blood. With great effort, she opened her eyes. "Ngghhh…" she grunted. "Is Giga Bowser… dead yet?"

"Not yet, but he's in real bad shape." Dr. Mario replied. "A couple of latecomers made a timely appearance, and it looks like they'll finish him off. You, young lady, need to take it easy."

"Save it for the kids, doc." Samus sneered as she tried to stand. "I have to… aggh!" she cried out as the pain in her leg and side only intensified.

"Samus, both you and your suit took a lot of damage back there." Dr. Mario insisted. "You need to slow down before you… are you even listening to me?" he demanded as Samus, with great effort, slipped on her arm and leg armour and began limping back to the battlefield on sheer willpower. "Samus!" Dr. Mario shouted. "He'll kill you in this state!"

"Thanks for the diagnosis, doc." Samus sarcastically shot back. "Worry about somebody else, okay? I know what I'm doing." She popped her helmet back in place and staggered painfully back towards the melee.

"Does that girl have a death wish?" Professor Gadd asked.

"I don't think it's a wish." Dr. Mario replied. "And yet, I don't think Giga Bowser is going to survive this either."

A blast of plasma fire from Samus' cannon struck the vicious skeleton, temporarily immobilizing him. Ness and Kirby turned to see the famous Metroid hunter standing before them as confidently as she was able. "Nice gear, kid." Samus smirked in approval. "I see you left the whole yo-yo thing behind."

"Hey, thanks, Samus." Ness replied. "Yeah, a friend of mine's a talented scientist. He and I pulled this together from some…"

A blast of flame shot between them, nearly missing them.

"…But I think I'll tell you the rest of the story later." Ness concluded.

"Got it, kid." Samus nodded. "You and Pinko take out what's left of these creeps. Leave this pile of bones to me."

"You sure?" Ness asked.

"Hey, you and Pinko have wives and kids now." Samus shrugged. "I've got nothing to lose. Get outta here."

"If you say so." Ness nodded. "C'mon, Kirb! Let's do it!"

"Yay!" Kirby cheered as the two rocketed off, leaving Samus and Giga Bowser alone.

"Alone at last." Samus hissed as Giga Bowser formed an offensive stance.

"Are you ready to die, Aran?" Giga Bowser hissed back.

"I've got nothing better to do." Samus replied. "But I'll let you go first."

"You'll try." Retorted Giga Bowser.

"I always do." She replied.

Meanwhile, Peach was still trapped and helpless in her magical prison. She still had tears in her eyes after seeing what had happened to Zelda and Link, and still felt miserable even after the tables had finally appeared to turn. The fiendish genius of Giga Bowser's contingency plan was clear as crystal, as she mentally considered each possible candidate to be the one to make the ultimate sacrifice to free her. There wasn't a single person she wanted to die in her place. Not a single one.

Suddenly a waving hand got her attention. Looking down, she saw a dashing redheaded swordsman standing before him. "Is there a fair lady in need of my assistance in the area?" he asked. Even in the heat of battle, he carried with him a charming smile.

"Roy?" she asked in disbelief.

"None other." He grinned. "Perchance I can be of some assistance? If any blade can penetrate that ghastly device, I am sure that the Sword of Seals will."

"It'll kill you, Roy." Peach pleaded. "Don't do it, please. I don't want you to die, too."

Roy looked serious for a moment, but then smiled at her respectfully. "What is the life of one man, anyway?" he asked. "I am bound by oath to serve and defend innocents such as yourself, regardless of what it may cost me."

"Roy, no!" Peach insisted.

"Consider this my greatest honour, fair Princess." Roy replied, raising his sword.

CLANG!

Suddenly Roy crumpled to the ground, unconscious. And behind him was the woman in the yellow robes, holding a frying pan. She looked up at Peach, pulling her hood off to get a better look. Chestnut hair, tanned skin, and a sad, gentle face.

"What do you want, Daisy?" Peach demanded.

"Shh. There's not much time." Daisy whispered, reaching out to disrupt the field.

"Wait a minute, Daisy." Peach insisted. "Why are you helping me? Wouldn't your little purple sweetheart object to that?"

"I don't care about him. I care about you." Daisy replied. "Don't you want my help?"

"I don't want anything to do with you." Peach coldly replied. "You joined them, Daisy. You joined the people who destroyed everything we loved! Why did you do that? Why?"

"They…" Daisy lowered her head and wiped her eyes. "They broke me, Peach. I know you've always said I was the strong one, but you were wrong. When Mario died, you lived on. After he died, I was broken-hearted, and I went to Luigi. I thought that maybe, in our grief, we might finally… you know…"

"I… I never knew that." Peach was slightly stunned. "I mean, I knew that you cared about him, but… but… what happened?"

Daisy sniffled. "He turned me down." He whispered. "Not because he didn't care, but because he did care. He said he didn't want me to get hurt by associating with him."

"Daisy…" Peach whispered.

"I know what he did was with my best interest in mind." Daisy continued. "But I was so wrapped up in myself, I took it as an insult. I attacked him, Peach. His whole world was already shattered after he lost Mario, and instead of comforting him, I lashed at him. Finally he managed to get himself together enough to tell me to leave." She wiped her eyes. "Even though he was right, I got mad at him and left. And who else could I turn to? Mario was dead, and you reminded me too much of what we both lost. So I ran off, and ran into Tatanga. He had power on his side, and I had completely lost faith in the Super Smash Brothers. So, I fell in with him, and he introduced me to Giga Bowser's little circle."

"I never knew, Daisy." Peach replied. "I…"

"Well, you know now." Daisy forced herself to continue. "But seeing this battle… it brought my faith back, Peach. I thought that you were the weak one for staying with them, but now I see that I was the weak one, hiding behind Tatanga and Giga Bowser to cover my own weakness. The Super Smash Brothers love you, Peach. Right now they're fighting a war for you and dying for you because they love you. And now Giga Bowser is going to force one of them to kill themselves to save you. I won't let that happen. They don't deserve death. They're heroes. I, on the other hand…" she extended a lacy glove towards the force field.

"Daisy, don't…" Peach gasped.

"I love you, Peach." Daisy smiled. "You've always been a sister to me. Tell Luigi… I'm sorry." Her fingertips reached the sphere. "Let's do this, Mewtwo." She whispered.

"Daisy!" Peach shouted just as an influx of magic energy ripped the magic ball to pieces. She heard two screams as the spell was broken. Mewtwo emitted a broken cry as his tormented mental form died at last, granting him the rest he had so long desired. Daisy's pain was likewise brief; a bolt of magical power tore through her body, and she promptly slumped to the ground. Princess Peach was free.

"Daisy!" Peach repeated, crawling towards the Sarasa Princess' still form, although it was already too late. She stroked her childhood friend's face. "I forgive you." She whispered, softly. "I don't know how, but… I do."

"Bah! Zpinelezz female!" a voice spat. Peach whirled around and saw Tatanga, still alive, pulling himself from the wreckage of Pegazu. "I zhould have known that she waz not to be truzted! Well, at leazt I will have my revenge! Prepare to die, Prinzezz Peach!" He pulled out a laser pistol and began charging a kill shot on the unarmed princess.

"Not so fast, space case!" Toad shouted, running towards Peach as fast as his stubby little legs could take him.

"Toad!" Peach yelled. Toad jumped up into the Princess' arms just as Tatanga fired.

ZAPP! The deadly laser blasted towards the Mushroom Princess, only to bounce cleanly off Toad's body and ricochet right back at the little alien menace. "Huh?" was all he managed to say before the laser sent him rocketing into the atmosphere, transforming into a lovely fireworks display.

"Awesome!" Toad cheered. "He turned into fireworks!" he paused. "Wait a minute. That means that he… ewwww…."

"Don't think about it too hard, Toad." Peach replied, hugging the little Mushroom Retainer close to her and kissing the top of his head. "Thanks for coming after me, little one."

"Hey, that's what I do." Toad smiled.

Upon seeing that Peach was free at last, the Smashers cheered. All that remained on the villains' side was Giga Bowser himself, and Jashin… who suddenly had a look of fear on his face. He was no longer enormous, and was shrinking, to the size of Doshin and then smaller still. For just as Jashin was empowered by hatred and enmity, Doshin gained strength from the powers of love and friendship. And now the balance swung decisively towards positive emotions, weakening Jashin severely. The red-skinned former giant gasped as he was reduced to an inch in height. And the gentle-hearted yellow goliath grinned merrily and tromped off to rejoin his friends, not even noticing that he had stomped his evil twin flat beneath his massive feet.

"Okay!" Luigi breathed deeply. "Just one left! Let's all rush him now!" He gestured towards Giga Bowser – or what was left of him – as he and an equally battered Samus held each other in a death grip. Giga Bowser was barely able to keep his skeleton from collapsing, and Samus' armour was going critical. Still, he held her tightly within a bony fist, and she held firmly to her grappling beam, which was wrapped snugly around his throat.

"I don't think so." Samus replied, pressing a button on her wrist. Suddenly both she and Giga Bowser were ensconced within a nearly impenetrable force field; the other Smashers trapped on the outside.

"You idiot!" Giga Bowser sneered. "You have just ensured that none of your friends will get here to help you."

"I don't want anybody getting in here. I'm just content to keep you from getting out." Samus calmly replied. "I've got you right where I want you now."

Giga Bowser laughed, spitting green slime all over the bounty hunter's helmet. "I so tire of you insipid heroes and your moronic banter. Do you honestly think that, even though I'm in the position to rip you to pieces, I'm going to believe you when you say that YOU have ME where YOU want?"

"You'll find out soon enough." Samus nodded. "Do you know what a neutron bomb is? They aren't legal, but I bought six of them last week. They're normally used to start wars and such, but if they'll wipe a disease like you off of the face of the universe, they're worth every single credit I paid for them. They're all attached to the exterior of my suit, and they're set to go off in… oh, about forty seconds. Then everything in this force field will only be so much detritus."

"Bad bluff, Aran." Giga Bowser taunted. "You and I know very well that you don't have the stomach."

Looking this abomination in the face, Samus Aran did something she had never expected she would ever do. Beneath her helmet, her stern face suddenly broke into a broad grin, and she actually started to laugh. It was ironic, in some respects. Falcon had always been the one to see the humour in the situation, while she usually remained stoic and humourless. But now, for whatever reason, laughter broke out from her normally dour lips, tickling the air in graceless but liberating peals.

Giga Bowser stared at her as though the woman in his hands had gone mad. Would she still be laughing, he wondered, after he had systematically removed all four of her limbs? "What in blazes is so humourous?" he demanded, contemptuously.

Samus looked him in the eye, not afraid in the slightest. "The look on your face when it happens." She grinned, drunk with anticipation.

"When what happens?" Giga Bowser thundered.

"When you realize the truth." Samus simply replied.

"What truth?" Giga Bowser snarled.

Samus leaned as close to him as she was able and whispered in his ear. "…I never, ever bluff."

Giga Bowser's eye sockets widened. "You d…"

And that was about the time that the bombs went off.

The Smashers on the outside of the force field could do nothing more than shield their eyes and ears from the spectacular explosion. The centre of the battleground was alight with blazing pyrotechnics that seemed to shake even the stars above.

Samus' timing paid off. The force field finally overloaded and collapsed just as the explosions ceased, filling the arena with choking black smoke. A gust of wind summoned by Kirby blasted across the field, leaving the Smashers able to see the black, smouldering crater where Giga Bowser once stood.

Peering inside, they saw cause for celebration; Giga Bowser had been utterly annihilated by the blast. A small pile of charred dust was all that remained of his malevolent form. However, there was also cause for grief.

"She's over here!" Toad yelled. Everybody crowded around to reluctantly view what remained of a heroic Super Smash Sister. There wasn't much.

If any academic had ever idly pondered whether or not Samus Aran's famed Chozo armour could take the point-blank blast of six neutron bombs, the answer could be recorded as a definite no. Nothing was left of the suit, and not much remained of the woman beneath. All of her hair and much of her skin had been burned off, and a charred stump was all that remained of her right arm. Her face was a mess, as half of her helmet had melted and fused to the left side of her skull.

Luigi swallowed hard and pulled his hat off, not knowing what to say.

So you can imagine how speechless he was when she suddenly coughed convulsively and opened her right eye.

Her assorted friends were astonished. "Samus?" Luigi gasped, barely believing what he was seeing.

"L-Luigi…" she croaked out of what remained of her charred throat. Luigi leaned closer to hear. Her voice was weak, but her words were as strong as ever.

"For God's sake, tell me that Giga Bowser is dead this time." She rasped. "Because I am NOT doing that ever again."

Her friends all laughed, despite themselves. It was a beautiful feeling.

"Will she be okay?" Luigi turned to a scowling Dr. Mario.

"I knew that if I diagnosed her condition as terminal, she'd survive just to spite me." He quipped. "Well, it looks like her suit took the brunt of the blast, but this young lady's going to need major reconstructive surgery if she's ever going to do anything again."

"I'd settle for some painkillers at the moment." Samus slurred before passing out into blissful unconsciousness.

"Ooh, let us help you, Dr. Mario!" Professor Gadd piped up. "We have the technology! We can rebuild her! Make her faster… stronger… better!"

"Now that Giga Bowser eats his pastrami at the Deli of the Dead, I now have purpose!" Fawful cackled in agreement. "I cannot wait to get my hands dirty with the sticky mud of doing good! I DEMAND GOOD MUDNESS!"

"I hope her medical insurance covers this." Fox shuddered slightly.

"Hey, look!" Ness suddenly yelled. All turned and saw his cause for concern. In the middle of Giga Bowser's smouldering remains, a small green blob of tissue had appeared, and was growing.

Even from a single cell, if I need to…

"Not so fast!" Luigi yelled, seizing the malevolent blob and placing it in a glass tube. "Professor Gadd, is it ready?"

"But of course!" Professor Gadd dithered with excitement. "Come! To the GigaBowsEradicator 6001!"

"Catchy title." Popo nodded.

The heroes climbed out of the crater and raced for the front steps of Smash Central. Doshin gently cradled Samus in his massive hands. Quickly they reached the odd chugging machine on the front steps and Luigi inserted the tube with the villain's DNA into the feed slot. "So long, Giga Bowser." He sighed in relief as Professor Gadd pressed the activation button. A flash, and the tube was gone, and Giga Bowser with it.

"So, what happened to him?" Diddy asked.

"He's been sent to a place I know of." Luigi replied. "A place from which nobody can ever return."

"BEEP! BEEP BEEP BEEP!" Mr. Game & Watch squawked. Everybody turned to see him holding a rather large Game & Watch aloft.

"They were watching?" Kit asked, incredulously.

"BEEP BEEP!" Mr. Game & Watch added.

"And you're bringing them here?" Ness repeated.

Mr. Game & Watch nodded, and then pressed a button on the device, sounding off the loudest alarm bell the universe had ever heard. Now, at last, the floodgates of the Nintendoverse burst open, and scores of well-wishers spilled onto the victorious scene.

"Fox! Falco! Kit! Thank goodness you guys are all right!" Slippy Toad yelled, running towards the group and giving his feathered wingmate a big hug.

"Geez! Easy on the wing, Slip!" Falco snapped, grimacing and holding his broken arm.

"Aw, c'mon, Falco!" Slippy replied. "I'm not letting you get away without a h… HOLY WHIZ, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LANDMASTER?" he suddenly yelled, seeing the pile of wreckage that was once a finely-tuned weapon.

"I knew my boys would do just fine." Krystal McCloud smoothly remarked, giving her husband a quick kiss.

"Hey, we couldn't have done it without Kit's quick thinking." Fox nodded, putting a hand on his son's shoulder. "He takes after his grandfather, all right."

"Aw, Dad." Kit blushed.

"I spent a week on the finish on that thing alone…" Slippy sniffled.

Kirby looked up to see three pink balls hurtling towards him.

"JIGGLY!"

"IGGLY!"

"IGGLY!"

In an instant the little Dream Land warrior was on the ground, smothered in smooches from his very grateful family.

"Gimme a kiss, you big old hunk of fungus!" Toadette squealed, tackling a stunned Toad to the ground.

"Aw, Toadette, c'mon." Toad protested. "Not here! All the guys are watching!"

"Mario! I caught up with you at last!" Cranky Kong rasped, staggering onto the scene and approaching Dr. Mario. "Don't think that ice cream vendor disguise can fool me!"

"I'm a doctor, not an ice cream vendor." Dr. Mario testily replied.

"…I see." Cranky muttered. "…Do you have my pills?" he asked after a pause.

"WHOA!" Ninten screamed as he jumped up into his father's arms. "I have the COOLEST Dad EVER!"

"Hey, I'd have to be to have the coolest son ever." Ness smiled, tousling his son's hair.

"Oh, man! Wait'll I tell everybody at school that my Dad took on King Dragonzamazu BY HIMSELF!" Ninten added. "That was TOTALLY WICKED!"

"You said it, son." Paula added as she joined the happy reunion. "And you said you still didn't have it in you."

"Hey, Popo." Popo suddenly whirled at the sound of a familiar voice. "What'd I tell you?" Nana asked as she unsteadily made her way to her brother's side. "You had nothing to worry about."

"N-Nana?" Popo gasped, tears in his eyes. "What are you doing here? You're sick… you should be at home…"

"Where I should be is right here." Nana replied, hugging her brother close. "That's all I need."

"Make way for the King and the Queen!" a voice suddenly shouted. All conversation ceased as King Marth and Queen Shieda of Altea stepped forward.

"My liege!" Roy shouted in joy, shaking off the blow to his head and rushing to kneel at the King's feet. The silver-haired monarch merely waved him to his feet.

"Rise, dear friend." Marth smiled. "The Super Smash Brothers have earned their hard-fought victory. Every single one of them fought with the courage and the valour that was expected of them, and ten times beyond that. Where is their courageous leader, Sir Luigi?"

"Here I am." Luigi meekly piped up. "I don't know about being all that courageous, but…"

"You were, my friend." Marth interrupted, a proud hand on the plumber's shoulder. "I was honoured to fight alongside you, and now I am doubly honoured to witness you leading this proud band to victory. The Super Smash Brothers could ask for no finer leader than you, Sir Luigi."

"Thanks, Marth." Luigi blushed. "Thanks for believing in all of us."

"My faith in my dearest comrades never faltered for an instant." Marth declared. "And now that the fighting is done and the battle won, I invite everyone here to a jubilant celebration in my castle in Altea."

"Not that we don't appreciate this, Marth, but the celebration will have to be postponed a little." Luigi sighed, gesturing around the field. Samus was being carried away on a stretcher, as Dr. Mario and his medical team looked on. A group of mourners from Hyrule were carrying away the bodies of Link and Zelda, supervised by a heartbroken Young Link. Peach was softly crying over Daisy's body. "We have wounded to tend to." Luigi explained. "And dead to bury. I hope you understand."

"I understand fully, good Luigi." Marth nodded. "And the brave Smash Brothers who have sacrificed their all for our freedom will not be forgotten; I swear you that."

"Hey, Luigi!" Fox called from across the field.

"Excuse me, your Highness." Luigi bowed politely before running over to where Fox was holding a delirious, sobbing Bowser Junior on his feet.

"What should we do with this slimebag?" Fox asked. "He's the only survivor from the villains' side, after all."

"I want to help him." Luigi replied. "I know he's my enemy, but he needs all the help he can get. Now that Giga Bowser is gone, maybe he can finally have a chance at a normal life."

"I can help him." Dr. Mario piped up, his cane tapping lightly on the ground as he approached. "My clinic has a psych ward too. We can help."

"Thanks, Doc." Luigi nodded.

"And speaking of tying up loose ends…" Dr. Mario added, pulling a glass jar from his lab coat.

From the crater crawled three tiny organisms, almost too small to see with the naked eye. "Well, boys, that was a fine piece o' work we did back there." The blue virus chirped. "Now, let's skedaddle before ol' white-britches can…"

CLUMP! Suddenly a glass jar descended from above, trapping the three viruses firmly within. "You weren't thinking of running, were you?" Dr. Mario asked his microscopic rivals.

"Who, us?" the blue virus shrugged. "Whaddya take us for, Doc? We kept our word, and now we wanna see you keep yours. We had a deal, Doc." He added, firmly.

"Of course we did." Dr. Mario nodded. "You three are much too dangerous to be let free, but I can at least make you comfortable for the rest of your days…" he then grabbed a large scoop of cottage cheese and glopped it into the jar.

"Oh, boy! A lifetime supply!" the red virus cheered as the three licked their lips. "You're the best, Doc!"

"Of course I am." Dr. Mario gruffly nodded as he sealed the jar forever. "Took you long enough to figure it out, didn't you?"

2 weeks later

A fortnight later, the Super Smash Brothers, at long last, had recovered from their ordeal enough to celebrate. They had cried and mourned, and now was the time to enjoy themselves. Castle Altea was packed with characters from all over the Nintendoverse, and King Marth presided over the celebration with the greatest of pride. After a somber eulogy for the fallen fighters, the great jubilation broke forth, and all involved ate, drank, and made merry.

"Yeah, it was nothing, really." Falco shrugged, his wing ensconced in a futuristic healer sleeve. "I told that crumb Tatanga he was going down, and he did. He barely laid a hand on me."

"But what about your wing?" the young Altean prince asked in curiosity.

"Ah, this? No biggie." Falco scoffed. "I'll be back in my Arwing in three days, tops."

"No, you won't!" Fox shouted at him from across the room, dressed in his best suit as he slow-danced with his wife. "I'm still flight leader, and I told you I want a three-month sabbatical before you even get back in that cockpit!" Falco merely snorted dismissively and waved Fox away.

"It seems that our friend Falco has not let the passage of time change him very much." Commented Krystal, decked out in elegant finery. "Do you find that comforting, Fox?"

"In a way, I guess." Fox rolled his eyes. "It's nice to know that no matter how crazy things get in this upside-down universe, some things can be counted on, even if it is just Falco being, well…"

"Being Falco." Krystal finished her husband's sentence with a wry smile.

At the edge of the room, Roy sipped from his flagon as he looked at the shambles that was the snack table. A certain dinosaur, pink puffball and rhinoceros were currently eating everything on the table, including some things that may not have even been intended to be consumed. While a bevy of fair maidens made their way past the cocky swordsman, Roy saw something that caught his eye even more; a momentary flash of green on a nearby window ledge.

"Good evening, Link." Roy smiled as he poked his head out the window and peered at Young Link, who was holding onto the wall outside with uncanny dexterity. "I hate to be the one to tell you this, old friend, but your sense of direction is a trifle off. The party is INSIDE."

"Thank you, Roy, but I am afraid that if I were to go in, my friends would only want me to stay." Young Link's tone was sober. "As much as I wish to join them, it is a luxury that I cannot afford. I have… more pressing concerns on my mind." He added, putting a hand to the hilt of the Master Sword, which he now wore upon his own armour. "I must find a safe place for this, and especially for… this." He added, pulling the Triforce from his tunic, allowing the golden glow to shine in the moonlight for a moment before hiding it again. "No single person can handle such power, and I must make sure that they end up where some hero in the future can find them, if ever again they are needed."

"And what will become of you, my friend?" Roy asked. "Will you vanish along with these artifacts?"

"Not entirely, Roy." Young Link replied. "There has always been a Link to protect Hyrule whenever evil threatens it. And now that Link must be me. I am merely the latest to bear that responsibility, and it is one I intend to fulfil. I hope the Super Smash Brothers will understand, but my land needs me."

"We will all understand." Roy nodded. "I will miss you, as will we all. I will ensure that everybody knows of what has happened, and rest assured that their love goes with you." He extended a hand. "It has been a great honour fighting alongside you, Link the Younger of Hyrule. May fortune follow you all the days of your life."

"I wish nothing less for you, friend Roy." Link replied, shaking his old teammate's hand. "Farewell."

A barely perceptible movement, and Young Link disappeared into the night, returning to Hyrule, to defend and protect. Many years later, he no longer came when called, and not long after that the mighty waters consumed the land. And the cycle began anew.

Outside the party, and outside the castle, Luigi stood alone, observing the statues that Marth's royal artists had rendered of the fallen Super Smash Brothers. They stood, silent reminders of the brave warriors that were no longer among the living. It gave Luigi great joy to imagine that these statues would still be standing hundreds of years from now, introducing their inspirations to generations new.

The statues were so lifelike they nearly breathed. Bowser stood tall and strong, Ganondorf emanated an aura of sheer power, and Mewtwo seemed to harbour precious secrets. Donkey Kong and Pikachu were both posed as though ready for battle. Captain Falcon still had that roguish grin on his chiselled face. Link looked the consummate hero, Zelda the elegant but fearless princess. And Mario… Luigi noticed that Mario was one of the smallest statues there, as all of them were carved life-size. But despite the size difference, Mario definitely stood alone among them.

"Hey. Stringbean. Too good to attend your own party?" a slightly electronic voice came from behind him. Luigi turned around and smiled.

"I could say the same to you, Samus." He teased. "You're the one who actually took down Giga Bowser, you know."

Samus Aran was nearly unrecognizable, at least physically. Her arms, legs, and half of her face were now mechanical. Instead of her trademark heavy armour, she was clad in a simple flight suit. But to those who really knew her, she was still the same old Samus. No explosion could ever take her heart away from her.

"Eh, I don't do parties much." Samus shrugged. "Besides, all I did was what I had to do. It was just my job."

"Well, it means a lot to us." Luigi smiled. "And you know that we're all glad to have you still with us."

"It was the least I could do." Samus nodded, putting a metallic hand against the base of Captain Falcon's statue. "If I could bring these guys back, I'd do it. But I think we both know that I'm only good at destroying, not creating."

"They're all fine." Luigi simply replied. "And so are we."

Samus flexed her fingers, as though deep in thought, as she looked up at Falcon's statue. "Can't stop us from missing them, though."

"For sure." Luigi sighed. "But we won't be apart from them forever, you know. Someday we'll all be back together, and that'll be one great day."

"Always the optimistic one." Samus dryly noted.

"I guess I get it from my brother." Luigi smiled. "I know he was watching us and cheering us on the whole time."

"You really think that the dead are watching us?" Samus asked.

And then Luigi couldn't contain his smile. The war was over. The villains were vanquished. There was no reason to keep the secret anymore. He had told Peach before the party, and seeing the look of sheer joy on her face healed his heart in so many ways. And now he could tell all of his friends.

"What?" Samus demanded, sensing something behind her companion's grin.

"Whoever said that Mario was dead?" Luigi simply asked.

High, high above the evils and the pains of the world is a place called Star Haven, home of the Seven Star Spirits. There is no pain or danger in this place. Merely peace. Everlasting peace.

I, Eldstar, oldest and wisest of the Star Spirits, have been charged with protecting and nurturing the great hero, Mario, since suffering the crippling injuries he incurred in his last battle. Now he lives among us, in the comfort and peace that he deserves. The pain does not bother him, and he can view his friends whenever he wishes. And he knows that soon his brother and his beloved princess will be free to join him. He, and I, and all of the Star Spirits, have witnessed everything, and it is the record of our experiences that I now relay to you.

Even now, the robot, R.O.B., has completed his recording of the incredible events of the last twenty-five years. He turns to Mario, and asks what is to be done with the data.

Mario smiles broadly and replies: "What else? Save it."

THE END

EPILOGUE:

Giga Bowser twitched, and then opened an eye. He had a splitting headache and was sick to his stomach, but that was of little consequence. Once more his heart pumped. Once more his lungs breathed.

He was alive.

"Alive…" he muttered. "Alive! ALIVE!" he roared triumphantly. "Giga Bowser is SUPREME! Even the Super Smash Brothers could not stop me!" All he needed now was to figure out where he was, escape, and return to enact his bloody revenge.

But where was he?

Looking around, all he saw was… water. Nothing but water.

An endless sea in a void where time has no meaning.

"No." Giga Bowser gasped. They wouldn't. The Super Smash Brothers would not have the gall.

"No! NO!" Giga Bowser screamed, the full horror of his situation dawning on him at last.

"NOOOOO! NOT THE MINUS WORLD!"

GAME OVER