If you haven’t already guessed it, I love playing Smash Bros. The idea of having Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and all the other beloved Nintendo franchise mascots brought onto one screen for an old fashioned beat ’em up brawler was ingenious on its own. While the newer games in the series brought more innovation and more variety to the table, we can’t forget where the whole idea began: the now old-school N64. This edition of Time Warp Thursday, I bring you the game that started it all and became one of Nintendo’s most popular and beloved franchises: the original Super Smash Bros. Strap yourself in, I’m about to tell you why this game is, and will always be, the greatest of all the other games in the series and any other Smash games to come.
I was only a young kid when Super Smash Bros. came out. Seven-year old me (or possibly every little kid for that matter) was never able to properly enjoy the blocky controller the Nintendo 64 had to offer. I am not sure if anybody actually enjoyed playing with those controllers, but for Super Smash Bros., everybody endured the clunkiness and blisters that came with it. Unlike most games on the old Nintendo 64, there was a certain variety to the controller scheme. If you didn’t want to jump with the C buttons, you could always simply use the joystick or the D pad, making it much more comfortable for those who had wee little hands at the time or for those who wanted to customize it a bit to have the best setup for themselves while playing. The possibilities were surprisingly vast for a game that came out all the way back in 1999.
What was great about Super Smash Bros. is that it went above and beyond traditional beat ’em ups by adding a variety of modes and characters to unlock. The game offered many features not found in many games of its time, making it one of the biggest games of its generation. Other additions like various items and maps to battle on were also implemented in the game, giving players the freedom find new and creative ways to pound their friends off the screen. Maybe the biggest thing that ever came with Super Smash Bros. was the character selection. Assembling a far-ranging cast of twelve popular Nintendo mascots and bringing them to the world of Smash Bros. was just jaw dropping at the time. Before Super Smash Bros. came out, if you would have told anybody that a game would have Mario beating up Samus and Fox on Green Greens, well, you would be branded a liar. With the range of characters, however, came some problems. While the vast majority of characters were balanced, some of them like Fox, Kirby, or even Jigglypuff seemed to be able to bring much more punishment compared to most. There wasn’t anything deal-breaking of course, but how often would you have to tell your friends or brothers/sisters they weren’t allowed to pick any of those characters because of their abilities or cheap moves? It’s just a minor complaint, and I am glad that they fixed most of those characters’ issues with newer installments, but for the most part, those characters were banned from use in the St-Amour household for those reasons.
One of the main additions to the game was the single-player adventure mode where you had the chance to pick and play as one of the twelve characters and go toe-to-toe against all other characters, including the now-famous Fighting Polygon Team in all different modes ranging from 1 vs 1 to Team Battles. In the end, if you were good enough to defeat all the foes that were in your way, you could face off against the notorious Master Hand in an intense, massive showdown on the Final Destination stage. Speaking of Master Hand, how satisfying was it to finally defeat him for the first time? There’s a profound sense of defeat after crunching hours and hours of practice only to lose against the giant glove, but once you get into that intense moment and you take him down the overwhelming glee of success and pride takes over. I practically cried when I was finally able to defeat him for the first time; I felt like I accomplished the biggest achievement in gaming. And that’s what’s great about Super Smash Bros. – even if you beat the game on easy, very hard, or are just playing with friends, it feels so good to win those hard-fought matches. For those who struggled against Master Hand and now are pros at Smash because of all the sweat, tears, and pain, all I can say is, Congratulations! You’ve earned it!
While the game had many features like Target Practice or simply browsing the music selection, none was used more than the multiplayer mode. The battles that took place in many household living rooms would not have been able to have taken place if it wasn’t for all the other well-placed features in the game. Again, from all the items, characters, level selections, and even the various multiplayer modes, everything just made the experience much more fun – what’s even cooler is that this created the two different types of people who play Smash. Either you’re in Group A and enjoyed all the game had to offer with the items and levels, or you’re the type who’d rather play the no-item, Final-Destination-only battles of Group B. Both ways are great, and you can’t argue you wont have fun in either. The only question is, which side do you brawl for?
Super Smash Bros. showcased some good graphics for its time but, like many other retro games, it will only get harder to judge it for the quality of graphics as time goes on, especially when compared to the many newer games that showcase the power of the “next-gen” consoles. So instead of looking for comparisons between Super Smash Bros. and other games, I will look at how Super Smash Bros. stacks up on his own. Like I said at the beginning, the first installment of Smash Bros. showed the power of the Nintendo 64. All the playable characters are portrayed very well, and all the stages are uniquely done with different elements to them. What surprises me more than how the graphics look is how the framerate never seems to drop. It’s a facet that’s probably overlooked by most, but for those who played the game more competitively like myself, this made a big difference to the game, making the atmosphere of the game better overall.
Another great feature of the game was that every stage had its own theme song to go with it. What’s even better is that the songs aren’t just some random themes, but are actually all remastered songs from Nintendo’s past. As a kid, I thought this was just a real jaw-dropping thing. It created the perfect atmosphere for brawling as well as lending even more Nintendo nostalgia to the game. It’s good to give credit where credit is due, and HAL Laboratory put a whole lot of effort to make this game even more pro Nintendo and it worked out very well. Kudos!
Super Smash Bros. has endless replayability. You can easily clock in 100 hours on the single player modes alone, but you will double or even triple in that in the multiplayer matches. The greatest thing they did for Smash was making it easy to pick up and play. Anybody who wants to play can; if you want to dive in for hours of training, you can do that as well. I feel like I am repeating myself over again about the replayability, but as a person who put in tons of hours playing against three level-9 characters just so I could compete against my brother and our friends, I can confirm that it’s there.
The legacy Super Smash Bros. has left behind also earned many sequels, with the most acclaimed one coming out on the GameCube two years after the first in Super Smash Bros. Melee, which sold a whopping 7+ million copies. The Gamecube only sold roughly 20 million consoles. So if you do the math, ⅓ of the people who bought a GameCube also bought Smash Bros. Melee. Then Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out in 2008 on the mass-selling juggernaut that was the Wii and sold a massive 11.49 million copies according to Nintendo. While the sales are very positive, most of us are anticipating the same will happen with Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U. I didn’t want to bring up the poor sales of the Wii U, but this could be the game that helps sells the console and bring it up to speed with the other two “next-gen” consoles.
Theres no denying that Super Smash Bros. has brought forth one of the best franchises in gaming history. With its vast selection of characters from across all of Nintendo has to offer and mashing them into one screen, the game boasts one of the most unique and fun fighting rosters there is in any fighting game. It has so much nostalgia and nods to past Nintendo characters and franchises that it has become the center of all that is Nintendo. People wait to buy the new systems just for this game alone, and who can blame them? The game offers so much for anybody who wants to play competitively or for those looking for a nice match on the couch with family and friends. You have hours upon hours of unlocking collectible trophies, stickers, CDs, characters, and even stages. The effort put into all the Smash games is just amazing, and I am very hopeful that the next two installments will bring as much fun and amazement then the last.
Possibly the best thing I can say about Smash is that it brought families together as well as making friendships even better by just making it simple and fun. My fondest memories of this game are playing with my brother and our friends for hours on end just to see who would be crowned king of Smash. Between the fun, unique features this game brought to the gaming world, the many successful sequels it spawned, and the friendships that were made (and sometimes destroyed!) over a game of Smash, there is no denying that the original Super Smash Bros. is, and always will be, the best.
This retro review is based on Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 which was originally released on April 26th 1999.