CSG Retrospective – Super Smash Bros.
Who would have thought that a game where Mario can battle The Legend of Zelda‘s Link or Metroid‘s Samus Aran could ever exist. Thanks to the advent of the Super Smash Bros. series, what was once a fantasy has now become a reality. Created and developed by Masahiro Sakurai, the mastermind behind the Kirby games, Super Smash Bros. is a series of crossover fighting games that feature characters from Nintendo’s most beloved franchises. Renowned for its exhilarating gameplay, multiplayer, and colorful cast of characters, the Smash games are some of Nintendo’s biggest titles. They are also known for being unorthodox in comparison to other fighting games like Street Fighter. In Smash, players must knock each other off of a stage in order to win. Instead of a life bar, players have a percentage counter that steadily increases the more damage they inflict on one another. The more damage a player accumulates, the farther they will fly when launched off of a stage, and once they are completely out of a stage’s bounds, they are KOed.
Smash‘s story begins in the late 1990s when Sakurai developed an interest in making a fighting game. In order to give his game more appeal and originality, he decided to replace the generic characters he initially conceptualized with classic Nintendo characters. After Sakurai finished his prototype game, he presented it to Nintendo for approval. Nintendo was thoroughly impressed with his work and approved his game for full development. Thus, Super Smash Bros. was born.
Super Smash Bros. was released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64 and features eight playable characters: Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Fox, Yoshi, Pikachu, and the little puffball himself Kirby, plus four unlockable characters: Luigi, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, and Ness. The game has a single-player mode and a multiplayer mode. In single-player, you can take on the CPU in Classic mode, a mode akin to Street Fighter‘s arcade mode, or hone your smashing skills in Training mode. However, it is Smash 64‘s outstanding multiplayer that makes it an instant classic. Up to four players can duke it out simultaneously. Best of all, the game has a simple control scheme, making it easy to pick up and play. Looking back, Smash 64 may seem primitive in comparison to its successors, but it still holds up to the test of time. Most importantly, it paved the way for more amazing Smash games to come.
One of such amazing games is Smash‘s second entry, Super Smash Bros. Melee. Released in 2001 for the Nintendo GameCube, Melee is often hailed as the gem of the Smash series; I myself consider it to be one of my favorites. It brought Smash into the next generation with enhanced graphics, faster gameplay, and an epic orchestral soundtrack. With over 7 millions units sold, Melee also became the best selling GameCube game of all time. Melee also brought new characters into the fray like Peach, Bowser, and Zelda as well as more unlockable characters.
Melee has a greatly expanded single-player mode than Smash 64. The game introduces three new modes: Adventure mode, All-Star mode. and Event mode. Despite the name, Adventure mode doesn’t involve the characters exploring dungeons and completing quests. This mode is comprised of different stages. Most of the stages have you battling characters like in Classic mode, but others play out like a side-scroller that require you to reach a goal at the end. All-Star mode is an unlockable mode that is obtained after unlocking every playable character in the game. True to its name, All-Star has you battling every Nintendo All-Star in a fight to the finish; if you are KOed once then its game over. Event mode is a series of challenges that place you in fights under special conditions where an objective must be met. Finally, Melee introduced Trophies, collectible items that are collected by doing certain things in the game. Each trophy represents characters or items from various Nintendo titles, complete with a small description; they’re always a real treat to look at when you want to take a break from Melee‘s insane multiplayer.
The game’s multiplayer is left intact from Smash 64. Melee‘s multiplayer became so popular that it soon found its way into the competitive fighting game scene. The game’s popularity in tournaments is attributed to the technical aspects of its gameplay. Although many people still debate if Melee and Smash in general are real fighting games, there is no denying the amount of technical prowess needed to play this game at a high level. In addition, the sheer determination of the Melee community to keep the game alive has persisted over the years to positive results. Even today, after nearly 16 years since its release, Melee is still played competitively at big tournaments like EVO.
Following Melee‘s monumental success, the Smash series became dormant for a good chunk of time. During the course of this dormant period, fans started to throw out tons of conjecture about the third Smash game and what characters would be in it. I remember all the rumors and leaks spreading like a wildfire on the internet, but none of them proved to be legit. In 2006, people were left in shock and awe when Nintendo finally released a trailer for the third Smash, Super Smash Bros. Brawl. What was doubly surprising was that Solid Snake from Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog were going to be included as playable characters. Making Brawl the first game in the series to feature third-party characters.
Brawl was released in 2008 and expanded on its character roster with new additions like Pit from Kid Icarus, Captain Olimar from Pikmin, and Lucas from Mother 3. The best new mode in Brawl is “The Subspace Emissary” (SSE), a new and improved Adventure mode. SSE has you side-scrolling with different characters to reach a goal or fight a boss. The SSE has a plot that follows the Nintendo characters on mission to save their world from Subspace, a deadly force that absorbs all life into dark voids. What is so enjoyable about the SSE narrative is that is told through very well-done cutscenes. Brawl also introduced a creative stage builder mode that allows players to construct their own stages for multiplayer, resulting in some very chaotic levels. Even though Brawl is just as addictive as any other Smash, its gameplay lacked the speed and fluidity of Melee‘s. All of the character movements just felt floaty and tripping was an absolute joke that should not have been implemented in the first place.
With Brawl finished, Smash went into hibernation once again, and the fans went right back to doing what they do best, speculating what would be in the fourth game. Rumors spread like crazy, yet no one could falsify or confirm anything. At E3 2013, Smash 4 was officially revealed under the long title, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Around this time a lot of leaks for the game starting pouring out; the biggest one being a full reveal of the game’s character roster a few months before its scheduled release day. However, the leaks did little to stop the hype, and Smash 4 released for the 3DS in October of 2014 followed by the Wii U version in November to critical and commercial acclaim. Technically, the games are considered separate releases and both do have different features included on them. Although the characters on both platforms are the same, the 3DS version has different modes and stages compared to the Wii U version. I will only be looking at the Wii U version since it is the only version I have played in great length.
Smash 4 brought a lot of new characters to the table this time around. New character additions like the Wii Fit Trainer had me a bit disappointed, but the game made up for it with the inclusion of other cool characters like Robin from Fire Emblem: Awakening and Capcom’s Mega Man. Speaking of third-party characters, Smash 4 has the most playable third-party characters to date. Characters such as Ryu from Street Fighter, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, and Namco’s Pac-Man join the bout to partake in some good old-fashioned smashing. All of these inclusions bring the total number of characters in Smash 4 to a whopping 58, surpassing Marvel vs. Capcom 2‘s gigantic roster.
Smash 4‘s gameplay is a mix of Brawl’s and Melee’s. It has the speed of Melee coupled with Brawl‘s floatiness. I felt this combination works very well and broadens the game’s appeal to fans who were previously divided between Melee and Brawl. In terms of modes, Smash 4 cuts back in some areas and adds in others. Adventure mode was completely cut out of Smash 4, which I thought was a let down because if Brawl could do a good job in telling a coherent plot with virtually no dialogue then so could Smash 4. On the other hand, Smash 4’s multiplayer modes have been turned up significantly. The best new multiplayer mode is 8-Player Smash, a self-explanatory mode that lets you do what Smash fans have only dreamed about, smashing it up with eight characters on one stage at the same time. Pure genius.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Super Smash Bros. series will evolve into timeless classics; in fact, they are already becoming classics. Its thrilling gameplay and amazing characters are too memorable to simply fade away. Moreover, Smash is played on a daily basis on the casual level and competitive level, so its future is in the safe hands of its large fan base. I also believe that Nintendo will never let this beloved series die because it is enjoyable and accessible to everyone, no matter their age. Plus, there will always be a new Smash game on the horizon to look forward to. It may take years for one to come out, but the wait for the ultimate crossover of all time is always worth it. Now lets wait and see what Nintendo plans to do with Smash on the Switch.
Source on Smash 64 development background: Super Smash Bros.Wiki