Oddly enough, the first Super Smash Bros. seems quite a humble little title with all things considered. It started life as plain polygons fighting one another and Nintendo didn’t expect it to cause much of a stir overall, even as this momentous crossover experience. Yet it was the first time all of Nintendo’s iconic characters came together, how could it not have been fated to become what it is today, one of the biggest fighting game series of all time. Smash Bros. now staggers players with its wealth of content and depth of play, but it certainly wasn’t always the case.
The series coming to fruition has a lot to do with one man in particular, a man whose name almost every Smash Bros. player will recognise: Masahiro Sakurai. A developer at HAL Laboratory (a second-party developer for Nintendo), he is widely known as the creator of both the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. series. The story behind Smash Bros. began as Sakurai simply wanted to make a fighting game of his own. With the help of another big name at Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, he made the prototype Kakuto-Geemu Ryouh (Dragon King: The Fighting Game), a rather basic looking game which held a unique approach to the fighting genre. It wasn’t until later he took his ideas further and wanted to have classic Nintendo characters added to the mix, thus he created a presentation demo without Nintendo’s sanction featuring a handful of familiar faces. Luckily for him the company was impressed with the project at that stage, and thus Sakurai was given a team and a small budget to develop, and so Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 became a reality. It’s a development story reasonably well known but it highlights the fact the series wasn’t particularly in demand and had a rather quiet start in life.
But retrospectively its remarkable how small a budget the game was given and how small an impact it was expected to make (it was originally marked for a Japan-only release). There’s only a piddly 12 characters to use, 9 stages to choose from in versus mode, and one campaign mode. This bears remark as the latest releases feature a whopping 58 characters, 84 stages and several gameplay modes to pick from (a feat boasted in the final Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U presentation video last December). Success for the series is assured today and the wealth of content available to it is virtually limitless, which makes picking up the much smaller original title all the more peculiar. Furthermore the frame rates are low on the N64 (likely to keep the action running smoothly) making the characters on screen looking blockier when compared to other N64 releases (Mario looks better in 1996’s Super Mario 64). Rounding off, the sound effects and music aren’t of the best quality, all in all revealing the effect that smaller budget had on the game. But what it lacks in presentation it more than makes up for in gameplay; games don’t tend to get sequels featuring 50+ unique fighters without a solid basis to stem from. Despite content feeling lacking, Smash 64’s gameplay is still familiar to anybody who’s played a Smash Bros. game. It’s all about the gameplay with Smash Bros. and the original gives us that just as much as any other entry in the series, despite the low expectations originally given to it.
Since Smash 64 we’ve received four more titles, each one giving us more content and more activities to tuck into. Super Smash Bros. Melee was commissioned for the GameCube almost directly after the original was released, with a much larger budget and development team at its back. Despite a rather tight development period, it became the best-selling game on the console and is widely regarded as the best Smash Bros. game by the enthusiastic community. Super Smash Bros. Brawl followed this several years later for the Nintendo Wii. It featured a dramatic story mode known as the Subspace Emissary and included for the first time third-party guest fighters not owned by Nintendo, namely Konami’s Solid Snake and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Gameplay in Brawl was a tad more refined than ever before, yet fans weren’t won by the fact it just wasn’t quite as fun to play as its predecessors. Finally the partner titles Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U were released in short succession during late 2014. These have since boasted those aforementioned staggering number of fighters and stages and act as a mark of pride for the company. These were the first time in the series Sakurai involved more people in the balancing of the fighters, ensuring everything was viable competitively. After several waves of Downloadable-Content, these titles are finally considered complete. The series’ success now allows Super Smash Bros. to stand proudly beside the Nintendo properties it brings together, shouting with a voice all of its own.
Yet perhaps the series greatest legacy is the community it has brought together along the way. Super Smash Bros. is one of the most competitive titles on the market and tournaments are held all around the world. Terms such as Wave Dashing have sprouted from this community to describe moves and tactics fans have developed in their gameplay style. Furthermore we’ve seen mass fan projects such as Project M (a modification of Brawl which was created to resemble Melee a lot more in play style) and more recently Super Smash Bros.: Reloaded. The fan following has even influenced the development of the most recent titles, which now feature plain iterations of each stage (known of Final Destination versions), alongside expert online modes, to encourage more serious competitive play. The community can seem an intimidating scene which in the past has sadly been let down by a small number of aggressive individuals. Be that as it may it is noted time and time again how friendly and inviting it is just to start playing Smash competitively; with one of the biggest and welcoming gaming communities in the world. For anyone who loves Smash Bros. it’s certainly worth looking into taking part!
Despite its humble origins, the wonderful part of Super Smash Bros. as a series is that its appeal spreads far and wide. It’s easy to pick up yet tantalisingly tricky to master, it can be played competitively or just for the zany fun it can provide, and there’s bound to be a character in the fighting list for everyone. Sure it’s a funny thought, thinking Smash Bros. was not always conceived as big as it has become, but rarely do so many famous faces come together with such roaring success. It’s thanks to Super Smash Bros. that I’m even playing Nintendo games through this blog feature in the first place. So thank you Smash Bros. and keep doing what you’re doing!
Thanks for reading the Smash Index everyone! It’s been a long time in the running but we’ve now reached the end of the line, at least for now. In the meantime check here to read up on past entries and until then look for new posts in the future.
So this is the part where we go over what parts of the fighting series originated in this title. Well I can tell you that Super Smash Bros. is the only universe within the N64 title that does not have a playable fighter all to itself. There is however the boss character Master Hand, a wicked floating hand that seems hell bent on causing misfortune for our Nintendo heroes. It has appeared as the boss character of Classic Mode in every Smash Bros. game to date and stands as the series most recognisable character. It’s also joined by the Fighting Polygon Team, an army of blank fighters who replicate the move sets of each hero. They also appear in the Classic Mode albeit only in the N64 title (they are succeeded by other such fighters in later games who carry different identities). The stages of Battlefield and Final Destination received their first iteration in this title however they are only accessible in Classic Mode, and wouldn’t be made readily available in multiplayer until Melee. There’s also a whole host of generic items that originate in this title, many of which are usable in every Smash Bros. title. These include the Barrel, Beam Sword, Bumper, Capsule, Crate, Egg, Fan, Home-Run Bat, Motion-Sensor Bomb and Ray Gun.