Looking Back is a series where we take a glance at a particular game of yesteryear, whether it be influential, under appreciated, or just simply worth remembering.
There are many games in Nintendo’s history that are considered “ground-breaking” and “innovative”. Among all of these games, there is one that particularly stands out as not only changing the way I play video games, but also the fighting genre as a whole. That game is Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64. This game stood out against the competition for a variety of reasons (such as controls, stages, characters, items, etc.), and brought many fond memories to gamers around the world.
The controls for the game are simplistic, not requiring players to memorize complicated button combinations, but rather having a certain attack assigned to a single button on the remote. You could utilize these attacks and use them in orders to deal more damage to the opposing player, which would end the round in your favor. These controls made the game an easier way for beginners to gaming to play, and ended up for more fun at parties, as everyone wouldn’t have trouble playing.
A picture of the character-selection screen for the Multiplayer modes.
Traditional fighting games like Street Fighter determine the winner by seeing how much damage each player can bring to the other player (or CPU). Unlike this traditional technique, Super Smash Bros. took a rather unique approach, and made characters have to force the other off-stage to be able to truly defeat them. Players could generally keep on damaging the other player as much as they wanted, but their “damage total” would gradually rise. The damage total system was a percentage under each player’s icon, and it would indicate how “vulnerable” the player was to harsh attacks. While a player’s damage total rose with every hit (it could exceed 100%), the attacks would throw them farther away from the player that dealt the attack. When a player’s damage total is at a very high percentage (the color would get darker-red with each blow), even a very small attack could send them flying off of the stage. When a player flew off of the stage, they would have an explosion of some sort to indicate they were dead, and the person would come back on a floating piece of land and join the fight again. This system was new to the fighting genre, and offered a different way to play, which many gamers are very grateful to have today.
Another thing that made this game stand out were the characters that you could fight with. Super Smash Bros. pulled faces from all over the Nintendo universe, ranging from Kirby to Ness. You started off the game with only a few characters unlocked, with the game requiring you to do certain challenges (and complete tasks) to unlock the remaining characters. The items were another unique feature, pulling different unlockables from the ends of the Nintendo universe. For example, if you threw a bob-omb, then it would explode, adding more to the damage total of the other player. An item that stood out was the Pokeball, which gave the players opportunities to summon Pokemon (from the popular franchise). These Pokemon then used their attacks to inflict damage on the other player. The items and characters were both great choices for the game, as it also did a good job advertising their other games for the N64 (i.e. Somebody plays as Kirby and wants to play the game that Kirby stars in).
The stages for the game ranged from different sceneries such as the Mushroom Kingdom (from the Mario series), all the way to Saffron City (from the Pokemon series). Like the characters/items, the stages were a way to market Nintendo’s other games, which was a little bit annoying, but at the same time enjoyable.
A picture of a battle on the “Yoshi’s Island” stage.
The gameplay modes that Super Smash Bros. featured also added to the experience, having different single-player and multiplayer modes. In single-player, there was the typical versus mode (where you could vs CPU’s, which ranged from levels 1-9 in difficulty). The other options are a set of mini-games, which include “Break The Targets”, and “Board The Platforms” (both of the mini-games are self-explanitory). There was also a training mode where the player could choose the character/CPU they wanted to play as/vs, and could train on that character (to improve their skills for the other modes). What really stood out in the single-player experience of Super Smash Bros. was the “Classic Mode”, which was the closest thing the game had to a story mode. Of course a story mode was not needed for this type of game, but it was re-assuring to have a semi-one available. The story involved players needing to defeat wave after wave of opponents, ending with the final boss (dubbed the “Master Hand”). The Classic Mode didn’t take too long to beat, but it was always fun to go through every once in a while, and I surely didn’t get bored of it. Although the single-player experience was enjoyable, the center of the stage for Super Smash Bros. were the multiplayer modes. The core of the multiplayer experience was the head-to-head versus mode, where up to 4 players could battle to see who was the best. You had the option to edit the battle, which included editing the time limit, the amount of lives (for each player), and many more. These options sweetened up the battles so no game was ever the exact same.
Super Smash Bros. was a game that we can all look back on and be grateful for, as it brought all of our favorite Nintendo characters into one place for an awesome gaming experience. It was a huge hit at many of the parties that I went to, and it changed the way that people look at fighting games (I know I’m not the only one that compares fighting games to Super Smash Bros.) The game was so successful that Nintendo eventually released 2 sequels, and the game is still running strong to this day.