The idea of all my favorite Nintendo stars fighting each other in one big game was a concept I never imagined would become a reality. Even now I’m a little skeptical that it really exists, and furthermore, that it’s straight-up awesome. But somehow Super Smash Bros is a real thing and for that I couldn’t be happier. So to start a Monday off right, how about a Super Smash Bros Retrospective? That’s what I thought.
Super Smash Bros (1999):
The essence of the first Super Smash Bros can easily be captured in the classic game commercial set to the Beatles song, So Happy Together. Mario, Yoshi, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong are holding hands as they skip through a field. Then without warning Mario sweeps Yoshi’s legs and they all start fighting. The commercial is perfect, and as a kid every time I saw it I knew I needed Smash Bros on my N64.
My first encounter with Smash Bros was once again from Nintendo Power with its usual hype train. All I needed to know was that Mario and Link would fight against Fox and Pikachu and I was addicted. I read the Nintendo Power articles over and over again, hungry for my Smash Bros. I even went out and preordered the game through Hollywood Video’s game kiosk, the precursor to Game Crazy (Lord rest their souls). Unfortunately, I was quoted a price that was awesome, ($35), but then waited and waited and waited and still, the game did not come in. I had to wait a whole week after it came out before my Hollywood Video got the game in. “Alright, that’ll be $50.” Uh-oh, he must have misspoke. Nope, the price was set and the first guy just screwed up. I went to Toys ‘R Us and got a copy with a coupon for $45. As soon as I got home it was time to try out my new favorite game ever.
The very first character I tried out was Link in the arcade mode. The controls were entirely foreign to me, especially the jumping mechanic. I had to relearn all sorts of things for Super Smash Bros in order to just proceed through the game, but after a week or so I was starting to get the hang of things. I hadn’t played many fighting games before, but I could see why I definitely liked Smash Bros better: Battle length. Most fighting games had matches that usually lasted under a minute, maybe two if you were really pushed, but otherwise there was no such thing as an epic fight. With Smash Bros, you didn’t whittle down your opponent’s health but rather inflicted damage in order to make it easier to throw them further, leading to the ultimate goal of knocking them off the stage. I loved this concept, plus each character played differently, so I was almost never bored.
My friends and I would get together for four-player matches every few sleepovers, going nuts with the 12 characters and nine levels. We got our money’s worth for sure. And after we’d played for long enough, we’d just set four computer characters to fight each other as we did a running commentary, naming each character after someone we knew from school. It was simple fun and we thought nothing could be better. One of my best friends at the time, Derek, was also my arch nemesis, so whenever we played he was Fox and I was Pikachu. I let him borrow my game for a week and when I got it back I realized Fox’s character stats placed him at the top, showing that he’d spent all week killing Pikachu over and over. I wouldn’t stand for that, so naturally my next week was planned out for me. Life just couldn’t get any sweeter.
Super Smash Bros Melee (2001):
When the GameCube was announced a whole bunch of excellent games were announced along with it. But for me there really was only one game: Super Smash Bros Melee. A new Smash Bros game on a better system? AWESOME! I started seeing commercials for it at movies theaters and on TV and soon I was psyched once more for a game I hadn’t even played yet. I didn’t need anything more than the knowledge that the original 12 characters were back, plus more, equaling 26 characters total (Sheik and Zelda counted as two characters). Also, 29 levels instead of nine? Double the items? More moves for everyone? Sold.
I preordered Melee as soon as possible, knowing that my GameCube’s purchase would be overly justified once Melee was mine. Sure enough, I brought the game home and went to town, though initially I was at a loss because I had to relearn the controls yet again. No matter, a week later and I was mastering the game more than I ever thought possible.
Melee added a lot more in terms of, well, everything. Everything got better. I was almost sad since I knew I could never go back to the original N64 version now that Melee had entered my life. I did pretty much everything I could as a single-player playing alone, honing my skills against opponents that I never played against because, sadly, so few other people seemed to own a GameCube. At this time everyone I knew had gotten into Halo, so I was left in the cold.
Until strange things began happening. At the end of my Freshman year of high school I was told about a Melee tournament happening at a festival our school did during the last week of classes. I practiced against a casual acquaintance to better my skills and I realized, “Wow, I’m actually really good at this game.” The tournament began and I did what anyone else would have done: I pretended I didn’t know how to play the game. My first opponent scoffed and killed me once, thinking the match was going to be super simple. Then I laughed and said, “Just kidding,” and proceeded to utterly destroy him. I was unstoppable, up until the final match against Jeremy Lynn, the deaf kid. His brother was hosting the tournament and the final match pitted me as Adult Link against Jeremy as Mr. Game & Watch, a character I’d never seen anyone use well. My usual tactic of trash talking and mental psyching didn’t work against Jeremy since, well…connect the dots for me. Regardless, after a grueling match I came out victorious, taking the only happiness the deaf kid had in his life (also, I beat him in chess later in the week, just because I’m an evil man). Oh don’t get me wrong, a month later he came over to my house and spent two hours demonstrating how I completely sucked at Melee compared to his unrelenting talent, but it didn’t count on the scoreboard. I was the official school champion.
I retired from Melee for a while until my Senior year when I met two of my closest friends ever, Trinh and Thomas. The three of us met in Japanese class but decided to start playing Melee as often as possible, creating a massive rivalry between we three. It turned out Trinh was unbeatable as Fox, and Thomas played a mean Marth, but in three-person matches I’d rule with Adult Link. Allow me to regale you with my greatest moment ever:
Trinh and I were in a heated battle for first-place, fighting at our usual favorite, Final Destination, he as Fox and I as Link. On a side note, it should be pointed out that in terms of character tiers, Fox and Marth were numbers one and two, whereas Link was near the bottom, and yet I still managed to go toe-to-toe with them, so eat it best friends of mine. Anyway, the match was coming to a close and it looked like Trinh was going to outdo me. He knocked me off the stage and as I fell I realized I’d never make it back. However, a Blast Barrel was rolling off the edge. Seeing my one chance I aimed toward it as it fell, hitting it right as it was about to exit the screen. The three of us assumed I had exploded, but it was actually the barrel blasting me straight up. I Spin Attacked to the corner, leapt at Fox, and sent him flying off to his own defeat since Trinh was so amazed he could hardly move. Single greatest game moment of my life, and there’s no way I could ever recreate it.
Super Smash Bros Brawl (2008):
Among the Wii titles I got excited for, the word “Brawl” came up a few times, letting me know that Melee would have a sequel and that it’d be bigger and supposedly better than the first two by a long shot. I watched the teaser trailers over and over and sunk into the pattern of religiously checking Smash Bros Dojo for nightly updates, drip-feeding me information about the new game. Who would be back? Who would be new? And what more could they really add? I was about to be blown away yet again.
The newest addition was the Final Smash, an ultimate move for each character useable whenever someone acquired the Smash Ball, an item of untold power! And I really mean that, too. Some Final Smashes, like Marth or Zelda’s were instant KO’s if they hit, whereas Mario, Sonic, Fox, and a mess of others had Final Smashes that owned multiple enemies way too effectively. Did is sway the balance of the game? Absolutely, but I was in love with it.
To celebrate the eventual release of the game, of which all Smash Fans were forced to endure push back after push back of said release, I held one final going away party for Melee, a Last Chance Melee Smash, as I called it (because I’m oh so clever sometimes). A good long night of Melee was followed by a trek to my local Game Crazy store at midnight to get the new game and start playing that very night. The pilgrimage caused some annoyed gamers, but dang it, it was symbolic of my endless struggle waiting for this game.
It was no shock that the amount of content in Brawl was staggering. The unbelievable fan service Nintendo paid to diehards was worth every single unhappy moment I endured as a GameCube loyalist all those years ago. Just the soundtrack alone was phenomenal to behold. The first Smash Bros had maybe a dozen songs, total. Melee had closer to three-dozen. Brawl had over 300. GAH. Throw in 40 characters, yet more items, and user-generated stages and that’s a wrap: Best game on the Wii. The game even went out of its way to repair the problem of wave dashing that nearly broke Melee for me. I got good in Melee, but I could never be as good as the game-breaking moves that some players figured out. I’d watch those matches on YouTube and just think, “Wow, that looks so unfun to play.” Wave Dashing in Brawl, gone. Yeah, replaced by something else, but at least a progression was made.
Brawl wasn’t without its faults though. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why Mewtwo was missing. He was a tough character to unlock in Melee and even tougher to master, but he’s totally absent in Brawl. Plus, while the local multiplayer is one of the best experiences of any game in recent years, the online component is awful beyond respite. You can just skip it, unfortunately.
Now comes the real question: What happens next? Will Brawl be the end for Smash Bros games? As the creator of both the original and Brawl, Masahiro Sakurai, mentioned, his goal was to make the best damn game he could, as if it was definitely going to be the last of the series. That doesn’t rule out another game, especially not now that the 3DS is on its way out, but there’s nothing on the horizon to give Smash Fans hopes of the next big game with Geno, the return of Mewtwo, and every stage from every game in addition to all new stages. It’s asking for a lot, but they delivered last time, so why not here?
And I’m spent. My love for Smash can only take me so far since, well, there are only three games to the retrospective. So tell me, are you a Smash Fan as well? Or do you hate the game? Can you destroy families with Zelda’s Shiny Kick like I can? Or do you have a different character you end lives with? Time to share your memories of Smash. Don’t make me Shiny Kick you in the face.
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