Smash Bros: A Retrospective

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Ooh, I'm getting antsy just thinking about Smash Bros. I should go play instead of writing this.

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):

How can you not be anything but excited when you see this box?

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.

It seems so simple now, doesn't it?

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):

Best follow-up to anything in the history of ever.

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.

And mastering it properly never felt so sweet.

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.

For good measure, I made sure to kick fox's butt on principle alone.

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):

That fire you see here represents the explosion of joy in my heart when I heard about Brawl.

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.

It also made you feel like a jackass if you got caught in a Final Smash, as it should.

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.

Make Nintendo's best game ever: Mission Complete.

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.

Silly monkey. Now go find Mewtwo!

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?

Like you didn't all want this, too.

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.

Want to read another retrospective? Take a look at these:

Games You Should Have Played: The Donkey Kong Country Trilogy

More To Catch: A Pokemon Toys Retrospective

The Plastic Wars: A Retrospective on Army Men

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About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

4 Comments

  1. I love that game with a burning passion! My best character is Zelda by far. With her Din’s Fire for long distance and her diamond relfector for defense, (Sheik for short distance as well)I pone with her and her alone. Sheik bothered me though, being light, weak, and having like zero defense, I like Zelda far more. I first tried Melee when I was 6 years old, and my cousin set me as Zelda just to mock me. That seriously pissed me off, so I spent the next 2 years using her and only her, and eventually could mop the floor with her and any other challenger that stood in our way. Oh. Yeah. I literally peed my pants when I heard Brawl was coming out, but I waited until the time was right to buy it. I worked with her (enjoying her sexy new look) but also took a break from her to try out new characters like Lucas, Lucario, and Ness. I still pone with her (and her Shiny Kick!). To this very day.

  2. Hi Chris, my name is Ezequiel, I´m from Argentina. Let me just say that I was absolutly moved by your retrospective. I know EXTACLY what you mean in almost every word you wrote. I still remember when I first watched the first Smash Bros commercial back in 1999, our long smashing afternoons with my cousins and brother, saving up every cent I got to by a gamecube just to get my hands on Melee, and my dayli visits to the Dojo.

    Let me explain you how things are here in my country in terms of video games. Everything arrives quiet later and quiet more expensive here. As a result, not many people own last gene consoles. And even if they do, most people only buy them to play the Winning Eleven games (I have seen people with playstations 2 with only that game, and an ocacionally Need for Speed). Hardcore gamers aren´t that common.

    I had some little success introducing smash bros 64 to my school friends, and we played it every now and then in sleepovers when I took my N64 with me. I played the n64 version mostly with my brother and my two cousins. We used to go lunch with them every saturday, and we spended all the afternoon playing. My older cousing (who owned the 3 of us in almost every fight) used DK, my brother used mostly Pikachu, my little cousin always played as Kirby, and my weapon of choice was Captain Falcon (whose falcon punch almost made me cry of joy the first time I saw it, not to mention the first time I connected one).
    By the time we got our GameCube and Melee, my cousins had lost the hand of it, so we coudln´t share it that much. I explained the game mechanics to almost every friend who came over to my house, but it was to complex for casual gamers, so I always ended up holding myself from destroying my playing partners so hard that they would abandon the game in frustration.

    I remember one time, my aunt came to dinner with an american guy who was renting her a room. When he saw our games, he said
    – oh cool, you have Smash Bro Melee
    – yeah, you wanna play?
    – sure!
    We were not ready for that. My brother and I were very good of course, but we had never played an experienced smasher besides each other. And to make it worse, he used all characters we never did, like Jigglypuff, Mr. Game&Watch and Luigi. We had very heated struggles, but he always ended up victorious. One by one he took my strongest characters. Ganondorf (a stronger and more bad ass version of Captain Falcon? oh yeah), Marth, C.Falcon, Link, Falco, I just couln´t defeat him. Until, in our eleventh fight or so, I won with Marth. Of course I turned off my GamCube after that. I had lost like 9 fights, but at least I redeemed my pride by showing him that he wasn´t undefeatable 😛

    I could spend all night talking about these games. They are, without question, master pieces. I had too bought both my gamecube and wii only for them, and I too think they are worth every penny. And the idea of another sequel would be a dream come true, but I know that if it happens, it won´t be for some time now.

  3. The barrel didn’t appear below, it rolled off the edge and fell off as I was falling. It’s tough to explain and ridiculous to replicate, but I assure you, it did happen.

  4. I’m with you one hundred and ten percent Chris. I have so many memories of playing Melee with my brothers. The greatest thing about the games I think, is how dinamic and attack system is, yet it’s so easy to figure out. I just wish more fighter games could be made like this one. There have been a few copy cats, like Digimon Rumble Arena 2 or that TMNT Smash game, but they always fail to get the point.
    I always wanted a smash bros. game that was strictly all pokemon characters. I wanted to play as Charamander so badly when the origional smash on the N64 came out.
    Or what if THQ made a Team Avatar vs Teen Titans fighter game in the style of smash bros? I could map out the characters move sets all on my own if I wanted to.

    If I could pick any more characters to be on a Smash Bros. game, I would pick these (considering the rules state the characters have to originate from a video game, and not be licenced to Microsoft or Sony)

    Megaman: He’s such an iconic character, and seeing what a huge bond Nintedo has with Capom, I was suprised he never showed up in Brawl. Final Smash: Haidoken from Megaman X

    Dixie Kong: One of my favorite characters from my favorite side-scrolling platformers. Final Smash: Blowing a giant gum bubble and popping it in front of the first one to hit it.

    Knuckles: If they have Sonic, than might as well have the guy that’s not quite as fast, but stronger and can glide, and even dig. Final Smash: Some sort of ground slam.

    Meowth: That’s right. Finals Smash: Payday

    Crash Bandicoot: Since he no longer belongs to Sony. The main problem with him being in the game is that all other characters in Brawl origionated in Japan, whereas Crash came from America. But he’s still popular enough in japan, and it would be great to relive the Battle between Mario, Sonic, and their underdog. Final Smash: Aku Aku witch docter mask.

    Love these games. I still don’t understand how an exploding barrel could have appeared below the Final Destination level, but cool story anyway bro.

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