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10 years of Super Smash Bros

It all seems so obvious in retrospect: take the biggest, most beloved characters of one of the greatest videogame companies of all time and chuck them all into a game where they beat the pixels out of one another. The idea is reminiscent of the fevered dreams of every child on earth who dared to have their G.I. Joes fight alongside their Ninja Turtles, pitting them against the evil forces of the Street Sharks and EXO Squad. Fan service is nothing new amongst the gaming world, but when that fan service is wrapped around a fundamentally excellent game, it becomes something special.

Released in North America on April 26th, 1999, Super Smash Brothers (SSB) came along fairly late in the N64’s development cycle, but managed to capitalize on all the system’s best features. Satoru Iwata, current president of Nintendo and Masahiro Sakurai, creator of the Kirby franchise, had been independently working on a new fighting game that was aiming to be very different from the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat clones that were flooding the market. In an interview between Sakurai and Iwata from Wii.com, Sakurai reminisced:

“Well, I wanted to offer an alternative to the two-dimensional fighting games that were crowding out the market. I also wanted to see if it was possible to make an interesting 4-player game that offered a new experience every time you play. Simply put, I was aiming to design a 4-player battle royal.”

The concept seemed like a good fit for the N64, as it would capitalize on both the system’s 4 controller ports, and the system’s strong multiplayer reputation. With games like Mario Party and Goldeneye being some of the system’s best sellers, it seemed likely that most players would embrace the game’s multiplayer nature. The fact they’d be more likely to have extra controllers sitting around didn’t hurt either.

Interestingly, the original concept for SSB didn’t involve any Nintendo characters at all.   The original concept game "Kakuto-Geemu Ryuoh," or Dragon King: The Fighting Game, was a labor of love, with virtually all work done on the game being done by Sakurai and Iwata. Despite their hard work on the game and the huge amount of personal time invested in it, Sakurai had a hard time selling it to Nintendo. He felt the game needed to be more complete than the average arcade fighting game, that it would need something extra to make it appeal to console owners who didn’t necessarily like fighting games:

“I asked to use Nintendo characters since it was so hard to accurately convey to the players the atmosphere of the gaming world where they play a fighting game on home console. […] With a game for the arcade, it’s okay for character development to take a backseat since players are content with the fighting. With a fighting game for the home console, however, you have to set up the general image or the atmosphere of the gaming world right from the start or else the game suffers. That’s why I asked to use Nintendo characters.”

 

 

 
Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Luigi, Samus Aran, Fox, Link, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, Kirby, Yoshi, Ness.

For its first outing, SSB played it safe with the character selection. Virtually all of Nintendo’s biggest names are represented, and with the exception of Ness and maybe Captain Falcon, even the most casual gamer could be expected to recognize them all. It also introduced Pikachu in a party hat, a sight cute enough to warm even the coldest of hearts.

 

 
SSB deserves credit for successfully bringing a totally new play style to fighting games, a genre that usually shuns big innovations like the plague. The game’s concept of knocking the other player off the screen as opposed to reducing a fixed health bar is totally unique. It also champions a more simplistic command scheme, allowing the player to press a direction and one button to perform special moves. While at first glance this might seem to detract from the game’s challenge, Smash Bros puts a very heavy emphasis on the character’s movement and predicting where they will be as opposed to mastering special move commands.

While traditional 2D fighters are forced to operate in a fairly confined playfield, Smash Bros. levels are usually far bigger than their characters, putting the focus on pursuing your opponent and preventing him from getting back onto the platform. SSB was also pushing to be the first serious fighting game with more than two players.

On almost all counts, the game was a big success, selling over 5 million copies worldwide and guaranteeing a sequel.

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55 comments

  • Xtapolapopotamus - April 24, 2009 8:32 p.m.

    Gotta love this series. It is, to this day, the only reason my Wii sees any use. I sometimes play Mario Galaxy, but Brawl is always in there, and my friends and I play it all the time. I can't wait for the next one.
  • RonnyLive19881 - April 24, 2009 10:01 p.m.

    Best article of the month! Smash Bros. is the best! If the sequel doesn't do things differently it will be a shame. Smash Bros needs to go Powerstone style!
  • NelosAngelos - April 24, 2009 10:53 p.m.

    Probably the best game series out there. Only reason I bought a Wii and personally, I think it was worth it.
  • oreopizza47 - April 24, 2009 11:56 p.m.

    All hail the Brawl!! I am addicted to that game. Recaptcha: Mr Wartime
  • Silentboy - April 25, 2009 12:48 a.m.

    The N64 version in my opinion, is the best ehere ever was of the franchise.
  • Cyberninja - April 25, 2009 1:05 a.m.

    smash bros are the best games ever nuff said
  • gamegirlcolor - April 25, 2009 1:54 a.m.

    The super smash bros. series deserved to be honored in a nice article such as this one.
  • solidocelot - April 25, 2009 3:46 a.m.

    it would be awesome to play as link's uncle
  • reyalejandro13 - April 25, 2009 3:59 a.m.

    Well, SSB is the greatest Nintendo game ever. Besides coming up with the Falcon Punch, It's just more fun to me than most fighting games. Loved the original, too bad I can only play it on an emulator now, second one was better than the first, but Brawl... Well, Brawl's just amazing. A true Nintendo masterpiece, and an awesome game to play all around. It brings together people like no other game on wii.
  • secretsearcher - April 25, 2009 4:49 a.m.

    I love super smash! I'm nearly unbeatable as Pikachu or Zelda/Sheik.
  • tjawesome - April 25, 2009 5:10 a.m.

    i think they should do a ds version, that would be sweet, it doesnt need to have all the features of brawl, but the basics, then itll be the first portable fighter
  • linkganon - April 25, 2009 5:11 a.m.

    too bad solid snake wasn't included on melee, but did you know that they were going to add king dedede on the original roster and on melee, but they were usually ready to be shipped out, that or there was not enough space on the memory of the game. I own all 3 games and snake is one of my favorites, link is another favorite of mine, although i am close to perfection with link.
  • linkganon - April 25, 2009 5:20 a.m.

    heck, close, i've almost done every challenge there is, i have 3 blocks left to complete, one is the hardest boss battles, 100 hours of brawls, and finally collect all stickers. my record on the home run contest is 2525 with fox, and i think i have 3 trophies left to go, my lowest score in the home run contest is 1800, i've beaten subspace on hard, almost on very hard. for melee, i completed the original mode on the hardest difficulty without using one continue. and it goes on and on.
  • Conman93 - April 25, 2009 1:42 p.m.

    They should have sora from kh in the next one his final smash could be trinity limit
  • deathrebellion - April 25, 2009 2:44 p.m.

    i only played the original SSB in Mcdonalds they had it like an arcade machine execpt u cud play without coins as long as your order took to get ready. i fell in love with that game ever since and it also happened to be the game that introduced Samus,Link,Kibry,Fox & Yoshi to me (^^) i just love SSB oh the good ole memories. Thanx GR
  • Styrophoamicus - April 25, 2009 6:53 p.m.

    Melee was my favourite, I think mostly due to the easy-to-digest adventure mode. I wish that there were character-specific "Break the Targets" levels in Brawl like they did with Melee. I also found Brawl to be a bit slower. If they combined Brawl's characters with Melee's gameplay that would be awesome. BTW why is there no Smash Bros. DS? IT CAN BE DONE! WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY! The real winner, though, is the internet series "There Will Be Brawl" =P.
  • GaMeRGuY1oh4 - April 25, 2009 7:32 p.m.

    SSB : Best Game For the N64. Period. Great classic, and the first fighting game (as I know of) to get knocked off stage. (No health bar) SSBM : Better graphics, I'll say that. And many WTF moments. Was the version for advance players. Most characters were crappy clones. SSBB : The reason to buy a Wii. Almost everyone who owns a Wii owns this game. Beatiful graphics. Much more variety with the characters. More fair, not using advanced techniques. My vote goes to, dammit, it's just too hard. But SSBM was the worst because of the too many cloned characters. I think SSB was the best since it was different. But, then again, in SSBB, Mario and Sonic could fight to the death, with Snake also. You know what, all of them are the best.
  • SuperBadnik - April 25, 2009 10:25 p.m.

    Huh, this series really needs to end. Brawl had nothing really new, any other series wouldn't get away with it.
  • jar-head - April 26, 2009 2:04 a.m.

    omfg i've been waiting for this GR I love Thee
  • Gotxxrock - April 26, 2009 2:52 a.m.

    In all forms and all manners, it doesn't matter which: Such a collaboration of great franchises and mascots, such pure concentrated nostalgia applied to such a fresh and vibrant gameplay formula... It is a thing of perfection.

Showing 1-20 of 55 comments

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