Hello, Nation! Welcome to our first edition of Throwback Thursday! And what an opener we have! In honor of tomorrow’s (or tonight’s, if you are going to the midnight tournaments) release of Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS, we will be taking a look at the original Super Smash Bros. for the N64.
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Platform(s): N64, Wii (Virtual Console), Wii U (Virtual Console)
Release Date: January 21, 1999
Oh man, has it really been fifteen years since the release of this classic title? I have so many memories playing this title at many of my friends’ homes (I never had an N64 myself). It was easily one of my favorite games of the time, certainly the series remains my favorite fighting game franchise (and one of my favorite series in general). But let us put those rose-tinted glasses aside and take a fresh look at what the original Super Smash Bros. has to offer.
First, lets consider the roster. Even in its original inception the series boasted twelve characters, which today is still a decent roster. Whats more, Luigi is the only character in the game that is what one might call a “pallet swap” character, sharing all his moves with Mario and differing only in his running and jumping physics. Otherwise, all the characters played very differently, each focusing on a unique play-style that lends itself to the inherent platformer-fighting that the series pioneered. Then, as now, my favorite characters to play as were Samus and Pikachu because of their all-around potential and ability to take on foes fairly well at multiple ranges, though they are not necessarily the most powerful characters available.
Super Smash Bros. manages to pull together characters from disparate genres and styles and put them together without those different styles clashing too badly. Whats more, this game even brought in characters that, until that point, never had this kind of rendering. Star Fox and Captain Falcon, for example, are rarely seen outside of their ships and their games (at the time) had never utilized anything but their ships in gameplay, meaning that HAL Laboratory had to create moves based on their characters’ personalities and not necessarily iconic fighting moves, as opposed to counterparts such as Yoshi or Link who use attacks drawn straight from their franchise.
But the roster alone does not a game make. The gameplay of Super Smash Bros. is still fun, chaotic, and fast-paced. Characters often have access to some of their most iconic attacks and between them all there is a wide variety of attacks that players can use to attack each other and interact with the environment.
The music of the game is simply fantastic, but it is drawn entirely from the games that the stages are based on. That isn’t at all to say that there is a problem with that and asking for multiple tracks or remixes from a game that old seems to me a bit much. Nintendo music tends to be good in general and I never had a problem with the tracks getting old.
Despite that, the game does have some glaring flaws that have only become more apparent as the years and sequels have gone by. Namely, the game feels a bit clunky and slow compared to its progeny. That is to be expected, of course, but it is still a thorn in its side.
The Other Side:
The game’s dodging system also leaves something to be desired. Without an air dodge, any act of platforming suddenly puts a player at risk of being smashed off the course. Subsequent games in the series have remedied this, starting with the air-dodge of Melee, but its absence can still be felt. For a game that puts such a high value on moving around the screen and platforming, it seems like a major feature to forget. That said, many fighting games do not have air dodges or blocking either, so I can’t hold it against good ol’ SSB too much. Using dodge rolls on the ground can sometimes be frustrating as well, which stems from those buttons sharing their function with blocking. There are many times where I botched a roll because the game registered it as only using the shield.
Another strike against the game is the fact that it was on the N64. This may sound like a cheapshot, but I truly loath the N64 controller; I could never quiet get comfortable with its trident design and awkwardly placed buttons and analog stick. I feel like that controller is just horrible. I can’t deal with it. The saving grace is that now, as a Virtual Console game, it can be enjoyed with the infinitely more comfortable Wii Classic controller. I just cannot stress how important that is to me.
Many stages in the original Smash remain some of my favorite for the series. I simply love Saffron City and Hyrule Castle. Their designs are fantastic and set the standard for stages to come. Sector Z is similar to the rest of the Starfox levels in the series because, once again, its simple design is both functional and fun to play on. The stage hazards in many levels also add additional difficulty and strategy to work with. It is always satisfying to throw an opponent into the sights of an Arwing and watch them go flying. Using the pipes in Mushroom Kingdom was also fun, as was summoning Pokemon in the Saffron City stage.
Not all the stages are so great, though. Princess Peach’s Castle and Planet Zebes were difficult to play on and the fighting elements are often overshadowed by dealing with the stage’s difficulty. Once again, though, I feel that this is a minor complaint and that they add to the game despite being poorly designed stages. The game is, after all, a platformer.
My final gripe with the game is the lack of special moves. The first Super Smash only included three special moves per character, which limited the variety of the game and, compared to more recent titles, makes it far less impressive now than it was back in the day. The lack of chargable “smash attacks” is noticeable, but only because they are such an important part of the series afterwards. That said, the smash attacks are still in the game, as are tilt moves, meaning that there are plenty of attacks to choose from even if special moves are limited.
Super Smash Bros. is not ultimate experience that I remember as a child, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. In fact, Super Smash Bros. remains a fantastic title and one I can recommend to anyone looking for another fighting game to add to their Virtual Console or N64 collection. I can give it a solid 8/10 without any hesitation, maybe even stretching it to an 8.5 if played on the Virtual Console.
That’s it for now, readers! Thanks for joining us on this first Throwback Thursday review, and keep comming back for more news, reviews, and more as they roll out! And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @APGNation.