I remember the first time I played Smash Bros. I was at block buster and saw it on the N64 rental shelf. Even though I read a lot of gaming magazines like NMS, Hyper and N64 Gamer, I’m pretty sure it had slipped under my radar. The box art was enough to sell it, Kirby, Link, Samus, Mario and Pikachu all in the same game? How could a Nintendo fanboy resist. I took it home, turned on the 64 and fell in love. Fighting games had always been an interest, but I’d never been able to master quarter circles and move lists. Smash Bros. simplified all of this to holding a direction while pressing a button to execute special moves. You could play any character and never once have to stop find out how to do their moves. It was truly accessible and a whole lot of fun. For the next couple of years all my friends and I needed was a 64, four controllers, GoldenEye and Smash Bros and we were set for the night. By the time the GameCube rolled around I’d largely moved on to PC Games, and didn’t get my hands onto the sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee, until I changed schools and met Adam.
Adam had it all. A GameCube, Four Controllers, a Memory Card 251, and Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Melee such an incredible improvement on the original. Smoother gameplay, cleaner visuals, and a mountain of content. The depth was there to really dig in and get “really good” at the game, but it was still just as easy to pick up and play as ever and we were never short of people to fill players three and four.
The next five years were full of Smash. Casual play with friends, competitive 1v1 (4 stock, no items, final destination), learning about WaveDashing, ignoring WaveDashing, losing to Bryce (fuck you Bryce), more casual 4v4s, more competetive 1v1s and so on.
Marth, a character from a long running Japanese only series called Fire Emblem (what the hell is that?), was my favourite character at first, largely because I saw how good Adam was with him (let’s be honest though Adam, that damn electric rat was your best fighter), but then I found my own feet with Zelda’s alter-ego Sheik. Sheik was essentially Nintendo’s Spiderman equivalent. Slender, nimble, could jump high and had a killer FORWARD-A punch whilst in the air. Captain Falcon deserves a mention for his majestic knee.
Now, it’s safe to say that when Nintendo started their PR campaign for the next sequel, Brawl, they had my attention. I remember Nintendo ran a blog, which they updated every day in the lead up to launch with a post about something from the new game. Usually it was a write up about an item, but SOMETIMES it was a character announcement and you better believe I checked that thing every damn day. Finally I got my hands on the Japanese release (January 2008), unlocking every character and stage as quickly as possible. Finding “Toon Link” in the game might have been my favourite surprise. Then came the US release (March), where we got to do it all again.
Brawl was met with mixed feelings by the competitive community. It was a slower game, and a lot of the tricks people had mastered over the last 6 years with Melee didn’t work anymore. The stages and items were also largely designed to level the playing field, which again alienated the “pros”. Personally I didn’t find the slower speed to be too much of a negative, and the positives played too well into Brawl’s favour. Widescreen support, More (new) Characters, and an Animal Crossing stage (that even featured Totakeke on Saturday nights!) were too good to ignore.
Having said all of that though, Brawl certainly didn’t hold my attention as well as Melee did. Though I think that’s largely due to life than any fault of the game. In 2009 I moved interstate, away from Adam, my long term Super Smash Brother, and just haven’t played much since.
Now it’s 2013, Nintendo have a new console, they’ve announced a new Smash Bros is on the way for it and E3 is just around the corner. Here’s hoping it lives up to the legacy.