Our countdown to Smash Ultimate reaches single digits as we arrive at the game that started it all as our rep. for the Earthbound franchise (thanks to having never played the series, and certainly not having the time right now…) How does the original hold up now, compared to the (currently) three sequels its spawned, and how was it back in the day? Let’s take a look!
The character select screen now looks a tad bit bigger…
Super Smash Bros. launched on the N64 on January 21st 1999 in Japan, then April 26th in the US before arriving in Europe on November 19th all within the same year.
Among the first of its kind, the original Smash made popular the idea of multiple people fighting in arenas more based around platforming, with falling items and other pick-ups. In other words, what has become known as the “Party Fighting Game”.
The original roster was Mario and Luigi from Mario Bros., Yoshi (who technically is from Mario as well, but within Smash he’s his own franchise… as you’ll see in a few days time!), Donkey Kong from… Donkey Kong, Link from the Legend of Zelda, Pikachu and Jigglypuff from Pokemon, Samus from Metroid, Kirby from Kirby, Fox from Star Fox, Captain Falcon from F-Zero and Ness from Earthbound, making a total of 12.
The good old original Mario Bros. level!
Up to four characters fight in arenas based off of the games represented, and instead of a traditional health bar, the more fighters take damage, the more their damage percentage goes up. Once it gets too high they become susceptible to being launched off of the stage, which will either loose them a life, or give their opponent a point, depending what kind of rules you have on.
You can attack, block and throw, and much like future iterations, each character has “Smash attacks” you can do by holding a direction and attack to do more damage, as well as a set of “Special attacks”, though in the original it was only neutral, up and down Specials, the side specials were introduced in Melee. So the game becomes a struggle to stay on the stage, with certain moves granting you a better chance of grabbing onto the edge.
There are also weapons that can randomly drop and can be used, like green shells from Mario, a Home-Run Bat that can grant you an instant K.O. in the right situation, and even a Pokeball, which will unleash a Pokemon who will attack your foes. This combined with stage hazards creates a very fun environment to fight in.
In terms of modes, Smash 64 has a Single player mode where you run through a set number of fights and mini-games with a set number of lives until you reach the final boss: Master Hand (what is referred to as “Classic Mode” in future games), as well as the “Break the Targets” mini-game and unique to Smash 64 is “Board the Platforms”, which is a similar challenge to Break the Targets, except you… well, board platforms instead. The rest of the game is multi-player, up to four people at once, either all against each other or in teams, and either a set number of lives “last man standing” rules, or a timed rule, where whoever has scored the most points by eliminating opponents wins at the end of the time limit.
At the end of the day it’s far more limited than later, but… well, obviously. It came first!
Graphics and Sound:
Forgot about the traffic lights style “GO!”… wonder why they dropped that? Maybe it looks crap, I don’t know.
The graphics are very… N64-y, very little detail anywhere, blocky and grainy visuals. They’re not without charm, and were fun for the time, but looking back it does look unfortunately ugly.
Soundwise, it’s fine. Each stage has just one tune on it, which is funny compared to what we have now! Plus the soundeffects and little voice work are all okay here.
Final Thoughts (Then):
Classic mode, or as it was known as at the time: … Mode.
When this came out it was a complete surprise to me, I hadn’t really heard of it. I just rented it out from Blockbuster for something me and my friend to play, and we had a real blast! It was so much pure fun. Sadly it took forever to find a copy to buy as prices for it shot up quickly, I think by the time I actually found a copy I felt was a reasonable price it was during the hype for the up-coming release of Melee! Still, I may not have played it as much as the others, but it’s still a pleasant memory for me.
Final Thoughts (Now):
It’s funny to think how much Metroid was just a dead franchise at this point…
Now? Well, I mean, it’s fun to remind myself of how it all started. A lot of the gameplay is still there, even if it’s comparatively lacking, and it’s still fun to play, it’s just there always the other games in your head. It’s not Smash 64’s fault that it spawned so many sequels that kept improving on it, but to be fair to it, as a game reviewed in 2018, I have to knock it down a point…