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The Complete History of Super Smash Bros.

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate may be the best game in the series, but it only does so by picking from and building on all the best features from previous games. Join MojoPlays and lean how Smash got from then to now.
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The History of Super Smash Bros Brawl

It’s a series that needs no introduction. With the culmination of characters from many different Nintendo franchises, like Mario and Link, all the way to recent additions like the “Splatoon” Inkling and the Wii Fit Trainer. “Super Smash Bros.” has remained relevant for decades whereas others fighting titles have been left behind in the dusty arcades and early video game consoles. Its health system is unique in that it employs a gradually-filling damage meter rather than a depleting life bar. Controls are relatively simple, But most importantly, it was easily accessible to newcomers, while retaining plenty of depth to keep hardcore fans around. Welcome to MojoPlays, and today we’re going to be looking at the history of the Super Smash Bros Series.

It was a diverse range of characters that HAL Laboratory’s Masahiro Sakurai originally sought as the selling point for his original fighting game. In a series of interviews with the late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata – Sakurai said he had an idea for a four-player fighting game that he called “Dragon King: The Fighting Game.” Sakurai approached Iwata, (who was his co-worker at the time) with the idea of “Dragon King,” and realizing its potential (and wanting to work with the N64’s unique 3D joystick), Iwata agreed to do the programming. Sakurai, meanwhile, would work on everything else, like the planning, design, and specs. As they both had previous commitments (like jobs, darn it), they sporadically worked on the game over weekends.

The original prototype contained four faceless fighters, but Sakurai wanted to use Nintendo characters due to their pre-established backgrounds and to lend his game a joyous atmosphere. Nintendo originally showed reservation, so the two designers wrote something called the Ultimate Manual to persuade potential buyers of the fun and depth their fighting game would offer. Nintendo saw the light and finally agreed to do the project, and “Super Smash Bros.” was born.

However, the project was not smooth sailing. Perhaps due to Sakurai’s relative lack of experience, or because they were still somewhat hesitant about the project, Nintendo gave Sakurai’s team a small budget, leading to the limited roster and only one main single player mode. However, most people didn’t care. While critics criticized the single player component for being barebones, it’s multiplayer and combat was highly praised, and the game sold well (as anyone who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s could tell you). When it was time for the N64 to collect dust, “Super Smash Bros.” was fondly remembered as one of its greatest multiplayer experiences.

However, things were just getting started. Seeing the green roll in, Nintendo immediately tasked Sakurai with creating a sequel to serve as a launch title for their upcoming GameCube. They offered Sakurai’s team with a larger budget this time, allowing them to create a far more robust and expansive game. And working with the new console didn’t hurt, either. The budget allowed them to greatly expand the roster to 25 and newcomers Marth and Roy helped popularize the “Fire Emblem” series in North America. There were also new gameplay additions, most notably greater single player experience that included Adventure Mode. And of course, this being a new generation, the graphics and physics were greatly overhauled. Dresses now blew in the wind, items reacted with natural weight and physics, character models were more detailed, and gameplay ran both smoother and faster.

The game was an immediate success. Gaining acclaimed by critics and gamers alike, and it sold seven million units, making it the Gamecube’s best selling title. The new, faster gameplay style also resulted in “Melee” being played in competitive gaming circles. Major League Gaming began sponsoring “Melee” in 2004, and it has remained a popular game on the e-sport market due to its fast-paced and complex gameplay. Sakurai acknowledges the game’s depth, telling Famitsu Quote: “I doubt we’ll ever see [a “Smash” game] that’s as geared toward hardcore gamers as Melee was”.

The next entry “Super Smash Bros Brawl” was unveiled at E3 2006. And immediately garnered massive speculation, with the surprise reveal of “Solid Snake” from the “Metal Gear Solid” series, a series with PlayStation at the time. Snake’s inclusion dated back to Melee, when Sakurai told Kotaku in 2006 that Metal Gear director ‘Hideo Kojima’ contacted him and “Practically begged him” to have in included in Smash Bros Melee while that game was in development. Never the less, fans started to question what other third party characters could be included in the game, with the most requested character being Mario’s long time rival “Sonic The Hedgehog”. And on October 10 2007, that wish was granted. And the Internet went wild.

The biggest addition to Brawl though, was the inclusion of online play, something that had long been requested for the series due to its big focus on multiplayer modes. The game was finally released in 2008, and while the aforementioned features were highly praised; hardcore fans levied criticism against the game for its frustrating gameplay mechanics, especially the infamous tripping inclusion. This led to “Brawl” being considered a more casual game than its intricate predecessor, an argument that is seemingly proven through its sales. It became the fastest-selling game in Nintendo of America’s history and eventually sold over thirteen million units. “Brawl” is for casuals confirmed.

The series saw another major overhaul in 2014 with the release of two titles: “Super Smash Bros. for 3DS” and “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.” Sakurai designed both games with the intention of balancing the disconnected gameplay styles of “Melee” and “Brawl”. This included, to the glee of hardcore fans, the removal of the detested tripping mechanic. Aside from balancing the gameplay, the two respective titles featured new gameplay modes – Smash Run and StreetSmash on the 3DS, and Smash Tour, Special Orders, and Event Mode on the Wii U. The Wii U version also ran at 1080p and introduced an eight-player fight mode, fittingly titled 8 Player Smash. The series also introduced customizable characters and Mii fighters, allowing players to customize their favorite characters’ attacks and power-ups. And, of course, the game introduced a slew of new characters, bringing the roster up to 58 (which includes seven downloadable fighters). Newcomers included the Wii Fit Trainer, Rosalina, Little Mac, and third-party characters Mega Man and Pac-Man. When both games launched in late 2014, they were both met with praise from fans and critics alike, despite some pointing at issues with the 3DS’s circle pad, and the removal of an adventure mode.

Which brings us to “Super Smash Bros Ultimate”; The culmination of 2 decades’ worth of hard work. The game includes even more multiplayer gameplay modes, not to mention a single player mode called World of Light. Some fan-favourite stages like Saffron City return. And, of course, the game expanded the roster to a whopping 74 fighters. New characters include Princess Daisy, the Inklings, Ken Masters, and Simon & Richter Belmont. However, in a surprising twist, the player only have access to the original eight characters from “Super Smash Bros.” at the beginning of the game, which is a brilliant callback to the series’ roots, with other characters will be unlocked throughout the game. Classic characters have also been tweaked, with Mario and Link retooled to represent their latest entries. On top of these additions, six more characters are slated to be released as downloadable content in the future, starting the “Mario” series’ Piranha Plant.

With Super Smash Bros Ultimate covering nearly everything the series has to offer over its 2 decade long history, one has to ask: Where can Smash go from here? Sakurai has really outdone himself this time around. So whatever the future holds for the series, we’ll be ready.


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