It has been a good year for video games. 2013 saw the next console generation really kick off with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, old favorites came back in distant sequels like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Rockstar decimated previous gaming milestones with Grand Theft Auto V, to name a few. It’s been a bigger year than normal to say the least. But with new consoles on the market and a lot of games on the way, it’s looking like 2014 is going to be an equally eventful year. With new releases like Watch Dogs, InFAMOUS: Second Son, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeros, and many others, it’s easy to see why.
For this week’s edition of Remembering the Classics, I’ve decided to focus on the history of one particular game series coming back next year: Super Smash Bros. Not only is the new Super Smash Bros. coming out for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, it has an impressively growing roster of characters like Mega Man, Mario, Link, and the recently announced Princess Zelda. Super Smash Bros. quickly became a favorite for Nintendo lovers everywhere so it’s safe to say that this is one of the most anticipated releases of 2014. The fact that the release date has yet to be set in stone is enough to keep people begging for more. With 2013 coming to a close and 2014 having this hit series on the horizon, I’m all about Super Smash Bros. thanks to the daily updates online.
The history behind this crossover mega hit has always been a point of intrigue. Back in 1998 a Nintendo second-party developer named HAL Laboratory wanted to make a four-player fighting game. Most fighting games were maxed out at two people with Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise as one of the most popular, so right out the gate a four-player fight would be a step in a new direction. Fighting games are a dime a dozen though and new properties very rarely succeed. This spurred HAL Laboratory director Masahiro Sakurai to put Nintendo characters in his game (without Nintendo’s permission) as a means to stand out from the pack. Nintendo ended up approving the idea and Super Smash Bros. came out in 1999 for the Nintendo 64.
Super Smash Bros. caught the eyes of millions the moment it was announced. Nintendo icons Mario, Samus, Link, and Kirby were already famous for their respective titles. Putting them all together was something else entirely. It was almost a Japan only release too! In no normal circumstances would the space faring Samus Aran ever come to blows with the notoriously cuddly Pikachu and yet that’s exactly what happened. The idea is simple too: up to four people enter in a fight and only one player or team survives. Instead of a health bar, each character has a percentage that grows with each hit. The higher the percentage the more damage you take. Points are gained and lives are lost when a player is knocked off the map. There is even a single player option where you fight through a series of characters to reach the ultimate boss Master Hand.
While the single player was generally repetitive and monotonous, it was the four-player multiplayer that made Super Smash Bros. one of the most popular titles in Nintendo history. Kids would come together far and wide to play the game with their friends. Tournaments were made where people could find out who was the “best” player and countless debates formed on who was the “best” character. Hours upon hours were spent making Nintendo’s main figure heads smash each other into submission. There were only 12 playable characters, including the 4 secret characters, and they ranged from the famous face of Mario to the generally unknown psychic powered Ness. The Nintendo 64 had some trouble keeping up with the newcomer PlayStation but it was titles like Super Smash Bros. that kept people coming back.
Nintendo knew they struck gold and made it their top priority to bring this series back on their future systems. That brought us to Super Smash Bros. Melee in December 2001 for the GameCube and Super Smash Bros. Brawl in March 2008 for the Wii. Each game added in newer features and more characters such as the smash ball from Brawl and unique adventure modes in Melee. While the single player feature got a big overall each step of the way, the multiplayer just got bigger and better. Nintendo even broke huge ground with both of these releases in terms of who was included as a playable character. For Melee, it had Marth and Roy, two characters from the Japanese only Fire Emblem series. North Americans fell in love with those characters and now Fire Emblem has a huge market overseas. As for Brawl, it had third-party characters such as Konami’s Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid and Sonic the Hedgehog from Nintendo’s former rival Sega. Sonic is even coming back for the new installment along with Capcom’s Mega Man entering the fray.
There are a lot of reasons why Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is one of 2014’s most anticipated titles, but one of the biggest reasons is definitely its ability to move consoles. Each Smash Bros. installment became a top seller on their respective systems and the Wii U is in desperate need of one. Despite being the first eighth generation console out on the market with some strong titles, the Wii U has had a notable lack of sales. It’s already lagging behind the Wii’s numbers at this point of the console’s lifetime. Nintendo is confident the Wii U will bounce back in the coming year and it’s very likely that a hearty dose of Smash Bros. will be exactly what the Japanese icon needs to turn around.
Like every good Nintendo fanboy I love Smash Bros. with all my heart. I remember opening my Nintendo Power magazine at the tender age of 9 and being absolutely floored at the Super Smash Bros. announcement. I couldn’t even fathom that such a game could exist and yet there it was. Before I knew it, I was playing it nonstop with my brothers and my friends. I quickly chose Fox from the Star Fox series as my main character. Melee was at the top of my “must buy” list when I got the GameCube and I made a conscious effort to play Brawl as much as possible despite not owning a Wii. From personal experience, there really was no better game to bring people together than Smash Bros. It didn’t matter what console it was on or whether I was in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college. If you play it, people will come.
At this stage, the next Smash Bros. installment looks incredible. I absolutely cannot wait to play this game. I don’t even own a Wii U or a 3DS either! I may honestly buy one or the other so I can play this as much as possible. If you were ever in need of a good multiplayer game in case of guests, there really is no better choice than a Smash Bros. title. Everything about this series is amazing. Let’s hope that it can prove to be the remedy the Wii U desperately needs to fix its sorrows come 2014.