This memory has stuck with me quite well. It was the spring of 1999, and I'm sitting on the couch watching cartoons after school. That day I saw something spectacular. I saw the commercial for Super Smash Bros., you know, the one with the people dressed up as Mario, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi smacking each other around? Even now when I hear The Turtles' "Happy Together", I am reminded of it. At the end of the commercial, where the few seconds of gameplay was shown, I knew that this game was going to change something in me.
I believe I received the game as something of an Easter present. At that point in time, I was only barely familiar with some of the cast, while I was obsessed over the others. Mario, Pikachu, Link and Kirby really stuck out to me, but I hadn't even heard of Fox or Samus at that point. Regardless, I sunk countless hours in to the game, both alone and with friends. I read the character biographies; or rather more like studied them. I was always that kid that would say "You know Samus is a girl, right?" sounding pseudo-intellectual about it despite having never played a Metroid game. And even more ridiculous, I didn't even know Ness was in the game until I played the next installment a few years later.
My memories with the first Smash Bros. title are likely no different than anyone else's. It was a game that got people excited, one that anyone could stand a chance at. A real hit at sleepovers and birthday parties alike. One experience I think the game really captured though was the imagination of the players. Running around the playground pretending to be your favourite character from the latest video game or hit cartoon is something that I'm positive many other kids did. But Super Smash Bros. made that something of a reality. You really could use Thunderbolt at Link while Mario tosses fireballs at you at a distance. The moment you had the controller in your hands, you and your friends became that fantasy.
The ease of entry to the game was another aspect of particular note. The controls are very simple, so much that any player would have an understanding of their character's move list within the first couple minutes of a match. And the items gave anyone an edge. One hammer or a swift throw of a Bob-omb could turn a whole match around. I have no doubt that the straightforwardness of the game was a huge part of its success.
On Christmas of 2001, my two younger brothers and I received a Gamecube and a game each. I recall telling my parents about Luigi's Mansion, so I ended up receiving that one, and I was ecstatic. My middle brother however, received Super Smash Bros. Melee. Due to not having a computer at the time, I had no idea the game even existed. I can't say I was jealous of him, however, being that we all ended up playing the game. That was until a few months later when we got in a scrap and he thought it fitting punishment to snap the disc in half.
My memories with the game are a bit more nostalgic, if only because I spent even more time playing it. Between Melee and the next installment was a 6 or so year gap, and even today I'm still playing Melee. I remember back to junior high and playing 99 stock matches with my friends, chugging soda and clicking the random select until 4 or 5 in the morning. Binging like that was not doubt unhealthy. Even so, I'd do it all again if I could.
I vividly remember the "Challenger Approaching" screen and seeing a familiar silhouette, mouth agape as I start to battle Mewtwo. These unlockable characters gave the game a sense of awe. I'm not sure if everyone can relate, but each and every one of those unlocks drove me crazy. I didn't know when they would come up, though when they did I was filled with suspense and excitement. Coming across Marth and later Roy, I didn't care that I didn't know who they were. They were in the game, and it was awesome.
I think one of the reasons that Super Smash Bros. Melee found even more acclaim than its predecessor was that it took all the concepts found in the original and just gave you more. More characters, more stages, more attacks, more items, and more game modes. It was a perfect sequel. Even the graphics were great, especially given the somewhat underpowered hardware when compared to the competition. The models were all rendered really well, and the various sparks and effects were eye catching.
The gameplay itself felt right. Everything was tight, and you had complete control over your character. The addition of more special attacks as well as new types of standard attacks was a welcome addition as well. The physics were firm, and the potential for jaw dropping combos was definitely there. This was also something that the competitive Smash scene took in to consideration when the sequel to Melee came out, being that there are still tournaments for the game held all around the world.
March 8th, 2008, 6:00 AM. A group of friends and I have been up all night watching videos and playing games. Bags of chips and empty energy drinks are all over the basement. We decide it's time to leave for Wal-mart, practically the only store in town that sells video games. As we're walking to the store, we realize it is too cold for this nonsense, but we persist. 15 minutes later, we arrive at the door and wait it out. Turns out other people had the same idea, and there ends up being a group of maybe 30 other people. 8 AM rolls around, and everyone gets a copy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I head home, play the game for 2 hours, and pass out in my chair.
I wake up a few hours later, and marathon the Subspace Emissary story to unlock every character. Only 24 hours after owning the game, and I have unlocked every stage and character. For the next couple months, I would mess around in online with my friends, the real opponent being the games poor online. It's still a hit at parties, but I find myself slowly drifting from the game. Even after I've more or less dropped it, I still go back to it every few months to play around in all the different menus and modes.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the third title in the series, was highly anticipated, more so than the titles before it. Due to the website for the game releasing nightly updates, players had Smash news to look forward to on a regular basis. The amount of excitement this generated was immense, with one key event occurring on October 10th, 2007, where the website announced that Sonic the Hedgehog would be a playable character in Brawl. This, as one would expect, set the internet on fire. The hype for this game was incredible. Eventually, the game would be delayed twice, missing both its December and February release dates.
Once the game did come out, it was received well. Adding more of pretty much everything and then some, Brawl was the most content heavy game in the series. A full story mode, numerous match settings, even more trophies to collect as well as custom soundtracks and a stage editor made the game a pretty expansive experience. Another addition, the "Masterpieces" included demos of games that the cast of Brawl appeared in, which cemented the idea that the Smash franchise was just as much a celebration of Nintendo's history as it was a game. Online, a first for the series, was implemented, though many would agree it was poorly done.
How Brawl really differs from the past two entries is how it relishes in chaos. The predecessors became known for the frantic gameplay, especially when playing with 4 people, but Brawl took the madness to a whole other level. Many of the stages were rife with stage hazards, and the newly introduced "Final Smashes" introduced another reason to batter your friends even harder, in hopes of getting an elusive buff or one hit knock out.
All this does create a genuinely fun experience, though at times it felt that the core game took a hit for all these other features to be introduced. The gameplay itself felt kind of loose and rather "floaty". The palette felt washed out, with the game going for a somewhat realistic art style. Again, Brawl was a blast to play; it just didn't resonate with me as much as Melee did.
E3 is on the horizon, with promises of more Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/ 3DS gameplay and information about to be realized. I couldn't be more enthralled. I love Smash Bros., it's a game I've played through so many stages in my life, and I'll reminisce about time spent with the series for the rest of my life, regardless of how many times I've been punched in the shoulder or tempted to snap my controller. Because that's where the real memories are: with my friends. I look forward to the new release, selecting familiar and new characters in recognizable and fresh locations. But above that I look forward to being a Smash Brother again.