“Super Smash Bros. 64” a Nintendo retrospective

“Super Smash Bros.” opens in a child’s room. A single glove flies around, grabs a few toys, arranges them on the desk, making an ”arena” with some books, a pencil can, a tissue box and a light and then, with a snap of its finger,  everything comes to life. It’s a child’s dream come true that has inspired five games and 15 years of a successful franchise from Nintendo, known all around the world.
I remember the first time that I played “Super Smash Bros.” as a child, It was amazing. The graphics at the time were beyond anything I could have hoped for. The game made you feel like a kid playing with action figures. It set up the “battlefield” out of whatever was available, added toys, and then, with a splash of imagination, brought everything to life. Just like a kid playing with toys, though, it didn’t have health bars and confusing combos. Instead, just like a child would ‘battle’ with action figures, crashing them together, the loser was simply the one who fell off the desk. In a genre where fighting games usually included blood and gore, “Super Smash Bros.” was a ray of innocence, and a highly successful one at that.
The game was originally going to be released exclusively in Japan. However, after it became a hit in Japan, it was sent to the U.S., where it was just as successful if not more so. The original was a Super Nintendo game called “Dragon King: The Fighting Game.” It was later moved to the Nintendo 64 to utilize the 3-D graphics. One of the game’s developers, Masahiro Sakurai, thought that the game wouldn’t sell on the N64 with unknown characters, so he made a prototype of the game replacing the original with Nintendo characters. The prototype convinced Nintendo to continue with Sakurai’s work, which became the model for “Super Smash Bros.”
Nostalgia aside, however, “Smash 64” is a game that is still surprisingly good despite its age. The controls are smooth (if a bit glitchy at times), the stages are solid and well thought out, and, overall, the game is well made. One of my favorite examples comes from the “classic” mode. When I was younger, I felt so accomplished for beating the final boss of one-player mode, the ”Master Hand.” Master Hand is more or less the Smash universe’s version of God: that hand that sets everything up in the intro. Even though it was on the easiest difficulty, it was a hard fight for the young me. Even now, when I pick the controller back up, I find that it was practically the same, albeit on a higher difficulty. Just like when I was a kid, I feel accomplished for doing even a simple task in the game, if for no other reason than it seems like it was worth it. The Master Hand is a difficult boss in “Smash 64.” He’s fast, powerful, and, unlike later installments in the series, he must be chased around the screen in order to do damage to him. Thus, when I beat him, see him defeated and get that final ”X Difficulty Clear” score, it feels like I’ve earned it, a feeling that I don’t get from many modern games.
It doesn’t end there, however. As I mentioned before, the Master Hand is kind of the god of the Smash universe as well as a child at play. When the Master Hand is defeated in classic mode, it’s like the toy has just defeated the child playing with it. Not only that, but while most music in the game is cheerful and upbeat, the music that plays when the Master Hand enters is ominous, and the music that plays after it is defeated is downright creepy. Overall, the entire scene is extremely well done.
That doesn’t mean that the game is without fault, of course. It’s glitchy at times, occasionally leaving items and even background elements sized badly, making them almost impossible to see or completely transparent. Stage hazards can be brutal, like the acid in the Planet Zebus stage which occasionally rises high enough to cover everything, or the tornadoes in Hyrule Temple which throw characters into the air and can occasionally spawn right beneath the character, sometimes sending them to an early KO. Then there are the CPU characters. Obviously, balancing an AI, especially such a complicated one, on the Nintendo 64 would be incredibly difficult. After all, there are so many variables besides simply running and jumping around the stage.  However, the AI in “Smash 64” seems to have two settings: ”easy” and “cheating.” It is a bit of an exaggeration, but, in truth, anything below level 5 is child’s play to beat, and once they get up to level 8, the CPU characters outright seem to read the player’s mind and react before the game can even catch up with the player’s commands.
While it makes sense that the highest difficulty AIs would respond like that, it makes it unnecessarily frustrating to play against.
All in all, “Super Smash Bros.” for the Nintendo 64 was a great game. It was beautifully cinematic, emulating a child at play in both its mechanics and story. It did have its problems, but all games do, and in the end, it doesn’t even matter. The game was impressive in its time, especially looking back at everything that made it to the Nintendo 64, and that is what will stay with gamers for years to come.