N64 Review: Super Smash Bros.
Review by: Namek (namek@sm128c.com)

Game Info

 System: N64
 ESRB: Everyone
 Genre: Fighting
 # of Players: 1-4
 Size: 128 Megabits
 Developer: HAL Laboratories
 Publisher: Nintendo

 Controller Pak: No
 Rumble Pak: Yes
 Transfer Pak: No

 Release Date:
 US: Apr 26, 1999
 EU: Nov 19, 1999
 JP: Jan 21, 1999

Screenshots:

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Final Score:
9.5/10

Let me first say that Super Smash Bros.'s box brought a smile to my face. It is just so ironic that in these days where video games are being blamed for the many woes of society, Nintendo's premier fighting game actually has the words "biff" and "zap" featured proudly on its box.

Super Smash Bros. doesn't really have "story" to speak of, so I'm going to make one up. Here goes:

Luigi got hammered at the "Mario Party" party, and started mouthing off to Mario about being a stuck-up little dork. Mario, in retaliation, told Luigi that he could stick it straight up his green little butt, and that everyone knew that he was secretly in love with Mario's girl, Peach. Donkey Kong asked Mario why he was being so harsh to his own brother, and Mario told him to shut his stupid monkey mouth before he shut it for him.

Link walked in and asked what all the shouting was about, and Mario promptly told him to mind his own damned business. Link, having himself drunk a bit too much red potion, asked Mario what the heck was his problem. Mario decided to show Link what was up, but as he stumbled across the room he stepped on Pikachu, who promptly shocked the crap out of him. Obviously, with everyone a bit soused, it wasn't long before the fists were flying.

Okay, so maybe that's not what Nintendo had in mind when they developed Super Smash Bros., but they are not writing this review.

Let me just say that if the Nintendo characters are this much fun when they are drunk and angry, I'd like to buy them a few more drinks. Super Smash Bros. is one of the most entertaining fighting games I have played in quite some time, especially in its multiplayer incarnation. The game is not a traditional fighting game, such as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, and there in lies its charm.

Unlike most fighting games, the object of Super Smash Bros. is not to reduce one's opponent's hit points to zero. Rather, the goal is to knock one's foes off of the platforms that comprise the fighting environments. In order to do this you must perform various throws, punches and kicks. And as characters take damage, they become easier and easier to knock off the platforms.

These fighting arenas represent the classic environments from each character's respective titles. Link has Hyrule Castle, Fox has his Arwing, and Mario has the Mushroom Castle. Not only will the environments evoke feelings of nostalgia from gaming veterans, but the music will as well.

Many Super Smash Bros. arenas contain the theme music from classic Nintendo games. Were you among the few who cried when you found out The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time did not include a version of the classic overworld theme? You need to get Smash Bros., because Hyrule Castle features an updated version of that very tune! Little touches like this make the game extremely charming.

The audio in Super Smash Bros. is respectable, since most of the characters have their traditional snippets of speech. This includes Mario's "woohoo", and Pikachu's "Pika!". And along with the classic musical themes mentioned above, the game also contains sound effects that many gamers will recognize, such as Mario's "boing" from the original NES Super Mario Bros.

The Super Smash Bros. graphics are extremely similar to Mario Party's graphics. They are not as good as most Nintendo games, but they are good enough to provide a clear representation of the various characters. For example, the Link in Super Smash Bros. doesn't look anywhere near as good as the Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but he does look like Link. Polygon counts have obviously been reduced to keep the framerates high when the game is running in four-player mode.

And speaking of the game's four-player mode, this game is awesome when you've got a house full of friends to entertain! The game's one-player mode is respectable, but it gets very repetitive due to a lack of options. When playing through the game's single-player mode, the order of the fights is always the same. This can cause a player to get that "I've done this before" feeling. Not that the solo game isn't good; it just doesn't have a original appeal each time you play it.

In fact, the Super Smash Bros. one-player mode is reasonably entertaining. The computer opponents have good AI, and so the game is challenging. The game just doesn't have the lasting appeal that some other fighting games have. The main reason you'll find yourself playing through the one-player game is to unlock the various secret characters.

The Super Smash Bros. multi-player experience, on the other hand, is one of the best on the N64. Obviously that places Smash Bros. into a fairly elite fraternity of games, given that the N64 is known for multiplayer action. But this is an honor that the game well deserves.

Unlike most multi-player fighting games, where the winner usually turns out to be the player who can perform various move combinations the best, Super Smash Bros.' simplistic control style turns gameplay into more of an off-the-cuff bout. To be an excellent Smash Bros. player requires an ability to reflexively adapt to one's opponent, rather than just being the best at performing button combinations.

In fact, some may criticize the simplistic Super Smash Bros. control scheme. But these accusations are totally unfounded. The game's simplistic combinations (a special move is rarely more than a simple up and b, or down and b, etc.) are what give the game its unique charm. Kudos to Nintendo for taking a chance and creating something special!

Super Smash Bros. is charming and memorable, and anyone who is looking for a multiplayer game to compete with the likes of GoldenEye 007 and Mario Kart should definitely check it out. While the Smash Bros. one-player mode can get repetitive, the search for the game's various secret characters and levels will nevertheless keep you coming back for more. Super Smash Bros. would make a solid purchase, but, as always, I recommend a trial rental before putting your cash on the counter.

-- Namek (namek@sm128c.com)

Bottom Line: Nintendo has taken a fighting game, thrown away the violence, gave it a new twist that has never been seen before in any traditional fighting games, then threw in additional bonus prize, a huge cast of nintendo characters to choose from to make one of the best games to date.