I first came across Smash Brothers on the N64. Whilst browsing around my local indie video game store, I noticed a huddle of kids around an N64. I wasn’t sure what to make of the strange combination of platform, fighting and puzzle game all rolled into one frantic explosion of activity. The sheer amount of action of the screen was simply baffling. Sadly, I never got around to purchasing it for my ‘64 so it wasn’t until the Gamecube that I actually got my hands on this genre-busting game.
The Gamecube version ‘Super Smash Brothers Melee’ expanded upon the original’s vision. It was released during the ‘launch window’ and as such became a must-have purchase, in the early, dry days of the console‘s life. From that point on I was firmly hooked on the wily powers of this curious and often misunderstood platform fighter.
It was a game that pretty much threw the beat ‘em up rulebook out the window. But not without reason, for it had its own distinct vision of what a combat game should be and feel like to play. It stood apart from the crowd by allowing the player to access any move via a single button press and direction. At a time when the Virtual Fighter and Tekken were introducing ever more complicated combination moves, this was a real breath of fresh air. Extending Nintendo’s ‘everyone can play’ ethic to the genre, these simple controls made the game accessible to a wider range of players, something that still eludes the harder fighting franchises mentioned above.
This simple game is fleshed out by a diverse and varied cast of characters, each with their own moves and abilities to be learnt over time. Players typically flit from one character to another, until settling on their few favourites. Whereupon the real joy of the game is discovered as they hone their playing style to mesh with their chosen characters.
To mix things up still further, there is a vast crop of bonus items and power-ups ploughed up from Nintendo’s impressive collection of characters and games. These items fall from the sky at opportune moments and can really turn the run of play on its head.
The final element to mention is the interactive background. Almost a character in its own right, these environments exert their own particular will on the players, be it through erupting volcanoes, disappearing platforms, or passing traffic. This serves to keep players on edge, as they constantly need half an eye on the approaching hazards.
These separate elements (simple controls, diverse characters, multiplicity of items and interactive environments) may sound brash and overbearing, but put them together with a little Nintendo magic and you have the perfect Smash Brothers experience.
This experience is the reason for the fuss and hubbub around the third iteration of the game, Super Smash Brothers Brawl. As you can tell from our descriptions on the previous games, this new title has a lot to live up to. It carries a prestigious heritage on its shoulders along with the hopes of not a few Nintendo fans. Fans, who all hope that Brawl is both the next evolutionary step for the game, whilst ensuring the key features mentioned above are not diminished in any way.
From the information we have so far, it certainly looks like Nintendo are doing everything in their power to make sure this happens. Early reports suggest that even with months to go before release the game is looking slick and complete. Still time for that legendary Nintendo polish no doubt!
Control-wise they have managed to restrain themselves from distraction with motion controls and pointing functionality. Rather, they are sticking to the Gamecube and Classic controllers to ensure the closest connection possible to the frantic on screen action. As they recently stated, “we found that trying to implement too much motion-sensory functionality can get in the way of the game. We’re looking at keeping the control simple, as it has been”.
They are however, taking advantage of the Wii’s online abilities with a WiiConnect24 multiplayer mode. Series director, Masahiro Sakurai, recently stated in an IGN interview “my plan is to include Wi-Fi connection compatibility and online functionality. One of the primary reasons Super Smash Brothers Brawl was created was that Nintendo, when taking [the] Wii online, wanted to have Smash Brothers to do that.”
All this love and attention being lavished on the game makes a lot more sense when you consider that Super Smash Brothers Melee was the Gamecube’s best selling title, topping 6 million sales worldwide. The game is so highly thought of that they regularly get offers from competing software houses to include their characters in the series. Such cross brand interest, previously unheard of in the games industry, is more akin to successful TV series such as The Simpsons who have stars lining up to offer their vocal talents.
It appears that Brawl will capitalise on some of these offers. In particular they have confirmed the inclusion of Solid Snake from Konami’s Metal Gear series. This was after a personal request from, the prestigious series creator, Hideo Kojima to include his character. There have also been rumours of Sega’s Sonic making an appearance, particularly after their joint appearance on the Olympic Games title. However, the most recent information seems to suggest this isn’t on the cards.
This is where the information runs a little dry and we take to our imaginations to flesh out the few videos and screen shots. Although things have been quiet in recent months, we presume this is pre-release lockdown as they focus on finishing the game. What has been revealed so far is certainly most promising. Provided they preserve the look and feel of the previous games, whilst introducing new elements such as online play and leader boards, Brawl looks likely to continue Smash Brother’s reign as the mother of all platform beat ‘em ups.