Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 64) Review

SSB64

Super Smash Bros. quickly became one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises. And how could it not? It’s a fighting series where Nintendo’s most beloved characters duke it out with sumo-style rules, and Mario Kart-esque weapons. But after the sequels built so strongly on the series’ formula, going back to the original may come us a slight disappointment. While the 1999 original Super Smash Bros. remains a fun game in its own right, it feels more than a little empty when compared to any of its sequels.

As stated, Super Smash Bros. is a fighting game where – rather than depleting your opponents’ health – the goal is to accumulate enough damage to send them flying off the screen, thus eliminating them. It’s a simple enough setup, but it has proven so much fun that the series has produced some of the most insanely replayable games of all time.

On the downside, much of the depth found in the gameplay wouldn’t arrive until the GameCube sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee. Melee would add more moves, more specials, and tighter mechanics. Brawl would add Final Smashes and some really creative movesets. And the recent Wii U and 3DS editions add depth and polish to pretty much every facet of the gameplay.

By comparison, the N64 original feels barren. Here, the characters only have three special attacks (performed with B, B + up, and B + down), as opposed to the four found in Melee and subsequent titles. Even more notably, the number of standard attacks each character has is incredibly limited. There are no Smash attacks or more intricate moves. You can’t midair dodge, or perform very many fancy combos. You only have a few directional ground and midair attacks, and the aforementioned specials. The gameplay is still fun at its core, but knowing just how much depth the sequels added to the equation, it’s easy to feel that the original Smash Bros. is a bit dated.

On top of that, some of the mechanics also haven’t aged too well. Here, opponents will be sent flying off-stage with relatively little damage. In later entries, opponents usually need to be well above the one-hundred damage mark before you can think about sending them packing. But here, you can defeat enemies after having only dealt about half of that damage. This leaves many battles feeling incredibly short. Another downside is just how slow the characters move. Many people complained that the characters in Brawl moved too slowly, but I might assume those same people hadn’t played the original in a good, long while. Here, the characters move so slowly and jump so floaty it’s hard to complain about Brawl’s movements by comparison.

SSB64On the bright side, the original Super Smash Bros. featured an indisputable roster of deserving characters. From the get-go, players can select Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Yoshi, Samus, Kirby, Fox McCloud and Pikachu, while the secret characters include Luigi, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon and Ness. It’s an incredibly small roster compared to the sequels, but it also benefits by predating the clones, self-damaging characters, and seemingly random character selections found in later games. Every character here strongly represents Nintendo’s diverse franchises, and you can’t really complain about the the character inclusions (though it is a shame the low memory of the N64 meant that Princess Peach, Bowser and King Dedede were left out of the mix until later entries).

Super Smash Bros. also featured a good number of fun items and a small but creative selection of stages, each one boasting their own gimmicks. There are also some additional modes to be found, though understandably, there’s not nearly as much content as there would be in future installments.

Single player modes are limited to an arcade-style “story mode,” where you battle in a series of fights until you make your way to the Master Hand, and the mini-games Break the Target and Board the Platforms. They aren’t much, and once you’ve played through them to unlock the secret characters, you’ll probably be sticking with the multiplayer battles.

The original Super Smash Bros. is still a fun game, particularly with a full group of four players. But it doesn’t hold up nearly as well as any of its sequels. The game feels prototypical and a bit shallow, and it simply isn’t nearly as fun as Melee, Brawl or the Wii U and 3DS editions. It does hold up better than many of the other multiplayer titles on the N64, however.

If you want to play a more definitive and deep Smash Bros. experience, stick to the Wii U version. But if you simply want to have some old fashioned, multiplayer fun, you could do a whole lot worse.

 

7.0

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7 thoughts on “Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 64) Review

  1. hungrygoriya

    I only ever played this game alone on story mode with all the characters already unlocked (I borrowed it from a friend.) I had a hard time understanding how the damage percentages and everything actually worked because I didn’t have a manual! I wish I could’ve played this with others. I think I would’ve had a lot more fun!

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  2. Matt

    Given its simplicity, battles in the original Smash Bros tend to be more balanced and party-like when people with different levels of gaming “expertise” play it together, which is nice! But I agree that its sequels have rendered it somewhat obsolete. Great review!

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  3. Justacommenter

    A part of me still prefers this over Melee, probably due to nostalgia and just having more memorable experiences with friends with it (I didn’t play Melee until after Brawl was out for a few months, and I never got around playing it with other people), but I also think it has vastly superior stages and music (Smash 64 has a phenomenal soundtrack). This is also probably the only game in the series where it’s hard to criticize roster selection much, I guess Jigglypuff is the oddball there, but Pokemon was at its peak back then and the thing was popular in the anime. No clones (I wouldn’t really count Luigi as one, and even if he were, he still stands out a lot more than the clones in Melee and Smash 4), no characters promoting upcoming games (freaking Roy and Corrin) or overly bizarre choices (which aren’t really bad but I could hardly consider exciting either).

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  4. Mr. Panda

    Excellent review! I loved the first Super Smash Bros. so much! It’s not as feature-filled as future installments, but it’s a classic original idea. But yea, it’s replaceable and has already been replaced 3 times. But the overall formula has remained the same, which says a lot about the original concept!

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  5. sebby29

    Great review! I loved the first Super Smash Bros. a lot. It does have many flaws and is very simplistic compared to its sequels. The sequels have definitely improved upon the original especially in Brawl where there’s a campaign-esque mode. That being said, Smash Bros. is still a great game to play in short bursts with friends.

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  6. Adam

    Melee is basically better in every single way, but I still love this game just as much. The core mechanics were in place from the start in this series, and all you need to have a good time with the game is one or more friends to play with (it’s pretty dull in single player). I wouldn’t say that you can usually send characters off the stage at around 50% damage (in most cases, it requires about 100%), but throwing moves in this game are much more powerful than in any of the sequels, and some characters (Link, Samus) have terrible recovery moves. Still, I find the characters more balanced in this game than in any other Smash (except maybe the newest), and I prefer how the stages are fairly simple and allow for the fighting to take precedence over anything else. The lack of totally useless characters (ala Pichu) is nice.

    More than the gameplay, personally, I think that Melee (and the other sequels) most improves on the original in terms of music. I mean, the music in the first game is all right, but the sequels have incredible soundtracks.

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