Alongside Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart and Pokémon, Super Smash Bros. is now becoming the fifth major Nintendo license, one of those able to sell consoles with their name alone. This year, it was with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that the Japanese giant played its Christmas strategy on their home console, and with 490,000 copies sold in three days in the United States, numbers should be beautiful on the Nippon peninsula.
And so we go back on a series born from fifteen quintessential Nintendo game and more, at the crossroads of a fighting and party game, even considered as a virtual museum for Nintendo fans. Did anyone imagine not so long ago, that you could slap Sonic, Falcon punch Solid Snake, and kick Mega Man into the stratosphere all in one game?
Super Smash Bros.
Back in the late 1990s, Nintendo decided to bring a new game concept, pitting all its iconic characters such as Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and much more into one fighting game. Nobody expected much of it, and Super Smash Bros. released on January 21, 1999 for the Nintendo 64 in Japan, not really designed with the means of a potential blockbuster series that it will become later … And yet, as is often with legends, Super Smash Bros. was first fashioned without much ambitions, with a modest budget, the particular kind game, original and iconoclastic in the category of fighting games, reserving its first release to Japanese distribution.
With its immense success on the Nippon archipelago, the title was then developed for the West by HAL Laboratory, Kirby studio, chaired by Satoru Iwata and directed by Masahiro Sakurai, and released at the end 1999 in the US and Europe. With over 5 million copies sold worldwide, SSB became the fifth best-selling title on the Nintendo 64.
If Luigi, Ness, Captain Falcon and Jigglypuff form the secret quartet of unlockable characters in the game, the Japanese website for Super Smash Bros. also reported three fighters – Bowser, King Dedede and Mewtwo – that could’ve made it in the game, and will finally appear in the episodes that follow.
These three characters will be joined in the enrichment crescendo of a prestigious cast, one of the basic strategic enhancement of the series over the years, while the concept of Smash Bros., before seeing the Nintendo mascots compete, would soon become an idol in the fighting scene.
Note that with Super Smash Bros. (and its original Japanese title: Nintendo All-Star Smash Brothers Dairantou) Ness, the hero of Earthbound and Samus Aran, the protagonist of Metroid, were presented for the first time in 3D.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
With the Nintendo GameCube released, the sequel to Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee landed in November 2001 in Japan, and soon after that in May 2002 in Europe and USA. Smash Bros. expanded massively in comparison to the Nintendo 64 title, in graphical changes, the fighter roster and most importantly, Super Smash Bros. Melee became an even bigger museum to the glory of Nintendo and its characters with an epic introduction cinematic, which is believed to be the most successful of the series.
With the presence of characters like Ice Climbers or Marth and Roy from Fire Emblem, Super Smash Bros. Melee brings the spotlight back to its forgotten mascots and helped the best known strategy game in Japan to gain more of an international audience, which will induce Intelligent Systems to bring the tactical RPG to the West.
Staying true to being unusual in the fighting games genre, Melee offered giant battle arenas, some even moving, like the Temple from The Legend of Zelda or the supersonic Track Mute City Arena from F-Zero.
It was also the first release which saw the creation of gaming trophies, and Smash Bros. Melee became an exceptional paradise for virtual collectors and OCD freaks alike. Fans of the Nintendo universe soon became the experts in the discipline, and major tournaments starts giving a chance to this untraditional fighting game, even if the GameCube as a console was not a commercial success, Super Smash Bros. Melee appeared at the EVO 2007, 2013 and 2014.
With 360,000 copies sold within its first four days of launch in Japan, and more than 7 million units sold at the end of its lifecycle in late 2009, Super Smash Bros. Melee became the GameCube biggest success.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
With the arrival of the Wii in 2006, it was very logical that a new Super Smash Bros. game was going to be announced at the Nintendo conference during E3 2005, headed by Satoru Iwata, now president of Nintendo. And with now the third game in the series, Super Smash Bros. Brawl had nothing to do with the scale of a budget and expansion of the original Nintendo 64 title.
After Intelligent Systems, which had worked on the GameCube release alongside HAL Laboratory, Brawl was shaped by the talented studios Monolith Soft, Game Arts, Peacock and Sora, the new studio led by Masahiro Sakurai, became the largest prime contractor of a series that will continue to grow in crazy proportions, in terms of content but also attention to detail.
The title will become one of the most awaited release on the Wii, with a major hype campaign until the game’s release in 2008, with a website dedicated to the game new fighters reveals. And for the first time in the series in the middle of 40+ characters from the extended world of Nintendo, two “intruders” emerged: Sonic the Hedgehog, the eternal rival to Nintendo’s plumber in the 1990s, and Snake from Konami’s Metal Gear series.
Among the new arrivals are some other notable characters, such as the Pokémon trainer, giving the player the possibility to alternate its fighting moves and strategies between Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard. Other old icons emerged, such as ROB the robot from the iconic NES days, Pit, from Kid Icarus first revealed in its modern version, years before a new adventure of its own, Kid Icarus Uprising on the Nintendo 3DS. At the end of its lifecycle, Super Smash Bros. Brawl became the most played online game on the Nintendo Network and will sell over 12 million copies worldwide.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U / 3DS
As if Brawl was not enough colossal, even if Melee was still considered the most detailed fighting games of the series, the Super Smash Bros. franchise will double in releases with both the Nintendo 3DS, a first time on a handheld and the Nintendo Wii U.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS was a huge project, first announced at E3 2011, which was a surprise in the first place to many in the industry with the reveal of Masahiro Sakurai as lead producer. After finalizing Kid Icarus Uprising, the brilliant creator will start creating this fourth opus in Los Angeles. It is in any case quite logically that Kirby’s creator equip his magician’s wand, assisted this time, in addition of studio Sora, by the iconic Tekken team: Bandai Namco.
With 50 characters, the 3DS and Wii U versions welcomed Pac-Man, one of Shigeru Miyamoto’s favorite characters, alongside Capcom’s Mega Man, because in the end, Nintendo’s consoles was where these mascots earned their credit.
And beyond the high qualities of both titles, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS are quite interesting mark in the future of Nintendo, with as of December 7th, reaching a combined 4.1 Million sales. With the NFC powered Amiibo figurines that you can train in the game, expanded multiplayer option in both the living room (8 players!) and online, there may be a glimpse of hope for the Japanese company to keep on thriving, and a will to adapt as well as creating new original ideas for the modern age.