sunnuntai 7. elokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Super Smash Bros. (1999)

GENRE(S): Fighting
RELEASED: January 1999
AVAILABLE ON: N64, Wii Virtual Console
DEVELOPER(S): HAL Laboratory
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

This is an excerpt from an actual conversation. A friend of mine had taken note of a certain statement I made on the blog a long time ago, about Mario and his history. I said there was no video game genre that Mario wouldn't have starred in. He said there was no fighting game starring Mario; without reflecting on that counter-statement for one full second, I said "Super Smash Bros." The look on his face screamed out "Ohhhhh yeaaaaaah", and then he said "You wanna Smash?", or something of the sort. Sure, I did. Super Smash Bros. is one weird fighting game, and a true gem among many great multiplayer-oriented games for the Nintendo 64. Up 'til now, though, I had never even thought about going at the game alone, so I had no previous experience with the single-player mode. Now I do, and I must say I thought this review would end a little differently. Super Smash Bros. is still a good, unique game in a genre in which being unique is truly rare, but the single-player mode does not compare to the sweaty multiplayer mayhem by a long shot.

I said: get off my ship! *clutch* *swoosh* *BOOM*

Eight dolls modelled after popular Nintendo characters are brought to life by the Master Hand to compete in a one-on-one fighting tournament. Trippy.

Riding on a McCloud.
When I so much as think of Super Smash Bros., my palms start to sweat and I remember all those merciless four-player tournaments I've had with my friends - and, for your information, I never played this game when Nintendo 64 was in the cycle. I actually didn't know what Super Smash Bros. even was before my best friend bought the sequel Melee for his GameCube. I first played the game with a group of friends just a few years ago, and I was instantly hooked on it. Even if I kept losing, and hearing my friend go "get the fuck out" every 20 seconds, mercilessly mauling my character and hurling him off the playfield, I couldn't help but ask him to give me one last chance... about a hundred of 'em. It's an amazing multiplayer experience. The single-player experience of the "story" is diverse, I'll give it that much, but all there is to it might be dealt with in 20 minutes.

The game looks very nice and the animation is spotless. Compared to some Nintendo 64 games that were released around the same time, even later, Super Smash Bros. looks like it's for some completely other, more recent platform. Alongside Mario Party, it's one of the best-looking games on the Nintendo 64, which never really shined in visual delivery. The soundtrack includes good remixes of many classic theme songs from all the represented franchises. The voice samples are groovy, until you realize there are two Pokémon characters in this game.

A big f'n ape on the loose.
I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I consider Pokémon, the whole media franchise, to be one of the most annoying fads in history. I've never liked it. The show, the characters, not even the games. They're apparently quite good, but I'll take people's words for it. I'm never going to touch them - so, Super Smash Bros. is the closest to a Pokémon game you're ever going to read about on this blog. I'm sorry. Now that this little fact is out in the open, let's move on.

There are eight characters for you to choose from in the beginning of the game (Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus Aran, Yoshi, Fox McCloud, Kirby and Pikachu), and by meeting very different criterias with varying difficulty, you can unlock four more characters: Luigi, Jigglypuff, Ness from EarthBound, and Captain Falcon from F-Zero. Luigi, for example, is unlocked by conquering a bonus challenge in the middle of the game with all characters. This basically means you'd have to finish the single-player game a total of eight times, with all characters. I don't know if I'd be ready to go to such lengths just to get Luigi, the challenge is moderately tough and the single-player game's attraction starts to wear out after three times at the most. Especially if you've unlocked the rest of the hidden characters already.

All this criticism towards the single-player game does not mean it wouldn't stand out. You're not just fighting every other character on the roster to conquer the game. At three different points of the tourney, a whole team formed by a total of 30 characters is on your ass in a mayhemic slobberknocker. These are perhaps the best parts of the single-player tourney. Also, there are three boss fights which can't be won by using only standard means of combat - against a giant Donkey Kong, in which you have a randomly selected duo of characters at your side; against Metal Mario from Super Mario 64, who is very durable and tough to throw around, and finally, Master Hand, who's huge in size, he has the power of flight, and an amount of HP instead of the regular damage counter. There are three different bonus games in which your success depends mostly on something else than fighting, such as precision jumping. It's really not this game's thing, and all of these bonus games are probably the game's weakest spots.

A pink Kirby wearing my hat can not be
left alive.
The way Super Smash Bros. works is very, very simple. "Smash" is the word. You can strategize all you want, but the truth is that your sole purpose is to smash the controller to bits while mauling the living shit out of your opponent. As they take damage, they grow more vulnerable to special attacks and less capable of climbing up once they're pushed or thrown over the playfield's edge. My usual strategy is to go straight at 'em, unleash a flurry of powerful attacks unique to the used character (for example, Samus can morph into a ball and leave a bomb at her opponents' feet in the classic Metroid style), then grab them by the hair - if they have any - and hurl them into the deep unknown. In the single-player game, that strategy works a little too well... not on any of the bosses, though. In the later stages of the single-player game, blocking and evading the opponents' attacks becomes way more crucial than it is in the beginning. At least the first fight against Master Hand should be fought with the least loss of lives possible, since you're sure to meet another challenger after the end credits have rolled, your remaining lives from the final boss fight will carry over and you can't unlock the character without beating him. The different items and weapons have some real, practical use only on a couple of choice occasions. Some like 'em, I don't think they're that essential.

I am not tripping. I am fighting a huge hand in
outer space.
All in all, Super Smash Bros. is a very easy game. Normal is the highest level of difficulty you need to play at and conquer to unlock every character. Some criterias are hard to meet, but with just a little practice, you're sure to have a full roster in no time. After that's done, all there is left is the multiplayer mode, which is the game at its prime. As I said, there are many excellent multiplayer games on the Nintendo 64. Super Smash Bros. is among the best, but while making it, HAL didn't have much sympathy for people with no friends, or people like me, to whom a multiplayer mode is usually just a neat extra and it's the single-player mode that really counts.

Super Smash Bros. is a classic, no doubt about it, and as a whole experience, it's basically one of my all-time favourite fighting games. However, beating the single-player mode is effortless, everything truly essential to the gameplay is so easy to master - and after playing just a few rounds of that very same game, even with a different character, the need for a friend or two (or three) to come over becomes unbearable. It's not meant for us lonely hearts.

SOUND : 8.6


a.k.a. Nintendo All-Star! Dairantō Smash Brothers (JAP)

GameRankings: 78.25%

Nintendo Power ranks Super Smash Bros. #19 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

Mario, Luigi, Samus Aran, Donkey Kong and Link previously appeared together in Nintendo's NES version of Tetris.

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