A Smashing Introduction

Super Smash Bros. Melee - Promotional Character Image

If you’re of a certain age, chances are that at some party or sleepover, you’ve played a Super Smash Bros. game. And why not? It’s a game that thrives on chaos, and is easy enough for newcomers to play, but is technical enough for big-time professional competition. After playing it for a while, the focus becomes less on the characters and items you play as, but on the mayhem and devastation you can cause to your friends. In fact, you might forget what the gimmick is entirely, but the late Don LaFontaine shall always remind you:

“Something’s gone wrong in the happy-go-lucky world of Nintendo!”

When the original Super Smash Bros. (N64, 1999) was developed, it started out as an original intellectual property (IP), developed in the spare time of Masahiro Sakurai, Satoru Iwata, and another unnamed sound developer at HAL Laboratory. What most long-time players now recognize as its “core” – a frantic four-player free-for-all – was certainly part of the original design. But the gimmick of Nintendo characters fighting each other did not come until later. To be fair, in the original N64 title, it seemed like this was done to get around the problem of creating marketable and distinguishable characters, especially with the re-use of assets from previous titles.

Promotional art from Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)

Promotional art from Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)

The Character Select screen from Super Smash Bros. (N64, 1999). Most character headshots use stock art from their own franchises.

The Character Select screen from Super Smash Bros. (N64, 1999). Most character headshots use stock art from their own franchises.

Whatever the intent in the N64 original, the system-defining Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN, 2001) proved that the developers, especially director Sakurai, had an eye for the depth of these characters. A wider array of characters, stages, items, and music were offered, including obscure participants like the Ice Climbers (from Ice Climber (NES, 1985)) and an amalgamation of Nintendo’s first gaming devices in Mr. Game & Watch.

But the developers also included nearly 300 collectible “trophies” – models of objects from Nintendo’s past, present, and near-future. Each was outfitted with a paragraph explaining the character or object described, and the first game in which the object appeared (along with a release date).

Trophies related to Animal Crossing were included in Melee. The series originated in a Japan-only game, Animal Forest (N64, 2001), but the GameCube version (also 2001) was set to be localized, hence its designation as "Future Release".

Trophies related to Animal Crossing were included in Melee. The series originated in a Japan-only game, Animal Forest (N64, 2001), but the GameCube version (also 2001) was set to be localized, hence its designation as “Future Release”.

I write all this to explain the origin and intent of this weblog. When I first played Smash Bros., I was drawn in by the appeal of Mario and Pikachu fighting each other. I had little to no idea about the other playable characters’ origins, nor the pedigree behind the development of the title. But as I continued to play and explore the series, and the rapidly-expanding resource that was the Internet, I began to learn more about the legacy these trophies represented, and the people who crafted them. In short, I built a passion for the works produced by the company.

When I began thinking how I would express the passion I had gained, I considered starting an informal wiki, to detail each character or person individually. But after considering it and my past history of writing, I believed that a more synthesized nature would be a better fit for me. And I wanted to impart my opinions into what I wrote, to add that same passion to my writing as to my knowledge. So do not think this will be an impartial blog, but also don’t think it will be a “Nintendo is infallible” blog, either. I hope to express my fanaticism with a drive, but also with an appropriate amount of criticism, as needed.

I am Professor Nintendo, and I welcome you to HIST 64DD: Modern Nintendo History. I don’t take attendance, and there are no tests, so please, come and learn about how Nintendo rose from its 1889 origins to become the foundation of a new form of media. I hope to learn a lot, too, so please feel free to offer comments and questions.

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