Title  : Super Smash Bros.
Platforms  : Nintendo 64
Publisher  : Nintendo
Game Rating  : 8.7
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Nintendo has long been known for their cute, non-violent kid games, and the many beloved mascots they've created over the years: Mario, Yoshi, Link, Donkey Kong, Samus, Fox McCloud, Kirby, and Pikachu, among others. Well, it's time for those same mascots to beat each other to a pulp in Super Smash Bros., Nintendo's 2D fighting game for the N64. 

Smash Bros. has more in common with the original Mario Bros. from long ago than it does with Street Fighter or Tekken. Each character has a small but useful repertoire of moves representative of their previous games (Yoshi can turn enemies into eggs, Pikachu has an electric attack). The action is based more on button-mashing than strategy and expertise, allowing anybody to pick it up quickly and have fun. 

Rather than depleting energy bars, the goal is to knock your opponent(s) off the floating stage into oblivion. The more damage inflicted, the easier it is to throw them off, as indicated by a damage percentile at the bottom of the screen. Various items, including Bob-Ombs, Poke Balls, and lightsabers, appear randomly to help or hinder. 

Smash Bros. uses the analog stick for movement. There is a distinction between "tap" and "tilt" which does not seem clear for actions such as running, but the control suffices otherwise. There are two main attack buttons with variations on each for every character, plus shield and grab buttons. Both the C-buttons and Up perform a jump, though one or the other cannot be disabled, or any other functions reconfigured. 

The action is fast and furious, with the screen zooming in and out to fit it all. The one-player mode has five difficulty settings, but gets tiresome once the secrets are revealed; to ensure unoriginality, the order of opponents never changes. 

Smash Bros.'s selling point is its four-player simultaneous gameplay, and the real fun, as with any fighting game, is in the multiplayer modes. Bouts can be played under a time limit or with a certain number of lives, with any team configuration: free-for-all, two-on-two, three-on-one, and two-on-one-on-one, with computer opponents filling in when requested. An automatic handicap system judges each player's performance and accordingly makes them stronger or weaker in following matches. 

The graphics perform well without breaking any new ground. The backdrops are well-drawn except for a few that rely too heavily on pastels. Stages range from Hyrule Castle to Sector Z to the Planet Zebes, all popular settings from each character's world, and each with its own inherent dangers. Characters look fine from a distance but a bit polygonal up-close. The animation is perfect, moves flowing from one to another. 

The soundtracks are remixed versions of classics, assisting in creating a competitive yet non-threatening environment. Sound effects are a bonus, from familiar sound bites to character squeals to huge explosions. 

Super Smash Bros. is a simple, shallow fighting game, but an excellent multiplayer action game that's easy to get into. Players wanting complicated characters and a deep combo system, look elsewhere. With Nintendo's magic, Miyamoto's characters, and four-player action, Super Smash Bros. is set to make a splash on the home scene with gamers of all ages.


This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 03-May-99