The Birth of Smash
When I first saw the commercial for Super Smash Bros., it immediately intrigued me. Mario, Yoshi, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong were happily prancing through a flowery field with a familiar feel-good song in the background. Nintendo had always been a big part of my life, and I had played games from each of those characters already. It made me happy seeing everyone get along, but I would never have guessed what would happen next.
Suddenly, Mario threw a fearsome kick to Yoshi’s leg, causing his faithful pal to trip wildly into the ground. The peaceful mood was shattered and everyone started relentlessly beating each other up. It was such a hilarious scene that took me by surprise. Upon learning it was a fighting game with all my favorite Nintendo characters, I knew I had to get it.
At the time, I was a 12-year-old living in Alexandria, Virginia with my mom and baby brother. I was the type of kid that was normally reserved, but when around friends, became full of life. My family often moved from place to place, so it was hard for me to find and keep friends for long. Previously, I had lived in Bolling Airforce Base for a few years before my mom separated from her SO. I was luckily able to meet some good friends during my time at the base, one of which was Keith a.k.a. Anden; one of the original members of H2YL. Although I had to move away from my friends, I was fortunately still able to visit Bolling often.
The first taste of Smash
All of my friends were equally excited about the game. All of us had Nintendo 64s and we already had many fun nights and sleepovers playing games such as Mario Kart and Goldeneye, so we couldn’t wait to add another multiplayer game to the list. When we were finally able to get our hands on the game, we immediately got together to play it. It was a game unlike anything I ever played.
The intro hit me in a soft spot in the beginning with the floating hand placing Nintendo dolls onto a table then setting up the “battlefield” with household items. I used to play with action figures and hot wheels a lot, while using my imagination to create many fun scenarios, so I was quickly able to relate. I thought it was really cool that the game was basically a kid’s imagining of Nintendo characters battling each other.
Seeing the character select screen for the first time left me in awe for a moment. All these characters from wildly different worlds and stories were somehow brought together into one game. Along with the way you choose characters by placing down a tab, the announcer shouting the character’s names excitedly, and the cool animations the characters performed when being picked; it had already created a unique experience for me and the real game didn’t even start yet.
I haven’t played many fighting games before Smash. Mortal Kombat 2 and Street Fighter 2 were a couple of the fighters I played, but it was short-lived as I was rarely able to find anyone to play them with back then. But I still had a general idea of what fighting games were about: two fighters with life bars duking it out in a flat stage. Super Smash Bros., however, ended up being far from what I expected.
We knew small bits of information from game magazines and what limited internet access we had, but playing the game itself would be the only way to really understand the differences. We immediately started off with 4-player free-for-alls. We loved the fact that it could be played with up to four players since we often had more than two people in our gaming sessions. The next major difference was the lack of life bars and in it’s place, a strange percent system.
Attacking the opponent racked up percent rather than depleting a life bar which was a totally foreign concept. Because of that, it drastically changed the win/lose conditions. Losing a life no longer meant getting hit an arbitrary amount of times. Instead you lose a life by going too far away from the stage, which was another uncommon aspect as most traditional fighting games constrain you to a flat stage. But even with such an extreme change, it was simple to understand once the gameplay commenced. The higher your percent, the farther you get hit. The farther you get hit, the more likely you get knocked out-of-bounds.
This new dynamic instantly captivated us for hours on end since it creates countless situations that can happen all throughout a match. Combos can vary depending on the amount of percent and the possibility of dying very early or very late made each match a wild experience, not to mention the multitude of unique stages. Stages had combinations of slopes, walls, hazards, and obstacles dressed in the appearance of most of the character’s worlds.
There was also the addition of items which added a lot of chaos to the matches. Though having too many items started to become a detriment to the fun as we gained more experience due to how some of them could massively change the tide of battle, we toned down the items by turning off heals or letting each player turn on only a couple items. With all these interesting and fresh game mechanics, Super Smash Bros. quickly became one of our favorite games.
A few months later, my family and I had to move once again, but it was just a short distance down the street so it wasn’t too bad besides the hassle of moving all our stuff. By that time though, the initial fire of Smash had cooled down, especially since I wasn’t able to visit my friends in Bolling as often as before. I had a couple local friends, but they weren’t very interested in Smash. It wasn’t until some time after the start of the next school-year did Smash see a resurgence. That was when I happened to meet Burhan a.k.a. Mild. We became fast friends and soon discovered we both liked video games, including Smash.
Initially we decided to play at my place for the sake of convenience since his home life was pretty busy with three siblings and all. We both loved multiplayer N64 games and Smash especially received a lot of attention from us. It had been a short while since I was able to enjoy Smash in a frequent basis so I was immediately reminded about why the game was so fun. The characters, gameplay, and stages altogether formed a very enthralling fighting game experience that kept us coming back for more.
Eventually I learned that Mild’s brothers also played Smash, mainly his little brother Kashan a.k.a. Chillin who was eager to play me from all the stories Mild must have told him. Despite Mild’s reluctance, I somehow convinced him to bring over Chillin one day for some Smash action. We had a blast and Smashed for as many hours as we were allowed to. From then on, Chillin became a part of most of our gatherings.
In just a few short months from the beginning of the school-year, I fortunately happened to make two good friends who also loved Smash. I was very happy to have finally found a couple of nearby friends that were fond of gaming. Other than Smash, we played a variety of Nintendo 64 games such as Perfect Dark and the Mario Parties. The N64 continued to be a huge part of my childhood, even before I moved to Bolling to meet Anden and company, I constantly played it with my previous friends.
For a long while, I was only able to hang out with my Bolling friends and local friends separately. Due to the requirement of having a military I.D. to enter the base, it wasn’t possible for me to bring anyone over. My own I.D. was soon expiring which made things grim, but as luck would have it, Anden eventually ended up being able to visit me instead.
With the four of us: Anden, Chillin, Mild, and I, we always had a ton of fun in our fests. Those times with my best friends all together are always the most fun. Having four people was also the perfect amount to enjoy multiplayer Nintendo games. As for Smash, it created opportunities to play teams or have crazy free-for-alls. I always liked team play over singles so I welcomed it whenever possible. I usually teamed with Anden while Mild and Chillin teamed together, but we switched it up sometimes too.
My favorite aspects
More about my feelings with the game itself; I have always liked how there are so many unique characters. Even Mario and Luigi have much different playstyles despite having similar moves. I have always been the type of person that likes to try a variety of things, so naturally with Smash, I have a lot of fun playing all the characters in the roster. Out of all the characters though, I had the most fun with Link.
Link’s moves and sound effects were by far the coolest to me. His combos were also really fun to perform, especially ones that utilized his super useful projectiles. I didn’t mind his terrible recovery because I thought his stage control with his projectiles made up for it, but I had little to no knowledge of the concept of tiers back then. I had thought for the longest time that potential was mostly dependent on the player and not the character. It was only until a few years later did I start to learn the real impact of tiers. But even with that knowledge, I didn’t care and remained playing who I enjoyed playing.
After getting accustomed to the mechanics of the game, I started to appreciate the combo system more. Because of how knockback increased depending on the percent, this dynamically changed which combos worked. Some combos only worked at low percents while others only worked at higher percents. This made things way more interesting since it generated a lot of instances where you needed to improvise in order to land hits or get a kill. More often than not this promoted creativity instead of memorizing a set of inputs. Early on my combos were very simple such as spamming up-tilt a bunch of times, but later I started figuring out how to lead up-tilt into other attacks. And after getting used to z-cancelling aerials, it opened up even more possibilities for combos.
Another aspect I enjoyed a lot were the single player modes. Classic mode was alright, but my favorites were Board the Platforms and Break the Targets. Those time-trial mini-games were really fun to me because it involved using the character’s movement and attack options in efficient ways. It basically turned the fighting game into a sort of action platformer. Each character had a unique stage for both modes that were specially made to accommodate their movesets which made it extra fun trying to develop the fastest routes for them.
Teams also added a very interesting way of playing fighting games. Being able to play with more than two players was already quite special. Being able to play teams on top of that created an even more exciting game mode. I sadly have not had much experience playing co-op games with friends at all. Most of the games we played had us pitted against each other, so having a mode where we could finally work together for once was a breath of fresh air to me. Working in harmony with your partner adds so much more depth to the gameplay, and creates many unique strategies and situations. I have always preferred teams over singles, not only because its more fun to me, but also because more people can have fun at the same time.
As Melee approached
Super Smash Bros. had been the most-played game overall for us so far, but when Melee was announced, it greatly put Smash even more in the forefront of our minds. In anticipation, we dedicated more fests to solely Smash, so much so that we started calling them Smashfests. We squeezed out as much fun as we could from Smash 64 until the release day for Melee, the game that would affect us in ways we never would have imagined.
In the summer before the release of Melee, I stumbled across an interesting website called Smashboards. I was surprised to find that there were entire communities out there just for one game. I had known of GameFAQs, but it just wasn’t on the same level of a site dedicated to a single series. It was at this new place that I could see everyone’s love and opinions of the game. I remember one of my first discussions was about defending Luigi, as I was ignorant about the notion of tiers at the time, I insisted he was a still a great character like the rest of the cast. It was great reading about what other fans thought of one of my favorite games. Smashboards would soon play a large role in H2YL’s Smash careers after Melee’s release.
Smash had given me and the rest of H2YL many fond memories. And that was merely the beginning. H2YL didn’t officially form until almost a year later, but the four original would-be members had already been Smashing together since the 64 days. Without Super Smash Bros., I may have never met Mild or Chillin, or even any other future friends made through Smash. I can only thank Nintendo for having created such a highly addictive fighting game series. For without it, all of our lives would have turned out entirely different.