No, I'm not talking about Isaac, Edmund, get outta here
I love Super Smash Bros. I was 5 years old when the original entry came out. I didn’t own a Nintendo 64 at the time, something I’d only rectify after reaching adulthood, so my only experience with it was being to play it at my friends’ place from time to time, and hearing about it. And let me tell you, it was all the rage. Well, that and Beyblades, but Smash definitely stood the test of time better.
I begged and begged my parents for an N64, so that I could play the Marios, the Kirbys, and the Conkers. One wasn’t such a good idea for a kid my age, but I barely knew English at the time and they didn’t know what an ESRB was so it would have been the perfect crime. Alas, I missed the cool guy boat entirely, but it didn’t matter all that much. Because soon enough, in 2001, its sequel Super Smash Bros Melee came out! And man was it something to behold. I went to my friend’s place all the time and we’d duke it out one vs one, with items on, his Fox against my Kirby.
Sure, not the fairest matchup in the world, but the internet was just a thing that took away your phone connection and sounded like loud garbage at the time so how would we know?
Wanna know what the coolest thing was, apart from the challenge of battling a friend? The Adventure mode. When we found out that Luigi could replace Mario at Peach’s castle, that was the coolest thing ever! And beyond the secrets, going on an adventure through all my favorite Nintendo games was a blast! The Events were also a hit with my and my friend, especially the very last event which pushed us to our gaming limits.
This period of my life was a blur, games coming and going, a mix of great games like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and not so great games like Winnie the Pooh’s Rumbly Tumbly Adventure. But eventually, time passes, and a new Super Smash Bros game was announced for the Nintendo Revolution in 2005. It wouldn’t be released until 3 years later, basically a lifetime! And the anticipation was crazy, as soon as the Smash Bros Dojo was launched I started checking it daily and speculating about the roster with my friends. I made some wild wild guesses back then, like Captain Falcon and Ice Climbers being cut for being too obscure… Well, history ended up proving me right with the latter in Smash Bros 4, but that’s a story for another time.
Despite everything, I still have fond memories of Brawl. I hated every time I would trip and thought I was controlling the game wrong, but I still had a blast every time I played the game with friends. I didn’t really mind the floatier controls since I was used to floatiness with Kirby in Melee. And the Adventure Mode, that stuff was hype! I loved everything about it, especially how it showed the difference franchises interacting together during cutscenes. It was like a fully fleshed out, official fanfiction. Like the kid in the opening of the first game was still at it imagining the craziest adventure with his toys. An absolute joy to play through.
But everything fades, and towards the end of high school, I played Brawl less and less. Maybe I’d just outgrown the game, I thought. Smash Bros had been a part of my life for so long already. But then college happened. And while I didn’t know a lot of people there at first, I made great friendships there that still last to this day. And man, do these guys enjoy a good game of Smash Bros…
It all came back full circle. And you know what? Playing Smash Bros 64 again made me gain an all-new appreciation for the series. I loved how smooth jumping was, provided you don’t play with the dreadful basic N64 controllers… It turned out Brawl removed momentum, with air speed being independent of running speed, something I never paid attention to. I loved how much hitstun was in the game, which let us do crazy combos with ease, and the super satisfying sound effects (especially the baseball bat’s). And I loved how classic mode had unique content for each character. I bought myself a Nintendo 64, after all this time, and smashed the nights away… On the Wii, because I got the game on Virtual Console. That joystick can go to hell.
Is there where the story ends? Not quite. I ended up replaying both Melee and Brawl on and off while mainly sticking to Smash 64, and while neither of us satisfied quite as much, I ended up with a more mature understanding of what I liked more and less of each title. Plus, I finally gave a shot to actually good characters in Melee like Fox and Marth, which made that game more enjoyable to me than returning to my old main, but also got me a tryhard reputation. Woops!
Anyway, college ended, and university began. College is kind of weird in Quebec because our high school is shorter but you end up taking two years of college before going to university. I think it’s brilliant because it gives you more specialized knowledge without making you feel too deeply attached to a discipline, but I digress. University gave me my first taste of the forbidden fruit, what I consider to be the ultimate iteration of Super Smash Bros.
A mod. It was a mod, guys. And it was called Project M.
It didn’t start out this smoothly. In fact, when I was just starting out university, I still mainly kept playing Smash 64 on my Wii. But our student association had a CRT and a Wii with Brawl and Project M on it, and I gave it more and more a shot as time went on.
It’s hard to describe how brilliant I find this version of Brawl. It combined the fluid momentum of the first two games, the speed of characters and moves from Melee with fanservice and versatility that went above and beyond even Brawl. The Adventure mode? Still there! Are you playing with someone who's just starting out, or just want to casually play something crazy? Turn on screen wrap mode, where a character that goes off a side of the screen reappears on the other side. You can even mix and match stocks so that you play as different characters in the same match!
The beautiful custom costumes showed respect and homage to all Nintendo franchises in a way that dwarves every official entry, and Ganondorf though? Ganondorf has his glidey thing from Ocarina of Time and uses his sword instead of a punch! He feels sooooo good. Instead of merely trying to copy Melee, they really made the game stand out.
Even the mysterious Mr. L from Super Paper Mario is here!
And that’s mostly where I am, right now. Sure, I bought Smash Bros 4 on both 3DS and Wii U (and even played the former enough to break the joystick off my second 3DS), but the lack of Adventure Mode really stings, and the Smash Bros game I keep coming back to for multiplayer is Project M for its incredible balance of both satisfying competitive play, and varied and fun casual play. Still, as far as roster quality goes the game delivered in spades, adding characters like Mega Man and Cloud to an already all-star cast. And the visuals on Wii U are a treat.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that there are a lot of different, but all as valid, ways to appreciate this series. I too often see people online unwilling to accept alternate ways to play the series other than the newest official entry. Playing Melee, to some, means being an asshole that’s unwilling to accept change. Playing Project M is mainly the same thing, but even worse because you’re modding a game to be like something you’ve never moved on from, because you’re too attached to your glitches to think rationally. And Icons: Combat Arena is already trashed for being too much like Smash Bros.
There is a definitely a place for a faster and more fluid Smash Bros. It can appeal to casual and competitive people alike... Though, of course, not everyone in either category. So, no matter the game you prefer, I just ask that you stay respectful and accept other people’s tastes. We’re in a weird situation where the old formula is no longer quite what official entries are going for, leaving some people to either play old games, fan games that are at a risk because of copyright takedowns, or copycat IPs. Simply because they want to play the game in a way they find the most enjoyable.
Still, I love Smash Bros, no matter the shape or form it takes. I feel like the kid playing with his toys in the very first game that started it all.