It would be one thing if you took a large about of popular gaming characters and put them in a game together to duke it out. Everyone would go bonkers for it. Unfortunately, is can also suck... I'm looking at you, Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Then a company can struggle to fix their mistakes with a better game... I'm looking at you, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
But to make a damn good fighting game that has a ton of beloved characters? That's tough.
See, when you think of fighting games, you often think of this scenario- two people standing four or five feet away from one another on a 2D plane, walking towards each other and performing glorious martial arts moves. Sometimes you get a close-up of someone's face and they charge forward and do their super attack. Fighting games are, unfortunately, very run-of-the-mill. Of course, we were very limited by 2D graphics back in the day, so gameplay was important. And don't get me wrong, though many fighting games are predictable, I like a lot of them. But there's one thing that fighting games usually rely on, and that's mind-blowing button combos, which can turn a fan of a certain character off to a game. Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom used simplistic combos, but it still takes timing. Timing that, if you didn't want to send time to become a capable fighter, you would never be able to nail down correctly. That's why Super Smash Brothers is such a successful game- not only because it excels in differentiating itself from other fighters, but because of its simplicity... and its depth.
Smash Bros. kept its fighting roots while also expanding on the concept. Nintendo excels at platforming, so it only makes sense that their fighting game would reward exploration much more than any other fighter. Its button layout is familiar to anyone who has played a Nintendo game- extremely simple. Yet, each direction/button combo causes a new result, much like normal fighters, but the added challenge of hitting both at the same time causes a new, heavier attack. Jumping is key, and it proves to be one of the only fighters that really emphasizes free control and aerial combat. Most of all, the camera zooms in and out dynamically, allowing a comprehensive look on the action. Most importantly, it approaches health and victory in a completely different way- there is no life-bar, you stay alive for as long as you are resourceful enough to do so.
Perhaps that is why Smash Bros. works so well. It takes these classic Nintendo staples- simple controls, a lives system, beloved characters, and a more dynamic view on things, and it manages to make them all flow together in a fighting-game scenario. However, there have been three Smash Bros. games, and each has been received well for different reasons. This is because each of them has excelled in its own way, which we will discuss in part 2 tomorrow!