HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER
Welcome, wayward souls of the internet! Odds are, if you’re on this website, you’ve probably at least heard of Smash Bros. If not, congratulations on escaping the pocket dimension the Ancients imprisoned you within, and welcome, Dark Overlord! Our souls are yours to harvest! To put it as briefly and simply as possible, Smash Bros. is an almost absurdly well-crafted series of party/fighting games based around Nintendo and their myriad IPs, alongside a smattering of third-party properties. If you haven’t played it, you should absolutely get to it. If that’s not your thing, well… That’s on you for reading a Smash article, I guess.
Anywho, getting back on topic, Smash has been around for somewhere in the neighborhood of 17ish years now, and as such, has gone through an extensive series of roster updates and changes, usually for the better, sometimes in concession of game engine limitations (You will live forever in my heart, Ice Climbers), and sometimes seemingly just to make space for more clones (RIP Wolf). Of course, as the games themselves have modernized and evolved alongside DLC and online features, so too has their method of introducing new fighters, with Smash and Nintendo Direct events becoming a glorious, beautiful spectacle where series creator Matsuhiro Sakurai gives us the gift of a new character. Usually. Sometimes he taunts us with Mii Costumes, but that’s fine. Totally not devastated by the loss of Geno to the Costume Collection. Nope.
So, in light of the final characters coming to our collective consoles soon (GET HYPED FOR FEBRUARY, NERDS), I thought it would be appropriate to go back through the series and look at all the characters as they have come to us, and perhaps recapture the glory days of the hype that filled our hearts and souls. Or salt, if you didn’t want Corrin to beat Shovel Knight for one of the final Smash Ballot spots. Up to you. WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE WILL PROBABLY FEATURE SOME PRETTY COPIOUS FITEGAME COMMUNITY SLANG AND/OR SMASH TERMINOLOGY. Without any further ado, let’s dive right in with the original, default roster of Smash 64!
DISCLAIMER/NOTE-TYPE THING: I am by no means an expert on this series, actually, I kind of suck at Smash, but I love it and know a lot about it, so I guess I’m qualified? Also, as this is about the original 64 lineup, this article is going to be less about the hype and more about the gameplay and mechanics of characters, with a fond retrospective on most of them. I kind of hate one of them, but we’ll cross that bridge later.
The Original 8
Absolutely no surprises here folks! Of course Nintendo’s main man is gonna be the first character to make it in to their party/unsanctioned fight club. He’s the character that saved gaming, and who continues to usher in new generations of gamers with every new game that comes out. Yes, even Mario is Missing.
As far as gameplay goes, he’s one of the most balanced and even characters, which is fitting for the character that most kids are gonna pick first when confronted with a fighter select screen. He’s a bit slower on the ground, likely as an effort to make it easier for new players to get a handle on the movement and controls of a completely new gaming experience, though he falls just as fast as anyone else, keeping the player from growing too comfortable. He’s got some great combos, great kill potential, a projectile that appears simple from the outset but is quickly revealed to be best used in technical situations… basically, he embodies the essence of Smash Bros.: Simplicity and complexity meeting in a brilliant example of, well, fun.
Getting into the more technical side of things, he’s got one of the best offstage games in the Smash 64 meta, thanks to a dair that gimps effectively and can combo consistently into u-airs and more dairs. It’s pretty great. Also, his fair has a decent spike on it, so he’s got some pretty solid air superiority, despite moving a bit slower through the air than most fighters. Nevertheless, he’s got great air game, a solid recovery move that can be aided by another special move (as long as you can handle button mashing), and frankly, he just has nostalgia factor that’s unmatched by a lot of characters.
In terms of disadvantages, his stubby limbs keep him from having great range, and in this particular incarnation, has basically no way to deal with projectiles. He’s also got some pretty bad end lag on his attacks, being a slower guy, but it’s mostly manageable. But, as pointed out earlier, he’s pretty balanced and even. A great way to introduce a new player to the franchise. If you’re looking into getting into competitive Smash 64, he’s hardly a terrible choice, but personally, I would use him more to get used to the competitive meta before choosing a main, unless you’re really confident with him.
D K! DONKEY! KONG!
The biggest, heaviest, meanest mamma jamma in Smash 64, ol DK here is a bruiser who can dish it out and take it in equal measure. He’s also surprisingly fast for a big fella, and he has the added bonus of having an awesomely cheesy rap song affiliated with him and his family.
He’s got good reach, good combos that make up for low speed with high damage, a kill throw, great grabs, and an infinite throw combo. Basically, DK hurts, and he hurts bad. He can’t really do much about projectiles, however, unless you’re willing to lock yourself into his up special to break through enemy fire, making his approach difficult to employ safely. Speaking of his up special, it’s a mixed bag as far as recovery moves go, moving you a great distance horizontally but hardly far at all vertically, making it more useful in combat than recovery. Seriously, it’s a great escape, does great damage on its own… it’s awesome.
On the flipside, however, his size and speed makes him EXTREMELY vulnerable to combos and faster fighter, keeping him from being perfect. However, if you’re just getting into the competitive meta and fighting in low tier match-ups or tourneys, he’s one of the best choices out there, and in a doubles match, he’s pretty much who you’ll want backing you up, finishing off whoever you set up. In singles though, he’s probably the next step up from the training wheels of Mario, especially if you prefer hitting hard and having more space to breathe. Plus, his taunt is hilarious.
And again, to reiterate: DK RAP FO LYFE.
An old favorite of mine, Link is relatively slow, but has great range, and does some good damage. Additionally, he has a ranged grab, which is pretty sweet in and of itself, but that grab has throws that you can do some great combos out of, which takes it up another notch. He’s got two projectiles in this incarnation that you can use to space pretty effectively, but he still gets spaced out himself by characters with faster projectiles.
He’s surprisingly heavy for a fey elf child, probably due to the roughly infinity pounds of equipment that he’s carrying on him. This makes him harder to KO quickly, but makes going for a kill offstage a dicey prospect, especially with how poor his recovery is in 64. This handicap unfortunately boots him down to the lower ends of the 64 meta, however, he’s still one of the most fun characters to play as, and a great inclusion in the franchise.
Plus, he makes hilarious noises. Who could forget the timeless “Huh! Huh! Hyaaahh!” or “Tsoooooorrrr!”? Ah, memories.
Protip: Do not make Link noises during sex. Or do. Whatever, I’m not a cop.
Aaaaaaaaw yeah. The OG strong female video game character. What Captain Phasma should have been. Hell, what Boba Fett should have been, even. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Samus Aran, legendary badass.
Is she low tier? Oh, absolutely. Is she slow? You can bet your life on it. Does she have atrocious end lag on her moves? Darn tootin’. Does she have a weird, kinda floaty feel to her air game? Hell yeah she does. Do you even care though? No.
Samus is an awesome character, plain and simple, and in terms of aesthetic and design, she’s easily the coolest character Nintendo has ever put out, as long as we forget about what happened to her in Other M. Her Amazonian stature and molasses-like pace make her easy to beat up, and she doesn’t take that much damage before death, but you know what? She’s got a tether grab, great projectiles, the almighty Screw Attack, AND SHE’S SO GOD DAMN COOL. Honestly, just seeing her in 3d and kicking ass makes up for most of her issues as a fighter, so long as you don’t take her into competitive matches. Unless you’re really good with her, of course.
Fun Fact: As a child, I used to think that she was a somehow male robot named Metroid.
Fun Fact 2: She has literally no combos, so… have fun with that.
Look at that picture up there. Look at it. Can you tell me what’s happening there? Does anyone really know? Is Yoshi being murdered by the Jigsaw Killer? Is the pop-up book reprint of the Necronomicon devouring Yoshi’s essence? I get just as many unanswered questions from whatever the hell is going on in that picture as I get twinges of anxiety from staring into Mirror-Yoshi’s cold, unfeeling eyes on the cover of that book. Seriously, that is some nightmarish shit right there.
On a lighter note, Yoshi’s heavy but fast, and his shield manifests itself as a Yoshi egg rather than a bubble, which… makes it last longer, I guess? Because dinosaur eggs are stronger than mystical force fields of indeterminate nature? Man, Smash is weird.
On the flippside of his speed, he’s got a really slow dodge roll, however, he can escape out of shield pretty easily, and the rest of his mobility makes up for it, especially his flutter jump. The flutter jump, as you may know, is an ability Yoshi is famous for, allowing him to kind of doggy paddle through the air and do something called a double jump cancel counter, which is both infuriating to perform and have to deal with. He’s also got a huge variety of KO moves and combos, as well as the ability to parry out of his shield. Basically, this version of Yoshi establishes his position as a really great character throughout the series, and as an incredibly obnoxious fighter to go up against.
Despite all of this, however, he gets countered by the faster characters in the game, and lacks a real recovery move, so he’s not perfect. Definitely a fun choice for the more mean spirited players out there though.
Arguably a subject of nepotism, being the only character created by Sakurai on the roster, Kirby is fast, light, and has waaaaaaaay more jumps than most fighters, giving him amazing air control. Additionally, he’s the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life, and I want to hold him and squeeze him forever and ever. I… I love him. More than most relatives, in fact. Kirby was the star of the first game I ever beat on my own, so he kind of means a lot to me, and was my first main in Smash when I was younger. I pretty much just spammed the stone transformation and ate people. It was great.
True to his original gameplay, Kirby is able to copy the neutral special of any fighter in the roster by, um… devouring them and absorbing their essence, I think. It’s kind of unclear, honestly. He’s also got some attacks with great range and power, but is hindered by being lighter than most brands of paper and more frail than Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable. As long as you can keep the pressure on though, you should be fine.
As an added bonus, his stage is currently the only legal stage for competitive Smash 64, so you get to listen to the Green Greens and Wispy Woods theme all the time forever. You’re whistling Green Greens right now, aren’t you? I know I am.
Another downside, however, is a lack of combos and good kill options. True to his light and fluffy nature, ol Kirbone here hits about as hard as a stiff breeze. Regardless, he’s got a great spread of match-ups, and frankly, he’s just fun to play.
If you don’t know this guy from his own game series (which is getting a new installment made by Platinum this year, by the way), then you almost assuredly know him from Smash. The cry of “NO ITEMS! FOX ONLY! FINAL DESTINATION!” was a chant often heard from the world of competitive Melee, and a popular internet meme for a while. All this fervor was spawned by the fact that Fox is, according to most tier lists, the absolute best character from Melee. Of course, he would lose that crown as time went on, and even here, in the original Smash, he is only ranked fourth, barely squeezing his way into the top third of the roster.
Essentially, he is a character who is built around speed. Though not the fastest character in any one area of movement, he has some of the highest speed across all categories of movement, and has fast attacks with little to no start or end lag. Coupled with a viable shorthop, this gives him some of the best mobility in the game. However, his attacks don’t send fighters flying very far, and he doesn’t do all that much damage. A skilled player, on the other hand, will be able to take advantage of the low attack knockback to create opportunities for long, brutal combos. His airspeed and arsenal of spikes and semi spikes make him dangerous off stage as well, making him a versatile fighter.
Additionally, his blaster actually causes flinching in this installment, as opposed to others. This is a rather key difference in 64 Fox’s playbook, as it gives the player a good spacing option over a passive damage rack up. Paired with the reflector, this gives Fox fantastic projectile game, allowing him to harass from a distance while keeping himself safe.
Like almost all of the other characters in 64, Fox has… difficulties… with recovery. His up special travels a good distance, but he can be hit out of it, and it locks you in to a course when triggered, meaning you must be committed to going where you’re going. Nevertheless, he’s one of the best fighters in the game, and has a good amount of tech to boot, making him a very fun character to play around with.
Here we go. The big boss of 64, the king of the tier list, the electric mouse, Pikachu. Seriously, this adorable little guy is an absolute terror. He’s fast, he has high damage, he has high combo potential, good specials, excellent recovery… the list goes on, really. It’s almost comical how many advantages he has over other fighters. Sure, he can’t really take a hit, and he’s easy to combo, and he doesn’t have a lot of technical options, but at this point, none of that matters. He can ledgestall infinitely, effectively rendering himself immortal. He has a ton of kill options. It’s ludicrous.
He’s one of the younger characters of the original 8 fighters, and yet, he mops the floor with them all. Incidentally, on a semi-related note, if someone could whip up a Hateful Ei8ht style poster with the original 8 fighters from Smash, that would be fantastic. You could even use the 4 unlockable fighters for the Domergue gang. It would be great. Kirby would clearly be Sam Jackson, of course, the rest are open to interpretation.
Not really much else to say about Pikachu without getting into specific combos and techniques. He’s God-Tier. Get over it.
Well, that brings us to the end of this round. Next time we’ll go into the unlockable fighters of Smash 64, and maybe a few other things too. Cheers!