30 Years in 30 Days – 1999
by on February 4, 2016

Have you ever had the thought that, in the world of Nintendo, Link is a much cooler hero than Mario? Or had you ever wanted to see how Link’s sword and shield would go up against Donkey Kong’s brute strength? If Nintendo’s heroes fought each other, who would come out on top? Well, 1999 let you play those ideas out when it gave the world the very first Super Smash Bros. game on the Nintendo 64, a fighting game which pits Nintendo’s most popular characters against each other.

You couldn’t have a line-up of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises without including someone from Zelda. With only twelve fighters (including four unlockables) in the original Smash Bros., Link was the only Zelda character to appear, as one of the starting fighters. He fought alongside Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Samus, Fox McCloud, Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, Ness, Kirby, and Yoshi.

Super Smash Bros. is all about fighting, and the main idea is to do enough damage to your opponent until you can knock them off the screen. The more damage a player has, the further they can be knocked around. The original game had only two modes: single-player and multi-player. The single-player mode consisted of a series of battles against various characters before coming up against the final boss, the Master Hand. There wasn’t a lot of variety to this mode, and, no matter the difficulty level, the order of the characters remained the same (although the assist characters are random). Therefore the replay value of this mode is exhausted fairly quickly. It is the multi-player mode, however, where Super Smash Bros. really shines and has continued to do so in all subsequent iterations. Two or more players (who can be human or computer) fight head-on for either a certain amount of time or a number of lives. With a variety of stages to fight on as well as items – the number and frequency of which you can control once you unlock the Item Switch – the game can be played for hours upon hours and still remain fun (even though it seems very simple now when compared with later versions). This doesn’t even mention the homemade rules and tricks that many gamers came up with as well.

Super Smash Bros. character select

With only 12 fighters in the first Super Smash Bros., Link was the only Zelda character to feature.

All of the characters appearing in Super Smash Bros. had different skills, fighting styles, and signature moves based on their respective game or series. For example, Mario shoots fireballs, while Pikachu has his thunderbolts. Link of course has his sword, along with the ability to attack from a distance by throwing a boomerang or bombs. His grab attack was one of the few that also worked from a distance, as he used the hookshot to latch on to other players and drag them towards him.

I wonder if the developers of this game must have decided that carrying so many items (including an unlimited bomb supply) must weigh Link down, for he is one of the slower characters in the game. He can’t jump as high or run as fast as many of the others. The advantage to being so heavy is that it means he can’t be knocked as far when he’s attacked. But if he is knocked off a ledge it’s much harder for him to recover. Overall, in the original Super Smash Bros. Link is one of the more difficult characters to play well with because he can be defeated quite easily. Being the crazy Zelda fan I am, Link was my favorite character to play as and I became well-practiced at winning with him, but I still have to admit that he isn’t as easy to fight with as some of the others.

In the single-player mode, where the series of battles is always against the same characters, Link is the first opponent that players encounter, giving further credence to the idea that he is one of the weaker fighters in this game, since the battles get harder throughout the campaign.

Link is one of the more difficult characters to play well with because he can be defeated easily.

HyruleCastleSeveral Zelda items appear in the game. The Master Sword, boomerang, bombs, and hookshot are part of Link’s fighting arsenal. Heart Containers appear as one of the items any character can use, and these are used to recover damage back to 0%. One of the fighting stages is also set in the world of Hyrule. The stage, called Hyrule Castle, is set on the roof of the castle from Ocarina of Time, with Death Mountain and the land of Hyrule visible in the background. The stage is one of the easier ones to fight on, with plenty of platforms and no gaps in the middle. Every so often, a tornado appears at random which will suck players into it and throw them into the air, which could prove deadly for anyone with high enough damage. The famous Zelda overworld theme music plays during battles on this stage.

Overall, the first Super Smash Bros. was an immensely enjoyable game. In fact, while Super Smash Bros. was a lot of fun and a commercial success, it could be said that Nintendo and developer HAL Laboratory didn’t realize the full potential of the idea at the time. It was the sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee, released on the GameCube in 2001 that took this idea and built upon it to make a much bigger and better fighting game with more modes, characters, stages, and items. For this reason, the original Super Smash Bros. seems rather bland when compared with Melee or any future version. For me personally, although I adored it at the time and poured hours and hours into it, I only played it again once or twice after getting Melee, because Melee had all that the first Super Smash Bros. had and more.

While Super Smash Bros. was fun and a commercial success, neither Nintendo nor developer HAL Laboratory realized Its full potential at the time.

Aside from Super Smash Bros., in 1999 many gamers would have still been playing the highly successful Ocarina of Time considering that it was released towards the end of ’98.

Nintendo also began work on an expansion for Ocarina of Time which became known as Ura Zelda (with “ura” being the Japanese word for “another”). Ura Zelda was designed for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive (or Nintendo 64DD), an add-on for the Nintendo 64 console which allowed the use of optical disks for additional data. The Nintendo 64DD was a commercial failure and was never released outside of Japan. Ura Zelda was intended to be an alternate version of Ocarina of Time with different and more difficult dungeons, much in the style of the second quest of the original Legend of Zelda. Due to the failure of the Nintendo 64DD, it may never have seen the light of day, except that 1999 was one of the years when the Internet was really beginning to boom and become a standard part of every household. Therefore a lot of hype and interest in Ura Zelda was generated and spurred on through the online community. Due to this interest, Ura Zelda, or at least some part of it, was eventually released in 2003 as Ocarina of Time Master Quest, which was included as a pre-order bonus with The Wind Waker.

Shona Johnson
Shona is one of Zelda Universe's leaders. She ran her own Zelda site from 2001 until 2011, when she merged it with ZU. She works as an engineer and is also an avid writer, cosplayer and adventurer.
  • The Missing Link

    To this day, I really have no idea how I *missed* all the news about Super Smash Bros. I really don’t know. I was subscribed to Nintendo Power and everything, and I still don’t recall hearing about it. Still, I’m so lucky my uni suitemate picked it up. We played it so much.

    • Shona

      I heard about it through my local video store where I used to rent games. The review of it started off with something like, “Have you ever wanted to punch Mario in the face? Have you ever wanted to hit Pikachu over the head with a baseball bat?” and I laughed so hard and said, “YES!” Rented it, loved it, bought it.

      • The Missing Link

        Well, to be fair, that’s not THAT far off of the commercial for the game!

        • Shona

          I LOVE that commercial so much. Never saw it back in the day.

  • Michael Dylan Bianca

    So many hours spent playing this game. I had endless fun as a kid playing this game. Other then with Melee, I know how great the newer games are especially 4, but they just don’t have the same exciting feel as the original and melee.

  • Reggie

    I remember when I first played Super Smash Bros. I rented it from the video rental store, mainly because I saw all of these Nintendo characters on the box and it piqued my interest. Didn’t know at the time that it was a fighting game, which is not exactly my cup of tea.

    Still, it was fairly enjoyable for what I remember. Of course, having no one else to play with other than a few times, I quickly grew bored of it. Smash isn’t exactly my kind of game, though I did enjoy Brawl when that came out.

    • AGuyWithFood

      You should give Sm4sh a go.
      Great game.

      • Reggie

        Fighting games aren’t really my forte.

        • AGuyWithFood

          :/

  • I think I have this game.

  • Tim Windhorst

    Speaking of smash bros – Naturally, Link was my favorite character to play as, until toon link came along.

  • Malcolm Hill

    I actually took a picture just for this!