25 Years in 25 Days - 1999

Mario vs. Link

Have you ever thought that Link is a much cooler hero than Mario, or that he should be Nintendo’s mascot instead of the intrepid plumber? Ever wanted to see how Link’s sword and shield would go up against Donkey Kong’s brute strength? 1999 gave the world Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, a fighting game which pitted Nintendo’s most popular characters against each other. Twelve characters appeared in this game, and you couldn’t have a line-up of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises without including someone from Zelda! Link was the only Zelda character to appear in this title, where 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. There are two modes: single-player and multi-player. The single-player mode consists of a series of battles against various characters before coming up against the final boss, the Master Hand. There’s not a lot of variety in this mode, and, no matter the difficulty level, the order of the characters remains 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. 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 – this game can be played for hours upon hours and still remain fun. Not to mention the homemade rules and tricks that many gamers came up with as well.

Super Smash Bros. character select screen

All of the characters appearing in Super Smash Bros. have 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 also worked from a distance, as he used the hookshot to latch on to other players and drag them towards him. The makers of this game must have decided that carrying all of these items (especially as the supply of bombs is unlimited) must weigh Link down, for Link 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 this is that it also means that he can’t be knocked as far when he’s attacked, but if he is knocked off a ledge it is much harder for him to recover. Overall, this makes Link 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 favourite character to play as, and so I became well-practised 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 overall weaker fighters in this game as the battles get harder throughout the campaign.

Link fighting Yoshis

Several of Link’s items appear in this 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 all damage back to 0%. One of the fighting stages is also based on the world of Hyrule. The stage, called Hyrule Castle, is set on the roof of the castle from Ocarina of Time. Death Mountain and the land of Hyrule is 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. The famous Zelda overworld theme plays during battles on this stage.

Overall, Super Smash Bros. is 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 realise 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 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. For me personally, although both my sister and I adored the original game at the time and had poured hours and hours into it, we only played it again once or twice after we got Melee, because Melee had all that Super Smash Bros. had and more.

Super Smash Bros. Link ending

Aside from Super Smash Bros., many gamers would have still been playing the highly successful Ocarina of Time in 1999 considering that it was released towards the end of ’98. Nintendo began work on an expansion for the game 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 The Legend of Zelda. Due to the failure of the Nintendo 64DD, the game was never released on it. In fact, 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 as a pre-order bonus with The Wind Waker.