The Super Smash Bros series has been through many iterations in its storied 20-year history, and now that we are on the cusp of learning what the fifth entry in the series will be like, I wanted to take a look back at the previous entries in the series. This feature will be an analysis of the past games and what Smash 5 could learn from its predecessors.

Smash 64

The small roster of Smash 64 was one factor that made it very well-balanced.

The Balance of Smash 64

The first game in the Smash Bros series released on the N64 on January 21st, 1999. Appearing on the surface to be the slowest and perhaps least interesting entry in the franchise, professional players have spent the last 19 years perfecting the game to reveal an amazingly well-balanced and technical fighting game. One of the benefits of having a small, 8-character roster is that each character is well balanced. While it isn’t perfect (let’s face it, nothing is) most of the characters stand a fair chance against one another. However, will this be possible without culling a large portion of the cast or if custom movesets will return? Only time and extensive testing from skilled, professional-level players will tell.

Speed, pacing and technically advanced inputs of Melee

There is a good reason Melee is still very popular in tournaments: it is a deep, technically advanced game with layers of complexity that can only truly be mastered after years of practice, and it is incredibly entertaining to watch two masters go head to head. If you don’t know how to use such techniques as L-cancelling or wavedashing, the game is actually somewhat on the slow side. But once its intricacies have been mastered, it can feel like a roller coaster of an experience.

The brilliance of this design is that the gameplay is only as fast as your skill level allows it to be. Do you like a slower, more casual game? Don’t use those inputs. Do you want an experience like I described above? Get online, watch some tutorials and practice with your friends. Instead of forcing everyone to have a similar mid-speed experience as the new games have done, this design hits the best of both worlds in a satisfying way.

Ganon and Bowser in Subspace Emissary Mode

Who knew that my favorite mode in a particular Smash Bros title would end up being the story mode?

Deep Story Mode of Brawl

If there was any one thing Brawl did right, it was its story mode. Subspace Emissary Mode was a complete game in its own right with satisfying cut scenes and an incredibly well-integrated side scrolling game that implemented characters from across the Nintendo-verse for your to fight with the entire roster. While it wasn’t a groundbreaking story in any way, it was a fun mode that really made Smash Bros live up to its name of being a platforming fighting game. These days, the only reason I ever turn on Brawl is solely to turn play Subspace Emissary Mode.

Smash 4 cast

Smash 4 has an excellent cast of characters.

Variety of cast and custom movesets of Smash 4

Of my list, this would be the most difficult to implement well, and is somewhat contradictory to the first point I raised. After all, achieving a great balance among the cast of characters is difficult to achieve with the more characters you have. At this point, I feel the developers are going to be faced with a challenge. Do they just keep on piling new characters onto the existing ones while removing just a few, or do they cull a large portion of the cast who are too similar to each other then replace them with new and exciting characters?

I believe at this point, we are going to see a major restructuring of our beloved cast and that a greater variety of unexpected and unique characters like Wii Fit Trainer or Duck Hunt Dog will be appearing. The roster size feels pretty good, so at this point, I think several characters are not going to make the cut with a roughly equal number coming to replace them. For example, we have plenty of Pokemon and Fire Emblem representation, but very little from Metroid. Perhaps we will see some of these come out for some more Metroid love? Time will tell!

Finally, onto the custom movesets. Especially among the competitive community, these have been a topic of hot debate. While they add a wonderful amount of variety to characters that have grown stale over the years, they came with some problems. First of all, they took a long time to unlock. This alone made them not viable in a tournament setting since not every console would have all the moves unlocked. However, the big problem was that some moves could be mixed and matched in ways that imbalanced the game too much.

While I personally quite enjoyed custom movesets, I believe this could be resolved by each character having a few optional movesets that would be set beforehand and put through the rigorous balance testing prior to the game’s release. Additionally, having these unlocked and available to every player from the beginning of the game would make them tournament viable.

To improve on existing things

The following is simply a short list of other changes I feel could be made to improve the game.

  • More stable online
  • Ability to record matches of any length
  • Trim the fat – Excess characters and modes
  • Greater variety of stage elements for custom stages

These are simply some things I personally feel that Smash 5 could learn from its predecessors. What do you think? Do you agree, and are there any ways you would like to see Smash 5 inherit traits from the older games? Let us know in the comments!