Who could have guessed that the release of Super Smash Bros back in 1999 would be the beginning of one of the most popular fighting game franchises in existence? Looking back on it now, it makes sense. A bunch of Nintendo characters brawling in tight and complex combat. But it wasn't always like that. Masahiro Sakurai has blessed Smash fans with a look at the actual prototype of the game, known back then as Dragon King: The Fighting Game.
In a YouTube video posted to his personal channel on October 20, 2022, Masahiro Sakurai dove into the history of Super Smash Bros. The legendary creator of the franchise talks about creating the proposal to deliver to Nintendo and then shows off the actual prototype that he brought to the company. Check out the video below!
At the time there were actually two prototypes that Sakurai showed to Nintendo. The second was an RC robot adventure game that focused on using security cameras to progress. Nintendo praised both of these. However, the team was busy working on other games, so Sakurai had to wait for an opportunity before development could begin.
Fortuitously, the development of other games fell through and, needing to get a game finished in a timely manner and knowing the RC robot adventure game was going to take two years, Sakurai opted for the game that would be finished quicker. And so, the team started work on Dragon King.
When it comes to fighting games, knowing the combos is one of the most important aspects to winning. Sakurai wasn't fond of this limitation, recognizing that newer players struggle to gain any traction. “Instead of inputs alone determining the outcome, I wondered if we could make a game with more room for interplay and improvisation,” explains Sakurai. “That’s how the accumulated damage system came to be.” Sakurai goes on to explain that the idea for Smash came around in 1996 “when command inputs for fighting games were starting to get extremely complicated.”
Sakurai also explains how the Nintendo characters made their way into Smash Bros. He touches on the fact that for a fighting game the player is suddenly introduced to a lot of new characters, and it’s hard to make a player care about them. This is fine with the walk-up-and-play quality of an arcade, but more problematic with a home console. Sakurai had to ask Nintendo to borrow its iconic characters.
As someone who grew up playing Super Smash Bros on a Nintendo 64, it’s illuminating to hear about how it started and that Sakurai had to ask Nintendo to use its characters. There is a lot of juicy information to unpack in Sakurai’s video, so it’s worth watching in its entirety. For more on Smash Bros, you’re already in the right place.