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Super Smash Bros. 64 was originally called Dragon King

Super Smash Bros. 64 began life as a tech demo for a four-player free-for-all fighting game called Dragon King: The Fighting Game.

In the latest video in his YouTube series, series creator Masahiro Sakurai revealed new details on the conception of the first game in Nintendo’s hit fighting franchise and showed never before seen footage.

After the release of Kirby Super Star on the SNES, Sakurai began work on two different concepts: one, the fighting game that became Smash, and two a stealth-focused RC robot adventure game in which players hacked security cameras to progress.

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Sakurai developed prototypes for each, along with former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.

Dragon King featured a solid version of the side-scrolling action we now know as Smash Bros., with jumping and smash attacks, damage percentage and stages hovering in mid-air. Player characters were basic humans and there were no special moves, dodges, or items.

Dragon King: The Fighting Game concept demo
Dragon King: The Fighting Game

Development began properly when a number of other Nintendo projects – including Mother 3 for the 64DD – fell through. The company needed a finished game as quickly as possible, so Sakurai continued work on his fighting game.

Sakurai notes that Super Smash Bros. wasn’t developed as a rejection of fighting games, but as a way of making them more accessible. He felt that fighting games, though popular, were too focused on button combos without room for strategy.

“I wondered if we could make a game with more room for interplay and improvisation,” he says. That led to the accumulated damage system and the different reactions of opponents depending on damage.

The controls were also a way to show off the N64’s analogue stick, particularly with the game’s smash attacks. “I came up with this after thinking about how best to utilise the N64’s new analogue stick,” he says. “While others were focused on the analogue nature of the directional and tilt inputs, I was more interested in the time it took to complete those inputs.”

So why Nintendo characters? This was to avoid what Sakurai perceives as a common struggle in fighting games: players are introduced to too many unknown characters too quickly. Who is the lead character?

The use of Nintendo icons wasn’t popular internally at first, but the game launched one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises.

Did you also know that Super Smash Bros. 64 is the game when Sakurai settled on Kirby’s official voice?

Check out the full video from Sakurai below.

Super Smash Bros.

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