Have you got a minute? How about an hour?
Anyone who’s played a game of Smash knows that the action is intense and constant, and any game that drags on for a few minutes starts to become mentally taxing. Well, what if I told you that a single competitive, top-level Super Smash Bros. match took almost a whole hour.
Your initial reaction must be: “How the hell could a single tournament match go on for almost an hour?” Well, the original Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 didn’t have a timer for stock matches, meaning that technically, matches could go on indefinitely. But most people would get bored or crack before then, so the idea of a match taking this long was unimaginable.
Until Tacna 2014.
SuPeRbOoMfAn vs. Gerson
At Tacna 2014 in Peru, a losers semifinals match happened between SuPeRbOoMfAn and Gerson, the best players from Canada and Peru respectively. By this time, Hyrule Castle was banned in most North American tournaments, but still legal for Tacna 2014. The following match took place, which generated considerable controversy.
This match is…interesting for several reasons. Smash 64 is known for having crazy damaging combos due to the high hitsun; this means that getting hit just once can potentially lead to death. As such, footsies and stage control are a very important of the game in order to find openings without putting your character in a bad position. This is apparent in the match with Boom and Gerson. Neither side wants to commit to attacking, and even if one player is behind in percent, they aren’t going to just dive in and risk getting destroyed. There is a 23-minute span where neither side takes damage.
Patience is critical in a game such as Smash 64…but this match showcased glaring flaws in the game’s rulesets that had to be addressed for the game to continue to survive.
The Problems This Match Showcased
This match is considered to be one of the stronger arguments for why later tournaments would mod N64 consoles to allow stock matches to include a timer; most matches now have a 7 or 8 minute timer. Camping and zoning in Smash 64 led to many slow-paced matches, so it’s not like this match was the sole reason; rather, it served as the perfect hyperbole to show just how bad things could get without a timer.
This match was also instrumental in seeing Hyrule Castle banned across the board in tournament play. Hyrule Castle was a longtime favorite of many 64 players, and the combos performed using the stage’s walls and platforms made it a treat. But that same layout also had some glaring flaws that catered to defensive play; it allowed top tiers who had a lead in the game to effectively camp and force the opponent into a seriously unfavorable approach. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this tactic, the layout of Hyrule Castle made it such a low-risk;high-reward scenario that players would simply fight to gain a quick lead and then abuse the stage for the victory.
It’s been theorized that SuPeRbOoMfAn purposely played this way at Tacna 2014 to show the Peruvian scene just how awful Hyrule Castle could be. There were criticisms that this showing was disrespectful to the scene and showed poor class, but ultimately, this match served as the over-the-top example the community would use to address a few notable issues in Smash 64’s competitive ruleset.
Today, Smash 64 enjoys a strong tournament scene and continues to generate many highlights enjoyed by the broader Smash community. The introduction of a timer and the removal of Hyrule Castle across the board has led to a healthier, more enjoyable meta.