It’s been a couple of hours now since I released my article on stage design in Smash 64 and in that I said we would put everything we learnt in that article to the test by making a stage that could conceivably fit in Super Smash Bros. 64. If you missed that first article then I suggest that you stop what you are doing now and give it a read as I will be relying on it thoroughly for this article. Also, I spent a lot of time on it so I would appreciate anyone who gives it a read. Now onto the stage, making its first debut in the 3rd dimension we have the first map of Fire Emblem, the Kingdom of Talys.
Let me quickly explain why I went with a Fire Emblem stage. As I explained in the previous article, the stages in Smash 64 try and thematically fit their origin series and so I wanted to avoid any series with a stage. That just left two: Earthbound and F-Zero, however, they both got stages in Melee and due to Melee’s stage design philosophy (which I will tackle in a future article) doing a stage from those games would’ve been to similar to Onett or Mute City. As Marth was considered for Super Smash Bros. 64 I felt like this could be the stage he may have gotten if he made it in which is far more interesting.
Kingdom of Talys
Originally when I was creating this stage it went under the name of Archanea, the continent where Talys is located. I had it like this because I felt Archanea is a more recognisable name for fans however after looking at how Smash 64 chose it’s level names I realised it was better to be more specific. After all, it’s not Hyrule or the Lylat System but specifically Hyrule Castle and Sector Z. The names are only generalised when the stage is more vague, like Planet Zebes.
As for the stage music, there is only one track that plays, which is the same as all the other stages. For Talys I went with the game’s original theme which you can listen to above as you read this article. As you may have noticed all of this is coming from Fire Emblem Mystery of the Emblem for the SNES, however, Fire Emblem fans will know that that was not the latest game in the series at that time, so why? Simply put this is because it is Marth’s game. Much like Donkey Kong, the influence has come not from the latest game but the one that most influenced the character.
|Game||Fire Emblem Mystery of the Emblem|
|Blast Zones||Comparable to Peach’s Castle.|
Let’s look at this level thematically first before we look at it mechanically. Fire Emblem is a strategy RPG that’s all about its units. The locales take second place, much like Pokemon, however, the area’s in Fire Emblem are all fairly standard. Fields, caves, ruins and castles. A castle would make for the most interesting setting however we already have a castle level with Hyrule Castle so it ran the risk of not being unique. That was when I decided to design the stage around the battle sequences that pop up whenever two units enter combat. It is usually one large, flat area whose aesthetics are based on the terrain that unit is standing on. So, this stage tries to represent the four main terrain types in Fire Emblem: Plains, Mountains, Castles and Forests.
In modern Smash Bros. games the team might try and make the level as accurate to a locale as possible however Sakurai et al were less bothered by this with Smash 64, possibly because of the technical limitations of the hardware. So I chose instead to have my stage floating in the skies above a famous location, much like the Peach’s Castle stage, and what is more famous than the very first map of the Fire Emblem series. In order to get the right angle of the map one of our graphics designers, Fire_Voyager recreated the whole map in 3D. We then turned it into a 2D image to fit the Super Smash Bros. style and added in clouds for the sky. Some Smash 64 stages utilise sprites for background elements so we have that here as well. On the occasion, a sprite of a pegasus knight (most likely Caeda as it is her kingdom) can be seen flying through the background.
So let’s talk about the stage mechanically now. Like most Smash 64 stages there is one main central platform that makes up the stage. This part represents the plains before a steep slope goes up and forms a mountain. This slope goes around and forms the rocks below the stage that make it look like it was ripped right out of the ground. This asymmetrical layout with variations in height allows for matches that involve strategy. Do you try and hold the high ground despite being closer to the edge of the stage? These are the sort of questions I wanted to ask.
That’s not the only high ground however as the stage has two floating platforms. You can’t see two, you say? That’s because one is hidden in the trees. One tactic for this stage involves standing on this platform and crouching, making yourself hidden behind the tree. The tree you can interact with is a lighter colour than the rest so as not to confuse players and all of this represents the forest, which in Fire Emblem makes you harder to hit. Lastly is the floating platform which actually moves up and down. The design of the platform is reminiscent of a castle top and represents that form of terrain. It’s floating nature makes it feel less natural than everything else which fits the castle theme.
The stage is about medium length, with all four fighters able to battle comfortably on just the plains. There are no active hazards on this level which is because the only really hazard in Fire Emblem are the enemy combatants. That makes this stage a real man-on-man fight with only the layout to consider. And that about does it for my example stage. Let me know what you guys think and remember to thank @Fire_Voyager once more for the awesome graphics. He went above and beyond my original request and put up with all my little nitpicks like a true warrior. With that, I hope you look forward to the next time I do an article on stage design. I have some good ideas but it is up to you guys. Let me know if you want to see more!