Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is coming out this week. While a lot of the fun of the franchise is its sharp gameplay and visual nsotalgia, one thing I find fascinating about Smash Bros. as a celebratory game is the fact that many of the sound effects are taken from the original games. When Mega Man shoots his Arm Cannon, it makes that characteristic pew pew noise. When Mario does his Super Jump Punch, he has that classic “boing” effect. If you know the sounds, they’re pretty nostalgic, and if you don’t, they probably seem as if they come from a bygone era.
Smash Bros. is certainly not the only game to do this. In fact it might very well be the Dragon Quest series which does this the most, as the same sounds for spells since the original game are still being used in every sequel. However, what’s interesting is more than just the use of those classic sounds, as there are also clearly decisions to not use those sounds as well.
For example, when Charizard uses its Flamethrower, it’s just the sound of fire spewing forth, and not the original Game Boy games’ crackling noise. Its nostalgia, arguably, is not located in that aspect. In contrast, Duck Hunt’s special moves are loaded with audible NES references, whether it’s the sound of a falling duck or a wild gunman shouting, “FIRE!” while garbled by primitive voice digitization. Here, it’s as if Duck Hunt is there to represent the NES Zapper line as a whole, and because the existence of the Zapper is tied to a specific era in video games, most of its sounds have not been updated, unlike Charizard’s. It’s also notable that the Pokemon have their voices from the anime, as it implies that their cartoon is the primary way by which Pokemon characters are associated aurally.
Of course it doesn’t mean much for gameplay whether the sound effects are modern or retro, but they do give a lot of flavor to the characters and the game as a whole. It’s easy to get the sense that, ah yes, this is the character I remember from my childhood.