Published on April 16th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
Have yourself a SMASHING Time: A Review of Super Smash Bros. Melee
Year: 2001 // System: GameCube // Publisher: Nintendo // Developer: HAL Laboratory // Director: Masahiro Sakurai // Genre: Fighting
>>> It might not be the most worldly renowned console fighter, but its following is so devout that some YouTube tourney videos, including the epic “wombo combo” meme, have gone viral. It’s probably not even the most popular of the Smash Bros. titles. It featured more competitive play instead of providing the “party game” atmosphere HAL Laboratory intended to create for players, and ended up achieving with Brawl. This isn’t a game you kick back to with your friends with a drink in hand and pizza on the table for anyone to grab. No, this is a white-knuckled, no-holds barred, teeth-clenched type of fighter that puts you on edge so you can prove your worth. Names like Ken, Scar, and Mango are pseudo-household names, just because they play this game better than the rest of the world. Bowling, billiards, and table tennis all strive to achieve the viewership that videos for this title are garnering. It was once thought to be a broken game by some, but it broke boundaries in allowing people to view video games in terms of competitive play.
The game’s name is Super Smash Bros. Melee, and I’m here to prove why it may well be one of the most influential video games of all time.
Super Smash Bros. Melee was a direct sequel to the celebrated N64 brawler Super Smash Bros., which pit Nintendo’s most iconic stars up against each other. Not only was it the player’s first chance to fight Metroid’s Samus with Zelda’s Link, or Mario with Pikachu, but SSB also introduced a highly innovative new mechanic to the side-scrolling fighter. Instead of a life bar, each character possessed a percentile of damage that racked up based on the number- or power level- of hits that he or she took. The higher the fighter’s damage percentile, the farther he or she flew. If that fighter received a hit that sent him or her flying offstage, then that character was K.O., and lost a life. Fighters could attack, block, jump and then double-jump, use three specials that usually consisted of a projectile and a recovery move that for the character back onstage, grab, throw, and use smash attacks, or a series of slow, one-hit moves that could launch an opponent with high damage out of the stadium. The ideas presented by the first Smash Bros. were brilliant, and the play mechanics were wonderfully fresh for a genre over-saturated with cookie-cutter combo spammers and fatality users. But movement was sometimes sluggish, the roster was pretty small, even for an N64 game, and modes of play were limited.
That’s where the sequel, released for the Nintendo GameCube, comes into play. Aside from showcasing twice as many fighters to pick from, Melee also offers the player a platforming Adventure Mode, a whole range of Events to play through, and a well thought-out, unlockable All-Star mode that seems a fitting reward for plugging twenty-plus hours into the game (as opposed to Mewtwo). Everything in the game needs to be played in order to unlock characters, even the training mode! From grand-slamming Sandbag out of the park, to getting tag-teamed by three of Nintendo’s most fearsome villains, the solo player won’t be able to run out of fun activities to engage him or herself in via Melee. Even the camera mode is loads of fun! I couldn’t wait to give captions to my twenty-plus photos and post them into the internet- except for the slight problem that I didn’t have a computer at the time, nor would I hold onto my GameCube for long…
But if the single player modes weren’t enough to prolong Melee’s life span, then quick matches between friends would be enough to give the game tremendous staying power. Yes, there are tons of fun items to play with, and the different kinds of matches, as well as the outrageous customization of match length, gives competitors a number of options bordering on infinite. But what’s absolutely insane- and this is a testament to the epic nature of the game’s core engine- is that these features are essentially unnecessary! All two to four players need to have fun are no items, stock match with four lives apiece, and normal speed. This has to do with the strategies that a player can plot out with a fighter using his or her moves and the obstacles of a given stage. The stages themselves attest to the versatility of Melee by scrolling upward, moving around, staying put, or challenging the fighters to not fall off a stream of racing jets.
The reason that players enjoy Melee as a tournament title is because of the speed of the game. As a faster-moving title than its predecessor OR Brawl, Melee features agile characters, fast-falling action, calls for lightning-fast reflexes, and an array of button presses that appear to be accidents, but are every but intentional in keeping up with the other platinum fighters out there. These button combos include cancelling- a series of buttons that interrupt a character’s move in order to allow him or her to use another chain of moves- and short-hopping. Short hopping occurs through the player lightly tapping the jump button or tilting the analog stick upward. From there, the player can use a move that the opponent might not see coming because of the quick sequencing of short-hopping and attacking. This has bred a whole new school of lethal moves in the Melee title known by hardcore fans as “Free Parking” (Captain Falcon), Short-hop laser (Falco), SEKS kicks (multiple characters), shine-spiking (Falco), wave-shining (Fox), and the beloved Wombo Combo. The blistering movement and key memorization of control schemes are key in bringing the player enjoyment when he or she is facing highly competitive friends in this game. If a player is too casual for the tournament-style fighting that kicks in, then items are there to save the day. Because Super Smash Bros. Brawl offers a stronger experience with items and solo player modes, the less competitive player has undoubtedly moved on to Melee’s successor, but millions of fans are not done playing this sparkling gem quite yet.
No, the fighters are not balanced, but they are more balanced than in Brawl with fifteen to eighteen characters staying within range of each other. Also, because Melee features more leveled fighters than the whole roster of the N64 fighter, it’s the best of the three Smash titles that the item-hating player can pick up. I don’t ever suggest using Mewtwo against a professionally ranked player who uses Marth, but then I’m not saying that getting to the point where you’re good with Mewtwo won’t be fun. One of the worst characters in the game, Yoshi, has a dedicated group of players who use him in professional tournaments, so there is something to be said about how Melee rises above the tiered system that oftentimes crops up in fighting games.
Although SSBM has since been passed by its successor in terms of single-player modes, it’s a piece of gaming history that demonstrates how far video games have risen. Just like in athletic sports, competitive gaming became a matter of national pride thanks to the likes of Melee. True, we don’t yet have a Smash channel, but based on its widely viewed Youtube vids, I won’t be surprised if SSBM’s designated fanbase tries to raise enough funds for one.
Challenge: 10/Classic: Between the variety of single-player modes, the crazy customization of matches, the insane level 9 computers, and the wonderful multi-player brawls that could be staged, the gamer out-right wins.
Handling: 10/Classic: Controls are complex, but remain the core of the game’s experience. Each character moves and fights in a unique fashion while retaining the same kind of commands that are easy to learn, but take a lifetime to master. Fluid movement that travels faster than the blink of an eye adds an intense, engaging experience to this groundbreaking smasher.
Innovation: 10/Classic: Kept the same breakthrough formula that the first Super Smash Bros. implemented in the fighting scheme while introducing a greater range of modes and unlockable features that kept the player gridlocked in months of entertaining combat.
Core Experience: 10/Classic: No, the characters are not all completely balanced, but there’s no Metaknight creating an S-tier, either. Items solve that problem anyway, and the crazy number of animations and move combinations drive the replay factor of SSBM through the roof- just like Fox’s up-smash did to Mario in my last match.
OVERALL: 10/Classic: This classic, innovative platform-esque smash-em-up joins EarthBound and Metal Gear Solid as one of my top 5 favorite games of all time. Stick around to discover #3 and #4!