Super Smash Bros Melee is the ultimate party game. It’s pure fun, which is what Nintendo does best.
Honestly, what hasn’t been said about Super Smash Bros Melee? Not much. This game has been the hot topic game of the GameCube ever since it was announced at E3 2001. The first Super Smash Bros (on the N64) title was a breakaway hit that captured the hearts of many Nintendo fans. The premise was simple: take a bunch of famous Nintendo characters and have them duke it out in a no-holds-barred fight for supremacy. The gameplay was deceptively simple and the title was insanely addictive. It spawned all-nighters, and even tournaments, devoted to the game. When Melee was announced I was extremely happy. Super Smash Bros was my hands-down favorite title on the Nintendo 64 and having it on the GameCube made me glow with anticipation. In fact, I was excited for this game before it was even announced. You can read my Dream Game article entitled Ultra Smash Bros: Online Frenzy that I wrote back for the launch of Planet GameCube.
Melee is everything that Super Smash Bros was and tons more. The game features 25 characters total and almost 30 different stages to fight on. The fighting system has been revamped and expanded and is now better. In the first game, when the damage got to around 100% a character could be easily grabbed and thrown off of the level. In Melee however, the focus has switched away from throwing and on to the Smash attacks. Now, characters do not throw as far as they used to (except for a few of them). The best way to kill someone is with a well timed smash attack. Also new to Melee is the ability to charge the Smash attacks up. If you execute a smash attack but do not let go of the A button, the attack will charge up. Once the attack reaches maximum strength, it will release, or you can let go of the A button to unleash the attack any time.
When it was first unveiled at E3 2001, Melee caught everyone’s eye with its amazing graphics. The title truly shines in this department. All of the fighters are wonderfully rendered in 3D, as are the arenas in which they fight. And this time around, all of the different items are also rendered in 3D (in Smash Bros 64 they were sprites). Not only does the game look good, it plays fast. Melee runs at a constant 60 frames per second and never slows down. This makes for some very smooth animations and some fast fighting. Speaking of the animations, they are excellent. You may not really notice them while playing the game (as you will most likely be engrossed in ass-kicking) but they are truly something to be looked at.
One of the areas where Super Smash Bros Melee shines the brightest is in the sound department. Most of the songs in the game are fully orchestrated. The GameCube is Nintendo’s first system with games based on an optical media. Because of this, there is a ton of storage available and you also get the digital quality of CD sound. HAL knew this and used it. Super Smash Bros Melee is one of the best sounding games ever. You really have to hear it to believe it. Of course, background music isn’t everything. There are also sound effects, another area in which Melee excels. The characters sound great, as do their attacks. There is nothing as satisfying as slamming someone with a Home-Run Bat and hearing that “KA-SHING!” noise when the bat connects.
Super Smash Bros Melee, as explained before, takes the controls of its predecessor and expands upon them. The control is very tight. Attacks, for the most part, execute flawlessly. The controls are very well designed. Though some people may question the placement of the throw attack on the Z button and the fact that both X and Y are jump buttons. I think it would have been much more effective to have only the L button do shield and have R to the throw command. Truth be told, you will most likely adapt to the new control scheme very quickly and you won’t even remember that you had gripes with it in the first place. I do actually have a gripe with the controls though. In multiplayer matches, the C-stick can be used to quickly perform a smash attack. I do not like this one bit. It cheapens the gameplay of the title. There is a certain amount of skill required for the smash attack and letting players use the C-stick (even if it is only in multiplayer) diminishes from the required skill. I guess I’m a bit of a purist for thinking that. At least the C-stick doesn’t let you charge the smash attacks though.
Gameplay is the category where Super Smash Bros Melee excels the most in. It’s pure, simple, down-home FUN. Melee is an addiction. You can sit down and start playing, and play for hours and hours not noticing both the time flying and your thumbs decaying. With the somewhat limited graphical abilities of the N64, lots of games had to rely on excellent gameplay. Thankfully, the same excellent gameplay found in the N64 original has returned in Melee. In fact, it’s even better than the gameplay in the first title. The added ability to charge the Smash attacks and the generally expanded controls deepen the gameplay mechanics.
Melee features an expanded single player mode. In the first title, single player was basically just a romp through a series of fights with different characters, and then the final boss. Melee now has 3 different single player modes (one has to be unlocked). There’s Classic, which is the same as the single player in the first game, and there’s the new mode, Adventure. Basically, it’s a series of themed fights and levels. The levels are taken from various classic Nintendo games. There’s a platforming level like Mario, and there’s a dungeon from Zelda. There’s also a vertical jumping level from Metroid. Lots of people are totally ga-ga over this mode. Personally, I find it very similar to Classic, except with a few side-scrolling levels mixed in. I’m more in it for the multiplayer.
The game's focus is on multiplayer. You and up to 3 other friends can compete in various different types of fights with all kinds of settings. You can fight for a certain amount of time or you can give each player a certain amount of lives to fight with. Then there are modes where the idea is to collect coins knocked from players, and a mode where the idea is to have the best technique. There are also a whole host of “special melees” which have all kinds of wacky twists.
Super Smash Bros Melee will never die. I have been playing the first one ever since it was released. The only reason I stopped playing it was because I got Melee for my GameCube. I have a feeling that the same will be true of Super Smash Bros Melee. I will not stop playing this game until the next one comes out. And most likely, a lot of people will agree with me. This game never ever gets old or tired. The sheer largeness of this game will keep it fresh for at least a month for most players until they unlock all the secrets. And after that, you still have multiplayer. The multiplayer is the real key to the game’s longevity. I guess if you didn’t have anyone to play with, this game might get old. But as long as you have friends around who like to play, you won’t stop playing this game.
For lots of people, Super Smash Bros Melee is the system seller for the GameCube. The game is just so huge and is carrying such a large fan-base from the first title. Melee is an excellent game that deserves every little ounce of praise it gets. Its graphics are smooth and some of the best seen on any system ever. The sound is truly beautiful, with fully orchestrated background tunes and dead-on sound effects. The controls are tight and responsive and very well designed. Gameplay is top-notch, with tons of different modes to play though and a multiplayer element that is truly unbeatable. The game will never die, and will remain fresh time and time again. Super Smash Bros Melee is easily the best game available for the GameCube this year. Unless you did not like the first one, you owe it to yourself (and your friends) to own this game.