Review by Andy787
"If nothing else, buy this game just so you can beat your friends' asses as Pikachu. You know you want to."
This game, calling itself Super Smash Bros Melee, is to Nintendo, what Fighters Mega Mix is to Sega, what Capcom vs. SNK is to Capcom and SNK. It is Nintendo's finest characters and video game icons, partaking in brutal, violent, bloody combat, fighting to the death, to prove once and for all, which Nintendo character is better than the rest. Which Nintendo character holds the skills to single handedly disembowel, decapitate, and manslaughter each and every one of its fierce enemies. Which character can prove, without a doubt, that he or she -or it- is the most undeniably fearsome, deadly, and blood thirsty Nintendo icon... EVAAAARRR.....
.............Juuuust kidding ^_^
In all actuality, this game really is Nintendo's greatest and most famed stars, all taking part in one great big fight to the finish. All that blood, guts, and disemboweling stuff... well let's just say the closest you're going to find to blood and guts in this game is Mario accidentally dropping his hat, opening his beautiful Italian hair to all kinds of evil that the wind may unleash upon it. I mean c'mon, this IS a Nintendo game right?
Anyway, let's get into the basics. Any self respecting fighting game fan knows that balance is to fighting games what orgasmic moans are to Karate Kid. That said, just because Nintendo is at the helm, does Smash Bros. contain the chi we fighter fans know as balance? Yes, yes it does. Quite surprisingly, even though this game's premise revolves around big hits and hard knocks -that can jettison the combatants far far out of any stage-, the game still manages to have balance, giving the player many ways to combat these tactics, and form your own tactics around the premise.
That brings me to another point. Even with only two attack buttons and a jump button, each character still has their own very formidable move set to learn and become skilled with. The moves in the game are quite easy to pull off, only requiring the press of one of the attack buttons plus a direction on the stick. But that doesn't mean there is no skill to the game. The skill however, lies in what move you should use and when, and learning just what moves are good for what situation. The end result being some very heated battles when all of the players know how to play.
Now before I get ahead of myself, it's very important that I point out the way of defeating your opponents in this game. It's important because the system is really quite innovative, and moreover, very different from other fighting games. The object here, is to weaken your enemies (their health being represented as a percentage that increases upon beating) enough to the point that they are weak enough to be hit or tossed out of the stage. Now a skilled player can easily knock a player out even without beating them, but the more damage you inflict on an opponent, the easier it is to knock them out.
Another skill in the game lies in that very idea. Just getting good at getting back into the ring is a skill in itself. Each character's best chance of making it back into the ring is different. For example, if you're playing as Kirby, getting back into the ring is usually fairly easy because you're able to jump 5 times consecutively without falling. In contrast, playing as Link you would have to master his spinning uppercut-like move that gives him an extra boost. Also adding some strategy to the fray -if you press block in-air, you move a little in one direction in the air. It may not bring you as close to the ring as some moves would, but the advantage is that it protects you from being juggled again in the air and thrown further back out.
That brings me to my next point -just how important juggles are in this game. I mean sure, juggles (keeping the enemy in the air with attacks) are a constant in most fighters, but they're really one of the most important strategies in Smash Bros. Each character has a few moves that give that extra punch that will knock a character in the air, and with a combination of these moves and other moves, keeping characters chained in the air becomes a very valuable skill. As they go higher and higher with each attack, they also get closer and closer to leaving the stage, and unless the opponent can get out of your mad jugglin' skillz, they're going to lose.
Finally, the last important feature of the gameplay -the items! Items in this game can do all sorts of things and originate from all sorts of games. For instance, you've got your general Poke-ball from Pokemon, which can unleash one of a multitude of power Pokemon on your foes. There's the venerable Mr. Saturn from good ol' Earthbound (the tiny little guy with a huge nose and no arms that walks around aimlessly) that you can throw at multiple times toward the enemy (most things you can only throw once and they disappear). Then we have Mario's favorite delicacy -a mushroom that will instantly turn your character into a Godzilla-like power house... or shrink you into a pint-sized version of your former self. That's only a small, small taste of the extensive list of power ups and damage inflicting specialties, which include everything from Bombobs, baseball bats, and super umbrellas of doom, to tomatoes, barrels, and even a Super Scope (remember that sucker? :P)!
Sure, now you know a bit how the game plays, but what kind of modes abound in this game to put your skills to the test?! Well let's just say I almost got a headache the first time I looked over all of the modes. This game is just completely filled to the brim with so many ways to play you can almost file it under multiple genres. First let's tackle the main way to play -the Classic mode. This mode, even though it's essentially your 'move up the ranks, beat a boss at the end and get your character's ending' mode, is also quite innovative. Being a fighting game fan, I know as well as anyone how this normal mode can get a bit tedious in most fighters, just doing the same fights, over and over again, but not so in SSB:M! In Smash Bros, this tedium is broken up between every two fights with an interesting little mini-game to play, such as breaking 10 targets strategically placed in a stage to make you use all of your skills to reach, or getting as far as you can in a maze-like area before the time runs out. It may not sound like much, but it goes a long way to help making each go through just as fun as the last. The enemy selections are also interesting and fresh each time, making you at times have to challenge extra large versions of characters, or metal characters.
Now, onto the 'other' main area of the single player game, the adventure mode. This mode is the reason I can say this game almost fits into other genres, as it is a series of fights and variations of the gameplay to make different ways of play. For instance, you may fight a normal match for a few rounds, then you'll switch to a match where you're running down the F-Zero stage, jumping on platforms to avoid being hit by the F-Zero cars as they go by. The level that should get the most attention however, is a nostalgic look back, where the game lets you play a level designed just like a level from a side-scrolling Mario game! It even has Goombas, Koopas, and the good old Mario theme playing in the background.
Other modes in the game include the event mode, which is much like Soul Calibur's quest mode, except without a map. Basically you're given a selection of levels to play, and each level has a different variation of the gameplay of the main game. For instance one level you have to defeat 128 tiny Marios, or on another stage you have take out all of the women characters in the game, or another stage where you have to fight Dr. Mario and Nurse Peach. This mode is really extensive as well, giving more than 50 different levels to play through. Then there's the stadium mode where you can play three different mini games, from the target breaking game of the classic mode, to a game where you can swing a baseball bat at a white sack (with a happy face no less) trying to hit it as far as possible.
So what's here to keep you playing through so many different modes? The trophy mode, that's what! What are trophies? Well they're basically 3-D models of hundreds of famous (and not-so-famous) Nintendo characters that you can zoom in and on, rotate, and manipulate to your heart's content. They're very well detailed, and even have a nice description to go with each. How will this keep you playing? Well like I said, there are hundreds... almost 300 in fact, 300! To collect them, you must earn coins in all of the game's other modes which can be spent in the trophy lottery. Many trophies can only be gained after completing certain tasks as well, such as beating the game with a specific character or finding them in the adventure mode. Suffice to say, the trophies will keep you playing for quite some time.
Finally, even more incentive to play, is the multi-player mode, which I must say is one of the best you will find in your gaming career. Like the rest of the game, there is just so, so many ways to play. You can play a normal death match, or you can play one of the dozen+ special modes. You can also decide how many lives you want each player to have, how long you want the match to be, how much damage each hit does, which items will appear and how often... there's just too many different ways to do things it'd be like summing up the dictionary. Well maybe not the dictionary. Really though, the reason this game is as good as it is in multi-player is the fact that you can play with up to 4 players so seamlessly. This game doesn't suffer the same as say a racing game or first person shooter since the game is played on just one screen, no 4 tiny screens or anything. It doesn't even suffer where other 4-player fighters do, where you would have to wait to be tagged in, no no, this game is just pure 4 player multi-madness.
Now let's not ignore the graphics, as they are really -like the rest of the game- top notch. It really surprises me how effortlessly the Gamecube handles this game, even when 4 players are going at it with so many effects and things going on, the frame rate never drops in the slightest. All of the characters are high-poly, and all have plenty of animation going on at all times. The levels though, must really get some mention, some of them are just brilliant. Most notably would probably have to be the F-Zero stage. During the stage, the platform you're on is being constantly carried all over an F-Zero track, stopping for a few moments letting you battle on the ground. While on the ground though, you must watch out as all of the F-Zero cars whip around the track and if you're still on the bottom you're in for a beating courtesy of the F-Zero crew. Really great how they did it. In another level -one of Donkey Kong's- you're pitted right in front of a huge raging waterfall, with wave hurdling back and forth as you fight. Mario's levels will also bring back a very nostalgic feeling, as you're placed right in the middle of a few of the old NES Mario titles. There is also no shortage of levels, as there are more than 30 total, many characters getting multiple stages! The levels, put simply, and very pleasing to the eyes.
Any Nintendo fan will also definitely find the music and sounds to be an extremely nostalgic experience, as you'll re-live so many of the great theme songs you've hummed along to so many times, such as many of Mario's themes, some from Donkey Kong, some great pieces from Zelda and Metroid, and my favorite, the tunes from Earthbound. Each one will really take you back if you -like me- have fond memories of listening to these songs while playing the original games they came from.
The sound effects are no slouch either, and will definitely bring back memories. Just little touches, like Mario's jumping and fireball noise, Kirby sucking up an opponent, Yoshi pooing out an opponent as an egg, Pikachu yelling out random Pika-mating calls. There are also a multitude of great voice samples, from Link shouting his battle cries, to Yoshi spouting out his name, it all goes together for a really Nintendo-y sound, and none of it sounds out of place at all. If it's in the game, it's in the game.
Overall, Super Smash Bros. Melee is just one incredibly huge game of epic proportions. It, quite simply, has just about everything a Nintendo fan could ask for (sans the Peach panty shots), and it does everything so gracefully and really reminds you just why you like Nintendo as much as you do. If nothing else, buy this game just so you can beat your friends' asses as Pikachu. You know you want to.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/16/01, Updated 12/16/01
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