Review by Mr Jasill

"Who said Nintendo couldn't do beat 'em ups?"

Now the idea of Nintendo doing a beat ‘em up sounds crazy right? Never in a thousand years would you think that a beat ‘em up could work with Mario, Princess Peach, Zelda, Donkey Kong and a couple of Pokémon all flung into one game….right? Well not every games development company has the reputation Nintendo has and not every games development company boasts a roster of characters like Nintendo’s, each of whom have gigantic fan bases and multi million selling titles to boot. So, when you think about it, it really is no surprise at all that Nintendo decided to do a game such as Super smash bros, ‘cos Lord knows how many people out there would love to give Pikachu a beating and those who would like to give Princess Zelda a bit of a slapping around for causing a commotion over 3 damn triangles of gold and don’t forget that Princess Peach, getting herself kidnapped when she’s alone for longer than 5 minutes…I know someone out there has been wanting to give her a savage beating, huh?....

Question! How many companies out there boast a library of characters ranging from Mario, Link, Zelda, Kirby, Pikachu and Samus Aran? I can only think of one folks…

Smash…Brothers…Mêlée? ///
Smash Bros Mêlée (for those of you who do not know) is actually a sequel to the multi-million selling “Super smash bros” on the N64, so this is what you may call Super smash bros 2, only Nintendo are too good for that and don’t like to be predictable, so they flung a “Mêlée” on the end of it. The original Super smash bros was a low key hit and was released around the time that the N64 was more or less finished. It managed to shift a cool 1.5 million copies, so it was no wonder Nintendo decided to do a sequel, ready for release within the 2nd wave of GameCube titles. It came as a shock to many, because the title was kept so low-key and because I honestly don’t think anybody was prepared for what a gargantuan title this was going to be. Remember this people…this is the GameCube’s biggest selling game and it broke records on its day of release. Smash bros Mêlée does something very clever indeed as it gives Nintendo fanatics a chance to play with their fave characters such as Kirby, Pikachu, Link and Mario. None of these characters own titles were released on Gamecube at the time of Mêlée’s release and some of them still aren’t. (Still no Pokémon game and Zelda isn’t due for release in the west until March: U.S and May: U.K) so it gives fans a chance to handle Pikachu; until the new Pokémon game hits the shelf and Link; until The Windwaker released. And…also see what all these characters would look like in their 128 bit glory. Mêlée is more than a gimmick however and manages to back itself up with some solid game play and a well presented game which shows other titles how it’s done...Nintendo style…

Let’s take a dive into the world of Super Smash Bros Mêlée shall we?

How it plays ///
Okay….now this isn’t your average beat ‘em up game….far from it. Now your average beat ‘em up will no doubt have 2 gauges at the top of the screen (one for each character) and the purpose is usually to fill the gauge with as much red as possible by inflicting damage on your opponent with only your hands and feet, with the odd head butt and projectile being used also. Mêlée throws these concepts out of the window and does things its own way. Each player’s vitality is represented by a percentage at the bottom of the screen. Each player starts at 0%, but as a player receives damage, this percentage will rise. The higher the percentage, the more damage that particular player has taken and instead of a fight to the death, with the inevitable K.O, players must eject players from the fighting arena by knocking them out the sides of the screen and this is done by performing what is called a ‘smash attack.’ These are powered up attacks which will send the player on the receiving end flying. However, perform a smash attack on a character who is at 10% and they won’t budge. So much as breathe on a character who is at 200% and they will fly straight out the ring. There are several ways you can prevent being ejected from the ring, such as the use of double jumping and a special attack (which every player has) that will levitate your player upwards, but this will all depend on your percentage and the attack you’ve been hit by.

Because of the simple nature of the game, people tend to pawn this off as some form of button basher. This is not the case. It is very easy to tell a button basher apart from a Mêlée veteran. A lot more skill is involved in these matches than people give it credit for. Also, knowing the stages will put you at an advantage, as many stages have their own little nooks and crannies you can run to, to avoid the mayhem on the battlefield, but beware...not all of them do! The game also features power ups, which come in the form of weapons; such as baseball bats and a super scope gun and food items which decrease your percentage. The best item in the game however is the Poké-ball. Pick one of these up and throw it and it will summon a random Pokémon. Not all 200+ Pokémon are in this game however, but a great number of them are. These can range from the common Blastoise, Wobbafett and Staryu to the rare and vicious Entei and Lugia. Each of these Pokémon is equally well rendered and their attacks are all taken directly from the cartoon series and games.

All-star cast of characters ///
The character roster is very impressive and expansive. The game boasts 14 characters, with 10 available for unlocking. The secret characters themselves are quite disappointing in terms of their repertoire of moves, as many of them are just clones of existing characters. However, all the characters look absolutely amazing and never have you seen Nintendo’s prized possessions rendered so faithfully. Each character looks superb and ooze personality along with their over-the-top attacks. Also, small little things like their catch phrases really do bring them to life like never before. Each character has his / her own selection of trademark attacks; Mario shoots fireballs, Bowser breathes fire, Pikachu can thunder-shock and Link comes equipped with his Bow / arrow, bombs and boomerang. Every character is also very different in terms of their strength, speed and sturdiness (as with most beat ‘em ups). Characters such as Donkey Kong and Bowser are painfully slow, but have brute strength that can knock characters out of the ring very easily even though they are diffuclt to shift from the arena themselves, where as characters such as Peach and Zelda are very weak and can be ejected from the ring easily, but have very speedy attacks and are extremely quick. So the character you pick will have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the match. A nice thing about the character roster is that there is no ‘best character.’ You’d expect Mario to be leading the pack, but no…he doesn’t, even Mario has his faults. It’s refreshing to see, as with many games that require players to pick a character, it's far too easy for developers to throw a character in the selection who has the perfect balance and everyone gravitates towards them. **Examples: Sonic R on Saturn; Sonic was the best character and all the rest were crap. Mario Kart 64; Toad was the best character and all the rest weren’t as good. Tekken; Paul Phoenix - easily the best all rounder and far too powerful in comparison to other characters.** The balance of characters in this game is just about right and each character is actually worth picking, unlike games like Street Fighter where you’ll be hard pressed trying to find a player who is brave enough to pick Zangief…a character who is rarely chosen is comparison to the likes of Ryu, Ken and Akuma.

Graphics ///
Sweet, eye candy. No game has ever looked as good as this. If there is any title which shows off what the GameCube is capable of, it is this game. The game runs at an impressive 60 frames per second and each and every character is rendered to perfection and actually look better in this title than they do in their own respective games. Pikachu has never looked cuter and Mario has never looked more alive and heroic. Zelda looks absolutely amazing and many Legend of Zelda fans will no doubt be overjoyed with the appearance of adult Link as it’s unlikely we’ll see him again due to the new direction that Nintendo has chosen to take the Legend of Zelda series.

The stages themselves look amazing. There is a lack of detail in backgrounds in comparison to the characters themselves; simple architecture and geometry on buildings, simple textures etc. But none the less they are painstakingly detailed and no doubt the simple background modeling was intentional to keep the frame rate high. Each stage is based on a location from the vast library of Nintendo titles. These range from the mushroom Kingdom to Hyrule temple and from the Pokémon battle stadium to F-Zero’s Mute city. The game features NO SLOWDOWN what-so-ever and this is highly impressive to witness. 4 players can be going frantic at it on-screen, with full-blown pyrotechnics and several Pokémon being summoned at once and there will not be a hint of slowdown. This is a testament to solid programming, as PS2, X-Box and the Dreamcast have revealed in the past that 128 bit consoles can slow down, despite their immense processing power.

Also a special mention has to go to the intro which is amazing to watch and brilliantly rendered. It features all the characters doing their own little thing and is fast paced and really gears you up for the game. Also it’s the 1st GameCube game to feature FMV and it doesn’t disappoint. Due to the N64’s cartridges, many Nintendo 64 fans missed out on the FMV that PlayStation, PC and Sega Saturn fans were often graced with (the exception being Resident Evil 2 on the 64 which did feature FMV), so the intro will be almost like a gift to those who went all those years with an N64, unable to watch FMV movies that the PlayStation had on display constantly. The intro is amazing and I watch it almost every time I switch on the game. Once again it’s just a small touch that adds to the superb presentation that Super smash bros has on display.

Sounds ///
This soundtrack is phenomenal. No game gives you a plethora of music as high in quality than Melee. From the second you boot the game up and watch the FMV intro, you are treated to a brilliantly scored and orchestrated piece of music. All the classic Nintendo tracks have been remixed and re-orchestrated for this game, with the odd new track here and there. There are tracks which sound EXACTLY as they did in their NES days, such as the 1st stage of Super Mario Bros. 2 and the main theme to Super Mario Bros and they haven’t lost any of their charm or catchiness. This soundtrack oozes nostalgia and every track will suffice an “OH MY DAYS, I remember this track!” I’ve lost count of the amount of times I paused the game, just to hear the music alone. The soundtrack is so well done and really adds to the epic ness of this title. The music in this game is so well arranged and put together and really does a lot for the overall presentation.

Each character has their own voice and I have to say that they sound amazing. Individuals have their own grunts and groans and odd little catch phrases. However, not all the voices have been recorded and in many cases, the voice samples are those taken from the character respective games. So Link has the same voice he had in Ocarina of time, Mario has the same voice he had in Super Mario 64 and Yoshi has the same voice he had in Yoshi’s Story. All the other characters have been given newly recorded voices and sound great. Also, this is the first time players get to hear certain characters speak or make some form of noise. Fans will get to hear Kirby, Ice Climbers and many besides for the first time. The sound effects are what you’d come to expect from a Nintendo title and many odd effects have once again been taken from respective titles. Mario’s fire ball attack makes the same noise it did in Super Mario bros and Samus’ morph ball: bomb dropping make the same “blip!” noise it did in Super Metroid. The sound in itself is every bit as nostalgic as other aspects of the game. The best and most recognizable sound effect in the game is when Zelda transforms into Sheik during battle as a familiar Legend of Zelda melody plays as the transformation takes place. (I will not reveal which melody it is however). Fans of the game will recognize it instantly though and it’s small touches like these that make this title so brilliant to both witness and play.

Fatal 4-way ///
Mulit-player games are the new ‘it.’ So many titles nowadays go out of their way to compensate for 4 human players simultaneously and let’s not beat around the bush, Nintendo were one of the first companies who really went out of their way to accommodate 4 player action (Mario kart 64, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong 64, Lylat Wars are just a few of the games from the Nintendo camp that were all too willing to let 4 players go at it). Super smash Bros Mêlée is easily one of the most addictive multi-player games around. Fights will erupt and friendships will shatter over this game, so beware! Every option and feature can be adjusted and tweaked in multi-player matches to make things that bit more interesting. You can enlarge characters or shrink them. Select which items appear during fights and how frequent they appear. You can select anything from a 1 minute to a 99 minute Mêlée!!!! The game oozes option for players to inker and muck about with.

Bonus ///
This game features every bonus feature under the sun. There is so much to unlock in this game and there is more to getting everything than just completing the game. This game demands you to play it and some options and features cannot be unlocked unless you play the game for long durations of time. (The game has a clock which keeps record of playing time). Bonus’s range from new characters, new arenas, new playing modes and last but not least; trophies. This game features trophies which are of everything Nintendo and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time in the trophy gallery. Nintendo’s multi-decade history is captured in these trophies. EVERY trophy is brilliantly rendered and comes with a nice paragraph on the history of it. There are trophies of all the characters in the game itself, characters from Nintendo games that were un-released, Lylat wars characters, Donkey Kong characters, Fire emblem characters, enemies from Metroid, F-Zero characters and even the coins and mushrooms from Super Mario games. There are around 300 trophies to collect and this is not an easy thing to do. Trophies can be found in arena during fights and there’s even a lottery option that allows you to try you’re luck with a trophy dispenser with coins you’ve collected during your time playing the game. You get a “chances of a new trophy” percentage and as you get more trophies, your chances of gaining a new one decrease. It’s a real treat and just adds to the Nintendo nostalgia that this game contains so much of.

If you own a GameCube and you do not own this title, you should be arrested and thrown in custody. This is such a brilliant title and really does show that games can still be well produced in this day and age, as there are so many titles that spend not enough time in production and end up being crap. Ever since the dawn of next-gen consoles, we have been bombarded with games that have decent graphics and not much else, if even that and complete rip-off’s of successful titles. No doubt people will question the whole “kiddy factor” of the game, but the truth of the matter is, is that this game has the balls to go up against Virtua Fighter 4 and Tekken 4 and hold it’s own, despite it’s completely different game engine and bright colours. This is a beat ‘em up in every right and gets major brownie points for being 100% original. Who said every beat ‘em up had to have gauges at the top of the screen and only be one on one matches anyway? Nintendo didn’t, that’s for sure.

Super smash Bros Mêlée is a breath of fresh air and is a title which features; brilliant graphics, sound and game play, with no sacrifices being made in one department or the other. Rarely do games excel in every single category, but this game does. This is A-star title which deserves a great deal of time and effort. Spend time with this game and you will be greatly rewarded. Nintendo fans MUST get this game as the sense of nostalgia you get when you play this game really does take you back and make you remember how TRUE gaming was back in the day. (Ahhh….Memories). Do not own a GameCube without this. A definitive, must-have title.

Superb!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/12/03, Updated 02/12/03


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