Review by Malorkus

Reviewed: 07/16/06 | Updated: 01/17/17

Violence is the answer.

The concept of Super Smash Bros. dumbfounded me at first. As much as I’d always wanted to beat up Pikachu with Link, the idea just sounded like stupid fan fiction. Lo and behold, the game turned out to be a blast, as people were knocking the living daylights out of Kirby with Donkey Kong's super punch in arenas based on classic Nintendo locales like Yoshi's Island and Hyrule Castle. Each character had their own unique attacks and abilities. Classic Nintendo items like Koopa Shells and Pokeballs would add to the frenzy. It was an excellent multi-player experience, and yet its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee, completely dwarfs it in terms of content. People don't want cookie-cutter additions and a re-polishing of textures here and there in a sequel, but rather a similar experience with new additions that pushes the series in a whole new direction, and Melee is exactly that.

Super Smash Bros. Melee features the return of all characters from the original title, plus many new ones like Peach, Bowser, Zelda, and the Ice Climbers. Melee offers the aptly-titled Classic Mode from the original game, featuring a series of randomized fights that can be quickly run through, culminating in a fight with Master Hand. New to the series is Adventure Mode, as your character will fight their way through 12 stages. Many of them take heavy inspiration from the games they first appeared in, such as a side-scrolling Mushroom Kingdom world that has you pouncing on other classic Mario enemies. Another pits you in a maze-like Zelda dungeon. Adventure Mode is fun, but it’s the weakest aspect of Melee, as the originality gets really lazy after a few worlds with the stages just turning into standard fights. It’s a neat concept that is not fleshed out enough.

Luckily, Melee gets just about every other new addition right. Many of the battlefields are famous Nintendo game landmarks, ranging from Peach’s Castle to Onett from Earthbound to Kirby’s Fountain of Dreams. Various obstacles will appear in certain arenas, such as the rising acid of Brinstar or the Star Fox ships firing lasers on Corneria. These obstacles are sometimes an interference, but most of the time they expand combat in an entertaining way. The item system is another aspect that sets the Super Smash Bros. series apart from traditional fighters. For example, if you pick up a Bob-omb, you can throw it at an opponent, and a huge explosion will occur, severely damaging all players within the radius of the explosion. A Pokeball will unleash a random Pokemon on your opponents. Melee also sports some new items, like the Super Mushroom to make your character temporarily gigantic, and Metroid's Screw Attack.

In addition to returning mini-game Target Test, Melee introduces some new ones. Home Run Contest involves whacking a sandbag (appropriately named “Sandbag”) with the baseball bat as far as possible. Over 50 Event Matches have a special mission for you to complete, such as beating your opponents with Pokeballs only or defeating 128 miniature Mario clones. As you progress, these event matches become extremely challenging. Completing these will earn you additional stages and trophies you can't get anywhere else. Speaking of trophies, they are probably my favorite new extra feature. These collectible models of countless Nintendo characters in Nintendo's history date from the time of Melee’s release back to Nintendo's earliest days. Each trophy has its own brief description which gives brief background history and info of the character or object. Trophies can be found on the ground, won through event matches, or purchased at random with coins that you win from battles through the lottery.

Unlike the original game, single-player content is pretty beefy. The event matches will consume a lot of your time, and mastering the classic and adventure modes with different characters will net you new trophies. Of course, Melee shines even more brightly in the multi-player department. Up to four players can participate in an all-out brawl at one time. Multi-player's options can be adjusted accordingly. You are given the option of setting how long the match will last, or whether you want an every-man-for-himself match, a tag team match, or a survival round. You can even create a sudden death match, and can also choose which items you want to use, if any. Melee still impresses visually, and even more musically. You will recognize many remixes of classic Nintendo themes throughout this game, some familiar and others more obscure.

Super Smash Bros. Melee takes the simple, goofy fun of beating up friendly Nintendo characters in the Nintendo 64 game and turns it into a deeper, more expansive experience. Now far more than just a party game to torment your drunk friends with, Melee adds many more characters, more sophisticated stages, beefy single-player value, and many fun extras. The mini-games are fun, the event matches are true tests of your skills, and the trophy collection is insanely addictive. The Adventure Mode does not quite live up to its full potential, but the multi-player more than makes up for it, having so many options to suit your preferred methods of play. Plus, it’s quite simply one hell of a lot of fun, and that’s the biggest praise I can give Melee – whether playing alone or with friends, the game is a blast and will give you hundreds of hours of entertainment.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Super Smash Bros. Melee (US, 12/03/01)

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