Review by bluej33

Reviewed: 10/05/07

The Ultimate Fighting Game

Fighting games are part of an undeniably unique and interesting video game genre. Its history is full of innovation and great amounts of quality games. Not every fighting game is for everybody, though; some games are clearly aimed toward a certain demographic. Initially, the huge appeal of Super Smash Bros. was that it was the ultimate game for any die-hard Nintendo fan. It featured characters from all spectrums of Nintendo gaming -- Mario, Link, Samus, Pikachu, Fox -- all the major franchises were well-represented.

And so, once Super Smash Bros. was released for the N64, gamers found a fighter that was for just about everybody. No longer would you have to play as huge, busty women (perhaps inappropriate for children), nor will you have to master intricate, complex button sequences. Because that, certainly, is the greatest appeal of the Smash Bros. franchise. We all loved Super Smash Bros., and couldn’t imagine it being any better. Super Smash Bros. Melee, however, released all the way back in 2001, proved us all wrong.

Once we all played -- and loved -- Melee, we realized how the original Super Smash Bros., had only scratched the surface. The first thing that will jump out at you once powering on the game is the jaw-dropping graphics. Characters look absolutely beautiful, especially when you compare it to those in the original Super Smash Bros., and even more so once you remind yourself that this is the GameCube. Characters possess a ridiculous variety of movements and actions, as well as tons of items that cause explosions and other fun effects. Yet, despite this, four players can easily be playing at once with no lag, slowdown, or glitchiness at all.

The graphics may draw you in, but it’s the fighting mechanics that will keep you playing Melee for hundreds of hours. They offer a truly brilliant combination of simplicity and complexity. Young children can easily play the game, because at its core, there are only a few important buttons. Move with the control stick, attack with A and B. But if you’re a hardcore gamer that for some reason hasn’t yet played Melee, you needn’t despair. This is not, by any means, a game geared toward little kids. Because while the core mechanics may be beautifully simple, at the same time, there are a near-infinite number of complexities and subtleties. To knock of an enemy, simply knock him or her off the edge of the course. The more you hit your foe, the more damage he will accrue, and the farther he will fly if hit again. Traditionally, games are set to either stock or time matches.

The many fighting techniques that each and every character possesses is mind-boggling. As I’ve mentioned, close range attacks are performed simply with a tap of the A button. Ranged attacks, or other specialized attacks (it really just depends on the character) are taken care of with the B button. But far more powerful attacks can be performed if you combine button presses. Perhaps the most standard is a simple Over and A attack. If you hit up, down, left, or right on the Control Stick simultaneously with the A button, you will charge up for a far more powerful attack.

That’s not all there is, though. The amount of combos available for you to use in Melee is absolutely ridiculous. There are so many different button combinations, and the fun of the all these combos really lies in finding them out for yourself. It’s easy enough to look up lists of fighting techniques up on the internet, but the overall experience is just so much more rewarding if you instead dedicate yourself to playing through and finding out your favorite moves for yourself. In this way, you really can customize your characters for yourself, just in the way that you can discover and use moves that you find best suit your own personal fighting style.

And on the subject of customization, it’s critical to bring up a few more wonderful aspects of Super Smash Bros. Melee. First, and possibly most appealing to any Nintendo fan, is the fact that there are more than 25 different playable characters. While some characters are undeniably better than others (some websites are actually entirely dedicated to merely ranking the many characters based on their effectiveness), what’s great is that most characters are fairly evenly balanced. Each have their strengths and weaknesses, and if you’re good, you can realistically win with any character in the game. The fun regarding the characters, of course, lies in either picking your favorite Nintendo character or the character that you play best with -- or even better (and if you’re lucky) -- both.

The amount of variety of characters has been severely ramped up from the original game. While the original did a good job of representing the biggest Nintendo franchises, Melee goes far beyond that. Now, characters from just about every Nintendo franchise makes an appearance. Fire Emblem, F-Zero, Ice Climbers, and others all make appearances with their own unique characters.

Additionally, there are a ton of different courses on which to battle. There are easily 20-30 different courses (most of which need to be unlocked), all with very unique features that will undoubtedly drastically affect the outcome of any battle. Some courses will move around, while others will randomly change in mid-battle. Personally, I find it most fun to play on random courses -- it will really show you the vast variety and many features of all the different courses that the game offers.

Finally, one of the most chaos-intense and exciting aspects of any battle is the vast amount of items. Items hail from every possible video game franchise that you can possibly imagine: a baseball bat from Earth Bound, a Warpstar from Kirby, Red and Green Shells from Mario, along with mushrooms and bombs, Pokemon balls (from Pokemon, of course), and a slew of others. The items may single-handedly be the craziest aspect of game play in Melee. They can change around the course of a battle in an instant, and further add to the melee and anyone-can-play theory that really characterize this game.

I’ve already gone into detail in terms of how Melee plays out -- but what exactly will you play? The single player mode is rather simple, and revolves around (at least for the most part) merely battling random enemies. There are two single player modes, actually: Adventure and Classic. One is rather straightforward, and has you simply battling a number of enemies in a random order, ending with a strange boss battle. The other mode, though (Adventure) is more interesting. Of course, it involves a lot of fighting, but there are also some cool plat forming and adventure elements to it. While not the meat of the game, both Adventure and Classic modes offer fun diversions.

The meaty single player mode, and the one that will likely provide you with the most gaming time in Melee is just playing versus computers. You can set the difficulty of the computer players, on a scale of 1 to 9 (one being easiest, and 9 being very difficult). Select your character, add some computers, adjust some of the battle settings, then choose a stage, and you’re off on a chaotic, exciting battle. And you’ll most like play it over and over and over again -- talk about replay value!

All the single player modes are pittance, though, compared to the brilliant multiplayer mode that Melee sports. It’s fun enough to beat the crap out of some computers, but it’s infinitely more satisfying when it’s your friends at the butt of your attacks. The most standard multiplayer mode is very similar to playing computers, with the exception that you’re facing off against three friends rather than three bots. In the multiplayer, all the incredible aspects of Melee really come together to show everyone just how incredible and downright fun a video game can be.

If you’ve got more than four friends (and I certainly hope you do), and you’re interested in getting a little Melee party together, then Melee is going to make you very happy. Other multiplayer modes allow you to set up huge Melee tournaments for up to 64 players, with each player getting to play another competitor, and slowly progressing up through the brackets and ending up the champion.

And even if you happen to get bored with the out-there single player modes, fun bot-battling, and killer multiplayer, Melee will still manage to keep you playing. Easily the most addicting aspect of the game lies with the huge number of unlockables that are lying all over the place. You’ll only start out with a dozen characters and a number of playing courses, but there are tons more of each that can be unlocked, either by playing a certain number of matches or clearing specific challenges. Trophies, also, are fun to collect. Each trophy is a figurine of a Nintendo-related character or item, which also contains a little write-up. There are nearly 300 of them, which can be obtained in bonus stages, throughout Classic or Adventure Mode, by playing a certain number of matches, or redeeming tokens at the lottery. There’s just so much to do, and it’s all so addictive and fun.

Super Smash Bros. Melee is, in a word, a gem. It is the best fighter I’ve ever played, and has gotten me interested in a genre that I’d previously never cared about. It will be fun for both brawl-game rookies as well of hard-core gamers, thanks to its brilliant combination of simplicity and complexity. Melee offers among the best of what the GameCube can graphically offer, and the replay value will blow any other game out of the water. If, for some reason, you own a GameCube and don’t own Melee, you need to go out right now and pick up a copy. It can be found for 20 bucks or less, and is worth every penny you will spend. Super Smash Bros. Melee is truly ultimate fighting game and a must-have for any fan of Nintendo.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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

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