Review by bearsman6

"How many other games let you beat down on pokémon with a baseball bat?"

So you’ve played the original for the N64. You’ve mastered all the characters in that, and now you think you’re ready for the next generation? Guess what, boys and girls, this game is more than you ever imagined, and you get to kill almost twice as many pokémon! Yes, that’s right, as if the draw of the superb graphics, loads of extra play options, and secrets enough to drown an elephant weren’t enough, you even get to kill more pokémon than you can shake your proverbial stick at. So, let’s get into the real deal!

Gameplay: 10/10 The mini-disc for SSB:M was simple enough. The symbol gracing it’s surface, the circle broken by two cutout lines, the symbol of the Master Hand, was well known to me by now. I watched as the familiar Gamecube logo filled the screen, and then was amazed as I pressed start and was taken into my…. First menu. Nothing spectacular, but nothing disappointing either. It didn’t have any spectacular opening movie, nor any amazingly drawn intro screen, but it was solid. So then I went straight into the 1Player menu, but noticed something: more than one choice was available there! It wasn’t just the normal battle that they had had previously. So I examined these a bit more, and to my surprise, I found out that more than just the roster had been updated for this sequel to the phenomenally addictive Smash Bros. However, what also surprised me was that, despite all these new additions (like Home Run Derby, timed Melee battles where your only goal is to survive and kill, and ), the original games and spectacular system that made Super Smash Bros. outstanding was still present, from the crazy battles themselves to the all too familiar “BREAK THE TARGETS!”
And then I jumped into a melee battle itself. Picking one of my favorites from the past games, Captain Falcon, and noting that all of the characters from the past game returned, I immediately started whipping up on Link. The controls, though slightly different due to the new controller’s feel, were all so responsive and, despite the small differences, very familiar. Several of Link’s moves had changed slightly, like making his old B attack (the boomerang) into his ->+B attack. But otherwise, everything was wonderfully similar. It did take a while to get some of the new subtleties… like the true functions of Z, which include grabbing, throwing, and air evasions, but still the game was EXACTLY how I had wanted it to be.
Best of all, it didn’t abandon what made the old game one of the best fighters on the N64: it left the controls and basic system intact.

Graphics: 10/10 On a system like the Gamecube that doesn’t boast the best graphics on the market, but supports games like both this and Rogue Leader, I expected nothing less. Every character is thoroughly detailed, and at every size (small, normal, and grande) can you be sure to see no polygon, nor will you even see a slowdown. Every action is fluid. Every character, item, and even interactive background is well defined. From Young Link’s flaming arrows to Samus’ beautiful charging of her cannon, every aspect of this game is beautiful.
The game also flaunts partially interactive backgrounds, all magnificently detailed, of course. Taking what the 64 version had with outlandish level designs a step even further, this game employs multi-tiered, often times multi-faceted designs that upstage even the weirdest of levels from the past. One fight on the rotating triangle that is the Brinstar Depths with the gigantic, and fully detailed, Kraid in the background keeping watch will assure you of this. Or how about battling atop the F-Zero racers over a gorgeous ocean in Big Blue? You can even take a trek through time and go to a few of the original levels, redone of course, and looking better than ever. Then, consider all this while still balancing wonderfully up to four players going all out in true Smash Bros-style action and you can just imagine how much power this machine is showing. It literally is as good to the eyes as it is fun for the spirit. (And really, who can deny that hitting Pikachu over and over and over again with the home run bat and then watching as his pathetically feeble form flies into the background isn’t fun?!?!)

Sound: 9/10 As though to continue with the pattern, the sounds from the original all return with amazing clarity, and are remastered (go figure). All the battle cries are clearly visible, though after some Versus battles it’s not always clear what is being said (most noticeably with Roy and Marth who taunt in Japanese). However, the announcer voice makes a not-so surprising return, as does the crowd that you can hear “ooh” and “aah” with every miraculous save, or chant as a character gains well over 100% damage. The sounds were never really the strong points of the original game, but Melee seems to make the most of them. Every attack seems to be accompanied with a specific noise or utterance, much like before, but this time even those are crisp and well defined. From the thoroughly enjoyable bashing sound of the home run bat smashing an opponent into the next galaxy to Gannondorf’s yell with his warlock punch, everything is crystal clear. Though the sounds definitely don’t make this game what it is, without them, the game would definitely seem less than magnificent. In fact, though it isn’t the main stay of the game, the sounds define the characters almost as well as their different styles do. It’s quite interesting, really…

Overall: 9/10 Amazing as this sounds, and despite how high my expectations for this game were, somehow Smash Bros. Melee still managed to surprise me. Perhaps the most astonishing was how fast this game handled everything. True, it had small load times in between battles, but for a game with so much on it, that was fine by me. In fact, they managed to mask these times by giving you something else to do or look/listen to, like listing the stats after a battle, or letting you hear the announcer giving the next match. It was masterfully hidden to say the least. Take 1 alarmingly successful, add two doses of graphical overhaul, throw in a pound of new features, and this is what you’ve got. Super Smash Bros: Melee far outshines its prequel, and that is no small feat. If you loved the original, you must pick this superb sequel up at once. If for nothing else, this game showcases how well the cube can handle a fighter, as unorthodox as it can be, while still sticking to the creative gameplay that made it renowned.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/11/01, Updated 12/11/01

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