Review by Writer

Reviewed: 12/13/01 | Updated: 12/13/01

If you fancy yourself a gamer at all, you must own this game

The original Super Smash Bros. was one of the best and most unique games for the N64. The game not only featured everyone's favorite Nintendo stars beating each other to a pulp, but it was also the first four player fighting game that ever really worked. Thankfully Nintendo didn't just sit on their rears, twiddling their thumbs for years and decide ''Oh, it's time for a sequel to Super Smash Bros.,'' like they do with most of their games. At the May 2001 edition of E3, Nintendo revealed shots of Super Smash Bros. Melee to the gaming press. The screenshots immediately hit the web and it's pretty safe to say gamers were more than happy that a sequel was in the works for this smash-fest. Well, Super Smash Bros. Melee has finally been released and you'll be happy to hear that it more than lives up to the hype that surrounded it. If you haven't bought a GameCube yet, you may want to do so just for this game.

If you're unfamiliar with the premise behind Melee, it's extremely simple. The game is the most unique fighter out there albeit with a twist. Instead of life bars, you and your opponents have percentage meters that start out at zero. The more damage you deal to your foe, the higher their percentage increases. You want to deal so much damage to your adversary to send them flying out of the arena. Of course if they aren't knocked too far, they can usually return to the ring with double jumps and triple jumps and the same applies to you.

The major thing that separates Melee from it's predecessor is the plethora of new additions that HAL Laboratories implemented. Each fighter from the original game has all their signature moves intact and they now have the ability to float briefly after jumping or being knocked airborn by pressing either the L or R buttons. One of the best new moves to your fighter's arsenal is the Smash Attack. By pressing forward and A at the same time your fighter can execute this powerful attack, which is very useful with it comes to knocking out a pesky Pikachu trying to return to the arena. You can even charge the Smash Attack by holding A. The GameCube controller may take some getting use to when playing Melee but after some good practice, you'll be good to go.

One of Melee's many new additions is the Adventure Mode. This mode not only has you taking part in one-on-one, three-on-one and sometimes fifteen on one battles like the last game (now called Classic Mode), but it also places you in sidescrolling levels that reflect Nintendo's classic games. The first stage of Adventure mode takes you through the Mushroom Kingdoom complete with Goombas and Koopa Troopas and another level has you escaping the planet Brinstar before it blows up. Adventure mode is a nice addition as it adds to the classic, nostalgic feel of the overall game.

The character signature stages are back and more interactive than the last game. One example would be Mute City (F-Zero), which has you playing on a moving track and from time to time, a pack of 30 racers comes blazing through and anyone left standing on the track when this happens is in for a beating. Thankfully the fighting areas aren't as limited as the first game, which were either too hard to see your character due to the N64's graphics (DK Jungle) or weren't all too fun to battle in. More than 20 arenas can be selected and sometimes you'll have a tough time choosing where you want to fight. The arenas are that great. You've also got a plethora of new items to aid or hinder you depending on who gets to them first. The Super Scope helps keep opponents away but the cloaking device, while clever, makes it very hard to see your own character especially during four player matches when the camera zooms out. Some of Pokemon that pop out of Pokeballs are far more impressive than the critters in the last game (many from Pokemon Gold/Silver) although you may miss Onix and Mewoth. The hammer and star man also return but their lasting effects have been cut in half possibly to prevent players from being too cheap.

Any SSB player knows that part of the heart and soul of that game was the fantastic crew of Nintendo characters and Melee is no different in this regard. There are a total of 25 characters to choose from with 14 being available from the get go. The other 14 you must unlock. It's unfortunate that some of the characters are nothing but replicas of already accessible characters (Dr. Mario is a clone of Mario, Pichu is a Pikachu ripoff, etc.) but the sheer number of characters to choose from over the last game (only 12) certainly outweighs this little problem. While some may complain about the lack of certain characters (no Koopa Troopa or Joanna Dark?) You'd be hard press to dislike of all the choices HAL and Nintendo included. Popo and Nana, the Ice Climbers haven't been seen in 16 years and anyone that actually remembers that game is in for a treat. These two are some of the best fighters in the whole game (they fight as a duo). If you aren't familiar with some of Nintendo's Japan only stars like Marth and Roy of the Fire Emblem series, some characters will appear foreign to you.

One of the coolest things Melee has going for it are the trophies that you can collect. You earn these little babies by finishing the Classic and Adventure mode and you can use coins you've earned to gamble for more of them. These trophies give a ton of info on Nintendo's history and may even bring to mind some games you may have forgotten about like Balloon Fight or Kid Icarus. There are nearly 300 of these still items and if you're a perfectionist or a Nintendo fanatic, you'll become obsessed with collecting every last one of them.

Like the last game, Melee was made for four player slap matches. This game easily makes plunking down the cash for extra GameCube controllers worth it. Get three other pals to play this game with you and you've got no excuse for not having a good time. Playing free-for-alls or with teams, either way, you'll have an insane amount of fun.

Melee is a definitely a treat for the ears. The games boasts of compilation of classic, remixed tunes from Nintendo's hit games that will make you wanna crank the volume. The dungeon music from Zelda II sounds great and hardcore Metroid nuts will drool when they hear the Brinstar Depths remixed theme; it's enough to make you wanna pop that classic game back into your NES. You haven't lived until you've heard one of the musical themes from Kirby's Super Star (SNES) in full orchestrated glory-it's awesome. Simply put, Melee has one of the best soundtracks of any video game. Ever. The visuals may not be the best the GameCube has to offer but Melee certainly is a good-looking game. Even at those times when a lot of things are occurring at once, the action never slows down.

Super Smash Bros. Melee is the best all-star game on the planet. HAL really outdid themselves with this release, surpassing anything and everything the original Super Smash Bros. did. The game is many things: a nostalgic treat, an audio feast, a history lesson, and most importantly, loads of fun to play. There is literally a truck load of things to unlock like characters, arenas, new modes, etc. You can play for weeks and still have not seen all this game has to offer. This game was design with the Nintendo freaks in mind and it shows. If you aren't a Nintendo fan, nows the time to jump aboard. However, you don't have to love Nintendo to get into this game as anyone can enjoy it. Super Smash Bros. Melee is one of the greatest games ever made and it deserves a place in each and every gamer's library.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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