"The South Shall Rise Again"

The premise was freakin' genius. HAL would take all of Nintendo's most beloved characters and have them beat the stuffing out of each other. Everyone from the snot-nosed kids to the old head with remnants of Cheetos stuck in their beards would jump at the opportunity to buy Super Smash Bros. Melee. They knew it, you knew it, and I knew it. And by all means, I did have wagonloads of fun from this tiny disc, but that still doesn't change the fact that this is nowhere near the best game ever.

One of the problems with the first game was that it just didn't pack a large enough cast. Luckily that has been solved this time around. You'll start off with a cast of 14 different Nintendo mascots ranging from the ever so popular Mario or Link to the more unknown Ness or Ice Climbers. In addition, a whole bunch of secret characters can be unlocked to bring the cast to a whopping 25 fighters. Unfortunately that isn't anywhere near as impressive as it may sound. In fact, most of the characters you'll unlock are simple tweaks of other characters. For example there's Young Link, who is just Link but slightly faster and weaker. His moves may be slightly different such as his arrows being on fire rather than Link‘s boring normal arrows, but it barely changes how the character honestly plays. It's nothing like the joy of unlocking one of the few completely new characters like Marth (Hell yeah, Fire Emblem!)

Matches in Super Smash Bros. Melee are nothing like those in a regular fighting game. In any other fighters, you'd have a health meter that'd be constantly chipped away at with every attack, and the object of the match would be to drain the opponents meter completely. Not here, baby. Instead the players are on some sort of platform and you need to knock off your opponent to earn a win. To be able to kick their butts off the screen, you'll pummel away at your opponents with your attacks in order to increase their percentage. Each character has a percentage status at the bottom of the screen, which increases with each attack. The percentages are a way of telling you when it‘s time to be careful or go in for the kill. You see, the higher the percentage on a character, the better chances of that character will be knocked out. For example say if Yoshi had 35%, he would most likely not be smacked out of the arena via Ness' homerun bat because Yoshi's percentage is too low. However, if Yoshi were to have a whopping 300%, then nearly any attack will send him flying like a rag doll. Now this style of play is pretty interesting and all, but it's not without it's problems. It's too common that both the a person and the AI will accidentally fall off the arena. It's very aggravating to almost taste that win when all of a sudden you walk off the edge of the screen and die. But even falling off the face of the Earth by complete stupidity isn't as silly as the game's button mashing qualities.

The game utilizes a few buttons to flesh out those combat skills. There's two buttons for jumping (you only need to use one), a button for normal punch and kick attacks, a special move button, and the shoulder buttons to bring up a shield briefly or grab your opponent for a throw. There's no problem with the jumping at all, and the same goes with those shoulder button moves. No, my chief concern was with those other two. Super Smash Bros. Melee makes it far too simplistic by giving you a mere one button for special moves. Basically each character has four special moves that use by either hitting B, B and up, B and forward, or B and down. It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. This means anyone can easily get away with button mashing their way to victory. Now even that blind kid Jimmy-Jimmy (he thinks he's Robert E. Lee, you know) from across the street can whip old man Genjuro's ass by mashing that pad and having Captain Falcon Raptor Boost me to death. Even worse is the A buttons normal attacks. You can create a string of combos and other weak yet fast attacks by mashing the A button with some direction. However, the A button also allows you to utilize the Smash Attacks. By jerking the analog stick really quickly in any direction, your character will flash briefly and unleash a powerful move that will send fighters farther than any other move. Smash Attacks are too difficult to time correctly, so randomly slamming your stick in some direction while mashing buttons tends to be more effective than trying to employ real skill. Jimmy-Jimmy wins again!

Fortunately Jimmy-Jimmy is going to have to cry to momma after I kick his ass with the other aspect of fighting. There are tons of weapons that aid you during combat. These include Pokeballs that randomly summon one of those critters in order to employ one of their attacks, Stars from the Dream World that'll have you soar into the air and come crashing down on someone's ass, Bunny Hoods that improve your speed and jumping abilities, and many more. Seriously, the weapons rock. They're so cool and interesting to use, and there's just so many that you'll never see all of them in a single match.

There's tons of stages for you to commence your battles. Each one is vastly different from the other with all sorts of perils and such. Zap onto Brinstar and watch out for the yellow acid that creeps up to the combatants. Race to Mute City and you'll become road kill for all those futuristic cars that come speeding right towards you. Or you can book a trip to the fabulous Yoshi island, but be warned about those spinning blocks from Super Mario World; they may cause an acute case of slipping into a nasty pit. Oh no! There are way more levels than just these tasty tidbits, and each one is cooler than the next.

Super Smash Bros. Melee has a lot more stuff to do than in the last game. First we have Classic Mode, a one player set of special matches. There's also a nifty Adventure Mode that allows you to go through several side scrolling stages with normal matches as taking the place of boss fights. In addition, there is pretty neat Target Test mode, where you must break ten targets in the least amount of time possible, and Home Run Derby, where you'll whack a sandbag as far as you can. There's also 51 Event Matches, which were pretty cool. Event Matches are matches equipped with challenging special conditions such as fighting three metal Samuses or an entire match fought with Pokeballs. But where you'll really strike gold is the immense wealth of multiplayer options. First there are the four different kinds of normal matches: Time, Stock, Coin, and Bonus. Time matches consist of the fighters duking it out for a preset amount of time and earning points based on their actions. Simply you earn one point for every fighter you knock out (mind you knocked out fighters immediately respawns), but lose a point for every time you fall out of the ring. Obviously, the fighter with the most points wins. Stock matches give each fighter a certain amount of times they can fall (think of it as lives), and the last man, woman, or thing standing wins. The coin matches are by far my favorite. Here coins will spill from anyone that takes damage, and, of course, the stronger the attack, the better the coins. Whoever has the most coins at the end of the preset amount of time wins. Bonus is just really stupid. You fight for awhile and are graded by your fighting style. I thought it was lame. There's also a multitude of special rules that can be applied to Time, Stock, Coin, and Bonus matches. For example if you select Super Sudden Death Mode, you'll play one of those matches with every fighter starting at 300% health, or there's Giant Melee, where everyone is humungous for the entire fight. While these one to four-player matches (you can even set fighters to the AI for barrels of fun by yourself) are enough to keep you coming, HAL even adds in the lure of nearly 300 unlockable trophies complete with Nintendo trivia that you'll just eat up. Even though they're completely pointless, I found myself wanting to collect them all.

About two weeks after I bought Super Smash Bros. Melee, I was sick of it. No matter who I played, I wasn't having much fun. I'd even go into a challenging Event Match, but I'd be bored before the game was even finished loading. The problem is that the game is just too damn simplistic and button mashy. It just doesn't take long before you're a decent player and just become tired of playing all those matches over and over again. So it soon boils down to the game being more of an investment. You may want to play a few matches in a few weeks or you may not. You perhaps might invite a few friends over for a tournament a few months down the beaten path. But maybe even when you have your closest buddies over, Jimmy-Jimmy may exclaim, “Well gosh, Genjuro. I sure am sick of that there Halo”. By now you'll realize it's time to give the XBox a nap and break out your Cube for busting some cute cuddly heads. But what will blind Jimmy-Jimmy truly be missing out on?

Just take a moment to let the visuals sink in. As Mario extends his leg for a fierce kick to the gut, each individual stitch can be seen on those slick overalls. The cool breeze of Big Blue gently caresses the dress of Princess Peach. A monstrous horde of Mr. Saturns complete with bouncing red bows and a gigantic nose aimlessly bump into each other yelling, “ZOOM, ZAP, ATM”. Yeah, well it's too damn bad that you're never actually going to see any of that. Oh no, I didn't lie. Those images are truly in the game, but the putrid camera is always zoomed so far out from the characters that it's impossible to make out any of the finer images of the game. You can zoom in with the C analog stick, but you will get your ass handed to you ( it's pretty tough to fight when you can‘t see what your enemies are doing). The stages on the other hand are quite large and easy to make out such as the rushing waterfall of the DK Jungle.

Hands down Super Smash Bros. Melee has one of the coolest soundtracks I've heard in awhile. Most stages sport a neat remixed tune of classic Nintendo themes. For example, the decrepit and crumbling Hyrule Temple stage sports the psychedelic dungeon music from Zelda II, while the futuristic Mute City level is accompanied by an electric guitar version of the Mute City Theme from F-Zero. But by far the most awesome and manliest piece of video game music I've ever heard is the DK Rap in the DK Jungle stage. The DK Rap is complete with actual sung lyrics about Donkey Kong being, “the first member of the DK group” and shooting you with his, “coconut gun”. If you don't think that sounds fantastic, then you're a damned crazy fool that needs to be slapped in the face 100 times.

Super Smash Bros. Melee is not a dream come true for a real manly fighting game fan such as myself. I want something with a little more complicated combo system or trippy super moves that require more then a hit of the button. While the game does offer a treasure chest of gameplay modes and hip unlockable trivia in the form of trophies, it's seriously hurt by the overall simplicity of the matches. I was afraid that I'd die of a heart attack and the police would find me dead playing such a simple game. Could you imagine that? “Awesome fighting game guy found dead playing button mashy fighter”. The horror! Still, the game is a nice investment for parties and when you just want to knock the stuffing out of something cute and cuddly for 15 minutes. I will admit that it's the best button masher ever created with all those options, but does that really make it the best game of this generation? No, it doesn't, and that's a Genjuro guarantee!

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/08/04

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