Review by samonkeyuk

Reviewed: 06/27/04

Alas, the reason i failed my Philosophy exam!

If there’s one thing that I’m sure most people that have played games for a long time will agree on, its probably the fact that games seemed better when you were younger. I’ll never forget going round to my friends house and first playing Sonic 2 the very day it was released in England, I reckon I was probably about 8 years old at the time, and I was amazed. Alas, as time goes on, your expectation for games, especially graphics-wise, gets higher and higher without you realising it, partly due to our games consoles and personal computers getting more and more powerful. This generally means that whenever you go back to what you consider to be a “classic” game, one which you remember fondly from your childhood or whatever, you’re normally disappointed; time is rarely kind to the games of the past, the result normally being that you switch it off after about five minutes, tears streaming down your cheeks as you loudly proclaim to anyone that will listen that “It isn’t as good as I remember it being”.

One game, however, that I believe will probably never suffer from this particular affliction is “Super Smash Brothers Melee” on the Gamecube; possibly my favourite game of all time. I’m pleased to report that I first purchased this game along with my Gamecube about a year and a half ago, and I’m still playing it up until this day, which is almost unheard of for me. But what is it about this game that’s so mind bogglingly awesome? Well allow me to tell you..

The basic concept of the game is pretty much unchanged since the N64 version, basically each character starts off with zero percent damage, and the more blows you receive to your headpiece, the higher and higher your damage percent goes. By the time you reach about 100%, you are prone to being knocked off the stage by a powerful attack, and that’s how you lose a life in “Smash Bros”. This process is then repeated until either you have no lives left, or until you deplete all your opponents lives, upon which point you win. Simplicity is at the heart of “Smash bros”, with the controls reflecting this. Normal attacks are pulled off by pressing the A button and a direction, and special moves are performed by pressing the B button and a direction. Attacks can be charged by flicking the control stick and then holding down A, which deals a more powerful blow with a higher chance of flinging an opponent into the air and out of the arena. Jumps are on the X button, and blocking is seen to on the shoulder buttons, and that’s about it. However, beneath this deceptively simple control system lies one of charming depth, allowing a well practised player to perform complex rolls and dodges to counter attack opponents. Thus, “Smash Brothers” friendly interface allows both the novice to pick up a pad and master the controls in no time at all, whilst catering for the expert, which is undoubtedly one of its key strengths.

Another benefit “Smash Brothers” has are its fantastic graphics, when the camera is zoomed in a startling amount of detail is revealed, whilst when four players are fighting on one of the larger stages, the camera gracefully zooms out to show the entire stage. All of the arenas have a huge amount of detail to their name, and all of the characters are superbly detailed and have enough charm for players to soon pick out their favourites. From Pikachu’s green pimp hat, to Captain Falcons tight white lycra suit, everything is camp and silly enough for it to be amusing, whilst being just about violent enough for it to be taken seriously as a fighting game. Additions like being able to see the stitching on Mario’s denim trousers are pointless but impressive additions that show off just how detailed the graphics really are. The levels, as one would expect from Nintendo, are astoundingly full of an almost insane amount of unnecessary detail, birds fly by in the background, buildings whiz past at breakneck speeds, and many of the levels are tributes to some of Nintendo’s classics from the past. The F-Zero arena, which features all the cars from the N64 game rushing through the battle arena, knocking players skyward is a particular favourite, as is the Legend of Zelda level, whose background recreates key plot elements whilst the melee continues in the foreground.

The Sound is naturally classic Nintendo, all the old favourite songs are remixed, the Pokemon theme tune has been recreated with a rousing full choir, and for reasons unbeknownst to me the awful Donkey Kong Rap is back, a haunting melody that, because of the amount of time spent playing this game, I now know all the words to from start to finish, which really is not something to be proud of. The sound effects are rightfully meaty, blows are exchanged with appropriate Hollywood style sound effects and the bizarre slightly disturbing death screams provide a somewhat satisfying conclusion to an intense battle. Minus the Donkey Kong Rap, the sound is faultless.

The Single Player mode is quite an amazing achievement, and perhaps the most enjoyable one will ever find on any fighting game. This being Nintendo, they’ve decided to mix up the fighting with random platform sections, escaping from planets that are about to blow up, and breaking targets to name but a few. It’s all fantastic fun, and whilst the basic single player game can be beaten in about 15 minutes, there so much variation here that we’re talking about 20 single player hours to unlock everything, all the secret characters and levels. Individual challenges are included to add more variation, and on closer inspection of the menu, delights such as 100-man melee and an odd home run mode can be found, where you hit an appropriately scared looking sandbag with a baseball bat in an attempt to send it the furthest distance. Meeting certain requirements will make hidden characters challenge you to one on one matches, and they are unlocked if beaten, and just to really make the game stupidly long, Nintendo have added 300 trophies for the player to collect, each one sharing a little bit of information about the companies past.

The games real forte though, is undoubtedly its multiplayer mode. Single player games will always get boring after a while, no matter how good they are, for the computer can only offer so much of a challenge. It’s when human players are added to the equation that “Smash Brothers” really comes alive, because no two matches can ever be the same, and this is partly thanks to the impressive array of power ups and weapons that have been added to make everything far more exciting than it should be. Throughout each match, power ups and weapons of varying sorts appear from the sky by an unseen, possibly omniscient force, sometimes on their own, sometimes with a collection of friends in a box/barrel/etc. When a character stands over them and presses the A button, they can be wielded against your opponents with often devastating force. Ever power up needs practise to master, some are more useful than others, and some are there for downright comedy value, and whenever they appear there’s always a mad scramble to grab them, as they can help to turn a fight to ones advantage. Swords and Bats offer the traditional closing time pub brawl kinda melee attacks (Come to London at last orders in one of the more busier pubs and you’ll see what I mean) whilst bombs and ray guns offer a more long-range alternative. Poke balls, which randomly call into play a poke ball for a selection of about 20, can drastically tilt the fight in your favour, as can Hammers and Magic Invincibility Stars, both straight out of the Mario games.

The individual characters also play a huge part in shaping the experience. All of them are pretty much equally balanced, and there really are no rubbish ones, which is surprising for a beat-em-up. With practise, every character offers a large amount of hidden surprises, and with about 25 to choose from, its worth experimenting to see who you get on with best, very much like real life, I’m sure you’ll agree. Taunts help to make the game slightly more competitive than it needs to be, with the end result being that human players tend to get rather more excited than necessary, which only ends up making the game more enjoyable. If the original versus melee should get boring, then there are a host of other game modes to indulge yourself with, some of them more amusing than others. Coin battle allows you to jack the other combatants and run away with their money, team melee does exactly what you’d expect, and naturally if you simply don’t have enough real friends, the computer will happily fill in with up to three virtual combatants, who are pretty intelligent. Perhaps slightly more outlandish are the “special” melee’s, such as Tiny melee and Huge melee, which effectively offer the player a whole new way to play the game, and of course the completely pointless camera mode, which allows you to save photographs of your favourite character dishing out punishment/contorting in agony depending on your mood.

To Summarise, “Super Smash Brothers Melee” is, in my view, the greatest multiplayer game ever. Never has a computer game caused such fury/laughter amongst my friends and I as this one has. I never used to be a competitive guy, but thanks to being repeatedly kneed in the face by Captain Falcon, I can barely look at a full spandex bodysuit without being fired up into a tsunami of rage, something my ex girlfriend found out the hard way. So if you have a Gamecube and you don’t own this, then shame on you. And if you don’t own a Gamecube, go out and treat yourself to one, they’re only a few pounds aren’t they? Then invite three friends round, crack open the beer/fizzy pop/lighter fluid and enjoy screaming “How embarrassing” at your friends as you pummel them repeatedly, and constantly remind yourself that you should not really be getting emotionally involved with a computer game that features a yellow electric rat hitting a Plummer in the face. So thank you, “Smash Bros”, for although I probably failed my philosophy exam due to constantly playing this for the entire year rather than attend lessons, every minute I spent on this game, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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