Review by strawhat

"Buy the car if you liked the test drive."

Super Smash Bros for the original Nintendo 64 raised the bar for many fighting games introducing a new and original concept, something not seen in many games these days. The game united many Nintendo and fighting video game fans together in one single play. People were entranced by the Nintendo characters all duking it out in a fighting game with a new formula that guaranteed success.

After Super Smash Bros, Mario, Pikachu, Link, and a whole onslaught of new characters return for a sequel. Although the original Super Smash Bros was a great game, it contained flaws. Super Smash Bros Melee is an excellent improvement cleaning out the old bugs, painting smoother graphics and sprites, and adding many new features that will make you play for hours on end.

Super Smash Bros Melee's fighting formula is a bit tweaked from the previous game. The game has many of its predecessor's unique elements, such as the lack of a healthbar, items, obstacles, and others. However, new surprises were added in. Characters can now dodge in the air, also known as the(GASP!) air dodge. You can also obtain trophies through a lottery system and hard tasks. 1-player mode has been fleshed out so that there are three different modes. You can also play other special modes and Target Test is now accessible without going through Classic Mode. A Home-Run contest mode was also released.

Of course, adding a whole bunch of features does not make a game good(although it helps a lot!). Super Smash Bros Melee improved many old features. Some characters have different movesets and there are many, many new characters to choose from. The stages have increased in number and are still all different. Many more unlockables are also in the game.

So now that we know a couple of details about new features of the game, let's talk about what's so different about this game. What is it about the fighting style that attracts gamers? Well, instead of the traditional life bar, there's a damage percentage. The higher the damage, the farther you'll be knocked back by the same attack. If you get knocked off the screen or fall in a pit, then that's a point/life away from you and a step farther from victory. You win depending on the mode. If it's stock, you win when nobody else has any lives. In time, you win if you have the most KO's a least deaths(KOs-deaths).

The stages are also different from most other games. You can move around the stage. You can walk around the entire stage and hop on platforms, jump on UFOs, and even kill a Pokemon or two. You don't just stand on the floor and duke it out. Unlike in many games though, stages are three dimensional on a flat plane. The stage plays an important role in the strategy that you are going to choose for your character.

Yes, strategies do exist, and it's not the normal block, combo, strong attack or whatever most fighting games have. These are Nintendo characters from all over the world; each have their own special attack. Actually, each character has four special attacks that are executed using the B button and a direction on the directional pad. They also have their regular attacks and aerial/ground attack. Most characters have unique special abilities while others have similar special attacks. Each attack executed has a knockback and priority. Since in this game you win by knocking away enemies, each character also has a weight and speed characteristic.

Items were also updated. I think there are around 30-40 items that you can now use in a battle. Also, new Pokemon were released between the time of Super Smash Bros and Super Smash Bros Melee so the Pokemon that you can get in the Pokeballs were also updated. You can have flower sticks, Freezies, Mr. Saturns, and a whole bunch of wacky things(or animals...) to throw at your foes.

The greatest change that I noticed is that the gameplay is MUCH faster. After playing the original SSB for the first time in ages, I noticed how characters take a long time to execute moves and can't recover well at all with an exception of two characters. The game responded slowly to your button commands which can pretty much screw your chance of winning. In Super Smash Bros Melee, everything changed. Launching attacks is quicker and less painful. Rolling is quick and a snap. Characters let their swift attacks fly at the press of a button, emphasis on swift. This made gameplay much more exciting.

The previous game had a weak 1-player mode. Although it is slightly improved in Super Smash Bros. Melee, it's still not exactly THE BEST. We do now have a choice of playing Classic or Adventure modes in the beginning though. Classic is nearly the same as in the original, fighting enemies until you reach the Master Hand. Adventure tries to tell a story, but doesn't really succeed. All it is is beating certain stages and enemies in an order that makes sense, such as beating Samus then blasting off to Kirby's world and fighting it. An Event Mode was also added in. This mode has special battles which you can play as many times as you want. There are specific requirements here, such as beating a really big DK with a really big Bowser, or fighting Link's shadow. In my opinion, this was one of the better modes that was added to the game.

The VS. mode has a minor overhaul. There are now a few more colors that characters can come in to differentiate themselves from others using the same guy. There are also a few more modes in addition to the old Stock or Time. There's now coin mode. Bash your opponent, grab the coins that they drop and run away. Collect the most coins to win. There's also a Bonus mode. This is where you try to get the highest bonuses at the end of the game. Although these two additions are nice, they're not life altering and you'll probably find yourself playing Stock most of the time. There are also special characteristics that you can put in addition to the mode. There's lightning melee where all the characters double in speed, tiny melee where all the characters halve in height, and mush more. Although no major changes are made to the VS mode, it's still fun to play against your friends just like the good ol' days.

The excellence of this game revolves around its simplicity. Randomly pressing A or repeating the same move won't get you anywhere, but maybe pressing A once, use an aerial attack, then a B button special attack. You can also take this up a step further and add aerial dodging, rolling, and backstabbing to create a strategy that works for you. All the characters have different advantages and can suit any player whether you like shooting people from afar, kicking several people at once, swords, a combination of the three, throwing turnips, and so on. The variety will never end.

Now, onto the visuals. Who remember the old circles with corners and edgy polygons on the Nintendo 64? Well, all of that is obviously smoothened out. Kirby is round as a ball, Mario doesn't look like he has a caterpillar on his face and Captain Falcon's face is visible. Smash really took the step ahead and added a ton more details to the characters. Peach's dress has wrinkles and decorations, The Ice Climbers' coats have visible texture and Luig's fireballs do look like fire.

The arenas had a nice makeover. You can see bricks, tiles, pieces of rocks, and all sorts of details lying around. Motion can clearly be seen without any choppyness. I was quite surprised at all the little things Nintendo has added, such as scratches on a car or cracks in a structure. Only a few games have this much detail in their environments and characters.

Nintendo has also really outdone itself on the sound and music. Old classics were brought back such as Mach Rider. Some songs even still had a smoother remix of boops and beeps! I never thought that I'd be happy to hear that. Of course, not all the music are oldies. The DK Rap is in this game as well as a few original pieces. The music plays a big role in encouraging you to play. I know that my sister wouldn't ever play a fighting game without good music. This game does a good job with the mix of slow and fast, the old and the the new, the ying and the yang. They deserve a giant's thumbs up.

The sound of course is just as good as the music. You can hear Mario's classic BOING jump. The Pokemon clearly say their name in both English and Japanese. The characters surprisingly all have different sounds whenever an attack connects. I first noticed this when I gained the sound test. Some have a lower pitched sound, others higher. Nintendo didn't really need to go that far into detail, but of course the more the merrier. Some characters also like chat, so I guess I should give the voice acting a rating too. It's not bad. Mario doesn't sound like he's drunk and Fox speaks clearly. Mewtwo can also surprisingly speak but only in Japanese. His voice is clear and contains the hate in his personality from the movie.

Every fighting video game should last. They are meant to last and to have fun with other people for years to come. This game exceeds that limit. Not only is it great to play with friends and not have a whole bunch of blood and gore, the 1-player mode is decent with all the different modes and unlockables. There are great challenges ahead for you in this that no other game can offer. Buy this game. Can you take the challenge?

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/01/04

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