Review by neothe0ne

"Nintendo's arena got better!"

Great soundtrack
Great graphics
Lots of game modes
Camera mode: take pictures and shows off the 3D engine
Lots of characters and stages
Great variety of items
You can hold your smash now
Improved A.I.
Virtually endless replay value

You can't really do that much with your pictures
There aren't rewards for a lot of single-player modes
Trophies are virtually useless
Many unlockable characters are simply slower/faster than characters already unlocked

Super Smash Brothers smashed its way onto the N64, and really shocked the world. It was an extremely fun Nintendo-themed fighter, and you could have four players! The game only had a handful of characters and stages, but it was enjoyable while it lasted. Now, Nintendo has released the sequel, and with more to do, it really is one of the best fighting games of all time.

There are many single-player modes in Super Smash Brothers Melee. These include the Events, Adventure mode, and some random mini-game type of levels. Most of these involve simply fighting as a pre-set character and defeating the other characters, although Adventure mode is different. Imagine Super Mario Brothers, or a similar platform game, with greatly improved graphics, Super Smash Brothers-style gameplay, and a host of Koopas, flying Koopas, Goombas, Zombies, and other hostiles. That's Adventure mode. The only problem with Adventure mode is that it can get boring, since it lacks the action of Super Smash Brothers, and has a lot of exploring and traveling. Event Matches are simply random battles, where you can choose your character most of the time. Some of the characters you fight are not normal, such as super-sized Bowsers and the Master Hands (yes, there are TWO Master Hands!), and there are several unique stages, such as fighting atop a huge Majora's Mask. By now, it's pretty obvious that the A.I. is MUCH better than in the original Super Smash Brothers. The majority of characters and stages are unlocked in the Events. Other mini-games include surviving for a certain amount of time and trying to hit a record-breaking home run. Classic Mode is just like Super Smash Brother's single-player, where you choose a character and defeat the masses until you reach the final level. Now, however, you can earn Trophies in between. Trophies are pretty useless, though, so it's just a matter of boasting to a friend that you have more trophies than he does. When you fight, you can earn coins reflecting the number of smashes you've done. These coins can be used to gamble for trophies or to use as Continues in All-Star mode.

Super Smash Brothers Melee features a large host of starting characters in multiplayer. There are a total of 26 characters, including unlockables, to choose from. Each character has several customes to choose from. They cover almost every game that's Nintendo-exclusive, but many characters are almost exactly the same. Take Fox and Falco, for example. Fox shoots his gun much faster than Falco, but Falco's slower shots make enemies fall back, whereas Fox's shots simply inflict damage without affecting the other person. Fox's Up+B fire move travels farther than Falco's, but Falco's does more damage. And Falco's smash kick does a lot more damage than Fox's. This is how most of the characters end up being like. Just simply different move/attack speeds and attack statistics. That's not to say that the characters aren't all unique, because they most certainly are. Even though a character may be a "clone" of another, the same strategies almost never apply to both characters.

There are 29 stages in Super Smash Brothers Melee, including unlockables. Nearly all of the stages are unique, look cool, and have many interesting stage-traps. For example, Corneria (which is just a clone of Sector Z, except placed on a blue and green planet) has fighter jets with guns that appear sometimes, and they might bomb you. There's a nice Brinstar stage with that lovable rising and falling lava. Captain Falcon has some race-tracks where if you fall off the cars, you'll fly very quickly behind and die once you fall off the camera screen. There are some stages like Flatzone and Mushroom Kingdom where if you go too far to the left or right off screen, you die. And one of the new features of Super Smash Brothers Melee: Moving stages. These stages have a fixed camera that scrolls along a fixed path. If you fall off the camera, you die. Sometimes the camera moves along at a steady pace, other times it rushes you. It's notable that the game also features some direct copies of "Special Past Stages" of Super Smash Brothers. These include Kirby's Dreamland, DK's Jungle, and Yoshi's Island. Unfortunately, some of the better stages like Pokémon Stadium and Hyrule Castle are not included, but Super Smash Brothers Melee does feature an impressive Hyrule Temple. This is easily the largest stage in the game, and has the music of the dungeons of Zelda II from the NES.

The gameplay of Super Smash Brothers Melee is MUCH more refined than what was in the original. It still features the percent damage system, with HP for the Master Hands, but there are multiple modes of play now instead of just Time, Stock, and Team. You could play the Coin mode, where every time you get hit coins appear. There are bronze, silver, and gold coins, and the person with the most at the end wins. You could also play "pure" skill in the Bonus mode, where the winner is the person with the most points after the game. This means things like falling, cheap KOs, and items will take away points, while staying alive to 250% would add. There are no real combos in this game besides a direction and a button as before, but now you can hold your Smash and do other things. You could fight with up to 3 other friends, and you can also fight with A.I. with 9 levels of difficulty. Unlike in the original, the A.I. difficulties actually progress fairly well, instead of fluctuating between extremely easy/stupid and occasionally hard/cheap.

The graphics of Super Smash Brothers Melee are very stunning. The game plays as a 2D platform fighter, but when you pause, you can move the camera, and the graphics are without a doubt really 3D. The fires and explosions don't look like paper anymore, too. All the models are very well done, and everything looks very colorful and appropriate. If you go to Camera Mode, one player can control the camera. You can view the stage from above (or below), from a different angle, can zoom in and out, and other things. The camera controls are decent, but require a lot of getting used to. The other people who are fighting, though, have a different problem when the camera changes. The controls stay the same, always. So, moving left may actually be moving up if you have the camera at the right angle. This may be confusing, but many stunning photos can be taken this way. The amazing visuals of Super Smash Brothers Melee are completely unveiled in camera mode, and are extremely impressive for such a high frame rate.

Super Smash Brothers Melee also features an incredible soundtrack. Think of it as a Best of Nintendo album. Most of the songs are simply re-arranged versions of past Nintendo songs. There are Zelda themes, Mario themes, Yoshi themes, Samus themes, Kirby themes, Pokémon themes, even songs all the way back to the 8-bit era of the NES! Each stage has its own music, and most stages also have an alternate song that plays when you hold down the shoulder triggers. Most of the alternate songs are better than the originals, although I'd rather hear the Super Mario Brothers 2 main theme than the Birdo theme (a 9 second loop!). There are many newly-composed songs in the game, too. The quality of the music is very good, and cover a wide variety of styles, according to the games they were based from. The game even features a Sound Test with all the music and narrations/announcements! Even if you're new to Nintendo games and have never played the games where these songs originated from, there is no denying that Nintendo's music composers are very skilled songwriters.

Super Smash Brothers was simply a party game. Now, the sequel is much, much more, with more to do and more time to spend. With a huge collection of characters, stages, gameplay modes, and single-player challenges, Super Smash Brothers Melee is definitely one of the best 2D fighters out there, and the pinnacle of the GameCube's library.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 02/25/05

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