Review by ShadowGuardian9

"A game that can only be described as perfect."

In the days of the Nintendo 64, Nintendo had their colorful collection of clever characters at their climax. Mario had Super Mario 64, Link had Ocarina of Time, Starfox had Starfox 64, and so on. But, apparently, this wasn't enough. The people at HAL Laboratory didn't just give us more, but they tested the Nintendo 64's multiplayer aspect. The result is the crossover commotion of Super Smash Bros. An instant multiplayer hit, Smash Bros. was arguably the best multiplayer game around. Nintendo released their next console, the Gamecube, in 2001, and with it, a brand new Smash Bros. Super Smash Bros. Melee is the sequel to an incredible game.

Graphics 10/10

Super Smash Bros. Melee is probably the best way to demonstrate the Gamecube's power as a console. Even from the gorgeous opening cinematic, you realize how much detail is in everything. Not just the characters, not just the environments. EVERYTHING. Out of the 25 total characters (26 including Sheik), each character has an unbelievable amount of detail in their appearance. It doesn't matter which one; they all look excellent. Even in the heat of gameplay, you can pause and zoom in to prove it. Link's tunic looks realistic. Samus's armor looks futuristic. Each character is perfectly designed. Environments are absolutely stunning. Each one has some Nintendo reference (outside of some original Smash Bros. originals), and each one retains the character that their game portrays. The jungle landscapes of Donkey Kong's world are lush and natural. The futuristic F-Zero racetracks have an immense sense of speed. Each one not only looks great, but feels appropriate for the game. Attacks from every character are awesome. Mario's fireballs burn and spit embers, and DK's punches are visceral and hard-hitting. Even the menu screens are futuristic and much less plain that the first Smash Bros. This isn't just a step up from the last one; this is truly a game that demonstrates a console's graphical power. Unbelievable.

Audio 10/10

Nintendo kept the original soundtracks of the games, and let them loose. Mario's classic theme is retained in the Peach Castle level. The funky DK rap is in DK's level. The Hylian songs of the Zelda world are excellent to listen to. Many of the songs have been changed instrumentally, but none of the changes hurt the audio. Some songs are orchestrally performed, like the impressive Fountain of Dreams from Kirby, while retaining every bit of character the game had. Character voices are done well, including Link's Hylian battlecries and Captain Falcon's “show your moves”. Each attack is very hard-hitting, and the loud smacks, pounds, and explosions present a powerful audio. The announcer this time around is pretty much the same: different, but pretty average sounding. The crowd's cheers add to the action. When all of these ideas combine, the game takes off. Hearing a massive explosion, then the crowd's cheers, the game just feels immense. The audio in Super Smash Bros. Melee is excellent. Orchestral sounds, authentic themes, and good voices and attack sounds all add up to an incredible piece of audio.

Gameplay 10/10

Super Smash Bros. was a fighting game, but it wasn't a traditional one like Street Fighter or Soul Calibur. Smash Bros. played more like Power Stone: a very chaotic and frantic fighter where a lot was happening at once and up to four players could fight. Instead of KO'ing an opponent, the goal was to deal enough damage to weaken the enemy, then knock them off the screen. Damage percentage was replaced for HP; the higher the percentage, the easier it is to send an opponent flying. Rather weird for a fighter, but in the end, it works. Super Smash Bros. Melee takes the original concept and multiplies it immensely.

The controls are rather odd for a fighter, but then again, Super Smash Bros. Melee is no ordinary fighter. It functions using a unique “tap” system, where actions are determined by how quickly you move the Control Stick. By tapping up (moving the Control Stick up quickly), the player can jump. This can also be executed with X or Y. A is used for standard attacks, B for special attacks. Either one can be altered by height, movement, and Control Stick direction. By tapping the Control Stick and pressing A simultaneously, the player can execute a special attack called a “Smash Attack”, which can be charged by holding down the combination. Smash attacks are super powerful attacks that can knock an opponent far off the screen. R and L are used for a shield which can be weakened after attacks, and Z is used to grab (followed by the Control Stick or A for some throws and bludgeons). All of this seems much more complicated than traditional fighter controls, but this is not a traditional fighter, and these controls work brilliantly after practice.

A new addition that Nintendo brought in was some defensive tactics. By pressing L or R and down on the Control Stick, you can perform a dodge while remaining in the same place. Press left or right instead of down to roll out of the way. While in mid-air, press L or R to dodge an attack coming from the air. Escape a thrown object or projectile. These new defensive moves make the combat much more in-depth and diverse, something that felt a tiny bit lacking in the previous game.

Items are also essential to a swift victory. Nintendo's characters have brought some familiar weaponry with them, from Mario's Bob-omb, to Link's Heart Container, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses to contend with. Some, like the hammer, are frantic and insane to use, keeping the already fast gameplay always in the highest gear.

One severely lacking thing in the last Smash Bros. was the single-player. It was merely a climb-the-tower style game where you face off the same opponent over and over, regardless of character. This time around it's been fixed. Well, more like completely redone on every possible level. There's now two different main modes at start. Classic Mode is pretty much the same as the last, but this time, opponents aren't always the same. Battles are also a bit varied, all the way up to the climactic battle with Master Hand. The second mode is Adventure Mode, which is more a tribute to the many games in Smash Bros. It plays out in the different worlds of the Nintendo characters, and are assigned in different challenges. For example, the first mode is a Super Mario Bros. style mode to get to the end of the level side-scrolling. Another is facing down Giant DK. This mix of exploration and fighting is a welcome improvement over the single-player of the last Smash Bros., but there is more. Some lesser modes are provided. An Event Match is a mission-based mode where you are assigned goals that must be completed. Defeat a giant Yoshi, pit Mario vs. Bowser, these events are all fun and all challenging. Another mode is Training Mode, a mode where you can associate yourself with character's techniques or environmental traps. One final mode is Stadium. Stadium pits you in the Target Test, a test of speed and target-breaking endurance, Home-Run Contest, a test of how well you can use the Home-Run Bat item, and Multi-Man Melee, an endurance test of surviving a slew of wireframe opponents. All of these single-player modes add up to one enjoyable experience, even when your friends aren't there. But that's just the single-player...

Multiplayer is the core of the game. Nothing is better than inviting your friends over and playing this game till who-knows-when. Multiplayer's modes have gotten a lift. The traditional “free-for-all” is now called “melee”, but plays the same. Every player against the others. There are four main melee types: time, stock, coin, and bonus. Time involves every player trying to score as many KO's before time runs out, while avoiding being KO'd themselves. Stock is survival; a set amount of lives is given, last man standing wins. Coin, a newcomer, involves attacking players and gather coins that explode from the attack. The harder the attack, the more coins come out and the higher the coin value. Whoever has the most coin points at the end of the time wins. Bonus is a unique new mode based on fighting style. After a round, each player is assigned titles and given points depending on the way they fought the round. For example, some titles involve the player grabbing but never throwing, or using over three of a certain item. After a round, the points are collected, and whoever with the highest score wins. These modes can also be tweaked for team battles as well.

Some new additions to multiplayer are the Special Melees. These specific battle modes involve new quirks to the battle. For example, Giant Melee pits all characters as giants against each other, and Invisible Melee makes all players invisible. Some are very quirky, like the crazy Fixed-Camera, where the camera shows the whole battlefield the whole time without any adjustment at all, or Single-Button, where no special attacks are allowed. They can also be tweaked with teams. These may seem like tacked-on modes, but are a blast to play with friends. SSBM can also keep track of records for players, showing who is the best, who has the most used character, and even strange records like total distance ran. These records are great to look back on after a long tournament or late night gaming session. SSBM also features some interesting additions like Camera Mode, a way to capture some sweet still-frame photos of battles, and a very well-made movie featuring the characters.

A brand-new addition to SSBM is the trophies. By progressing through single-player or multiplayer, coins can be earned. You can spend these coins to earn trophies, which are basically bios on Smash Bros. characters, items, arenas, or even characters that aren't in the game at all. These are excellent nostalgia for Nintendo fans or gamers in general. Also, some trophies can only be unlocked by completing objectives, like earning a certain arena or finding them in the Adventure mode levels. This is a very cool addition, keeping track of all the Nintendo characters and the whole legacy of the gaming giant. SSBM is one of the most in-depth, smooth, and most of all, fun fighter to arrive since the first. Perfect.

Replay Value 10/10

Where do I start? Well, there are tons of unlockables. Characters, arenas, and modes are abound. Also, getting every single trophy and completing every single challenge will keep you playing for years. Then, try playing every single difficulty. You'll create your own challenges, try to top your own high scores and times, and eventually fight your friends. This is a game with unbelievable amount of longevity in it. I seriously cannot get bored with this game. There's so much to do, so much to unlock, and so much polish in the gameplay, this game never gets old.

Final Verdict 10/10

Super Smash Bros. Melee is not Soul Calibur. It's not Virtua Fighter. It's not Street Fighter. But it doesn't need to be. Actually, we don't want it to be. Super Smash Bros. is its own series, and creates a new experience in fighting games. Playing as classic Nintendo characters is enough of a reason to play this game, but HAL didn't stop there. With a much-improved single-player, a flawless multiplayer, slick and precise controls, an incredible amount of depth, a seemingly-endless amount of unlockables and lifespan, and a downright excellent presentation, SSBM improves on the original on every level. Who cares if it's not traditional? Who cares if it's different? Super Smash Bros. Melee is one truly excellent reason to have a Gamecube. Heck, this is the reason to have a Gamecube. Please buy this game; it is some of the most fun you can possibly have as a gamer. Super Smash Bros. Melee is a game that I can only name as perfect. Sheer gaming perfection on every level.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/16/05

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