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Super Smash Bros. Melee

Review By:  Steve Carlin

Developer:  HAL Laboratories
Publisher:  Nintendo
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Fighting
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  1-16-03

Super Smash Bros. Melee: those were the words that were constantly running through my head amid the GameCube launch hype last November. This game was shaping up to be the killer app in the Cube’s launch lineup. The original Smash Bros. on the N64 was a spectacular game in its own right. Add one part famous Nintendo characters with one part innovative battle system, and you get one kickass game. Naturally, I was thrilled about its sequel.

When I received my GameCube on Christmas morning, the very first game I popped in was Melee. I was instantly blown away by the graphics—the opening sequence is breathtaking. It truly shows how much power those 1.5 gigabyte discs hold. The graphics continued to astound me as I uncovered more of the game’s eye candy. It’s no Rogue Leader, but it still looks damn good. My jaw dropped when I saw myself flying over a great, green landscape in the final battle, or when I analyzed the intricate detail that went into the stitching of Mario’s overalls. And here’s the kicker: it all runs at a smooth sixty frames per second. The character models and background flow together flawlessly. Of course, I don’t expect anything less.

For every yummy morsel Melee’s appearance delivers, it serves a feast of gameplay. At first, I was afraid this would be a rehashed version of its N64 brother, with a few extra characters and stages tacked on. However, HAL Laboratories pulls out all the stops with this one. There are a huge amount of characters (25), and they’ve been stacked with new techniques and powers. The extra B + Forward move gives each character a total of four special moves, let alone all the basic A button functions. Also, techniques such as mid-air dodges have been added, which presents a new aspect to the fighting style. The A.I. has been increased, providing a very challenging fight to even the most experienced players. My only complaint is that some of the characters are unnecessary. The biggest offense would have to be the clones. Six of the twenty-five characters are carbon copies of another character. What’s the point of having a character that behaves in almost the identical manner of someone else? And if you insist on doing this, HAL, at least make some good clones. The presence of Pichu is utterly pointless and stupid, and only serves to continually piss me off.

Speaking of additions, the items can’t be forgotten. Along with the popular items from SSB like the Invincibility Star, new items are making their debuts appearances. The Super and Poison Mushrooms can shrink or super-size you, and the Metal Box turns you into a steel menace. You can grab a ride on a Warp Star and slam down with a great explosion, or grab a Super Scope and fire a fully charged blast. With the item select function, you can create a variety of special item battles. Furthermore, pre-set special battles can be found, such as Giant Melee and Invisible Melee (but where’s my Metal Melee?)

With all these moves, one must wonder how it controls. Despite the large number of abilities, it controls like a dream. Use A to use your basic attack, A + forward to do a strong attack, and A while quickly tapping forward to perform a powerful smash attack. The same applies to upwards, downward, and mid-air attacks. The C-Stick is utilized as an easy method to perform a smash attack—simply push in the direction you want to swing. Both X or Y can be used to jump, and the four special attacks can be performed by pushing up, down, forward, or nothing along with the B button. The L and R buttons are reserved for shielding and dodging. My only gripe is the grab function, which is done by pressing the awkwardly placed Z button.

Needless to say, the multiplayer is a blast, but the single player does a good job of holding its own. There are three modes of battle—Classic, Adventure, and All-Star. Classic, obviously, is done in the style of SSB, going from arena to arena. Adventure throws you in Nintendo-themed stages and challenges followed by a battle, and All-Star throws you in a series of skirmishes in which your damage carries over, with only three chances to heal. On top of that is the brilliantly done Event Mode, which gives you a range of unique objectives to accomplish. At the end, they can become incredibly hard and provide a worthwhile experience. However, after finishing the fifty-one events there’s not much left else to do. The three previously mentioned modes are great for an occasional fix, but can get a bit stale to the seasoned Smash vet.

Moreover are the trophies. Included in Melee are a total of 290 trophies of various Nintendo characters, items, and vehicles. They embrace the new and the old, going back as far as Balloon Man up to recent debuts like the GameCube itself. It’s a wealth of treasures to any Nintendo fan. HAL also gave us a taste of Japanese culture by including statues from games not released on our side of the Pacific. The trophies don’t always come easy, though. Most are a simple matter of picking them up in Adventure Mode or winning them in a lottery, but some require a grueling amount of time and patience to accomplish the necessary objectives (I still have a few left myself).

Where Melee truly shines, however, is in its music and sound effects. Hirokazo Ando did a spectacular job of taking all of our favorite classic tunes and composing them into a brilliant orchestra of harmony. Just listen to themes such as Fire Emblem or Temple. They excel in capturing the mood and essence of the battlefield. The sound is just as good. One can hear the Beam Sword hum a slice through the air, or the sharp ring as a Home Run Bat slams an opponent away. The detail goes as far as to make a clanging noise when two swords collide.

Even with its breathtaking graphics, amazing gameplay, and awesome music, there is still one factor that remains important in this game—nostalgia. Vets will show a great appreciation for this game. Seeing classics like Mr. Game & Watch and the Ice Climbers make a comeback causes many to recall the days of yore. Being a hardcore Metroid fan, I was filled with glee when I saw Kraid burst from the lava pits of Brinstar. It reminded me of the good ol’ days when I was frantically jumping from platform to platform, dodging flying claws while trying to kill the gigantic beast in Super Metroid. However, will a Nintendo newbie show the same appreciation? Most likely not, but any gamer would have fun regardless.

Melee has it all: sleek appearance, frenzied fun, and music that makes you want to get up and dance. This is one brawl you won’t want to miss.

Highs:

  • Multiplayer never gets old
  • Splendid music
  • Sleek look with careful attention to detail
  • A new roster of fighters with a variety of techniques
  • Tight control
  • Nintendo nostalgia!

Lows:

  • Single player occasionally gets old
  • Certain characters are completely pointless

Final Verdict:

If you’re looking for a game packed with frenzied fun, then look no further. Melee is a blast, plain and simple. There are enough features and hidden secrets to keep anyone busy for months. Gather up three of your friends for the ultimate brawl that never gets old. Now all we need is a Super Smash Bros. Online, and we’ll be set.

Overall Score: 9.5

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