Game Description: Super Smash Brothers Melee is a great fighting game where you put your favorite Nintendo characters against each other, to find out who's the toughest of them all!
Nintendo incites a "teddy bear" complex for me. I started playing video games with the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Fifteen years later my matured taste in games led me to buy a Playstation 2. However, I keep coming back to Nintendo. I have an attachment to it, much like people are attached to their old teddy bears.
The teddy bear is commonly associated with youth. Nintendo, whether the company has intended it or not, has also been tagged as the more youth-oriented medium for video games, with cartoony characters like the Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong and Pikachu. Child-like or not, the characters have worked well for the company, and older gamers shouldn't be ashamed to still enjoy them. Like the teddy bear, you may be too old to carry it around, but you're not likely to throw it away.
Nintendo definitely doesn't throw anything away. It recycles, revamps and repackages all its past successes into a game called Super Smash Bros. Melee, which ends up being part game and part museum of all things Nintendo.
The premise behind the game is summed up in the title—"Smash." The whole point is to use a well-known Nintendo mascot to knock around another well-known Nintendo mascot. Melee is essentially a fighting game, with a touch of the side-scrolling platform games from yesteryear. A title like this probably wouldn't gain much attention if Nintendo didn't use its popular characters, some of which have been around nearly twenty years. It's more than a little obvious the company is proud of its past successes. Melee throws everything Nintendo has right in the player's face, with characters, stages and trophies, representing characters ripped straight from the pages of video game history.
However, it's not fair to say Melee is a mere self-congratulatory, money-maker for Nintendo. It has a good deal of actual gameplay value, though the game loses points in originality, as it seems to mainly be an update of the Nintendo 64 Smash Bros. released a few years ago.
Melee does answer the question long-time Nintendo fans remember asking themselves at some point: Who would win in a fight between Mario and Link? But, the game doesn't give any further adventures of all our Nintendo buddies. There isn't a story at all, unless a player decides to pull out a lute and spin poetic yarns in between rounds. Video games, though, don't have to be about telling compelling stories. Nintendo isn't known for putting heart-wrenching drama in games anyway. The company does exceed in producing titles that are fun to play, and it hits the mark again with Melee.
One aspect that puts Melee above the standard fighting game, comes from the sheer enjoyment a player experiences while doing battle. I, personally, am not a fan of most fighting games. Most of the time they put a player in a rather constricted environment, with little freedom of movement. Melee, as a fighting game, relaxes this feeling. The battle arenas are huge, giving players more room to leap, bound, flip, shimmy and hurl objects at the opponents.
The fighting, itself, takes a comical approach, which Nintendo always seems to favor. The graphical power of the GameCube presents this approach well. It's been a few years since I played a new game featuring Mario or Link, and I was pleased to see them looking better than ever. The attention to detail on the character models is impressive. Even more impressing is the fact that the detail isn't a cheap trick or an illusion. Zooming in on the screen during gameplay, I saw that Mario's denim overalls relay the texture of denim. Bowser, King of the Koopas, looks scaly. Link's Master Sword comes etched with various markings, from the tip of the blade to the hilt. Fox McCloud and Donkey Kong look fuzzy enough to pet. My only minor gripe is that a few of the backgrounds and levels lack the same amount of detail in comparison. This issue doesn't detract from the overall experience, though. The game still looks good.
An important ingredient to add to a good-looking game is a decent soundtrack. Nintendo has gone above decent for Melee, rearranging all the themes from its past games into full orchestral scores. The music, like much of the game, isn't original, but Nintendo fans, like me, definitely appreciate the extra effort put into the compositions. My personal favorite is the staccatoed Star Fox score. It screams of grand space adventure and sounds nothing short of what one would hear in a movie theater. It's nice to know the GameCube supports such excellent sound, as Nintendo, before, has always fallen behind other game systems in quality soundtracks.
Overall, Melee is every bit as good as its Nintendo 64 predecessor. The game doesn't expand much past that point, though. In short, if you've played the original Smash Bros., you have a more than adequate idea of what to expect from the GameCube incarnation. Yet, with so many classic Nintendo characters in one place, there's always room for one more round. Consider Melee to be the teddy bear, after it's been cleaned and had the eye sewn back on. It still isn't the coolest toy in the closet, but it does represent something special to gamers willing to admit it.
I find myself agreeing with Caleb's review in almost every way except the final score. Now, I'm no Nintendo fanboy (while I still think the Super Nintendo is arguably the greatest console of all-time, I never owned a Nintendo 64), but even I was impressed with Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Like Caleb, Im not a huge fan of fighting games. Most of them seem to have limited replay value (unless youve got a houseful of friends who also like to play) and the mechanics of the games have just never interested me much. Melee looks like a fighting game, but in reality, its so much more, and that's ultimately what makes it so special.
One of the common complaints about this game and the original Super Smash Bros. was that each game catered to button mashers (those people who just flail madly about on the controller when playing a fighting game). At first, Melee does seem to cater to that crowd. With a simplistic control scheme that has players using a few buttons and the analog stick, its possible to win a lot of matches early on without knowing what youre doing. I can't help but think this is by design, though. Nintendo makes the game accessible to anyone right from the start. Melee is easy to learn, but it takes a lot of time and effort to truly master even one character. And when you consider that the game features more than 20 playable characters, mastering the entire game would be a tremendous undertaking.
So, while flailing about on the controller will certainly let the player win some matches (particularly against the computer controlled opponents), it will not allow you to beat a truly skilled Melee master. Dont believe me? Set the computers difficulty level up to 8 or higher and see how far button mashing gets you.
Because of this adjustable skill curve, Melee has a huge amount of replay value. I've been playing the game for months and still haven't totally mastered all the intricacies of Ness, and he's just one character. Because each character has a unique fighting style, mastering just one characters techniques will not make the player a master of all the characters. It's this depth that makes the game so unique.
The simplest way to describe the game is to call it a fighter, but that's only partially true. Melee is a fighter and then some, a game where just being good at fighters isn't enough to guarantee wins. Caleb mentions the multitude of environments to fight in, each with its own dangers and tricky areas. Couple that with a time limit, the staggering amount of offensive and defensive items that are dropped in the match, and the platforming elements present in each stage and one sees how Melee is something of a hybrid of fighting game and platformer.
Ultimately, though, the final criteria for any game is whether or not its fun. Super Smash Bros. Melee is a lot of fun. Whether tackling any of the numerous single player modes, or battling it out in a four-way contest with three of your closest friends, this game continuously entertains. While it may not move all that far beyond the original Smash Bros. as far as innovation goes, it doesn't really matter. When a game works, why tweak with the formula too much? Based on the fun factor alone, Super Smash Bros. Melee is a smashing success.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Comic Mischief, Mild Violence
Despite the Teen rating, parents really shouldn't be too concerned to let the younger ones in on the action. There is no blood or gore gushing from characters, and no one dies. In fact, the violence doesn't move much beyond what one finds in the standard afternoon cartoon. See the game in action for yourself before making a decision.
Diehard Nintendo fans will want to pick up this title. The game comes packed with video game nostalgia, like secret characters, fighting arenas and trophies of old Nintendo characters and items.
Multiplayer GameCube owners should also consider Melee as a serious choice. The game supports several multiplayer scenarios for the Versus battles. Four people can battle at once, with different conditions for each match. For those who usually find themselves gaming alone, rent Melee first and see if you like it. The single player Adventure and Classic modes don't offer the same kind of fun found in the multiplayer modes. While the Adventure mode does tout about side-scrolling levels, there really are only three or four stages in which this feature applies.
Single players have the option to face off against computer controlled opponents in the Versus mode, but the Smash Bros. series is best enjoyed with friends.