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.
A film critic by trade, specializing in Euro-horror, cult exploitation, and Asian action cinema, Mike has written reviews for a diverse group of print and online publications. He covers horror news, movies, books, and games at TheHorrorGeek.com and Horrorsquad.com and spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture game show, Beat the Geeks.
Mike's childhood was spent playing videogames any time he got a chance. His parents had a Pong console and his grandmother had an Atari 2600, where Mike cultivated his skills by playing hour upon hour of games like Space Invaders, Berserk, and Asteroids. From those early experiences Mike learned one thing: he loved games.
In 1999, Mike became a staff reviewer at Cinescape Magazine's website where he spent a year learning the craft of game criticism. After internal changes led to Mike leaving Cinescape in late 2000, he joined up with RPGFan in 2001 and spent several years writing reviews for them. Happy, but looking for an opportunity to expound on a wider variety of titles, Mike joined GameCritics.com and hopes to help Chi, Dale, and the rest of the GC staff bring a higher level of respect to the field of game criticism.