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Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube) Review

Review for Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

It's not often in this day and age that a game has something new and fresh in its gameplay. Super Smash Bros on the N64 was one such title, and it delighted gamers the world over with its frantic style and innovative features. A percentage-based damage system and unique, almost non-violent throws-based system of winning were two in the game's roster of original and inventive qualities. Many purists tutted and shook their heads at the idea of Nintendo characters engaging in fisticuffs, saying that it would not work... but these were the same naysayers that raised an eyebrow many years ago when Nintendo announced that Mario and friends would take to the roads for Super Mario Kart on the SNES, and as it turns out they were proved just as wrong. Super Smash Bros was a classic, and the N64's best beat-em-up.

The system of play has remained largely unaltered for Melee, the Smash Bros series' second game. Though the leap from N64 to GameCube has had many effects on the game's more superficial qualities, the gameplay structure is identical to that of its predecessor, bar a few minor improvements (or in some cases deteriorations). So the question is, has Smash Bros passed its sell-by date, or is its chaotic brawling the kind of gameplay that can never grow stale?

Immediately noticeable with this game is the vast, vast array of options. Press start at the start screen and you are bombarded by droves of menus and sub-menus. The main ones are as follows: Single-Player, which contains the Normal mode (defeat successive enemies to progress), the Adventure mode (a novel way to play which sees the player facing not only normal matches, but platformer-like 2D levels based on classic Nintendo games), Event Match, in which the player is given a pre-set objective, situation and/or character (e.g. Defend Peach from Bowser for 45 seconds as Mario), Stadium mode, in which squillions of special fights and multi-person melees can be tackled (such as the 100-man Melee - defeat one hundred successive enemies without dying, a challenge indeed), and Training, where a player can refine their skills. VS Mode is the much-sung multiplayer and allows you to tinker with any number of little options, such as items, life numbers and match length. Different melees are also available, such as Tournament ones, where more than four players take turns to play against each other, and special melees such as Tiny, where all the characters have shrunk to miniscule proportions. 'Trophies' allows you to view the huge numbers of trophies based on Nintendo history that are collected as one plays the game. The other two menus, Options and Data, include such things as a lovely 'How to Play' movie, which is very pretty indeed, and VS records, which records every single thing you could possibly wish to know about each character and their track record.

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Super Smash Bros Melee's fighting system takes a little getting used to for the uninitiated. It is essentially a 2-Dimensional beat-em- up, the aim being to punch or throw your opponent out of the arena. Damage is dealt using a percentage-based system: each character starts out at zero percent, and as punches and attacks are taken the damage rises. The more damage received, the further an enemy's attack will send you flying, and if you are hit out of the arena then you lose a life, after which your chosen Nintendo hero will happily drop back into the fight from the top of the screen for another go. It all equates to an incredibly frantic, fast-paced experience. Controls are simple: A controls various normal attacks and is the most-used button, B executes specials. Smash Attacks, which deal enormous damage, are performed by quickly tapping the control stick in a direction and jabbing at A. R and L are shields, which along with the control stick execute dodge moves, Z grabs and X, Y and Up all serve as a jump button. Arial attacks can also be performed. With regards to throwing the opponent from the arena, Smash attacks are by far the most effective method, whereas in the first game throws were of more importance. Here, though Bowser's body slam throw is incredibly amusing, they are not of that much use. The magic of Smash Bros is that the player seldom has to think out how to perform a move. In fact you never have to think - your fingers automatically pull off the moves as you dash frantically around the screen. There are no ridiculous, tricky combos and a limited (in comparison to more serious beat-em-ups) number for moves: its simplicity is beautiful.

If Smash Bros could be described in a word, it would be frantic. You are dropped straight into the action and have to fight tooth and nail with up to three other characters at a time. The experience is utterly immersive and will keep you coming back for 'just one more go' for weeks on end. Smash Bros may not satisfy the beat-em-up devotee with its simplicity, but for the rest of us it is brilliant. The learning curve is perfectly pitched - whilst instantly accessible the game also offers vast room for refinement and improvement of a player's technique. Make no mistake; multiplayer Smash Brothers is a fine art, as those of us who experienced the original soon discovered. Many consider the multiplayer to be Smash Bros' outstanding feature, and the N64 version is still played nightly in homes around the world. The intensity among the four individuals crowded around the screen in quite amazing, as you yell, shout and throw things at each other, leaping from your seat to celebrate a victory and throwing down the controller and swearing in disgust at a defeat. The action is so fast that scores are impossible to keep, and as the announcer suddenly and unexpectedly shouts 'Time Up!' after however many minutes there is a tense, suspenseful silence before the scoreboards come up, the winner is announced and, as one leaps about in victory, the others scowl and yell at the screen, and then everyone is crowded around yet again for the next match. Pure excellence.

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Sadly, the single-player mode tends to cower in the almighty, splendorous shadow of Smash Bros' multiplayer and is largely overlooked. Some have even gone so far as to dismiss it as a waste of time. However in my opinion it is also a joy to behold and a certain improvement upon the original's. The learning curve is perfectly pitched, the fights offer a real challenge and the computer AI is superb. Gone are the days when computer players in beat-em-ups would stand around like punch bags. Oh no, Smash Bros' computer players dodge, skip and prance around just as skilfully (if not more so) than the best of human players. Adventure mode, though novel, is not exactly enthralling, and sadly was a bit of a wasted opportunity. The minigames are interesting additions, and though they do not add much to the experience they provide a break from the fighting. Some, however, may find this irritating and wish to get back to the action as fast as possible.

Smash Bros may seem like a somewhat shallow experience, amounting ultimately to an exchange of blows - but such presumptions are misplaced on Melee. So it's simple, there is not a lot in the way of tactics, there are essentially just two ways to play the game (speed around sneaking in punches, using lots of dodging and back-stabbing, or be a brawler and whack everything in site), but that is what makes this game so very, very addictive, especially in multiplayer. The characters serve to add a sufficient amount of variation to the game, and mastering them all proves a real challenge.

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Of course, this game's real novelty (and the feature which will delight any Nintendo fan) is the inclusion of so much Nintendo history. It is literally crammed into the game's every crevice. The beautiful arenas all reflect upon some time in Nintendo's past, including a themed arena for almost every character, and scenes from such games as the Mario and Zelda series, Metroid, Pokemon, and countless others. The trophies that are earned the more you play Smash Bros are incredible; every single game in Nintendo's history gets a mention, plus each can be viewed in the Gallery along with droves of information about the game from which it was plucked. The characters are one of the games ultimate joys; with 15 characters (including Zelda and her transformation, Shiek) readily available and a total of 23 once all the secrets have been unlocked, they provide immense variation and each has their own special skills, whether they be big and slow, small and tough or just plain average. Different techniques must be employed for each in order to succeed, and every person will have their own special favourite - mine is Bowser, for some unknown reason, and I particularly love beating Mario with him. Rivalries develop - when one character particularly annoys you, nothing can beat the satisfaction of grabbing them with Bowser or another big strong character, throwing them away and then letting loose with a truly massive Smash Attack, sending them flying off the screen with a screech of defeat. Let me tell you, until you relieve that secret desire that every Nintendo fan has, and kick the crud out of Yoshi, Peach and Pikachu, you have not lived.

Sadly it cannot all be good - though the control system is fluid at most times, it is really most difficult to time a Smash Attack properly and you usually end up pulling off a few ordinary attacks before finally getting one in. Also, as a result of the pace, the game CAN become frustrating when you have given everything you have to a match and lost for some stupid reason, or when the computer character dodges and runs around before stabbing the you in the back and just REFUSE to let you get a punch in edgeways (though this situation can be improved upon with practice as the player's skill grows). Some of the features seem tacked on to take up space as well - Adventure mode, some of the mini-games and the various items that drop into a battle add nothing to the game, and the items simply serve to detract from the skill needed to win. The camera has to zoom out to far at times and you lose track of the character, or it zooms too quickly and matches are reduced to frantic and confused button-bashing. Though these faults are few, they do form an integral part of the gameplay and they do bring the game down a little. But the player will always find him/herself forgiving the game and giving it one more go. Though hardly original and including few improvements on the first game, Smash Bros Melee is one of the best games in the Gamecube's fast-maturing collection, and an essential purchase.

Screenshot for Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Frantic, fun and gloriously simple.

Graphics

SSBM's graphics are fluid and varied, incorporating everything from Kiby's fluffy Dream Land arenas to the majestic Great Bay of Majora's Mask and the lava-scorched planet Zebes. The characters themselves are brilliantly animated and move at a blistering pace, although it can at times be difficult to see where you're going when the camera zooms out in one of the larger arenas.

Sound

The true defining feature for Nintendo fans - each sound brings some long-lost remembrance of a classic theme tune or effect from days gone by once again to the forefront of the mind.

Value

Incredible longevity is offered by SSBM, due to the sheer volume of unlockable stuff to be attained and the magnificent multiplayer, which even now, almost two years on from release, it still has people screaming at each other in rage in living rooms cross the country.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Though derivative and at times overly simple, SSBM still proves itself to be a highly entertaining beat-em-up, especially appealing to long-term Nintendo fans who will find endless joy in the screeds of Nintendo heritage crammed into the game's every crevice. Not for the beat-em-up hardcore, perhaps, but for the rest of us SSBM is brilliant as both a party game and a solo experience.

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23.01.2004

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Developer

HAL Laboratory

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Fighting

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (76 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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i've been having problems getting in since monday. tonight seems to be really bad for some reason, took me about 10mins and several hundred refreshs to get in.

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We'll be back and running full steam soon enough! :Smilie

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