“Super Smash Bros Melee” is one of the most impressive games that came out on the Nintendo GameCube. Although it was released within a month of the GameCube’s debut, the game showcased the best of the new console both in graphics and replayability. With a roster of 25 different playable characters, 29 stages and all the goodness that came with the original game wrapped into a disk hardly two inches across, it was a worthy successor to “Smash Bros. 64.”
The Nintendo GameCube was released November 18, 2001. 15 days later, “Melee” made its debut, and what a debut it was. It was a difficult task to follow “Smash 64,” but “Melee” was up to the task and passed it with flying colors. From the moment where the opening movie played in HD, people everywhere knew that they were about to experience a game unlike any other. With an intro that put the original theme for “Smash 64” to shame, it showed off the graphics chip for the GameCube perfectly. On top of that, the roster had all of the characters from the original game and more from the start, and the newer technology allowed “Melee” to outclass “Smash 64” in every aspect of gameplay. Where “64” was slow, bulky or even a bit glitchy, “Melee” was smooth and fluid, and it fixed one of my biggest complaints about “Super Smash Bros.” The AI controlled players didn’t have to “cheat.” In older games, it was often impossible to make a truly difficult AI. The technology wasn’t advanced enough to support the code, or the code simply wasn’t of sufficient quality to create a challenging character for the player to fight. So, rather than facing a character that follows the same rules as the players, the player had to fight a character that played by its own rules. “Melee” fixed that problem, giving its fans a challenging AI to face that fought by the same rules as the player
As far as the games of the time went, “Melee” handled like a dream. There was almost no time between the moment that you input a command and saw it executed onscreen. The movement was fluid and natural, making the characters seem like a digital extension of the player’s will. In addition, it kept with the simplistic style of the controls in “Smash 64”. No complex combos to slow down gameplay, no needless learning curve that separated beginners and competent players, and a combat system that was diverse enough that it would be rare to find two players that played any given character exactly the same way. However, there were tactics added to “Melee” for competitive play, such as the wavedash and L-canceling moves. It gave a better feel that allowed competitive gamers to go above and beyond the simplistic game controls.
Despite the release of “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” and “Project M,” “Melee” has remained a standard of competitive gaming since its release. The game’s fluid engine and diverse range of characters made tournament-level play complex and interesting for both the players and the audience.
In “Melee,” not every character is created equal, and the difference between characters is apparent to professional players and casual players alike. One glaring example in “Melee” is Marth, a swordsman from the “Fire Emblem” series. Unlike many other characters, Marth’s range extends far beyond his reach thanks to his sword, allowing him to strike his opponent long before they can touch him. In addition, Marth is one of two characters who have a counterattack move. While the move does nothing on its own, when Marth is struck while performing his countering move, the hit he would take is canceled and he gets a free hit on his opponent. Both of those combined with Marth’s speed create a character that is very hard to fight against no matter what character the opponent picks. In addition, the game seemed to lose the innocence displayed in the previous game. While “Smash 64” felt like a child playing with action figures, “Melee” had a much more adolescent feeling to it. While “64” was very hands-on in many ways, “Melee” felt much more detached. The player is no longer a child at its desk, but an outside viewer watching the characters move about within their own worlds.
While in “64” Master Hand was a terror, “Melee” took away some of its animation. It no longer moved about the screen as it chose, instead confining itself to the right side of the screen after each attack, making it an easy target. While not game-breaking, it felt like the game had taken away the godlike feel Master Hand used to have.
“Melee” did make up for its faults, however. Rather than sticking with just one single-player mode, it introduced an adventure mode that put the player through timed levels which paid tribute to platformers from Nintendo’s past. For example, the Mushroom Kingdom stage is reminiscent of the “Super Mario Bros.” games, including goombas, koopas and other iconic minions from the games, ending in a battle against Mario and Princess Peach. They also kept in the original single-player mode with some renovations. They called this mode “Classic.”
“Super Smash Bros. Melee” for the Nintendo Gamecube was a huge success as the heir to the original “Smash 64” game. The improved graphics, gameplay and feel make it fun for both veteran Smash fans and people new to the franchise.