Written By Shaun McCracken

I'll cut to the chase right now: I'm writing this review in July 2004 despite the fact that the game was released December 2001. It takes some time to get around to playing and reviewing some games. When it comes to writing a review, if the game is fairly old, I'll try to not to compare that game to more current offerings, it's really not that fair. But I'm not going to BS you on this review, trying to let you think that this review has been around for a year or so. But why am I saying this?

Super Smash Bros. Melee is one of those rare titles on any game system that can still be appealing and addictive even after two and a half years after it's initial release. The game play still seems rather fresh, entertaining, challenging, and again, addictive. It's also one of those games that has single player options that are just as fun and entertaining as multiplayer options. Very few games can pull off that feat effortlessly.

If you're not familiar to SSBM (and that's either because you're new to the system or have ignorantly decided to not to have any involvement with the game), it's (for the most part) a sequel to the 1999 N64 edition of Super Smash Bros. . The idea of this (and the N64 edition) game is to take Nintendo's most celebrated characters and toss them into an orgy of fisticuffs. Characters such as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Samus, Link, Kirby and others take to the arena and beat the crap out of each other. And it's just as fun as it sounds as well. While the original SSB was fairly entertaining to play, it was more fun as a multiplayer game than a single player game. You were encouraged to try and find up to four players and beat each other up senseless, and it was fun. But playing alone was just "okay", and after awhile, you kind of grew tired of the game. That problem has been alliveated in SSB Melee, where single players can have as much fun as a group of players, making this a better sequel.

The game design is much more simple that most fighting games. Moves really don't require complex control manipulation (and some may not like that), and can be done by pressing a certain direction and a button. But where the game lacks in moves is made up in the items present in the arena, such as turtle shells, Super Scopes, hammers and much more. You can punch and kick your advisories, or hurl anything you can find at them. This makes for a simple and accessible game that anyone can get into, yet still be addictive and maintain a very frenetic pace. And just because the game is easy to get into does not equal an easy game, especially where the single player mode is concerned. There are many challenges and gameplay modes that can range from simple to frustrating, and really does add longevity to the game. For the multiplayer mode, it all depends on who you play against.

Speaking of modes, here's what you can experience in the single player modes: Classic (typical arcade fighting mode with multiple stages to clear), Adventure Mode (like Classic, but with some actual platforming stages thrown in), Event mode (try to clear the objective given), Target Smash (one of the mini-games from Classic mode, try and clear 10 targets as fast as you can), Home Run Contest (see how far you can make a punching bag fly), Multi-Man Melee (fight against wire frame opponents in given challenges), as well playing against computer opponents in the Vs. mode. On top of that, you can collect numerous trophies by collecting coins or finding them in certain stages or bonus stages. There are various multiplayer options as well, such as customizable Melee matches, specific Melee challenges (such as Tiny Melee where everyone is small) and a championship mode for up to 64 players (of course only two can play at a time). There's something for everyone to do, whether you're in a group or playing alone.

Visually, SSBM still holds up pretty well to current offerings, but not exactally taking full advantage of the systems capabilities. The character models do look great and are fairly well detailed, and it's markedly improved over the first Smash Bros. on the N64. You place the character model of Mario from the N64 game to the current game, and there is a huge difference. There's a nice variety of arenas, but there's only a few that are actually pretty big. There's more compact arenas than larger ones, and I'm not sure why that is. The textures are pretty good, and they should be, since the most stages are pretty small. There's also a good number of particle and special effects thrown in, such as fire, lasers, etc. . And everything is done in what I believe is 60 FPS without any major slowdown. In fact, it's fun trying to make the game slow down because the frame rate generally stays constant and smooth. the only time I noticed a slight drop in the frame rate is when there were 4 players on screen, and everybody was chucking Pokeballs at each other. It takes a lot to make the game stutter.

The sound is another great reason to pick up this game. I know it sounds weird to recommend a game partly for the audio, but if you grew up with many of the Nintendo characters here, you'll be pleased as punch by the remixed versions of classic Nintendo songs. Some great standouts is the orchestral version of the dungeon song used in Zelda II and the overhaul of Ice Climbers theme. There's a ton of familiar favorites, and all except for the stupid DK Rap sound great. The sound effects are pretty entertaining as well, with an assortment of whacks, slaps and thuds, on top of character voices. It's just fun to hear the thud of smashing the hell out of Pikachu and hear him scream off the arena. And even though this doesn't have Dolby surround support, it still sounds pretty good in surround sound (or even stereo speakers).

Final Thought

Despite the game being over two years old and being first generation, Super Smash Bros. Melee is still a must-have title for the Gamecube system. There's plenty to do whether you play alone or with a group, and there's so much to find and unlock, you really don't want to stop playing the game. It's easy to get into and hard to put down, and this is a game only Nintendo could pull off, since they have the richest catalouge of characters to use in a game like this. Despite the large selection of playable characters in the game, there's still more that could be added in from Nintendo's history. Perhaps we'll see more in a long-overdue sequel to SSBM, but still, this is one of the better well-rounded experiences you'll enjoy.






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Super Smash Bros. Melee is one of the best multiplayer games around, and it's a game where the single-player mode doesn't suffer, either.

The stupid Digimon rip-offs of this game

Tekken 4

Soul Calibur II

Not much, really

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