Full Review: Not satisfied with beating up Pikachu? Don't worry; there are plenty of cute and cuddly things to toss around in SSB Melee.
When Super Smash Bros. first arrived a lot of us were skeptical. Could a fighting game really be any fun with only cute Nintendo characters to duke it out with? Many people originally thought it was doubtful and the cartoony look of the game had even more people shying away from the title.
The characters, however, were some of the most famous of all time. Fortunately, people bought the game based on this character recognition and the merits of a few good reviews. Later on, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, people who had bought the title also came to love it. The simple game that looked so shallow proved to have more depth than anyone could have guessed. When you coupled that with the outstanding multiplayer fun that was there to be had, the game took off towards classic status.
Let's fast-forward to the present. A couple of months ago GameCube was launched in America, as I'm quite sure that you're all aware of, and Super Smash Bros. Melee arrived shortly thereafter. The follow-up to one of the most cherished N64 games was hyped up to be a true system seller, and when looking at the sales in Japan it was kind of hard to argue against the truth in that.
So how does it all work? You still punch, kick and shoot with A and B, and pressing the control stick to the side, up or down in varying degrees in combination with either the A or B button will result in different attacks. You jump by pressing X, Y, or up on the control stick, and shield yourself with either L or R. The Z button can be used for an alternative shield, but is mainly used for grabbing your foe. Of course, you also have the option of pressing L or R together with A to grab the opponent, in the same way the predecessor let you press Z plus A instead of R. HAL has also added some new attacks and weapons such as a bow for Link and a hammer for Kirby, but the basics remain the same. However, even if the game so far seems almost identical to the first outing in the series that is far from the truth. In fact, Melee feels very different from its predecessor, it's just hard to convey in words how much. Stick with it, though, and you'll soon notice that SSB Melee takes the concept of its predecessor and improves on it wherever it's possible.
The single-player mode was one of SSB's failings in that it was far too limited in terms of lasting appeal. I bet that the development team spent many a sleepless night wondering how to make the follow-up better in this department. What they came up with was Adventure, Stadium and Event Match, while the Classic mode was kept from the predecessor.
Classic mode, just as in the original, pits you against a row of challengers with Master Hand being the last one of these. Among the normal one-on-one matches there are also team battles and small bonus stages. It is all very simple, really, but will certainly entertain you for a while.
Adventure, on the other hand, is a tad more complex, but still fairly straightforward. Platform elements are mixed in with the normal battles, and there are plenty of enemies from lots of classic Nintendo games wandering around just waiting to be pounced, slashed into pieces, or simply avoided. Adventure is very fun and quite brilliant the first time through, but can become a bit repetitive after extended play.
The Event Match mode, I must say, is the best inclusion of all. Here you are faced with 51 individual challenges, of which only a few are possible to play in the beginning. You unlock more events as you complete special objects in the Adventure or Classic mode, but also as you beat the events themselves. An event can be anything from having to beat a huge Bowser within a certain time limit to smashing out Nana of the Ice Climbers but not Popo. It's a pure pleasure to play through, though it might be argued that it goes all too fast to do so. In any case, a great addition to the single-player experience.
If Event Match is wonderful to play through once but not more, Stadium is a place you'll keep coming back to. Here you'll find amusements such as Home Run Contest, Target Test, and different kinds of Multi-Man Melee battles. Home Run Contest challenges you to hit a sandbag as far as possible, and to do so successfully you need to deal the poor thing quite a bit of damage. Target Test makes a welcome comeback, and you still try to smash targets in the shortest amount of time possible. The Multi-Man Melee feature, however, is a new option where you can participate in everything from the gruesome 15-Minute Melee to the brutal Cruel Melee. If you're able to get more than 13 KOs in the latter my hat's off to you, and you should certainly rub my nose in it on our forums.
Now one might think that I should have covered almost all parts of the game already. Surprisingly, that is far from the truth. We also have the VS. Mode, and it's in that mode that the most heated battles are sure to ensue. Grab a friend, or why not three, and duke it out in Melee, Tournament Melee, or Special Melee. Special Melee sees you choosing from lots of options ranging from Giant Melee to Fixed-Camera and Single-Button Mode. Tournament is quite self-explanatory, while Melee can consist of team battles or free-for-all matches where the object differs depending on the setting. There are also plenty of customisable rules, and you can even enter names under the option Name Entry (I bet you didn't see that one coming), though you're limited to four letters. The best part of it all is that SSB Melee keeps track of all the battles you and your friends have played under your different names, thus making a trip to the statistics section both entertaining and informative.
Statistics, the title is brimful with it. However, the fun doesn't end there. Trophies are collectibles that you find when going through both Classic mode and Adventure mode. There is an abundance of trophies, ranging from different Pok?mon to Pit who starred in the 8-bit adventure Kid Icarus. There is a description of each and every trophy, and collecting them all is irresistible. During your time spent playing you'll also earn coins, so why not head over to the lottery and try to get even more trophies?
The game has it all: a language option (Japanese or English), sound options, screen display options, difficulty settings (ranging from very easy to very hard), snapshots option, archives with bonus movies, an abundance of things to unlock?may it be new stages, events, or even whole new modes?plus plenty of charming characters who will bring many a nostalgic tear to the eyes of people who experienced the personalities' first baby steps in the past.
Super Smash Bros. Melee also sports music and sound effects of the highest calibre, with many tunes being orchestrated versions of old classics. Every track has a unique quality and is either impressive on its own or brings back fond memories of days past, or both. I can assure you that there are not many who will be disappointed with the musical score. Sound effects won't dissatisfy many either, constantly being executed with perfect timing and always appropriate.
Graphics is an area that I have consciously avoided until now, as I don't truly feel that a game such as SSB Melee needs grand graphics to achieve greatness. Still, the title is a far cry from unattractive and shows off nice effects and use of colours together with splendid character design. The attention to detail when it comes to some of the characters is mind numbing, actually, especially considering that most people won't even notice the difference while playing the game normally. Try pausing the game and zoom in on one of the characters and you'll get the picture. As for the rest, stages are very well suited to their respective characters and there are both huge arenas such as Hyrule Temple and more cramped ones such as Venom. In general, though, stages feel a bit smaller this time around, probably because of the increased size of the characters. Backgrounds can seem a bit drab in some places, but are absolutely beautiful in others. In general there is nothing to complain about, especially not when considering that to see any flaws you essentially have to pause the game first.
If you took pleasure in Super Smash Bros. you'll adore SSB Melee. If you never played SSB then this is your chance. The only problem I see with the title, apart from the fact that it can become quite dull to play alone after having unlocked everything, is that for some it might take a few hours to appreciate the new gameplay. My advice to you is to give the title ample time; it'll surely grow on you. With beautiful graphics, lovely music and a plethora of modes, what is there not to like about this game?