Super Smash Bros. Melee
Insanity Prevails' Super Smash Bros. Melee Review
Unique battle system
Many game modes
Nintendo has a vast array of characters and virtual universes spanning its various consoles and handhelds. As such, debates over which is the best tend to be inevitable. Then Super Smash Brothers arrives on the Nintendo 64, allowing these gaming icons to face off against each other for the first time. One generation later and the Nintendo All-Stars return for another all-out battle for supremacy.
The Gamecube is clearly a machine capable of much more than its predecessor, and Melee goes all out to demonstrate this to the fullest.
The character models are simply amazing. There is a significant level of detail on all of them. The denim on Mario's trousers is clear to see, or you can pick out the individual strands of fur on Fox's body. Clothes have discernable creases and the eyes look deep and rounded, as they should.
They all also move fluidly and naturally, with a wide range of complex animations for all their movement, leaping, guarding and attacking animations. When Marth goes to perform a forward slash you can see him bend forward slightly, twist his arm around and then swing the blade in an arcing motion. It's fast, fluid and looks right. There's no awkward poses, stuttering or anything else that would hamper the animation.
This extends to the collision detection as well. Grabs tend to be a bit awkward, as sometimes it looks like they are holding onto nothing, although this is really only noticeable if you use camera mode and zoom in. All other attacks appear to connect smoothly and character smash and bounce off objects and terrain well enough. You can even see pained expressions and flinching actions when characters are taking hits.
The special effects that come from attacks, items or stage features are impressive as well. Mario's fireball actually looks like it is made of fire, while the semi-visible images of Fox during the Fox Illusion gives off a suitable impression of the attack. Smoke trails fly around, which is a nice touch.
The stages also look very appealing, with a high level of detail to them as well. You can make out individual bricks and tile slates on Peach's Castle, and they look 3D as opposed to the flat repeating texture from the Nintendo 64 games the castle appeared in. But the stages aren't just static fields, and the animations involved there are also impressive. Probably the best example is Final Destination, where the stage appears to travel through wormholes to various different places. The fact that the background isn't eternally the same thing is quite refreshing.
The items have also have had their share of work done to them. The Pokémon that come from the pokéballs look just as nice as the actual playable Pokémon, complete with natural animations and cool special effects.
Since the game is essentially a mix of Nintendo universes then it is only right that the music selection represents this concept, and it does so very well. The game contains a rather extensive list of tracks not only from series of the playable characters such as Mario and Zelda but from lesser known series with little representation, such as Balloon Fighter and Mach Rider. Some of the music feels so empty and lifeless. Such as the Mach Rider and Icicle Mountain tracks, but most of them are very good rhythmic tracks that tend to fit the stages they are used in.
While the game doesn't have full dialogue there is voice acting for character grunts, shouts and cries, and these are done pretty well. They are well timed, sound right and tend to be related to the characters directly in most cases. Ever played Ocarina of Time? Then you'll recognise Link's voice instantly, especially the death cry when he falls offscreen.
Hearing taunts is a nice touch too. While some characters tend to be rather mute while taunting others are quite vocal. Hearing Captain Falcon ask his opponent to "show me your moves" is brilliant.
There's a whole collection of sound effects to accompany every hit, slash, bang and indeed wallop. They are all high quality sounds and manage to match up with the onscreen action well.
"Wait, where's the plot section?"
Uh-huh, there isn't one. Unlike most games SSBM doesn't even attempt to give you a reason for all the fighting. There's no lame saving the world from the stereotypical villain. No rebel seeking revenge. No warring ninja clans. You're just given the chance to beat other Nintendo stars up. This could be seen as either good or bad. On the one hand you're not having some lame attempt at stringing events together. On the other hand there's no logic behind it all. To be honest, I don't think a lack of a plot hurts it. The game doesn't need it, and there's no real negative effect from it.
The basic concept of Smash Brothers is relatively simple - to defeat your opponents by forcing them off screen. Yes, this isn't your typical fighting game. Health bars are replaced by damage meters, which shows how much damage a character has taken up to that point. Ring Out is the only way to score points here, and stages are purposely designed to accommodate that.
Frantic melee combat at its finest.
Characters have a variety of abilities to use against their opponents. A uses a characters basic attack. The result differs depending on who it is but is usually a weak combo attack. Ganondorf is the only exception, hitting with a relatively strong but slow strike. These attacks are good for quick damage but nothing more.
The analogue stick can be used with the A button to use stronger attacks. Tilting the analogue stick gives strong attacks. The strength of these vary as does the speed, but are usually designed as the middle ground attacks for the A moves. They pack more punch and killing power than the basic combo but are not the strongest. Smashing (or rather, tapping) the analogue stick performs smash attacks. Unlike other A moves, smash attacks can be charged for stronger strikes and tend to have a lot of killing power and damage, but are slower than normal strikes and thus harder to catch opponents out with.
A can also be used in the air for aerial attacks. Each character has 5 A aerial attacks – one neutral and four based on analogue stick. There's no real pattern on which ones are strong and which are weak though. A back air is strong for one character but weak for another. Aerial games tend to be tactfully important though as it can be harder to defend against.
Some aerial attacks are called meteor attacks. These are powerful aerial attacks that send other airborne opponents on a downward trajectory. Do this over the gaps in a stage and it will likely kill an opponent before they can recover. However, such moves are slower and can cause problems if they miss.
The B button unleashes the character special skills. These are usually more representative of the individual characters and many possess special traits. Each character has 4 special moves – one neutral and three based on analogue stick input. Attack power and speed tends to vary, but mixing these up with normal attacks can build up high damage combos.
The shoulder buttons, L + R, are used for defence. On their own they pull up a shield, which grows weaker with time and hits sustained. This shield can be moved slightly by lightly tilting the analogue stick, but it's not particularly effective. If the shield is broken then the player becomes stunned and will not recover for a while or until hit. Raising the shield right before an attack hits bounces the attack back at the enemy, but the timing is extremely difficult to manage.
Players can also use evasive techniques. Tapping the analogue stick left or right while shielding produces a roll. Characters are invulnerable during this roll and can even roll through opponents and hazards, then allowing for a counterattack when they recover. Tapping down produces a sidestep, where characters remain on the spot and gain brief invulnerability, but the timing is very awkward and so it isn't used much.
None of these defences work while in the air, yet that doesn't mean competitors are helpless up there. L or R will produce an air dodge, with some sliding movement possible by tapping the analogue stick in a direction at the same time. The effect is similar to a sidestep except it allows some movement. Characters can only air dodge once before they need to touch the ground again.
While these techs are designed primarily for defence it is possible to perform a grab by pressing A while shielding (the z button also performs a grab without shielding). You can hit character while holding on to them and throw them, but it is possible to break a hold. Hitting is rather ineffective, although throwing enemies about can really break up their rhythm, especially since you can't shield against a grab (though the other evasive techs still work).
A character's aerial ability tends to be a rather important factor. Tapping up on the analogue stick or pressing Y or X produces a jump. All characters can then jump again in midair once per jump. As well as allowing for a more controlled air game it also helps a lot in recovery. In addition to this every character's Up + B special move (except Yoshi and Jigglypuff) is designed to help a player recover too. Even when sent flying there are options to recover with.
Of course, the fighters only make up half of the action. Items are scattered through battles, and can either prove useful or worthless. Battering items are the kind you'd swing at your opponent, such as a bat or beam sword. Projectiles are the kind you'd fire at opponents. There is a wide variety of items here, although it can make things a little unbalanced if an item happens to spawn right next to someone.
Pokéballs are perhaps the most interesting items around. All pokéballs look the same but can release one of many Pokémon to assist. You have the likes of Blastoise firing his hydro pump across the field, Ho-oh unleashing a vortex of fire or Goldeen just flopping about. Most Pokémon don't hurt the ones that released them but this isn't always true. Electrode's explosion will take out anyone slow enough to be caught in the blast and Wobuffet will happily counter anyone.
The stages themselves give off a fair share of hazards, making them more interesting than the usual collection of non-interactive stages most fighting games get burdened with. Take the fight to Mute City and you'll be on a floating platform that zooms along the track, occasionally stopping to drop you in the middle of the track while the cars are racing.
So many stages, so many hazards to smash enemies into.
Some courses take this to a different extreme, by taking on the role of scrolling stages. More reminiscent of platforming stages rather than fighting, these offer quite a different take on combat, really putting pressure not just on what's happening with your opponents but just where you're putting your feet.
While the idea of interactive stages may worry some people (concerns of it interfering too much) there are still some stages of the more generic non-interactive type. Final Destination is nothing more than a single flat platform where the only changes are visuals in the background.
SSBM offers a myriad of game modes in which to test you skills in. The main single player mode consists of three modes: Classic, Adventure and All-Star.
Classic is a revamped version of SSB's single player. Players choose a fighter and then progress through a series of fights until they reach Master Hand. While the literal opponents are random the types of fights are always the same. The 2 vs 2 battle, 3 vs 1 giant opponent, 1 vs many and versus metal battles will always occur, but the changing characters gives it variety.
There are also bonus stages involved. Target Test is a challenge to smash 10 targets within a special stage, which is usually designed specifically to test the skills of each fighter. Race to the finish is a side scrolling level with multiple exits and a time limit. The level is successfully finished by reaching any exit, but the further you go through the stage the more points earned when you do exit. The Trophy Stage simply has three trophies descend slowly from above, where players use their attacks to knock them into the central container to keep them.
The Master Hand battle is different from normal battles. He has an actual health gauge, and victory depends on reducing that gauge to zero. However, Master Hand has complete freedom of movement, allowing him to poke, slap, punch, flick and otherwise smack you about. Fast players that reach him on medium setting or higher without continuing will also gain the right to take on Crazy Hand at the same time. Crazy Hand is similar to Master Hand except he possesses a few extra attacks and the pair can do team attacks when they are together.
Adventure mode brings in a new style of play, by mixing the usual smash elements with that of a side scrolling platformer. Some of the stages are simply the stages used in other modes but the side scrolling parts are built specifically for this mode.
The actual platforming isn't really as challenging as an actual platformer tends to be. The natural airborne abilities of the smash characters tends to alleviate a lot of the pressure there, and the generic enemies aren't particularly threatening. The challenges here come from the normal style battles you'd be used to. That said, it's nice to have a change of pace, so adventure mode is a welcome addition.
Unlike Classic mode the enemies in adventure are generally the same (as in there are no random challengers). However, it is possible to take on alternative or extra battles based on your actions. Cross the finish line of the first stage with a 2 as the fourth digit on the clock and Luigi will replace Mario, for example.
The final boss here is Bowser, which seems less epic than Master Hand. Well, unless you finish adventure on medium or higher within 18 minutes and no continuing. Here Bowser's trophy will appear after he is defeated and transform into Giga Bowser. He is essentially a bigger tougher version of Bowser, and makes for a much grander final battle.
All Star mode is only unlocked once all characters have been unlocked. It pits you in a series of battles with limiting health regeneration. Basically, you get three heart containers that can be used between battles to reduce the damage gauge back to zero, but once they are gone you don't get anymore for that attempt.
All Star mode is generally the most difficult mode to get through. Often you'll head into battles already hurt, essentially being an automatic handicap. It's definitely challenging, but less experienced gamers may want to limit their playtime in it, otherwise it'll just become frustrating.
There are other single player options to burn through as well. Event Match mode sets up a series of challenges for players to fight their way through. While some of these are indeed simple "defeat the enemy" challenges there are a lot of special challenges too. One match involves taking on two Zeldas where you must KO them while they are Sheik. With 51 events there's a lot of variety and challenge to be found here, especially since all events keep records so that you can challenge your best time/score.
Stadium offers a number of challenges as well. Players may recognise Target Test from Classic mode. Here you get to challenge it whenever you want a well as set time records. Homerun Contest puts you on a platform with a bat, a sandbag and a 10 second time limit. The goal is simple – to knock that bag as far as possible. Sandbag operates by the same concept as fighters – the more damage taken the further he'll fly when struck. The problem is that it's all too easy to accidentally knock him off the platform when building damage up. A nice if awkward alternative to normal combat.
Multiman Melee is the only stadium mode that really represents the main concept of SSBM. In these modes you're pitted against an army of wireframe fighters, who can do A attacks, jumps and some room of a rolling dodoge but nothing else. There are six variants to choose from: 10 man melee, 100 man melee, 3 min melee, 15 min melee, endless melee and cruel melee. Most of these should be obvious by their name. Cruel Melee is essentially Endless Melee, except the wireframes are suddenly ruthless killing machines. You're lucky to gain any kills in this mode as they're actually quite deadly.
There's also a training mode where players can practice their skills. Menu options allow players to control game speed, damage as well as spawn items and choose opponent numbers and type. Although this is in the single player section it is possible to set the other character up for human control too, allowing multiple players to practice against each other. A nice way to hone skills.
Of course, SSBM is capable of more than single player endeavours, which is where the VS section comes into play. While set up for multiplayer style battles the player slots can be filled by computer controlled opponents, allowing for both single player melees and even all computer contests.
Melee is the standard versus mode. As well as picking characters and stages you get to set all sorts of options. There are four victory condition styles to choose from here. Time sets a time limit and adds and subtracts points based on kills earned. Since players can easily snatch kills others have worked hard for it can be seen as a little unfair. Stock gives each player a number of lives, which decreases each time they are defeated, as well as an optional time limit. Since nobody is competing directly for points this survival style condition is more favourable. Coin puts a new spin on things. Every successful hits causes coins to appear, which is what everyone is aiming for. Whoever has the most coins wins. However, defeated players will lose coins as well, so survival is still key. Bonus is based on the end of match bonuses. Players are awarded bonus points based on their performances, although some of them are negative points that lower the score. Some bonuses are obvious, like finishing first or scoring the most KOs. Others are much less obvious, such as only ever facing one direction or attacking with a taunt. There's a widespread of bonuses, but many of them are pretty random and hard to get on purpose, making this type hit and miss.
There are various other options here, like how self-destructs affects timed battles and how the stages is selected. Further options can be unlocked too, like turning items on and off or choosing which stages are included in a random selection.
Teams can also be formed by clicking on the top-left corner. Characters can either be red, blue or green team (with their costume changing to reflect their choice) to allow for rival conflict. Fancy a challenge? Why not do a 3 vs1?
Handicaps can be set, which determine how far someone is sent flying from attacks. For computer opponents you can also set the difficulty. Level 1 computer fighters are slow and clumsy while level 9 computer opponents are fast and aggressive. That said, even level 9 computer characters are too prone to silly errors. They'll walk into bombs or break away from an easy kill to chase down some food. Yet, at the same time, they'll powershield attacks back at you and recover well. It feels unbalanced when they are so good in some areas and bad in others.
If normal Melee isn't enough for you then you can try your hand at one of the Special Melee games. These are very much like normal Melee (all the Melee options apply here as well) but with special rules. Giant mode has everyone already big, while slow-mo reduces game speed.
Two of the modes here are pretty special though. Stamina mode is the most like a traditional fighting game. Instead of damage meters you actually have health gauges, and fighters lose when their health is depleted. Although nice to have something different it tends to lack the fierceness of the other modes.
Camera Mode plays out exactly like normal Melee, except only three characters can participate, as the fourth controller is used to control the camera. Moving, zooming and tracking can all be altered. Even better, you can take snapshots and save them to a memory card. A nice bonus feature.
Tournament Melee takes the normal Melee and adds it into a tournament bracket. There are a few unique options here, like how stages are chosen and the type of tournament. However, the fighting really isn't that different from the Melee mode so it's more to offer a structured elimination style rather than anything majorly different.
Gotta collect them... oh wait, wrong game.
One of the game's selling points is the trophy system. There are about 290 trophies in the game to collect. Many are earned simply be finding them in one of the three main single player modes or through the lottery, but many have to be earned by meeting certain criteria, such as hitting over a certain distance in Home Run Contest or getting a combined time below a certain mark in Target Test. As well as offering yet more do to the trophies themselves offer background information regarding what they are. A wonderful addition to the game.
SSBM has so much to do that it will be some time before everything is unlocked. Even then, you have all the versus options even when you tire of the single player. This is game to last for years.
Super Smash Brothers Melee delivers an amazing experience. It's fast, frantic and yet requires a lot of skill and will last a long time.
- Unlocking Waluigi in SSBM
- How to get the characters and levels
- Your First Impression on the Tier List
- Favorite down-b move
- Link or young Link
- Kirby hat teir list.
- Giga Bowser in VS
- How do you rate yourself?
- how many people actually play this game still
- Play as Master Hand and Crazy Hand at the same time. (Emulator)