Super Smash Bros. Melee Review – Definitive 50 GameCube Game #1

The complete series: The Definitive 50 GameCube Games.

We’ve had a lot of fun at the expense of the GameCube’s handle over the course of the last 49 videos, and it is a bit of an odd design choice, but it’s there for a reason. Taking up the GameCube and moving it to a friend’s place for a raucous night of gaming is what the system is all about.

We’ve seen that again and again over the course of this series: from F-Zero and TimeSplitters to many Mario sports games, the GameCube is undoubtedly one of the great local multiplayer systems. Among the Cube’s catalog of multiplayer titles though, there is a clear favourite. One game that brings friends together, and sometimes rips them apart, like no other. Of course, I’m talking about the undisputed champion of chaos, Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Melee takes a fun, well executed concept established on the N64 – a fighter based on Nintendo’s vast roster – and piles on endless modes, variations, unlockables, extra characters, nostalgia, and raw anarchy. Melee is a toolkit that provides players with a near limitless set of possibilities, and tests the limits of what can be fit into just one game.

SSBM‘s menu is not some simple list of modes, but rather an elaborate web of choices to explore.

1-player options include Adventure mode, in which the player works through a series of longer levels based on the many worlds of Nintendo’s games, and the Classic and All-Star modes.

Lonely gamers can also tackle the smaller challenges of the Target Test, Home Run, and Multi-Man Melee. None of these are to be played once and forgotten, but rather methodically worked through with every one of the game’s many playable characters. Completionist bragging rights and trophies are on the line.

All of that pales, however, to the mind-boggling choices offered for multiplayer. Oponents can, of course, choose to battle as teams or in free-for-all, with or without computer controlled characters, using time, stock, coin count, or score to determine victor on whatever outlandish environment they may want.

They can also turn on and off any number of ludicrous items, from the great Beam Sword to the nefarious Hammer, and even determine the rate at which the items appear.

Special Melee offers up an even more bizzare set of scenarios for groups to challenge each other with – including fighting at double speed, half speed, at risk of instant death, or restricted to only a basic set of controls.

Most importantly, there are the characters to choose from. 25, plus an extra transformation, compared with just 12 in the original Smash. Melee’s roster is itself an incredible homage to the greatest stable of video game characters ever. Obvious inclusions like Link, Mario, Samus, Pikachu, and Kirby are joined by lesser known heroes like Mr. Game & Watch, Dr. Mario, and the Ice Climbers. Incredibly, the game’s two Fire Emblem fighters, Marth and Roy, were virtual unknowns in the west at launch – no Fire Emblem games having ever been released here. Their popularity in Melee prompted Nintendo to start selling Fire Emblem titles in the west. Such is the power and popularity of Smash.

The eccentric mix of fighters feeds into Smash‘s general madness. How a green dinosaur, an eletrically charged mouse, a bounty-hunting fox, and the King of Thieves could ever fairly compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the ring-out, I have no idea – but in Smash, it works.

All of Melee‘s modes are tied together with trophies to find and earn. The vast collection to be obtained is not just a way to measure the player’s success, but a grand tribute to Nintendo’s rich heritage.