Retro Flashback: Super Smash Bros. Melee

It’s the #1 game on the Gamecube, the biggest fighting game since Street Fighter II, and the only thing everyone cares about seeing on a Nintendo Direct. This game has been widely played and obsessed over since the day it released on Nintendo’s tiny little lunchbox. It’s been thoroughly used as a base for a plethora of fighting game tournaments worldwide. It’s…




Super Smash Bros. was a sleeper hit on the Nintendo 64, but this successor was a whole different beast altogether. Rather than simply touch up on what made the original a joy to play, it aggressively went above and beyond to show that the Gamecube means business! You can’t say “Melee” without someone freaking out over it. The term itself has been far more associated with this game than anything else. If Super Smash Bros. Melee was a person, every tournament player would take it out for dinner and beyond. In fact, I’m willing to bet someone, somewhere, has married his copy of the game.

So why is it such a masterpiece in the eyes of gamers everywhere? Simple: It did so much more, and offered even more than that, compared to the original Smash Bros. The idea of Nintendo characters coming together to beat the crap out of each other has been massively amplified by the technical prowess of the Gamecube and the heavily increased effort poured into the development of the game itself. This wasn’t a project that was merely developed on the side during weekends; this was a full-blown sequel that wasted absolutely no time being built up in the 13 months it was created within. Old characters got expanded move-sets, an assortment of new characters showed up, and there’s a treasure trove of new stages, items, and modes to play around with!

The presentation in general was upgraded to a degree that not even a lot of other Gamecube games ever bothered to reach. Even in the tireless production schedules it went under, the folks at HAL and Nintendo made sure the attention to detail was as perfect as it could get. The graphics were slick, detailed, and filled with liveliness; players were practically playing a CGI cartoon starring all the Nintendo characters they’ve come to know and love. Despite the fighting style featuring a lot of hopping around and wacky item usage, the tight level of depth in the mechanics makes the fighting feel like how fans always imagined the characters would duke it out. You’re not just controlling Link; you are Link. He’s likely feeling what you’re feeling at the heat of the moment.

The core fighting style is relatively unchanged from before; you’re still playing in platforming levels trying to mercilessly slaughter your opponents with your character’s skills. With the many characters there are to play around with, you’re bound to get accustomed to at least one of them. The variety of play styles each one offers is demonstrated through the many moves that could be pulled off with just a button and a directional input. Kicks, sword slashes, and counters could all be accessed at will and can be mastered with enough practice.

Whereas the original Super Smash Bros. featured a measly dozen characters and a sole single-player mode lacking randomization, Melee has like a million Vs. modes and a bunch of single-player features that are leagues above its predecessor. There are even multiplayer features that…admittedly no one ever uses, like Coin and Bonus battles. If you want to have fun from the Special Modes, though, Giant Melee is easily the best one.

Super Smash Bros. Melee was filled to the brim with personality. It’s a love letter to Nintendo fans young and old, whether they feature a beloved character or reference more obscure properties that only the die-hards would know about. I mean, how many people have known about the Game & Watch games before the inclusion of Mr. Game & Watch? After that, how many people know all of the Game & Watch games this character references with every single attack he does? Don’t worry. I won’t Judge.

Speaking of references, how about them trophies? If there was ever an incentive to keep playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, it was to unlock all of the several kajillion trophies in the game. Each one derives from a Nintendo game and has a description detailing its purpose in that game. There are trophies for loads and loads of different characters and items; for a game developed in such a relatively short period of time, it’s amazing how much the developers crammed into this virtual collection. You’d think they wouldn’t have been able to do this at all, but the fact they did shows how much they cared. It’s almost a shame a lot of them have to be unlocked through the in-game lottery machine.

Oh how I despise you, lottery machine. You feed the thing with coins you earn after playing matches in the game, mostly during the single-player stuff. It does tell you the odds of getting a new trophy out of it, but it always bites when the end result isn’t in your favor anyway. It hurts more so when you feed it a multitude of coins at once and still get a trophy you already have in your collection.

Let me tell you, my memories with Super Smash Bros. Melee go as far as to when I got the Gamecube for my 5th birthday (or maybe it was my 6th, I dunno). My first experiences with everything in the game are unlike what I’ve gone through with any other game. This game was an adventure in itself, and I was along for the ride. I played around with the many different modes like crazy. My brothers and I would fight off in Giant mode and make it so the only items available to use are Pokeballs. We’d wager all our coins on trophies every chance we got. Most important of all, we played matches like there’s no tomorrow. Then this screen sometimes popped up.

With a sound of an alarm and appearing out of nowhere, nothing freaked my little kid self more than this character unlock screen. What’s going on? Who was this mysterious silhouette? What threat am I to face? Then a one-on-one round occurs between me and the new character. As intense as things were, however, nothing was more satisfying than taking on the challenge thrown at me. Before video games had DLC and made it so you had to pay extra for new characters, Super Smash Bros. Melee already had them in the game; you just have to work for them!

While Super Smash Bros. Melee is this amazing fighting game that’s cherished indefinitely, it does have this underlying atmosphere that can get chills down people’s spines. It acts all stylish and appealing, then throws in a screwball when you least expect it. There’s sometimes no telling what could happen next. What happens if you beat up 100 wire framed baddies in Multi-Man Melee? Or if you hit a sandbag far enough as Yoshi in Home Run Contest? Now, I know these result in unlocks for characters and stages alike and can be downplayed as such, but this game can be freaking scary if you let it creep up on you with its more abnormal sequences!

The Adventure mode has a lot of weird quirks that can do this, from Luigi coming out of the blue to replace Mario in the first battle to the Underground Maze being populated by Redeads trying to snack on your character. However, these don’t come close to outright nightmare fuel like THIS UNHOLY ABOMINATION.

What is more a terrifying way to finish an already difficult single-player campaign than through this unexpected, extremely deformed, brutal variation of Bowser?!

If all of this is absolutely not what you expected an article on Super Smash Bros. Melee to cover, then there’s a good chance you either are a “hardcore” player or have been unfortunately accustomed to their lingo. As great as it is to see this classic live on in a continuously thriving community, one can wonder what the appeal may be to begin with.

You see, Super Smash Bros. Melee is sort of a happy accident in which this game that has all this amazing stuff in it just so happens to work really well as a no-frills one-on-one fighter. With the items off, and with stages limited to the most obstacle-less, gimmick-less possible (namely Final Destination and Battlefield), the lone thing standing in your way is your opponent and only your opponent. While it makes the gameplay arguably more focused and is ripe for players to gawk over, the cult around it has gone as far as to develop its own unwritten dictionary for the weird phrases and labels it coined. These include terms like “wavedashing”, “L-canceling”, “Randall”, “gentleman”, “dash-dancing”, and the list goes on.

If you wanna be a pro Smash Bros. Melee player, you have to be taken seriously. How so? First, you have to acknowledge that more than half the roster of characters is entirely useless if you want to win. Fox, Falco, Marth, and Captain Falcon are the only characters that you must play as. Sure, Samus, Peach, or Ice Climbers may sneak their way into the finals, but they delay the inevitable. You also must envision Melee as the only good Smash Bros. Smash Bros. Brawl and Smash Bros. 4? They are utter trash because they’re not Melee. You can’t wavedash or do fancy tech that makes Fox the victor in every round.

You play with items and fun stages? Wow, what a filthy casual.

Hopefully, my sarcasm is getting through to you. Let’s be real here: You don’t need this mindset to enjoy Melee on a competitive level at all, nor do you have to stick by these unspoken rules the try-hards established. Having fun is still the name of the game, and what could be more fun than breaking the unspoken rules? Here in college, I regularly face off against competitive Melee players with Dr. Mario and without any mechanical exploits. Doesn’t stop me from winning to the point where I’m dubbed “Ryan Sil. the God”. I sometimes like using Yoshi, Link, Samus, Pikachu, and even Kirby and Pichu if I’m feeling particularly smug.

However, the ideal way to play Melee is still with items and all stages. By playing without them, you have probably not even 10% of the entire game at your disposal. Some of the people I play with haven’t even known about some of the other content the game has to offer. For such an exhausting, extensive workload courtesy of HAL, you’d think these fans would appreciate it a little more.

There is one thing we can all come to appreciate, however.

That would be this video I took of the Adventure mode giving up on me.

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