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Review – Super Smash Brothers Melee

posted on July 17th, 2006 by dan

Down and Out: Super Smash Brothers Melee and the glory that is the KO

If Luigi doesn’t come down from there he’s going to miss the orgy.

Oh, 2D fighting games. At first glance, they seem like the wet dreams of nine year-old video game enthusiasts: smashing a whole bunch of buttons will result in smorgasbord of pain and, with a bit of luck, embarrassment for the poor sap from down the street who always comes over because he doesn’t have the coolest system. But after a while, the whole genre seems, well played out. Sure, the numerous Capcom games where various X-Men or Marvel characters fight against obscure characters from every single game Capcom has ever released ever (US or Japan) may be fun for a while, but they quickly lose their spark. Sure the “ultra combos to the extreme max mega-time” are fun to watch and perform, but once you see one giant Pollack-inspired color explosion, you’ve seen them all.

That is, until one plays the Super Smash Brothers series. This may sound fan boy-ish, but in all honestly, I don’t really care; this game rules. Yes, yes I know, this is a wildly held opinion, and not one that is exactly “new” to the video gaming community. But I feel as if I should say it again, if only for the purposes of defining what a good game should have.

The game play and controls are something of wonder. In all great games, there seems to be one concurrent theme: the game is easy to learn, but difficult to master. SSB exemplifies this effortlessly. Fighting in the game can be controlled with two buttons: the A and B. There are no long, complicated combos to learn in order to perform a special move. But combine a simple button system with a responsive joystick, and you get an art form. Taping the stick concurrently with an attack can produce a fantastic number of moves and attacks for almost any situation. Press the joystick hard enough and one gets a “smash attack,” which, if enough damage is inflicted, will send the opponent flying off the screen for an easy KO.

There are no health bars in the traditional sense. Instead, one can inflict or receive large amounts of damage that is represented by a percentage, which does not necessarily mean that player will win, only how easy it will be to send them flying into oblivion (I can‘t tell you the amount of times where some little douche will have 400% damage and not die. God damn Hyrule temple). In essence, a player must knock an opponent off the screen to earn a KO. Game types can change, from getting the most KO’s in a certain time period, to fighting with a set stock of lives where the first person to lose all of them (via KO’s) loses.

The mighty warrior Pikachu tends to his garden.

Items also appear randomly throughout any stage, and can be used to great effect. They range from the utterly useless Mr. Saturn to the mighty baseball bat, which can KO a player even when they are at zero percent damage. The sight of players flying around the map, throwing weapons, desperately trying to survive a particularly potent smash attack all the while throwing punches, kicks, and various other attacks whenever possible is exhilarating, to say the least.

Of course, the game is made that much better by the battle locals. The backgrounds created for the Smash series are beautiful if not deadly. Taken to the extreme in the Melee edition, levels are anything but static. Platforms can disappear and reappear seemingly at random, or perhaps a giant dragon monster simply manhandles a level to a different shape (ZEBES!). All of the changes happen in real time, so while cars are rushing by, into and above the stage, the wild and furious fighting goes on unabated, adding to the controlled mayhem of the whole game. All done in beautifully rendered in 3D (Jay just said some bullshit crap about 2D and the Saturn in his head after that statement), the backgrounds show that there has been a ton of effort put into the game, unlike half the crap other companies call stages.

The plot of Super Smash Brothers (SSB) is very much like one of those terrible movie-tie in video games (I am looking at you, X-Men). It clusters a large amount of Nintendo legends on a screen and lets them duke it out. And that is about it. I know all two of you who haven’t played this game are saying, “But surely, there must be some sort of convoluted plot that smashes all these characters all together, a la Kingdom Hearts!” Nope. None. And gosh golly, thank god for that.

3 Comments

  1. Christian said on July 17, 2006:

    As the resident 2D fighting fan at Videolamer, I’m actually going to agree with you on Capcom’s VS series. They’re broken games meant for the eye candy, and Smash is a much better game for a party. However, I do think you’re being a little too harsh on the genre in general. Take a look at a game like Third Strike or Mark of the Wolves and its hard not to appreciate the depth and strategy that good 2d fighters can bring.

    Anyway, Smash is an interesting game. I used to hate it when I was really deep into 2d fighters, then I started to play it daily with my roomates and it grew on me again. While it might not have the same balance and depth of, say, Street Fighter 3, to say Smash is nothing more than button mashing and luck is a lie. You do have to play smart if you want to win.

    That being said, I do think the game plays best in a party atmosphere. It certainly isn’t a “party game” in the sense of Mario Party; that has a lot of luck and a bit of rudimentary skill (though its still fun!). What I mean is its best to just play for kicks to pass the time and enjoy playing something with your buddies. Where Smash starts to go sour is when people who are so adamant about its brilliance start to play it like a traditional 2d fighter, using a small tier of top fighters and play on only three stages with no items, exploiting glitches and ridiculous moves that you’d never dream of using in normal play. At that point all the fun has been sucked out, and the combat engine’s cracks start to show.

    For me, the best way to play Smash is my three usual friends, a few beers, our typical characters, very high item drops, and five minute time battles. The results are almost always the same, but we don’t play to win. In this kind of environment, its hard not to enjoy the game.

  2. Staticneuron said on July 17, 2006:

    The majority of VS. Series do annoy me…. with the exceptions of the Snk ones. My major sticking point of this game was how it was played. This game I never feel in love with nor had it grow on me. I played it for quite sometime to give it a chance…. my friends love the hell out of this game. But I have to give credit where credit is due. SSB seems to be the spring board of a game like Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen.

    Nothing about the games are really similar except for the fact that both games rely on timing, skill and knowing your character. You can say that about any fighting game really but here is the difference, in most 2d fighters if you learn some moves you actually might have a chance at winning a bout every once and a while. In SSB if you take out the items, it becomes really tough for you to go up against someone experienced. Same thing with Naruto. I can show you all the moves and how to do them but still may eek out a perfect on a newcomer and even many moderate players.

    Even as that is said…. nothing beats the insanity of a 4 way SSB match with items on. Nothing.

  3. Staticneuron said on July 23, 2006:

    I would like to see if on the the SSB version for the wii, Snake can eat his opponents…… That alone will make the game and the system an irresistable must buy.

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