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Super Smash Bros. Melee

Developer: HAL Labs | Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 12/02/01 | Genre: Fighting

Here I am... Christmas break has started. No more school for a month... and games are pouring out of retailers mouths. Final Fantasy X was just released along with a slew of others, all slightly less important. I should be rushing out to purchase and subsequently devour it--but instead I'm pillaging the Mushroom Kingdom, duking it out in the ruins of Hyrule Castle, escaping Brinsta again, and flying at high speeds over Corneria.

What's this, you say? Did I break out my SNES for a little nostalgia? No, sir. I am playing what is perhaps one of greatest games I've played in quite sometime--matched only by those games which is casually alludes to: Super Smash Bros. Melee. SSB:M is the sequel to the N64 game of the slightly shorter name. While the original managed to make gamers shed a few tears of childhood bliss by throwing in hundreds of Nintendo references, Melee brings on what is much more like a funeral's worth of weeping by tossing in QWAGILLIONS of pearly, shiny, Nintendo references. Upwards of 20 Nintendo characters and levels, tons of gameplay modes, and amazing sound wrap up this portrait of a Middle School Nintendo. But is that okay now that Nintendo's in high school?

Melee firsts shoots lasers into your eyes with its terrific graphics. The characters themselves are all high-poly where needed--like the round and plump Yoshi, or Pikachu. Others, most notably Fox or Zelda, are a bit more edgy. It deters nothing from the overall package, as the texture work has apparently been done by a God or at least an earthly deity like a tree spirit or something. The backgrounds are also very appropriate. Quite a few people have complained at the blandness of some of them, such as the Corneria level. While it is true the texturing on this and a few other levels is a bit bland…Why is it that no one complains about the almost completely 2-D Super Mario Bros (NES) level? Because it was meant to look like it does. The simple texturing and low poly-count of the rolling hills on Corneria and Venom appear to be tips-o-the-hat to the 'ol N64. Although, these graphics managed not to give me a mind boggling headache. The lighting is also amazing, and with help from the special F/X, this game doesn't as much show what the GameCube is capable of as much as it whispers into your ear what's to come.

The sound is bombastic, upbeat completely unoriginal. Which is superb in this case. Mario Anthems and Hyrulean melodies jammed their way into my ears, and I was more than once distracted during gameplay, trying to decipher what old-school remix I was listening to. The sound effects are decent, and more or less exactly the same as the N64 version, with the announcer being the exact same, upset and strung-out man.

As far as gameplay and replay value are concerned, have no fear. I guess they didn't think that the characters, backgrounds, and music were enough... Nintendo managed to toss in even more with the inclusion of the Trophies. Each one of the 300 trophies is a 3-D fully modeled character, weapon, item, or idea from a Nintendo game past. While playing the game, you collect coins that can later be used to purchase the trophies through the use of a gumball machine type of slot. As the game progresses, the chances of earning new trophies decrease, while tossing in more and more coins increases this probability. You can also snag the physical trophies during the gameplay itself, as they randomly appear through the course of the game's Adventure mode.

The Adventure mode is akin to a typical platformer. You fight through Nintendo's worlds, encountering Smash Bros. characters to fight along the way. Most impressive to me was the very first level, The Mushroom Kingdom. Admittedly, it was tear-jerking seeing Link stomp on turtles and goombas while smashing bricks with his sword. There's also an Events mode, which is a challenges mode where you try to win by the computers rules. What's that? I forgot to mention the multiplayer mode? No, I didn't forget. I'm trying to save you. Stealing a line from another game box: the multiplayer mode is an "experience that will engulf your entire existence."

With the GameCube games list of releases thin for quite a while, you just gotta pick up this title. It's going to be one of the best games for the next few years to play with your friends; and it stands as an almost unsafe one-player experience as well. For the love of everything... Buy this game. Nintendo's in high school now, but this game is a snapshot of their Elementary days in all their innocent, beautiful, and memorable glory.

By Ray Paskus - 11/25/01
ESRB Details: Comic Mischief, Mild Violence
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Screenshots for Super Smash Bros. Melee

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