Title  : Super Smash Bros. Melee
Platforms  : Nintendo GameCube
Publisher  : Nintendo
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 8.9
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Nintendo has spent the last twenty years building an impressive portfolio of characters, from plumbers to princesses. This famous cast has gathered in one impressive display of force in Super Smash Bros. Melee, for the Nintendo GameCube. 

This 2D fighting game joins Nintendo's most popular icons with obscurer characters. Up to four gamers can play simultaneously as Mario, Zelda, and Pikachu, as well as Ice Climbers, Dr. Mario, and Falco, among others. Each fighter has unique strengths and attacks, both hand-to-hand and long-range. 

Unlike most fighting games, these moves are executed using identical controller movements for every character. There are no complex combos or intricate motions to memorize. Gamers accustomed to a more complicated fighting system may be disappointed in Smash Bros., but only if they mistake simplicity for shallowness. The number of characters (at least two dozen) makes for a variety of attacks and combinations to master, as do the landscapes: each character is represented in his or her homeland, be it Donkey Kong's jungles or the airship of Star Fox, with its own layout and pitfalls. 

The one-player mode is even more a tour de force of Nintendo's greatest hits. The Adventure Mode alternates between standard melee and side-scrolling action through familiar locales, such as the Mushroom Kingdom and escape from the planet Zebes. Some of these reincarnations don't capture the essence of their origins, instead taking stabs at new adventure in familiar settings — which is often close enough. Additional modes include goal-based events and stadium training sessions. 

The many methods of play and secrets to unlock amounts to a nearly overwhelming replay value. The offerings for the solo gamer have been greatly expanded since the original Smash Bros. game, but even that can grow stale after awhile. The true fun lies in the multiplayer mode, where a gaggle of friends can compete with or against each other, in anything up to a 64-person tournament ladder. 

More features have been crammed into the game since the first Smash Bros., but the gameplay has changed little. When actually fighting, the most drastic change is in the graphics. The landscapes are larger and more detailed, with more background activity and more special effects. When the stage is littered with combatants and armaments, it can sometimes become difficult to pick out your fighter. Generally, the color and detail add to, and do not detract from, the experience. 

The music contributes to the nostalgic atmosphere. Almost every level is set to music Nintendo has unearthed and remastered, even if it's from faintly-remembered games such as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. 

Super Smash Bros. may not offer the mature and varied fighting system fans of Tekken, Soul Calibur, or even Street Fighter might expect, but it does offer plenty else to almost all audiences — including a veritable museum of Nintendo history. Especially at parties, this game is sure to be a smash hit.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 17-Dec-01