Super Smash Bros. Melee

released on Nov 21, 2001

Super Smash Bros. Melee is the second installment in the Super Smash Bros. series and the follow-up to the Nintendo 64 title. It includes all playable characters from the first game, and also adds characters from franchises such as Fire Emblem, of which no games had been released outside Japan at the time. Super Smash Bros. Melee builds on the first game by adding new gameplay features and playable characters: it's major focus is the multiplayer mode, while still offering a number of single-player modes.

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Nothing ever made me feel more powerful than using Donkey Kong's down special to breeze through 100 man melee

Surprisingly really fun, I thought everyone was over-exaggerating how good this game was but I actually agree. Adventure mode was pretty cool, and the many different kinds of move combos and playsets from the different fighters is really cool. The roster is fine, I think that the inclusion of Pichu and Dr. Mario were strange but I'm not complaining. And no, I don't have nostalgia bias, this is an honest review from someone who just played this game. Definitely my favorite smash entry.

Man... I just love this game. I love (almost) everything about it. I love what it means to me as an individual, and what it represents to the broader gaming community. But what I might love the most about it is what I imagine it must mean to Nintendo, and how they inadvertently opened Pandora's box when going all in on "which one of [their] most popular characters should be ready to appear in games". This game is a freak of nature, and a perfect representation of how what you don't plan for is ultimately more important than what you do.
I remember the first time I ever saw Melee. It was on display at a Gamecube kiosk at our local Kmart, and I only managed to catch a glimpse of it as my dad dragged me along to go try on some shoes. From a distance, I could clearly make out what looked like a collection of Nintendo's finest, including Bowser and Zelda. Zelda! The Legend of Zelda was my favorite game series at the time (still is) and I had also spent a ton of time playing Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64. I immediately recognized that I must have been looking at a new entry in the series, but alas, my dad was in no mood to babysit me while I messed around in the game aisle. This was before I had Internet privileges, and I didn't know anybody else who owned a Gamecube, so it remained in the back of my head as a specter of what might be.
A year or so later, I remember stepping into Hollywood Video with my dad and spotting Melee sitting on the shelf. My brother and I had since gotten a Gamecube for Christmas, and finally seeing the game in person - in arm's reach - made me more excited than I could bear. I practically had to beg my dad to let me check it out, as he quickly pointed to the "T for Teen" rating, which I was a couple of years shy of being allowed to play. I managed to negotiate with him that we owned the original and this couldn't possibly be anything much more "adult" by comparison, to which he had to concede. Still proud of that one.
Then we got it home, and we played it. And yeah, what can I say? It was everything the original Smash Bros was and more. I loved the first game, and still do (it still has a very distinct vibe, and none of the other games have quite managed the same level of satisfying slapstick), but Melee back then made 64 look like a beat up Pinto by comparison. All the new stages, modes, and characters. Most every unlockable was a shock to me, and I nearly lost my mind when I discovered that Ganondorf was playable. And yeah, I had the same "who?" reaction everybody else did when I got around to unlocking Marth and Roy. It may as well have been the perfect game.
Well, time passes, and sequels happen. The whole of Smash has turned into a game of serial escalation, with each one bringing new "wow" moments that are scientifically calculated to get people talking. Brawl knocked down the walls by showing that anybody could potentially be in Smash, with Sonic and Solid Snake joining the fight alongside Mario and Samus, and from that point forward it more a question of who wouldn't appear. Cloud and Sephiroth? Terry Bogard and Ken Masters? The Belmont Clan? Banjo and Kazooie? Sora? The Duck Hunt Duo?
Ultimate made the point of bringing everybody back in and then some, and while features have slipped in and out and the overall amount of content has expanded in a way you would generally assume of a crossover title, Smash has more or less remained the same. You ooh and ahh at all the new faces, then grab a few controllers and get to beating up your buddies. It's good, clean fun, and has been since 1999. It was fated to be a runaway success.
But that was then, and this is the now. Nobody's innocence can last forever. As a kid, all I cared about was jumping in with Link and slashing up anything in my path. I was ignorant to the secrets beneath my feet - the rules that composed the universe I was living in. Smash was Smash, and nothing more. It never needed to be anything else.
Then I discovered Bizzarro Flame.
I think I first saw a video of him competing back in my junior year of high school. The way he was able to move Ganondorf across Battlefield - the sliding, the leaping, the styling - he made the Great King of Evil look like the powerful warlock he was always meant to be. I was in awe at all the tricks he was able to pull off. All of these things I thought were impossible in Smash. I thought I understood the game. It was that day I realized I knew nothing.
But I wasn't entirely incorrect in my assumptions. Such feats of wizardry weren't possible in Brawl, or Smash 4, or even Ultimate. Only in the realm of Melee, that strange and miraculous game from my childhood, was godhood achievable. Back then, though, I didn't care to participate. I didn't have time. There were bigger, more important games that needed my attention. I was content to watch, and watch I did.
But fast forward to the present, and I'm right there with so many others, Slippi running on my computer, Gamecube controller gripped tightly in my hand while I practice my edge cancelling and my moonwalking and, of course, my koopabackdashwaveslidehoverwalkmoonlands. I've elected to represent Ganondorf as well, having for the first time in my life moved away from his heroic counterpart (Link, not Captain Falcon, of course). He just feels right to me. I love that he maintains the style and flash of the Cap while hitting like a truck. Is he difficult to play well? Absolutely. Does he get absolutely trashed by most top tiers? Yes again. But I have improved a lot - visibly so - and even still, I have so much further to go. It's that seemingly unreachable skill ceiling and the pleasure of executing a challenging tech that keeps me coming back. I love Ultimate, and all of the other Smash games as well. Each one has their charm, even if some are tighter experiences than the rest. But Melee just has a spirit and a freeform energy to it that the others don't.
I can happily pick up a controller to jump into Ultimate to play with my pals, but as soon as I'm interested in trying, it immediately starts to feel lackluster. My brain just craves the power and freedom Melee gives me in expressing my personal play style. Melee has yet to be replicated, and there's a very good reason for that: This was never meant to happen. What I remember enjoying about Melee as a kid is exactly what Nintendo intended for me. Things have gone completely off the rails, and nobody could have anticipated it.
Certainly not Nintendo. Not in a million years. Nintendo crafts experiences - they have a goal in mind for their games, and that vision is what they want to hit store shelves. Nintendo wanted to make a fun, broadly appealing platform fighter showing off all of their classic IPs for the first time on their shiny new console. In that respect, I think it's more than fair to say that they succeeded. But they rushed it. They got sloppy. They didn't tune things up the way that we've come to expect from them. And that is all it took - a few quirks of the physics, some funny mechanical interactions... That was the death blow. People dug their fingers in and pried back the sleek facade, and unleased the monster hiding within. And Nintendo realized something very important that day: If you leave the door open for people to break your game, they will break it. It just so happens that breaking Melee turned it into a completely different game, and the rest is history.
I don't really want to get into that history, because it's messy. Hell, the present is still messy. There's a ton of fantastic moments along the path leading to today, and at its best, Melee's community is one of the most empowering and uplifting of any game I've ever experienced. But when it's bad, it's bad. Really bad. And Nintendo has a complicated relationship with the game and its community, as well. They nervously side-eye it wherever it appears, slipping meagre placations to fans in both its new games and its official "support" for the original game. But even setting aside the actively malicious attempts Nintendo makes at shutting down the things they don't like, the truth is they never really stood a chance anyways. Nintendo made Melee, and the people who play it make Melee. Ninty could never possibly recreate what made this game so powerful because they never meant to do it in the first place. It's the least Nintendo game Nintendo has ever made. As a result, they'll probably never try - and maybe that's for the best. Melee is a flash in the pan, an absolute anomaly. It may very well live forever, and as long as it does, I'm not sure there's any sense in trying to replace it. I love Smash as a whole, but Melee really is something special, and even if I don't love everything surrounding it, I'm still glad it exists.
I'm not even going to bother giving this a score. For me, it's an easy five out of five. It never loses its edge. As a Smash game - most people would still rather pick up the latest entry than ever go back to this one except for the nostalgia factor. It exists in its own little dimensional pocket. It's handily one of my favorite games ever, but not for the same reasons I love most other games.

Often people call melee overrated and that it is only fun for competitive play, I think this might be slightly true, the people who love this game the most usually just love it for its high skill ceiling and competitive play, but I believe this mindset sells melee short. Melee is still fun to play casually with friends, or even in singleplayer, the core mechanics present in this game are still really quite fun, and the amount of details and content in this game is something to be appriciated.