Looking Back on Super Smash Bros. Melee
Super Smash Brothers Melee was released in 2001 and is the second game of the franchise. Developed by HAL Laboratory, the game is a fighting game that pits flagship Nintendo characters against one another as players try send one another out of the stage boundaries. Of course, this is the textbook description of Melee, a game whose reputation would evolve over its life span to fundamentally change the game’s legacy and competitive gaming as a whole. With Smash Ultimate less than six months away, I’d like to revisit Melee, identifying what works, what doesn’t, and overall how it shaped the series as a whole.
Melee is a fast game. Characters move quickly, and attacks hit hard, often leading to fast matches between skilled players. Once said players began learning advanced techniques like wave dashing (players air doging to the ground at a specific angle to cover short distances quickly) the game became even faster. This makes fights frantic but not chaotic. Melee requires precise inputs and proper spacing in order to succeed.Melee was a large improvement upon the original Smash Bros. formula. Multiple new characters were added, like fan favorites Roy and Mewtwo. New modes like event matches were added, giving more options for single player challenges. Stages with less hazards were implemented, making competitive play more viable, and the gamecube controller itself was a much easier tool to use than the N64’s (a given).
Credit: TeamSpooky on YouTube
It’s this competitive play that needs to be touched on, as Melee is one of the oldest fighting games still played competitively to this day (alongside fighting game classics like Super Turbo), having a spot in this year’s Evolution Fighting Game Tournament seventeen years after its initial release. This is due to Melee’s passionate community, constantly supporting the game in various forms, be it fan projects like Project M, to creating charity events. The competitive scene was so influential it went on to impact the creative development of future games, such as the most recent entries in the series (Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS and the upcoming Smash Ultimate) being developed by fighting game veterans Namco Bandai, of Tekken fame. Smash 4 allowed for all flat stages (removing stage hazards) and the upcoming Smash ultimate has furthered this by allowing stages to keep their original structure minus hazards, to increase the selection of stages scene in play.
Melee is not without its faults however. The C stick only does raw smash attacks, meaning charging your smash attacks can only be done by charging the attack button with a direction (leading to some input errors from time to time), and this is further complicated when playing event modes which designates the c stick to control the camera. Certain criteria are also a grind. Mewtwo takes 200 hours to complete, and Final Destination (one of the main stages used in competitive play) is only accessible after completing all 51 event matches, with some being much more difficult than others. Other requirements ask that you beat every character’s break the targets stage. While these challenges aren’t impossible, they can be annoying.
Melee created a legacy never intended. What started as a sequel played in family living rooms has transformed into prize matches on stages at events known around the world, with players practicing day and night to be the best. It’s quite often for a franchise’s players to jump to the new game after launch, as seen with games like Street Fighter and Injustice, but seventeen years and almost three games later, Melee has withstood the test of time and is still a topic amongst not only the Smash community but the larger FGC as a whole. This staying power is something that makes Melee and its community almost as iconic as the cast of characters found within it.