Am I my brother's smasher?
The din of the battle was thunderous. Screams of bloody murder arose from the battlefield like smoke from a fire, yet my fallen comrades' pleas for help fell on deaf ears as I doggedly chopped a path through the enemy to reach my goal: the evil Rat King. His death would end the war.
His minions had swarmed over my homeland in a matter of days, hypnotizing the young with their bright colors and exciting, foreign names. The invaders made slaves of the parents as well, forcing them to forfeit their possessions in order to satisfy the needs of their enslaved children. My country had once been proud and strong, but now all bowed before the electrically charged might of the ferocious yet warm and cuddly yellow rodent that stood before me.
He backed away like a caged animal, pausing for one brief moment to examine his new foe. The creature seemed unsure of what to make of my cherry red hat, my tight suspenders, my bushy mustache and plumber's boots. Was I another king? Another ruler? Another god? The Rat King couldn't seem to figure out why I had survived his onslaught, and why the gleam in my eye was not fading into fear.
With a gleeful 'Kiyai!' and the swing of a bat, I sent the giant mouse back to its maker. The war had ended. We had won...
...or so I thought, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted another warrior, a pink, bulbous one, a warrior who for some strange reason looked a lot like a big pink gumball...
Welcome to Super Smash Bros. Melee, the only game in the world that lets you finally take out your aggression towards the sickeningly sweet mascots that have terrorized gaming consoles since the dawn of the computer age. Finally, a way to get back at Pikachu for ruining Burger King!
In truth, there's more to enjoy about Super Smash Melee than just kicking mascot butt. This is a well-designed and very smooth upgrade to its N64 forebear. While it surely won't appeal to the Tekken heads, it's a great fit for those who swear by Samus and die by Donkey Kong
The cast has expanded greatly since the first game. In addition to famous stars like Mario, Link, DK, Pikachu, Peach and Starfox, you'll also get old school favorites like The Ice Climbers, Ness, and Captain Falcon. With a slew of unlockable characters as well, there's nice variety.
The basic gameplay is largely identical to the original. You pick a mascot and begin whomping other mascots into the stratosphere using an assortment of simple fighting moves and tons of power-up items. The Classic game mode is the same as the old game, taking you through a series of battles culminating in a boss battle against, once again, the dumb Giant Hand.
Super Smash Melee offers some new modes, however, that buff out the single-player experience. The most notable is Adventure mode, which adds a few little platform levels to the Classic mode. You'll scroll left to right jumping on some Goombas, fight an occasional battle, then run off to explore a small underground maze, after which you'll fight another battle, etc. Adventure mode certainly has its moments - playing as Samus feels a little like old Metroid games - but the adventure is the same regardless of the character you choose. I wish they made this character-specific as it would have greatly extended the life of the mode. Instead, it's just a longer version of Classic mode.
There's also a collection of single-player events like 'Home Run Contest' where you smack a sandbag as far as you can and 'Target Test', in which you must smash 10 targets within a certain time. There's also a collection of 'Event' matches that pit you in special situations, like beating a character within 10 seconds. The wealth of modes makes this a much more fulfilling game to play alone.
The core fighting is the same as before. Each character has the same attack buttons, though the effects vary from fighter to fighter. This makes it easy to switch characters, but it takes time to familiarize yourself with the more useful moves. As you beat up other guys, their damage percentile increases. When it gets high enough, you can wallop them off the level by smacking 'em with a strong attack. Again, it's pretty much a rehash of the original.
But not in terms of level design. Though the first game had intersting levels, the new game offers a wider variety. Some feature stunning background animations, while others are multi-tiered (the Zelda Castle level just rules). A few levels even move around and require you to stay on the screen, making you battle gravity as well as your opponent. These wind up being more irritating than fun, though.
Although it feels the same as its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Melee takes advantage of the Gamecube's power with unbelievably smooth action. The fighting takes place on 2-dimiensional levels with 3-dimensional characters. In other words, the fighters look great but the combat is strictly 2D. The framerate is rock solid, the colors are vibrant and fun, and the explosions and lighting are nifty. The quality is palpable and classic Nintendo.
The game also sounds right, with the appropriate character specific growls and dialogue. You'll hear some familiar old themes along the way, like the Metroid theme and, surprisingly, the theme from Legend of Zelda 2 on the NES.
Tack on enough multiplayer options to satisfy a gaggle of Yoshis and Super Smash adds yet another feather to its hat. In addition to basic Vs. mode, you can set up a 64 player Tournament or beat up buddies in the 10 Special Melee matches, which include styles like 'Giant Melee' (giant-sized fighters) or the entertaining 'Slo-Mo Melee', which lets you watch each move in its animated glory.
But again, Tekken and Virtua Fighter fanatics will find the combat system too shallow to be very fun. I think that's sort of unfair, as Super Smash plays more like a party game than a traditional fighting game. It supports up to 4 at a time, and since you're all on the same screen there's no problem with split-screen slowdown. It can get a bit hectic, but it's genuinely fun smacking each other about on the smart levels.
Although the heart of the game has changed very little, Super Smash Bros. Melee offers enough new modes and characters to be considered a worthy sequel. Fans of the original simply must own it, and I'd recommend newbie Gamecube owners to give it a shot. Even if you hate Pikachu with a passion, take solace in knowing you get to kick his ass a little.