If you want a new and original video gaming experience, do not look to “Super Smash Bros. Melee.” Check out “Pikmin” or “Super Monkey Ball” for the GameCube, or “Frequency,” “Rez” and “Grand Theft Auto 3” on the Playstation 2 instead. But, if you want a game that is a blast to play with friends, is easy to get into, and cannot be beat as far as multi-player fighters go, “Smash Bros. Melee” cannot be beat.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Nintendo

Nintendo basically put the original N64 version of “Super Smash Bros.” on a diet of andro and creatine and came up with “Melee.” The game pits all of Nintendo”s most famous mascots such as Mario and Pikachu in deathmatches.

Differentiating “Melee” from other fighting games is how “falls” (kills) are performed rather than having to deplete an opponent”s life meter, the opponent has to be knocked off of the playing field, which is made easier the higher the damage he or she takes. Also, up to four people can play at the same time, something that no other major fighting game, save for the Xbox”s “Dead or Alive 3,” can boast.

Setting the game apart even further apart from typical fighters are the power-ups that litter the playing field, almost all of which are based upon actual Nintendo games. The power-ups range from health items such as Heart Containers (from the “Legend of Zelda” games) to offensive weapons such as the Super Scope (an actual light gun accessory for the Super Nintendo) and Pokballs, which spawn a random Pokmon.

There are 14 characters immediately playable, with 11 more unlockable, for a total of 25 usable characters once certain goals have been met. The other characters immediately playable range from well-known heroes such as Link, Donkey Kong and Samus to more obscure ones such the Ice Climbers (from the obscure game on the original Nintendo, and you control both of them at the same time) and Ness (from the Super Nintendo game “Earthbound”).

While most of the secret characters are clones of others just with tweaks to their speed and power, each character plays completely different from another, require unique strategies and offer something different to the gamer. Be it the hyper aggressive, counter-happy or anywhere in between, the wide variety in characters allows nearly everyone to find a character that is best suited to his or her style. And while it may be tempting to write off some characters such as Princess Zelda and Princess Peach as jokes, you”ll stop laughing when they”re knocking you out for the fifth time in as many minutes. These girls can hit. Hard.

The environments are all keyed to certain characters and are extremely varied, ranging from relatively calm and standard as far as fighters go (Pokmon Stadium) to almost like a platforming game, as the Ice Climber”s Infinite Glacier can attest.

One key difference in the environments as compared to the N64 version is that they generally are much smaller and have a lot going on. For example, on the Mute City F-Zero level, the fight takes place during a race, replete with cars zooming through the field of play and moving platforms. This makes for a far more frenetic pace and much more chaos in the course of the battle than could be found in the original “Smash Bros.” or any fighter, for that matter.

Melee features graphics that any game console would envy. It is clear that something of this caliber simply could not be made with lesser hardware. While it is not life-like (purposely), details such as the denim texture on Mario”s overalls are incredibly realistic. The characters are supremely fluid, with even long hair moving believably one of the tougher things to do in a video game.

The sound is also top notch. From remixes of the original “Mario” theme and the DK Rap from “Donkey Kong 64” to stirring renditions of the Overworld Theme from “The Legend of Zelda,” the score is simply incredible. Throw in sound effects that are spot-on, and you get a game that is as sure to please aurally as visually.

The heart of the game is the multi-player. There are several different modes to choose from: Stock (set limit of lives per player), time (most number of kills in a given amount of time), coin (get as many coins by beating opposing players up as much as possible in a certain amount of time) and bonus (most style points wins). Up to four people can play, but the computer can take any unfilled slots, if you wish.

If there is one weak spot in this game, it has to be the single-player mode. It is impossible to realize within the first few minutes of playing the single-player game that this game, as well as its predecessor, was meant to be a multi-player game, pure and simple. It is not that there isn”t a lot to do there is.

“Melee” boasts not only a version of the single-player mode from the original, but also a new “adventure” mode, an event mode that places the player in special circumstances, several training modes and 300-plus trophies that feature characters, objects, places and moments from Nintendo”s illustrious past. They can only really be collected by going through the single player games dozens upon dozens of times. The real question is, why would anyone bother with it once all the secret characters and stages have been achieved?

Having said that, no GameCube library can be considered complete without this game. As many other reviewers have stated, Melee is Nintendo”s ultimate self-tribute, and the attention to detail is simply ridiculous. “Super Smash Bros. Melee” is the ultimate party game. The game is simply a riot to play with friends. “Tekken Tag Tournament” or “Marvel Vs. Capcom 2” may beat “Melee” in technical ability, and “Dead or Alive 3” may be prettier, but none can top it in fun, and isn”t that why we play games in the first place?

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