Nintendo incites a "teddy bear" complex for me. I started playing
video games with the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Fifteen
years later my matured taste in games led me to buy a Playstation 2.
However, I keep coming back to Nintendo. I have an attachment to it, much
like people are attached to their old teddy bears.
|ESRB Rating: Teen (13+) Comic Mischief, Mild Violence
Despite the Teen rating, parents really shouldn't be too concerned to let the younger ones in on the action. There is no blood or gore gushing from characters, and no one dies. In fact, the violence doesn't move much beyond what one finds in the standard afternoon cartoon. See the game in action for yourself before making a decision. Diehard Nintendo fans will want to pick up this title. The game comes packed with video game nostalgia, like secret characters, fighting arenas and trophies of old Nintendo characters and items. Multiplayer GameCube owners should also consider Melee as a serious choice. The game supports several multiplayer scenarios for the Versus battles. Four people can battle at once, with different conditions for each match. For those who usually find themselves gaming alone, rent Melee first and see if you like it. The single player Adventure and Classic modes don't offer the same kind of fun found in the multiplayer modes. While the Adventure mode does tout about side-scrolling levels, there really are only three or four stages in which this feature applies. Single players have the option to face off against computer controlled opponents in the Versus mode, but the Smash Bros. series is best enjoyed with friends.
The teddy bear is commonly associated with youth. Nintendo, whether the
company has intended it or not, has also been tagged as the more
youth-oriented medium for video games, with cartoony characters like the
Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong and Pikachu. Child-like or not, the characters
have worked well for the company, and older gamers shouldn't be ashamed to
still enjoy them. Like the teddy bear, you may be too old to carry it
around, but you're not likely to throw it away.
Nintendo definitely doesn't throw anything away. It recycles, revamps and
repackages all its past successes into a game called Super Smash Bros.
Melee (Melee), which ends up being part game and part museum of all things
The premise behind the game is summed up in the title -- "Smash." The
whole point is to use a well-known Nintendo mascot to knock around another
well-known Nintendo mascot. Melee is essentially a fighting game, with a
touch of the side-scrolling platform games from yesteryear. A title like
this probably wouldn't gain much attention if Nintendo didn't use its
popular characters, some of which have been around nearly twenty years.
It's more than a little obvious the company is proud of its past successes.
Melee throws everything Nintendo has right in the player's face,
with characters, stages and trophies, representing characters ripped
straight from the pages of video game history.
However, it's not fair to say Melee is a mere self-congratulatory,
money-maker for Nintendo. It has a good deal of actual gameplay value,
though the game loses points in originality, as it seems to mainly be an
update of the Nintendo 64 Smash Bros. released a few years ago.
Melee does answer the question long-time Nintendo fans remember asking
themselves at some point: Who would win in a fight between Mario and Link?
But, the game doesn't give any further adventures of all our Nintendo
buddies. There isn't a story at all, unless a player decides to pull out a
lute and spin poetic yarns in between rounds. Video games, though, don't
have to be about telling compelling stories. Nintendo isn't known for
putting heart-wrenching drama in games anyway. The company does exceed in
producing titles that are fun to play, and it hits the mark again with Melee.
One aspect that puts Melee above the standard fighting game, comes from the
sheer enjoyment a player experiences while doing battle. I, personally, am
not a fan of most fighting games. Most of the time they put a player in a
rather constricted environment, with little freedom of movement. Melee, as
a fighting game, relaxes this feeling. The battle arenas are huge, giving
players more room to leap, bound, flip, shimmy and hurl objects at the
The fighting, itself, takes a comical approach, which Nintendo always seems
to favor. The graphical power of the GameCube presents this approach well.
It's been a few years since I played a new game featuring Mario or Link, and
I was pleased to see them looking better than ever. The attention to detail
on the character models is impressive. Even more impressing is the fact
that the detail isn't a cheap trick or an illusion. Zooming in on the
screen during gameplay, I saw that Mario's denim overalls relay the texture
of denim. Bowser, King of the Koopas, looks scaly. Link's Master Sword
comes etched with various markings, from the tip of the blade to the hilt.
Fox McCloud and Donkey Kong look fuzzy enough to pet. My only minor gripe
is that a few of the backgrounds and levels lack the same amount of detail
in comparison. This issue doesn't detract from the overall experience,
though. The game still looks good.
An important ingredient to add to a good-looking game is a decent
soundtrack. Nintendo has gone above decent for Melee, rearranging all the
themes from its past games into full orchestral scores. The music, like
much of the game, isn't original, but Nintendo fans, like me, definitely
appreciate the extra effort put into the compositions. My personal favorite
is the staccatoed Star Fox score. It screams of grand space adventure and
sounds nothing short of what one would hear in a movie theater. It's nice
to know the GameCube supports such excellent sound, as Nintendo, before, has
always fallen behind other game systems in quality soundtracks.
Overall, Melee is every bit as good as its Nintendo 64 predecessor.
The game doesn't expand much past that point, though. In short, if you've
played the original Smash Bros., you have a more than adequate idea of what
to expect from the GameCube incarnation. Yet, with so many classic Nintendo
characters in one place, there's always room for one more round. Consider
Melee to be the teddy bear, after it's been cleaned and had the eye sewn
back on. It still isn't the coolest toy in the closet, but it does
represent something special to gamers willing to admit it.
- Published February 20, 2002
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