Friday, November 14, 2014

Super Smash Bros Retrospective: Melee

Immediately after the original Smash Bros, it didn't take long for a new iteration of the series to come out. Super Smash Bros. Melee released in the first few months after the Gamecube's launch and was the supposed "killer app" for the system. People were hyped as all hell for the game and after launch, it became one of the most successful fighting games of all time. People still play it to this day over other entries in the series and call it the best game in the series. I'm not in that camp.

Let's get all of the good about the game out first. In terms of gameplay, it is significantly better than the original Super Smash Bros. Characters move faster, control better, and everything feels a lot more tight. The music is great and well orchestrated, and the roster has doubled in size. Now the game features over 20 characters, with very few clones. Everything from a pure technical standpoint is much, much, much better, and I agree with most fans that it's a great game. It's a solid fighter through and through.

My main problem with the game is that the fans have hyped this game up to legendary status. People have said that it's one of the best fighting games ever made and that every aspect of the game is great. Tournament fighters play this game constantly and have mastered it to perfection. When I sit down to play the game though, I don't get that feeling. I just get that it's a solid fighting game, but it doesn't have the charm or aesthetic of the original.

The original Smash Bros. had a huge color palette and very bright and colorful stages. To me, Melee seems to have muted the color palette and made everything look more realistic. The grass looks more realistic. Mario's overalls look more realistic. And it's just jarring for me to watch. To me, it reaches "Uncanny Valley" territory for me visually. Is that a completely personal reason? Yes. I'm not going to deny it, but that's the first thing I see when I boot up the game. I see graphics that are attempting to look realistic and well done, but they haven't aged well to me at all and it just looks odd to me.

So do I don't like the game just for the visuals? Of course not. While I did say earlier that the gameplay is significantly better, the game is catered a lot more for people to practice and master it. It's not a pick up and play kind of game for me. It's a game where veterans can easily play the game and dominate all matches with very little balance for newbies. Now that's great for tournament players and is one of the key reasons why I think the game has endured for so long. But for simple pick up and play games, it's almost incredibly difficult to ever break out of third or fourth if you're up against an experienced player.

Is that a fault of me for just plain sucking at the game? Possibly, but this game just does not mesh with what my idea of Smash Bros is. To me, Smash Bros is a series that anyone can play easily. It's a fighting game that's actually accessible. Anyone can play easily and have a great time while doing it. Games like Street Fighter and Tekken rely more on button mashing for newbies to have a good time, and what's the fun in just randomly mashing buttons? Smash is big enough for players to experiment with a character, but even if they suck as a character they can still get some wins in. It's balanced in its chaos.

Melee doesn't have that balance in chaos. It has balance and order, which makes it more similar to Street Fighter and Tekken. It has too much balance to the point where if an expert just walked in on a few people playing Melee for the first time, he could decimate everyone and ruin the experience for the new players. I usually play as Jigglypuff with a few other friends, but when one of my good friends comes strolling in ready to play as Roy, he decimates everyone because he has mastered playing Roy, so we don't have fun constantly losing to him.

As personal as that may sound, that's why I'm just not nuts about Melee like other people. Do I think it's a great game? Of course. It gave Smash an event mode, All-Star Mode, Adventure Mode, trophies, and a slew of other features that people still talk about. But as an experience, I just don't have as much fun with it as other entries in the series. Now if you wanted my honest opinion, the perfect Smash game is Super Smash Bros Brawl, but I'll talk about that some other time. One more week until Super Smash Bros for Wii U....

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