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Super Smash Brothers Melee
HAL Labs
Any game where you can lay the smack down on Pichu with an 800-pound gorilla (or vice versa) is okay in my book.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Super Smash Brothers Melee
By Ridwan Khan

Sumo… with Nintendo characters. It seems like such a simple concept. How could such a basic idea bring so much pleasure? However, with a keen eye for detail, HAL Labs makes a simple idea into the ultimate party game.

For the uninitiated, Smash Brothers features many of Nintendo's most famous characters, including (but not limited to) Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby, and the bubbly Pikachu in an all out brawl. Nintendo gets by the stigma of having its beloved characters beating on each other by having some garbage about the fighters being toys or some nonsense. But who cares, in the end it's a lot of Nintendo mascots beating the stuffing out of each other. Smash Bros. differs from normal fighting games in that rather than having a set limit on health, the point of the game is to send your opponent flying off the screen. The more damage your opponent takes, the higher and farther he or she will fly, increasing your chances of knocking him out of the ring.

In the quest to send your fellow players flying across the screen, numerous aids come onto the screen. These helpful (or harmful, depending on which end of them you're on) are extremely powerful and can make or break a match. The wonder is the novelty of the various items; everything from the standard fire flowers to Pokeballs (out of which come a myriad of Pokemon), to the fabled Super Scope. Rather than being more or less similar, each of the items is unique and has to be used in a different manner.

For anyone with familiar the original Smash Brothers game for the Nintendo 64, Melee retains all of its predecessor's strengths. The Gamecube's four controller ports make Melee an instant party hit (assuming of course that one has four controllers). Everyone, of course, has a favorite character (I tend to gravitate towards Mario, Pikachu, and Kirby, myself). It also retains the bright colors and sharp graphics of the original game, but improves them a hundred fold on Nintendo's new hardware.

Melee adds dozens of new features, including a one-player adventure mode, in addition to the adventure mode from the original. The original adventure mode had you square off against fighters in what was essentially a versus battle with the computer (with some special stipulation matches). The GC adventure mode is a hybrid of the original and of Super Mario Bros. It basically combines the fighting matches and a 2-D platform adventure on certain levels. The detail on the fighters is amazing; you can see the denim on Mario's overalls and the light bouncing off of Kirby's rotund body. As an early GC title, Melee is an impressive showcase for the machine's graphical prowess.

The gameplay itself is amazing. The game features a dozen or so stages that are famous landmarks in Nintendo history. For example, you can play on Green Greens from Kirby's Adventure or on top of the Great Fox (an upgrade from the Nintendo 64 version), just to name two spectacular levels. The levels tend to have unique touches, some merely graphically (Cranky Kong in one of Donkey Kong's levels or the huge stadium screen in the Pokemon stadium), others far more functional (Bullet Bills in the Princess Peach's castle that crash into the scenery and explode or the barrels that can shoot you back onto screen in Donkey Kong's level). The levels themselves change in more drastic fashion. Three levels, the Ice Climbers, Mario's Airship, and the secret Poke Floats, borrow the platforming-style layout of the Adventure mode, while the screen moves on fixed path, making for a dynamic and exciting brawl.

The game also features a number of extra modes, including event matches or matches with special stipulations. One event match has you face a number of Pikachu in the Pokemon stadium level with the only weapon at your disposable being Pokeballs. Another has you fight on top of Majora's Mask; winning in that event will earn the Majora's Mask Trophy. The numerous Melee modes include Giant Melee in which all the characters are huge, and Style battle, in which players win on the number of points they get, not the number of kills they make.

The game is also replete with secrets. These include a large number of secret characters and levels. These include levels from F-Zero (an absolutely great level on which the battles take place on the cars) and Zelda, plus characters like Luigi, Dr. Mario, Young Link, Falco, Pichu, MewTwo, and an ultra secret character from Nintendo's past. It also includes an addictive trophy mode. The trophies are basically pictures of Nintendo characters, locales, items, etc. along with a bit of background text, usually history. For someone that came of age in the Nintendo generation, it's a walk down memory lane ("WAAAH, it's Kid-frickin'-Icarus!"). The more trophies you win and actually recognize, the more you realize what a nerd you are.

If you have a Gamecube, you must buy this game. But I'm preaching to the choir; surely if you have a Gamecube, you already have this game. But if you had any enjoyment from the original Smash Bros. (or if you can quote the Donkey rap!), don't pass this game up.

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