Smash Bros. Melee Preview

 Gamestyle Archive Intro: another GS preview from August 2001 when we were all waiting for this new Nintendo series. Writer JJ.

Smash Bros. Melee
Version: Gamecube
Developer: Nintendo/HAL
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Beat ’em up
Players: 1-4
Accessories: TBA
Release: November 2001


One thing that is for sure about the video games industry is that it is far from predictable.   Certainly some firms are more painfully obvious than others i.e. Electronic Arts but once in a while a developer will surprise us all.   Super Smash Bros. on the N64 was a big surprise, Nintendo doing a beat ‘em up, involving their most famous characters?   Unbelievable and frankly stupid were my first thoughts when I first heard this amazing news.   Rather than go down the Way of the Exploding Fist style of fighting, Nintendo took a different approach.

For a machine that lacked a single decent fighting game for most of its life, Super Smash Bros. on the N64 was its only shining light and showed that when Nintendo decide to make a game, more often than not it is excellent – no matter what genre they choose.   Smash Bros. Melee continues the Nintendo practice of exploiting their back catalogue through sequels or side projects.   For some a sequel on launch day is an unusual choice, given the range of games that they had to pick from.   Yet perhaps it’s an admission that not having a decent fighting game blighted the N64 and the Gamecube must have a decent fighter from day one.

The most important aspect of any fighting game is the control system deployed by the developer.  Arguments ensue about which fighting game has the best method but Gamestyle just doesn’t care.   The ideal system is one that is firmly of a pick up and play nature but has enough depth to keep the fighting fans occupied and offer combinations.   The Gamecube controller is far more suited to this genre than the N64 version ever was.   This is perhaps a reason why the developer has upgraded the fighting system as the amount of control is greatly improved.   The original was very much offensive with little time for tactical or defensive fighting styles.   Now you can block by using moves of your own or have the ability to evade and deflect opponent’s attacks.   This will no doubt result in longer battles with the most skilful player being victorious rather than the first to pull off a special move but will it affect the offensive hungry American market?  No more Attack! Attack! Attack! Kill! Kill! Kill! But instead tactical, stylish, cunning and skilful – just like Gamestyle UK!

Along with the excellent Powerstone series, Super Smash Bros. was the only fighting game to achieve a playable four-player mode.   The fighting genre needed some fresh ideas and both these titles found new fans amongst gamers.   The intense battles to be had in the original are only perhaps equalled by 2D fighting games for their speed and ferocity.   For the 128bit version Nintendo are once again plundering their back catalogue to bring us new characters.   Each character will have new multiplayer levels and this includes the hidden characters.   While new characters are included several old ones will be available once again (as Mario, DK, Link, Yoshi, Ness, and Pikachu) complete with new special moves.   Unlike the single player mode the multiplayer has been tweaked rather than radically altered.  More options are available to allow you create the game you wish to play including Tournament and custom rules – standard options in first person shooters for sometime now.   Settings can be altered on handicap, stages, damage percentage and more items to choose from.

The game promises to offer plenty of modes to give the fighting fans happy for many months to come.   While not much is known about the Tournament mode it we expect that it will include a league championship format with player records ongoing – 64 players in total!  I wonder how they came to the number 64?   The Melee mode is a straightforward hit anything that moves option with the victor being the last person standing.  The Decision and Coin modes offer new gameplay elements that do not involve beating your opponents senseless.   Decision mode introduces tactical elements into the game.   Whereas before characters could use their special attacks whenever possible this mode places a limit on the number of times the effective moves can be implemented.   The mode is scored on the basis points given for combo moves rather than kills.   The advantage of this is that it forces the player to become experienced with a character of their choice.   The Coin Mode has coins raining down from the top of the screen and in this game the winner is the player with most coins.   Whether the rumoured Sonic character is actually in the game, the coin mode is perhaps a nod to the Sega mascot otherwise why not use gold rings?           

As with most fighting games the single player mode on the original was limited and only useful to unlock the hidden characters.   To address this problem the developers have made the levels more interactive by including platform elements.   Perhaps we can expect this to be a Nintendo version of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with the fighters flying across the screen.   Each level as mentioned previously will be true to your opponent character.  Link will found in an underground maze but before you can take on the Nintendo hero you will have to fight your way past several Redead and Octorocks.   Of course no Zelda level would be complete without platforms and playing each level should bring back memories (good and bad) of the original Nintendo games.

So far this is one of the best looking games on the Gamecube that we have seen, in fact it is stunning.   Everything has been given an overhaul including the animation and character details.   The Gamecube has provided some excellent 3D and lighting demos so far and this game delivers on both.   Nintendo want you to beat up their flagship characters but want them to look good in the process.  The only drawback that we can note is perhaps the game camera focuses too closely to the characters making them appear too big.   Perhaps this is just a setting to show the game off rather than an actual problem we will have to wait and see.

It will be interesting to see how the game compares graphically to the forthcoming PS2 duo of Virtua Fighter 4 and Tekken 4.   While all are firmly placed in the fighting genre, Nintendo have taken a more fun approach combined with the four-player madness, which makes it such an exciting title and once again a refreshing change.     


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