Video Game Thoughts: Super Smash Bros. Melee

Super Smash Bros. Melee was a 2001 fighting game for the Nintendo GameCube by HAL Laboratory. The original Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 came out of nowhere. Nintendo didn’t make fighting games. I couldn’t imagine them making a great fighting game, but they did. When they announced they were making a sequel for the new GameCube console, I was immediately on-board. I imagined all the characters and fighting stages with high quality graphics. Nintendo didn’t let me down.

Super Smash Bros. Melee was one of my first GameCube games. It was a great start to the new console’s life. The graphics were just as good as I imagined. They had some really cool new stages plus some of the original ones. I spent hours playing as all the characters, mastering all their unique abilities. I loved pausing on the new stages and moving the control stick around to rotate the view. This was a truly 3D game.

I also loved the music in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Some of the music sounded like a real orchestra had played them. They were probably just synthesized, but most of the music was really high quality. Many times I’d just pause the game on a stage to listen to the music. I think they even had a music player in the game to play the music without needing to start a fighting match. Years after I had beaten the game, I still came back here and there to listen to the music again. The music consisted of remixes of almost all of Nintendo’s iconic game soundtracks. I could relive all my days as a young kid playing Nintendo games just by listening to this music.

Super Smash Bros. Melee was pretty much a complete upgrade over the original. It had all the content that was in the original plus tons of new features. For single player, they added a cool adventure mode that combined platforming segments with regular fighting levels and mini-games. Many of the fighting levels and mini-games were based on the character chosen to play as, adding a ton of replayability. After beating adventure mode, several of the mini-games unlocked for players to perfect their skills at them without having to play that longer game mode. I had a blast trying to beat them all with the various characters.

Another big new feature was the trophies. This was such a cool idea. While playing the game, little figurines sometimes appeared on the ground. The player could pick them up to add the trophy to their collection. Each trophy was a character, item, or some other object from one of Nintendo’s many famous games over the years. Super Smash Brother’s Melee was really a celebration of Nintendo’s past.

Some trophies required doing certain things. Other trophies required the player to have a save game in their memory card from another GameCube game. Most of the game modes awarded gold that the player could spend on the trophy lottery. It had a small chance to give a new trophy and a big chance to get a trophy the player already had, but the player could bet more gold to raise the percentage to 99%. I spent hundreds of hours getting all the trophies. I remember in the beginning, some trophies were so secret no one got them for years. It wasn’t until Nintendo Power started revealing some of the game’s secrets that players could finally complete the whole collection. It probably took me two years of off an on playing to get them all.

The new stuff didn’t stop there. Nintendo created many more stages for the game. There were probably two or three times as many characters too. Many characters started out hidden and had to be unlocked. Super Smash Bros. Melee was just a massive game. The old custom game mode was back with even more options to choose from. Even after I had unlocked and seen everything, I kept playing the custom mode. It was just so fun to create different scenarios. One level I’d play as Samus against a bunch of melee fighters and try to take them all out just with Samus’s big hand gun. Another level, I’d turn off all the items except the Baseball Bat, for a chaotic game of instant kills left and right. I never had many friends to play this game with, but it didn’t matter. I was occupied for hours just changing the game rules around. I couldn’t have hoped for a better game. It was pretty much perfect.

Unlike movie sequels, video game sequels have a lot of potential to be better. The developers are able to see what worked in the original game and what didn’t. They can then focus on what worked, polishing it to a mirror shine and adding lots more content. However, usually it is only the first sequel that does this. After the game has been polished, it’s hard to try something new in a sequel without alienating existing fans or making the game worse. I can think of so many game series, where the first sequel was the best in the series. It’s a pattern I saw so many times, I started paying more attention to the first sequel than the other sequels. It wasn’t always the case because some games took more sequels to become fully refined, but it was a good bet to make.

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