This is the ninth part in a series with Caffeine, you can view his part on Smash 64 here.
In honor of Brawl’s release this Sunday (2 MORE DAYS!!!!!), we’re doing a special Point/Counterpoint this week. Back in college, I found that gamers were divided into two camps. Those who played Smash for the N64, and those who played Melee. The Melee kids refused to play the older version, and the 64 kids refused to play Melee. We’re hoping to put this debate to rest. Which version is better? The answer is clear. It’s Melee.
Today’s Topic: Melee vs. 64
For people who started playing the 64 version of Smash and never stopped, this article is going to seem like blasphemy. Content in their protective shell of nostalgia, these gamers refuse to acknowledge that Melee is, in fact, a fantastic game. Instead of bashing the 64 version (which is a good game anyway), I’m going to explain why the added features of Melee make it a worthy sequel to the original Smash, and why these additions make it the superior game.
I’ll start with the easy one: Melee includes every single character from the original game, and then adds 15 brand new characters. Unlike Brawl, no previous characters were left out. You get the full roster of the original, plus a bunch of bonuses. Sure, some of them have been tweaked from their original forms (mostly in the name of balance), but they’re all still there with their original moves intact. Additionally, some of the best characters in Smash Brothers are Melee characters: Zelda/Sheik, Marth, Mr. Game and Watch (SAUSAGE FEST!!!!!!!). You won’t find them in the original.
Additionally, the stages of Melee easily beat the stages of the 64 version. Some of the better 64 stages are faithfully recreated in Melee, and others are replaced by even better stages. Sure, Hyrule castle was good in the original, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Temple. Peach’s Castle in the original was pretty awful, (seriously, WTF is up with the floating ramps? They have no business being there) but Peach’s Castle in Melee is fantastic. Sure, there are a couple really bad stages in Melee like Flat Zone or Icicle Mountain, but with 29 playable stages, Melee easily wins this competition over the meager 9 stages that the 64 version offers.
Smash Attacks and Side Specials
In my opinion the best addition to the series, Smash Attacks are a clear example of what puts Melee above the original in terms of straight gameplay. Adding a new strategic element to Smash Bros., they’ve now become a staple of the series. Aside from expanding each character’s moveset and making them unique, Smash Attacks also expanded the use of items, with many having a different/stronger effect when smashed. Similarly, the addition of side specials (specials done while holding left/right and pushing the special move button), a feature which should have been in the original, was a welcome expansion. These added techniques, rather than adding unnecessary complication to the series, opened the door to new strategies and playstyles and helped to balance out the characters by giving them an expanded movelist.
Single Player & the Stadium Modes
Finally, Melee had a MUCH better selection of both single-player modes as well as mini-games. While classic is very similar to the original single player of Smash 64, the addition of Adventure, All-Star, and Event mode make Melee a much more enjoyable solo experience than the first game. While playing against the computer in either Smash game gets pretty boring, especially once you get good enough to easily defeat computer opponents on Lv. 9, the alternatives are actually still fun, even if you’re good. I still enjoy the variety of stages of Adventure, or trying to complete the specific tasks of Event mode.
Additionally, Melee has a much better mini-game selection. While the original had Break the Targets as well, the Melee stages have much better design, and the larger number of characters means it takes a lot longer for you to get bored of playing the same ones over an over again. The only other mode that Smash 64 had was the awful “stand on a platform!” game, which I won’t say anything about other than that it was awful. Aside from Break the Targets, Melee also has the Sandbag game, which is always fun to pick up and play and never really gets old (As long as you don’t play it for an hour a day every day.) It’s short, it’s satisfying, and there’s always incentive to try to break your previous record with each character. The final Stadium event, multi-man melee, is really more of a full single player mode, and also quite enjoyable. No matter how good of a Smash player you are, you’ll still get knocked around pretty badly in Cruel Melee, and you can always do better.
Melee is Clearly Better
In short, Melee takes everything good about the original Smash Brothers (which is most of it), discards the tiny amount of fail, then adds tons of new content and gameplay mechanics that are, for the most part, epic. If you enjoyed the first game, there is no legitimate reason as to why you wouldn’t enjoy all the improvements of Melee. Complaining about the new features being too complicated and complex, in my opinion, is just stubborn clinginess to nostalgia, and those games are going to be seriously disappointed in Brawl. Just as Melee was the perfect successor to the original, and a better game, I expect Brawl to be even better than Melee. Nintendo knows that they’ve done something right with the Smash Brothers franchise, and they know exactly what’s needed to make the game better. Melee got it right, and from the reports from Japan and people who’ve gotten their hands on a copy early here (You lucky bastards), Brawl is going to blow Melee out of the water.