With brawl looming this weekend, Aerox and I decided we’d take a look back at the two previous games in the series, each of us has our favorite, for Aerox’s article on Melee, you can read on here.
In 1999, Nintendo released the first installment of the Smash Brothers series, adding another 8ball of multiplayer crack-cocaine to the N64’s already stellar library. Two summers were wasted in four man multiplayer, amid arguments about cheap characters, banning each other from playing certain characters, and it wouldn’t be live multiplayer if a near fistfight didn’t break out at least once.
An untested concept, Nintendo took a gamble contracting Hal-Laboratories to create a unique fighting game using their IP. While Melee may have expanded on the roster and side games, I feel like it was a step back in terms of gameplay and balance. While I’ve enjoyed some of my time with Melee and it is by no means bad, I just don’t think it really stuck to the spirit of the old game.
While it doesn’t have the same numbers that Melee does, before it got to the astronomical popularity it enjoys today, there were only twelve playable characters, four of which were unlockable. The roster was more concise, had no clones, and above all had no absolutely worthless characters. And as much as your friends might have laughed at you for playing Jigglypuff, that moment when you accidently discovered falling asleep on them was a near instant knockout, they were quickly silenced.
While 64 didn’t have nearly the fan service that Melee did, it still had in my opinion more than enough head nods to series that weren’t as popular as Mario and Zelda. In particular the inclusion of Ness and Captain Falcon were a great nod to series that were not as popular in the US. Keeping the roster tight as well kept character’s move sets from overlapping each other and this inclusion of a lot of ‘clone’ characters in Melee took away from the game after the novelty of having additional characters wore off.
Tool Assisted, but still sweet
While Melee was all about wave dashing, combos, and using fast characters (FOX ONLY!). Melee awarded overly aggressive players and fast characters with the ability to spam certain attacks. 64 on the other hand, had more of a turtleing style, players focused on dodging, rolling, shielding, and waiting for the perfect moment to land damage.
Much like the difference between Street Fighter 2 and 3, players good at one will find their playstyle won’t translate very well to the other game. I personally preferred the mechanics in 64 because they allowed you to play with much more of the roster viably as opposed to Melee. I think we all can agree that character like Bowser, Pichu, and Peach were almost worthless in Melee, and what is the point in including a character if you really can’t play them against someone else effectively.
In addition to the characters, despite the smaller number of stages in 64, I can’t think of any that I particularly hated. Many of the good stages were ported to Melee too, but no one seems to care, everyone is too busy playing Final Destination, not to mention that several of the new stages were utter garbage (pokemon floats, ice mountain).
Players generally played more defensively in 64 than Melee
While there were some balance issues in 64 (and there probably will still be some in Brawl, as players are always more creative than testers), I really don’t know how Nintendo could go from 64 to Melee and completely cock the balance up.
In 64, every character at least worked in some aspects, if you were good at the game, you could still fight Fox with DK. However at some point in development, they decided to make speedy characters ridiculously over powered, to the point where you can’t play a heavy character against someone of equal skill using a fast character. And the medium weight characters didn’t fare so well either.
Simpler is Better
This section title says it all, as far as game play is concerned, fewer levels, fewer moves, and fewer characters. Sometimes too many chefs spoil the dish, and I think this is what happened comparing the two games. It’s always great to have variety and I think brawl is doing it the right way by having more than simply clones and doing some more interesting things with the stages.
One thing that has always been a barrier to new players in fighting games has been all of the complex movesets and other tricks you need to learn in order to compete with your friends. The first smash was for the most part very simple and easy to pick up and learn. From playing Melee I felt that they increased the complexity too far beyond what the original game was and made it almost too hard for a new player to be able to compete with anyone who’s established.
Besides, everyone knows 64 had one of the best videogame commercials of all time
Melee Aerox? Nothing beats the original, at least, not until March 9th
Maybe I’ve been too harsh on Melee; it was a great game and received higher reviews than the other one. However, I was not too keen on many of the changes they made to the combat system and general game play. Thankfully from videos and reviews, Brawl looks like it plays more like the original than like Melee, and many reviews have also called it a ‘clean slate’ for all players so it’s going to be a brand new game for everyone.