MDb Review: Smash Bros. Melee/DX: by TJ

Super Smash Bros. Melee (or Smash Bros. DX as it's known in Japan) is different things to different people. To younger fans, it's the sequel to one of the best N64 games, Super Smash Bros. -- an all-star battle royal featuring many of Nintendo's greatest characters. To older gamers like myself, it's a celebration of Nintendo's videogame history.

SSBM takes the basic concept and gameplay of the original Smash Bros. and magnifies it to a much larger scope. Everything that the first SB could have been, SSBM is. More playable characters (including some never before seen in the States, like Marth and Roy of Fire Emblem fame), more hidden characters, more stages, more modes of play, more inside jokes...SSBM just has more of everything.

Graphically, this game is a treat. Many Nintendo greats are featured here for the first time on the Cube (Luigi is really the only one we'd seen much of before this, except for Mario and Bowser's cameos in his game), and everybody looks astounding. Not only are the character models well done in an overall sense, but the detailing is incredible. Mario and Luigi's overalls have denim texture and stitching. Samus' armor has slight streaks and drips of oil around the joints. Princess Zelda's dress has beautifully intricate patterns embroidered all over it. Like in the first game, the action can be paused and the camera zoomed and rotated around your character for close examination and action poses. Even better, SSBM contains a "camera" mode where you can set up poses and scenarios in the game and take snapshots of them to save on a memory card!

Control-wise, SSBM is very similar to SSB, which again I have mixed feelings about. It's good but takes much practice to master. Of course, each character handles differently, so mastering one doesn't necessarily mean you've mastered them all. Adventure Mode is where I feel the game suffers the most from the control, as you're trying to play a side-scrolling action game with fighting-game controls and it can be awkward. However, the Gamecube controller's vast superiority to the N64's controller makes SSBM more comfortable to play.

The added modes and features are where SSBM ceases being just another game and really becomes the celebration of over 20 years of Nintendo history which I mentioned earlier. Adventure Mode allows you to take any character through a series of Nintendo game worlds ranging from Hyrule Palace to Planet Zebes and beyond. If you've ever wished you could see what it's like to have Samus plow through the Mushroom Kingdom, here's your chance. And no review of SSBM would be complete without mentioning Trophy collecting. Nearly 300 figures of Nintendo characters and icons are available to collect via various means throughout the game, and everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- is represented in beautiful Gamecube 3D. From Donkey Kong Jr. to Stanley the Bugman, Mach Rider and Kid Icarus to characters from Famicom classics never released in the west, each Trophy is accompanied by a writeup of history and information on the character or item and is truly an education. (I just wish they would have gone after the rights to include Popeye, who starred in one of the greatest classic Nintendo games ever!) It really shows that Nintendo has achieved a lot to be very proud of since Donkey Kong showed up in the arcades back in 1981.

Of course, everybody wants to know if there will be another sequel in the Smash Bros. series. But I really have to ask -- what more could they possibly do to improve the game? Other than actually turning absolutely every Nintendo character ever invented into playable characters, Super Smash Bros. Melee is about as jam-packed with Nintendo goodness as it gets. And, don't forget, with all that history, there are plenty of nods to us Metroid fans, with 9 different Metroid-related Trophies, two Metroid battle stages (a Zebes stage with rising lava similar to the one in the first SSB, and a Zebes Depths stage complete with an enormous Kraid swiping at the playfield), and a Zebes escape sequence in the Adventure Mode. No matter what Nintendo series is your favorite, you'll find plenty to smile about in Super Smash Bros. Melee.