Super Smash Bros N64, Melee, or Brawl: Which One Is Best?
So far, spring has been pretty eventful for me. I finished college; I started working in the nearby hospital and had one interesting spring break. One of the best things (see: nerdiest), was getting back my copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee after months of not having it. Upon playing with my friends, it felt like meeting up with an old friend. With this new found glory, it got me thinking, go into any forum on a Nintendo related site and chances are you will find a thread with the title “Here is what the next Smash Bros roster should be”, or “Why Smash Bros X is better then Smash Bros Y”. Just because they show up everywhere, it is not necessarily a bad thing as it shows that the fans have a passion to Smash. What I dislike though, is people saying, for example, that Brawl is complete crap because of Smash Balls, or some other arbitrary reason. Regardless, the main question remains, “Which Smash Bros is the best?” Join me as I talk about each game in the series, the pros and cons of each, and give my final word on the series. Before we get started, just a word of caution. I know a lot of people on the internet live for Smash Bros, as some are obsessed with the little differences between each game and have strong opinions, but this article is just a look at the series from the viewpoint of a typical fan. I love the series to be sure, and can play it any day, but like many others, I do not have a doctorate in Smash.
In the year of 1998, HAL Laboratory employee Masahiro Sakurai was interested in creating a fighting game, but had trouble getting a solid foundation and an idea of setting it apart. The first build was of simple unknown characters and with the aid of then HAL President Satoru Iwata, they were able to get to continue development. Sakurai had the idea of using Nintendo characters, but feared the higher ups would reject it. Rules are meant to be broken and in order to stand out you got to crack a few eggs. Secretly, he inserted Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus Aran and Fox McCloud. After an approval from Nintendo, Super Smash Bros was eventually released in Japan on January 21, 1999. With little promotion and a small budget, it was intended for a limited release in Japan only. After all expectations were crushed and it became a best seller, it saw its way into all territories and blew up into one of Nintendo’s main franchises.
To this day, people are still hooking up their N64s to beat the crap out of each other. Everybody loves this game, and it brings people together. One day, a few friends and I brought a couch, a television and Smash Bros on our front lawn, and before you know it, people from next door were crowding around saying who their favorite character was, and discussing all things Smash. Put this on during a party, and suddenly everyone get wants in on next round. I know of local bars that still have tournaments with this game. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that making Mario and Captain Falcon fight will be a good time, but this thing is a phenomenon among gamers and non-gamers everywhere.
With that said, compared to Melee and Brawl, the N64 version is showing its age. With ten characters, nine stages and 1 single player mode it cannot compare quantity wise. Also, the game feels slower paced, partially due to the controller itself. Lastly, four players on Sector Z with two players on each side with items, and suddenly the frame rate dips noticeably. With no air dodges, inability to grab thrown items or while jumping/moving, no Special “B” move and not being able to charge “A” attacks, it is also the simplest in the gameplay department. Regardless of all this, it is still a ton of fun to play. My friends and I even made a simple drinking game out of it as each time you die you take a drink. It does not sound difficult, but before you know it you will be feeling it. We tried it one night before a party; needless to say, one of my friends did not make it down there.
Two years later and just missing the Gamecube’s launch, Super Smash Bros. Melee was released to mostly positive reviews. Most loved the updated roster and overall expansion of content, but others found it was too similar and to fast-paced for its own good. These must be the same people who reviewed all the Mega Man sequels. Anyway, there was no denying the brilliance of Melee, a game that many consider the best. With 25 characters, 29 stages, more single player modes and more multiplayer options, this game went all out to deliver the best possible Smash experience. Since I was parted with Melee for a while, and my friend lost his copy, this is the one we played the least lately. Now that I have it back, I hope to change that.
In addition to the plethora of modes and characters, the gameplay of Melee received updates such as air dodging and sidestepping. With the powerful hardware of the Gamecube there were no frame rate dips, no matter the stage. Pressing over and “B” added an additional Special move, and players could now hold their “A” attacks. With the steady frame rate and the ability to charge certain attacks, timing became a more crucial gameplay element.
Melee was not apart of my childhood as much as the N64 one. When the PS2 and Xbox arrived, it was when most of my friends’ tastes in gaming started to change. Not all of my friends own a Gamecube, whereas before no matter which house we met up at owned a N64. While we did sometimes get together for a couple of matches, it was not apart of our schedule as much. With that said, there were still many times I brought my Gamecube controllers over to a friend’s house just to play.
With 25 characters and much more stages (some copied from N64), there was a lot more staying power with Melee. Minus some character cloning, all of them were fun to play as even if some are not suited to your play style. The stages also have more variety in their design. Some of them can scroll to the left, upward, or even along an F-Zero track. One stage called Brinstar Depths features Kraid in the background, who slashes the stage which makes it rotate left or right and each rotation has a different layout requiring multiple strategies.
I remember when Brawl’s release date was approaching fast I was beyond excited. I played Melee a lot to try and calm myself, but nothing was going to quell my hype. A large number of stores sold out so I had to wait a few days before finding my copy, and I was not disappointed in the least. The next day was a snowstorm so I played through the adventure mode in one day and has not touched that component since. I played a lot of multiplayer with level 9 NPCs, as again, most of my friends went to the 360 to play Halo 3. However, when we moved out on our own, Brawl became quite popular in our households.
The gameplay, in my opinion, is faster then Melee. I find the controls liquid smooth and perfect for this type of game. The frame rate is always at a steady 60 fps ensuring no issues with slow downs. Some enhancements include picking up items while moving or catching them as their thrown towards you. Brawl also seen an increase in items, too many to memorize off the top of my head. Assist trophies are my favorite, especially how I find the pokeball got nerfed. Similar to the pokeball, assist trophies summon characters from multiple franchises such as Punch Out, Golden Sun and even Metal Gear. Brawl was the first game in the series to include characters from third party franchises: Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake from Metal Gear.
I read on a number of forum sites how Brawl is a disappointed and the worst by far. My one complaint about Brawl, besides the lackluster Adventure mode, is that the physics feels a bit floaty. Landing after a jump seems to take too long, but after a few rounds I adjusted. I also heard complaints about the Smash Ball, which allows players to release a Final Smash, which are powerful as they are fun to watch. I do not understand this complaint as you can turn off any items from the item switch.
Coming back to how I started this article, I saw a ton of forum topics arguing which Smash Bros is the best, and some of the reasons are ridiculous. Each game has its own distinct feel, making it all come down to personal preference. I personally prefer the lightening fast feels of the controls in Brawl and the amount of items. Some of my friends prefer Melee while others the N64 one. We cannot come to a conclusion but we do not harp on each other. We play each one depending on our mood and always end up having a good time. No matter what the games do in the future, they are always built on a solid foundation that is fun, regardless what items they include or character clones.
So maybe my answer angered a lot of you, but each game is great and I can understand why any of them can be considered the best. My personal preference is Brawl, with Melee a close second. I appreciate how Nintendo only releases one Smash Bros game each generation as it ensures that it does not suffer from gamer fatigue. As I did with Brawl, I am looking forward to the next Smash Bros title with great anticipation, as should you for one of gaming’s best fighting franchise.