Down and Out: Super Smash Brothers Melee and the glory that is the KO
Oh, 2D fighting games. At first glance, they seem like the wet dreams of nine year-old video game enthusiasts: smashing a whole bunch of buttons will result in smorgasbord of pain and, with a bit of luck, embarrassment for the poor sap from down the street who always comes over because he doesn’t have the coolest system. But after a while, the whole genre seems, well played out. Sure, the numerous Capcom games where various X-Men or Marvel characters fight against obscure characters from every single game Capcom has ever released ever (US or Japan) may be fun for a while, but they quickly lose their spark. Sure the “ultra combos to the extreme max mega-time” are fun to watch and perform, but once you see one giant Pollack-inspired color explosion, you’ve seen them all.
That is, until one plays the Super Smash Brothers series. This may sound fan boy-ish, but in all honestly, I don’t really care; this game rules. Yes, yes I know, this is a wildly held opinion, and not one that is exactly “new” to the video gaming community. But I feel as if I should say it again, if only for the purposes of defining what a good game should have.
The game play and controls are something of wonder. In all great games, there seems to be one concurrent theme: the game is easy to learn, but difficult to master. SSB exemplifies this effortlessly. Fighting in the game can be controlled with two buttons: the A and B. There are no long, complicated combos to learn in order to perform a special move. But combine a simple button system with a responsive joystick, and you get an art form. Taping the stick concurrently with an attack can produce a fantastic number of moves and attacks for almost any situation. Press the joystick hard enough and one gets a “smash attack,” which, if enough damage is inflicted, will send the opponent flying off the screen for an easy KO.
There are no health bars in the traditional sense. Instead, one can inflict or receive large amounts of damage that is represented by a percentage, which does not necessarily mean that player will win, only how easy it will be to send them flying into oblivion (I can‘t tell you the amount of times where some little douche will have 400% damage and not die. God damn Hyrule temple). In essence, a player must knock an opponent off the screen to earn a KO. Game types can change, from getting the most KO’s in a certain time period, to fighting with a set stock of lives where the first person to lose all of them (via KO’s) loses.
Items also appear randomly throughout any stage, and can be used to great effect. They range from the utterly useless Mr. Saturn to the mighty baseball bat, which can KO a player even when they are at zero percent damage. The sight of players flying around the map, throwing weapons, desperately trying to survive a particularly potent smash attack all the while throwing punches, kicks, and various other attacks whenever possible is exhilarating, to say the least.
Of course, the game is made that much better by the battle locals. The backgrounds created for the Smash series are beautiful if not deadly. Taken to the extreme in the Melee edition, levels are anything but static. Platforms can disappear and reappear seemingly at random, or perhaps a giant dragon monster simply manhandles a level to a different shape (ZEBES!). All of the changes happen in real time, so while cars are rushing by, into and above the stage, the wild and furious fighting goes on unabated, adding to the controlled mayhem of the whole game. All done in beautifully rendered in 3D (Jay just said some bullshit crap about 2D and the Saturn in his head after that statement), the backgrounds show that there has been a ton of effort put into the game, unlike half the crap other companies call stages.
The plot of Super Smash Brothers (SSB) is very much like one of those terrible movie-tie in video games (I am looking at you, X-Men). It clusters a large amount of Nintendo legends on a screen and lets them duke it out. And that is about it. I know all two of you who haven’t played this game are saying, “But surely, there must be some sort of convoluted plot that smashes all these characters all together, a la Kingdom Hearts!” Nope. None. And gosh golly, thank god for that.