Sure, there are other fighting games out there. Some of them even have blood and realistic graphics. What they don’t have is poke-balls, super-scopes and Samus Aran. Q.E.D., they are lesser fighting games than Super Smash Bros. The series began with the towering achievement Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, which brought a new degree of real-life combat into a fighting game and it did it with totally unrealistic, cartoony, kid-friendly Nintendo characters. It’s the Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez of the series. Other fighting games, for all of their greatness and their achievements, did not take in to account the reality of fighting. SSB presented us with the probability of defeat as a simple percentage. Statistics gurus around the world went mad with glee (or at least smiled grimly, since statisticians have Vulcan-like emotional control). No longer were the “life bars” present at opposite ends of the top screen. Your survival depended on your surroundings – a pit, a platform or, perhaps, the fire-breathing Charmander popping out of a skyscraper in Saffron City. No matter the absurdity of the animated participants in these battles, the combat took on an entirely new level of realism that the so-called “great” fighting games have yet to match. The environment of the battle was as important as the combat and not some bonus feature to interact with after a complicated series of button-presses when you had vanquished your opponent.
Melee is the only choice
Now, that we’ve cleared the ring of other franchises, let’s look at the SSB series. As with nearly everything else for Nintendo’s Wii, Super Smash Brothers Brawl is nothing but a pretender to the throne. If it were 15th Century England, it would be Edward V. If it were a A Game of Thrones, it would be Renly Baratheon. If it were Metal Gear Solid, it would be Raiden. Although it would be prohibitively difficult to produce a bad game in this particular series, Nintendo seems to have tried its damndest. Unlike its predecessors, Brawl tries to eliminate the character balancing issues that gave players who mastered slower/less dynamic characters bragging rights. Do you know how embarrassing/gratifying it is to clear the board of your opponents using Jigglypuff? The geniuses who created Brawl must have decided that kind of thing was either too shameful or too much fun, since they negated almost all of the individuality of the characters. While Melee entries allowed people, like my brother, to use the faster characters (e.g. Sheik, the Odd Job of Smash Bros characters) to dominate with lightning (but weaker) strikes or lay down the law with bruisers like Bowser, Brawl leveled the playing field. Whether it takes perfect timing or a patient demeanor the characters that a game offers should be more diverse in attributes than those that Brawl has to offer. Honestly, Nintendo, don’t we deserve better than Meta Knight?
That leaves us with Melee vs the original, and there’s a reason Super Smash Bros Melee is the best game in the series. It improved on the few problems present in SSB (i.e., the 64 controller), made smash-attacks easier to perform, added some throws and gave us Giga Bowser. Oh, sure, there was one fault: it had too many characters/achievements/trophies. THERE’S TOO MUCH AWESOMENESS! ARRGH! I’M OVERWHELMED AND COMPLAINING! Seriously. It had a freaking mini-game where you hit an inoffensive-looking sandbag with a baseball bat for maximum distance! The multiplayer was even better than before – more characters, more loot, insane amounts of stats… The core characters from SSB were all there while the arenas were greatly improved. Nintendo singled out the thing that made the first game unique among fighting games and it improved upon it. Hyrule Castle alone validates this as a marvel of modern game design.
Kneel and prepare for the King’s justice
There might be some of you out there who disagree. You might have a different opinion but, despite common wisdom, your opinion is wrong. Melee is the Connor MacLeod of fighting games. Fighting games, bow down before its great and beautiful wrath.