Super Smash: It’s Time for Melee Players to Move On
Super Smash Bros. Melee released in late 2001, and is considered to be one of the greatest games ever released for the Nintendo Gamecube, a sentiment that I would personally agree with. Melee is a fantastic game all around, and it’s no surprise that it is as beloved as it is. Had it not been as successful as it was, it’s very possible that the Super Smash Bros. series could have ended there, but due to high sales figures and an incredibly passionate community, the series has continued to this day.
In 2008, Nintendo released the sequel to Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, followed by Super Smash Bros. for 3DS & Wii U in 2014, and most recently, 2018’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Though each game in the series has had its own stretch of popularity, one of these games has stood out among the rest of them, with a community more passionate than any other entry. That game of course is Melee, which despite being old enough to drive now, still remains just as popular as it was back in the day.
And I think it’s about time that everyone moved on from Melee.
Make no mistake–I think Melee is a great game–I grew up playing it, and it was literally the entire reason I had initially bought a Gamecube back in the day. But it’s time to move on, folks. I don’t think that people should just stop playing it entirely, but I do think that it’s time for the Melee super-fans to stop acting like Melee is the only Smash game that matters, and stop insisting that the pro gaming community bend over backwards to accommodate them playing an 18 year old game, which has had, in my opinion, definitively better games released in its series since then.
At a competitive level, Melee is a very deep game with tons of complex, high-level mechanics, most of which involve abusing glitches that probably would have been patched out as soon as they were discovered, had the Gamecube had any method to patch games. Because only certain characters can take advantage of these glitches to their fullest extent, competitive Melee has very few characters being used in tournament matches. You’ll generally see the same 3-6 or so characters, because the gap between the upper tiers and the lower tiers is so huge, and in my opinion, this has caused the game to become stagnant.
Most of the characters aren’t used, most of the stages are banned, and in the end, most matches are just the same thing over and over. The game has basically been solved in terms of mechanics, combos and whatnot, so you rarely, if ever, see anything surprising unless a player makes a mistake. Does this make the game bad? Of course not. But it does make it incredibly boring to watch.
But unfortunately, the biggest problem isn’t the game itself, but the community. Perhaps due in part to Super Smash Bros. Brawl being not nearly as good as its predecessor, Melee’s competitive community continued on even after its sequel’s release. In fact, Melee’s competitive community even went so far as to create a mod for Brawl called Project M that existed for no other purpose than to gut any of the undesirable mechanics from Brawl and make the game play as close to Melee as possible. The sequel was too different for them, so they hacked the game to make it more like the one they already liked, on top of still playing the one they actually liked in the first place. Though of course, even though Project M was designed to be Melee 2, it was never quite as popular as Melee itself was.
While the rest of the competitive gaming community at this point was moving on to new games on new consoles, the Melee community insisted that their game was here to stay, and they needed special accomodations for their game. Even though every other competitive game had moved on to HD consoles and HDTV displays for their tournaments, Melee players insisted on only playing on CRT TVs because the miniscule input lag on HDTVs was completely unacceptable for them, even though every other pro gaming scene just dealt with it. So tournament organizers were forced to lug around big ol’ CRTs just for the Melee community, and due to the declining need for CRTs in today’s high-definition world, it can occasionally be hard for them to find TVs that suit the Melee community’s precise demands.
I think that word describes the Melee community’s problem perfectly– demands. The Melee community demands that all of their needs be followed exactly. Things must be done a certain way, and anything else is not acceptable. Everything must be played on CRT TVs. Only Gamecube controllers are allowed. Only certain stages are allowed. Smash games other than Melee should not be considered to be as competitively serious as Melee, and so on. This is all despite the fact that most of the fighting game community as a whole does not respect nor consider Smash to be a fighting game at all (for the record, I do), and many major figures in the fighting game community are kind of sick of the childish behavior of the Melee community throwing around demands as if they were more important than anyone else in the competitive gaming community.
But I think the biggest question here is “Why?” Why is everyone so stuck on Melee in the first place? Why are they all stuck on an 18 year old game that was designed to be silly random fun, instead of moving on to games like Super Smash Bros. 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which were designed partially with a competitive scene in mind and are actually considered to be really good? Other games that are played at competitive level typically move on to the newest game as long as the game isn’t a total mess (in most cases…) but Melee players seem to still demand to be center stage, and often complain when they aren’t invited to the big name tournaments anymore.
When the games were being announced for Evo 2019, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, Melee found itself not being part of the main lineup of games. This caused, in my opinion, an unreasonable amount of outrage from the Melee community. There were even calls to have Super Smash Bros. Ultimate removed from the lineup and replaced with Melee because it wasn’t as “serious” as Melee. This is an 18 year old game. Quite frankly, they’re lucky that they even managed to be at Evo last year. They’re lucky that people are still around running major tournaments for the game at all! Sure, there’s still tournaments around for lots of old games–there are even tournaments for games like Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers 3 happening now and then, but demanding that an 18 year old game be played on the main stage in prime time at Evo is the very definition of entitled, in my opinion.
And the sad part about the whole thing is that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a legitimately good game. The Melee community–the Smash old guard, are demanding that Ultimate be thrown under the bus in favor of their game, and it’s pretty much entirely because it isn’t exactly like Melee. Like, if you want to argue that some newer versions of popular fighting games aren’t worthy to have replaced the previous game at Evo (such as Street Fighter V or BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, in my opinion), then you’d better be sure that the game you’re complaining about actually has something wrong with it, unlike Ultimate which is arguably a better game mechanically than Melee.
Again, this isn’t saying that people should just stop playing Melee or having tournaments for it at all. But what I’m saying is that the Melee community needs to learn to understand that the fighting game community does not revolve around them – and it never has, despite what they would like to believe. People are going to want to move on to newer and better games, and Melee is not some objectively definitive Smash game that beats all others in every way. The game is dated. It’s had its day in the sun, and it’s time to move on. They need to stop demanding that they be included in major tournaments, and stop acting like entitled children when they’re not invited.
And hey, Melee players, look on the bright side! Ultimate is great! If you’d actually put Melee down for a moment and give it a shot, you might actually be surprisingly pleased with it! Besides, you can’t play Melee forever anyway–there are only so many working CRT TVs left in the world!