I’ve been known to hold some pretty controversial opinions about video games as some longtime Link-Cable readers will undoubtedly know, but I think this one takes the cake. I honestly believe that Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a better game than Melee. I know, crazy right? Brawl is often considered a dip in terms of quality and some even go as far as to call it the worst game in the series, but I have to disagree. Now before we get into my mad rantings I do want to point out that I’ve played TONS of Smash Bros. in my life. From the Nintendo 64 to the Wii U I estimate I’ve put about 5000 hours into the series, and all that time has only solidified in my mind, that Brawl is the better game when compared to Melee.
I’ll kick things off by making a point that I know is shared by series creator Masahiro Sakurai; that Brawl is more inclusive and accessible than Melee. Some of you, especially if you are a competitive player will see this as a negative thing, since the more accessible and ‘even’ a game is then the less skill would be needed to compete in it. And while I don’t wholly disagree, a cursory glance at Melee‘s competitive scene, and the vitriol that comes from it, it’s clear that this lack of accessibility and openness has hurt the game. Trying to introduce a new player, maybe even get them into competitive play and having to deal with a toxic community is an easy way to lose a fan before they even get a chance.
But this accessibility also helps make Brawl more fun to play than Melee. In Melee, if you want to climb the ranks and actually compete against opponents, you have to master a very complex, repetitive and honestly, boring. Brawl’s loose enough that different play-styles are actually viable options in competitive play and not grounds for an instant defeat. Experimentation is key and finding the character that best suites your style is key in Brawl, whereas in Melee the ‘good’ characters are fairly obvious and the only option if you want to compete. Case in point, in Melee I would typically take Sheik out as my main and use the same strategy over and over… and over again, but in Brawl I can count at least four characters that suite my needs and that I can use to adapt to my opponents’ strategies.
And that brings me to my next point – the gameplay variety. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is definitely built as a ‘party’ game before a fighting game, and because of that its absolutely filled with options, modes, settings and variety to keep you digging deeper into the game. When I first started playing Brawl, I approached it similarly to Melee, where I found a character I liked and practiced and practiced till my Classic Controller was bloody. But then, when I started competing against others I found myself absolutely overwhelmed because they had found unique and innovative ways to block my moves. So I went back, learned how to beat their moves and discovered a roster with an insane amount of depth when compared to its predecessor.
Now Smash Bros. has always been criticized for just how many clones characters are part of the roster, but Brawl is when the series took a big step in eliminating this. Every single character has a personality and ‘style’ all their own, making each a threat in the hands of a skilled player. Even the Star Fox trio of Fox, Falco and Wolf (RIP) all play very differently and I’ve experienced skilled players use all three but in completely different styles. With Melee‘s clone characters (think Link and Young Link) I always found that they worked more like a pallet swap with slightly tweaked moves.
The last few things I want to mention mostly have to do with how innovative Brawl was over Melee. When comparing Smash games, its easy to see a clear progression with each game in the series adding new modes and options over the last. But this level of addition was very small when comparing Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 and Melee. Sure Melee had new modes, characters and extras but the ‘point’ of the game is still local multiplayer with nothing else rally holding player’s attention for very long. And when you compare that to Brawl’s additions of a full single-player campaign, a challenge mode, mini-games, online multiplayer and character customization it’s easy to see that Brawl brought the series forward where Melee was happy living in the past.
And I suppose that’s the point I’m trying to make here. Brawl is where the series was headed (as we can see from Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U) and Melee is where it wanted to stay. Now I’m sure you’re thinking that ‘well of course, all game’s series should be like that’, but the problem is just how much ‘hardcore’ fans want the series to be more like Melee and less like Brawl. I know my position on this controversial and might be unpopular (I honestly don’t expect many people to agree with me) but I wanted to say why I think that Brawl is better game and maybe get someone thinking about it to.