There are very, very few games that are close to two decades old that I still play at least once a month. Actually, scratch that. There is one game close to two decades old that I still play at least once a month, and it's Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Nintendo's iconic GameCube mascot brawler is one of the most important games in my entire life. It's a title that forged friendships, deepened my understanding and love of video games, and ensured the GameCube I got when I was eight remains plugged in and ready to go to this day. I'm not the sort that keeps hold of retro consoles or older games for space and economic reasons, but my copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee has remained firmly planted within my GameCube for the last five or six years.
The only reason I don't use the same GameCube controller I did back then is because it simply wore itself down from sheer use. For me and my friends, Melee was the multiplayer game of choice. It was the game that we'd gather to play every Friday, and probably wouldn't stop until Monday rolled around. I'm not actually sure how many hours we've collectively managed to put into the game on our separate copies and GameCubes, but I honestly would be a little scared to find out.
Even when I went to university and only came back home a few times a year, we'd make a point to set aside a few days, hole up like horrible little gremlins, and absolutely sesh it until I realised I had to get a train back for lectures. By this point one or two Smash sequels had released of course, and they were great, but nothing quite matched the flow of Melee for us.
It's not that we didn't like - or even didn't play - Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Super Smash Bros. Wii U. It was just that we'd spent years getting into the flow of Melee and the way its characters moved. Everything other iteration of the franchise just feels a bit wrong when you've put so much into leaning the ins and outs of one individual entry, you know?
Even when I wasn't playing with friends I'd devote hours every day to Melee's generous smattering of single-player content. I still firmly believe that the Adventure Mode, which sees you running through a collection of classic Nintendo levels, is one of the purest expressions of retro gaming excellence. I never got tired of playing through that. I also had no end of fun turning up enemy AI to the maximum level and practicing with new characters to keep my friends on their toes.
Of course despite having put so much time into the game, we were all always amazed at how crap we still were compared to the kind of people who played on the Melee pro scene. In between games we'd watch pros battle it out on YouTube and realise that even with everything we thought we knew, we'd never be that good. Not that that matters though - it's not why we played then, and it's definitely not why we still play today.
But that's what made Super Smash Bros. Melee such an incredible piece of work, isn't it? Whether you're after a simple party game, an intense rivalry with friends, or one of the most passionate pro scenes in gaming, Nintendo managed to deliver all of that in one incredible package. Melee might be far from the biggest Smash game around these days, but for my money it will always remain the best and most important.
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