NeoGAF Competitive Discussion Thread
- Masahiro Sakurai, Director of the Super Smash Bros. franchise
"Melee is the sharpest game in the series. It's pretty speedy all around and asks a lot of your coordination skills. Fans of the first Smash Bros. got into it quickly, and it just felt really good to play."
May 17, 2001.
On that day, Super Smash Bros. Melee was revealed to the world for the first time. The excitement was palpable that day, and nearly fourteen years later, that excitement has yet to die down. Melee was instantly one of the most highly anticipated games for Nintendo’s upcoming Gamecube, and at this point I think it’s safe to say it lived up to the hype. A tremendous evolution from the previous Smash Bros. on the N64, Melee introduced 14 new characters, new and retro stages, forward specials, air dodging, side steps, light shielding, an incredible fully orchestrated soundtrack and much, much more. Smash had officially become one of Nintendo’s most important, and biggest selling, properties. Melee was critically acclaimed and went on to become the best selling game on the Gamecube.
Super Smash Bros. Melee is a fighting game for the Nintendo Gamecube that was released on December 3, 2001 in North America. Despite its age and the release of three successive games in the Smash Bros. series, Melee is still widely played today and enjoys a thriving competitive community. This thread is dedicated to the competitive Melee community: discussion of high level play, tournaments, the game's history, learning how to play the game competitively, or anything else you might find fun about the game!
For about as long as there has been Smash Bros. Melee, there has been competitive Melee. Tournament results can be traced back as early as April 2002, with the Tournament Go series of tournaments hosted in California by (now senior product manager at Capcom) Matt Deezie. Since the beginning, Falco, Fox and Sheik were the favourite characters of competitive players, and while many things have changed with regards to Melee over the years, I guess some things still stay the same! Then, in early 2003, some kid named Ken showed up and dominated everyone with Marth… But more on him later.
It’s no secret that Super Smash Bros. is not a traditional fighting game. Masahiro Sakurai has made it clear that he never intended for the game to be played at a competitive level, but instead as a silly, casual experience with friends. Nonetheless, fans of the game took advantage of the in-game customization options to create a “competitive” rule set. Essentially, the rule set was created to minimize randomness in matches as well as keeping the game fair and interesting at high levels of play. At its core, competitive Melee turns items off, sets the game to 4-stocks, and plays on small, flat stages. In some regions, select items were legal during the early days of competitive Melee. While some of the crazier stages, like Brinstar Depths and Icicle Mountain were banned from the beginning, stages like Poke Floats and Mute City were in fact legal in competitive play for a long time. As players became better at the game, more and more exploits were found that forced certain stages to be banned, unless they wanted to take an automatic loss from a waveshining Fox. The current, generally accepted rule set for competitive Melee is known as the Apex Rule Set (named after the biggest Smash Bros tournament) and is featured later in this post.
Melee’s popularity as a competitive game truly exploded in 2004, when Major League Gaming added Melee to their competitive circuit.
The Smash Brothers documentary explains this era of competitive Melee far better than I ever could in this post, so check that out. Also, definitely take a look at the linked full matches from the MLG era, complete with commentary. Briefly, the MLG era brought Melee’s popularity as a competitive game to heights the community couldn’t ever have imagined. Tournament entrants were higher than ever before, and competitive Melee was even featured in a 2006 issue of Nintendo Power, covering the MLG events and players like Ken. As a relatively young community, before MLG, Melee tournaments were run largely in the TO’s basement. The larger tournaments were held in rec centers and gyms. MLG brought the game to convention centers with huge stages, professional lighting, and for the first time, play by play commentary for the matches. From 2004 to 2006, MLG held a whopping 22 Melee tournaments. Ken established his position as the King of Smash during these years, taking first place at the majority of the tournaments. Other names also became legendary during this time: PC Chris, Korean DJ, Azen and Isai. For anyone trying to get into the game, the MLG Era offers a look at a very exciting time in Smash history that was also less focused on the insane technical play of today, and more focused on spacing and mind games. I’d recommend checking those matches out, especially if you are a new player who might have a hard time following the fast paced action of the 2015 metagame. Not to mention those matches have some fantastic commentary that is still relevant even today. These were the matches that got me into competitive Smash, personally. I can’t recommend them enough.
Despite dropping Melee from the main circuit in 2006, MLG continued to strongly support the grassroots Melee scene with the 2007 MLG Smash Series. Sponsoring huge tournaments like Pound 2 and MELEE-FC Diamond, the competitive Melee scene continued to thrive. Melee’s popularity as a competitive fighting game could not be ignored, and in 2007, it got onto the Evolution 2007 line-up. With 270 entrants, Evo 2007 was by far the biggest Melee tournament of all time, and would mark the peak of the Golden Age of Melee.
Everything was about to change.
In 2007, there were many players attempting to break into the upper echelon of Melee play. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman was one of them. An extremely dedicated and technical player, M2K created what is essentially a bible of Melee knowledge by himself: a frame by frame analysis of the game using nothing but the pause button. Thanks to his nearly perfect technical execution, M2K placed high in MLG tournaments, but never managed to place first.
This all changed one day in 2007, when his Fox controller broke and he was forced to use Marth instead.
M2K’s change from Fox to Marth gave birth to a persona still referred to today as “2007 Mew2King”. His Marth struck viciously and with pinpoint precision. One grab usually resulted in death for his opponents. Ken had retired from the game in 2007, and M2K not only quickly became the top Marth, but the top player in Melee. 2007 was absolute decimation on the part of M2K. It seemed like the game was figured out, as no one could even come close to defeating M2K. Seemingly reaching the peak of the metagame, competitive play and tournament attendance dwindled in 2007. In addition, something big was on the horizon…
At E3 2006, after an incredible E3 conference that introduced the world to the Wii, Nintendo announced the newest installment in the Super Smash Bros. franchise: Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Following one of the greatest unveil trailers of all time, the game was hyped to unreasonable expectations. Perhaps no one had higher hopes for the game than the competitive Melee community, who had dedicated years to the Smash Bros. franchise. Following an insane build up with the Smash Bros. Dojo and two delays, Brawl finally launched on March 9, 2008.
Shortly before Brawl’s launch, Pound 3 took place in February of 2008. With some players already getting their hands on the Japanese version of the game, many considered Pound 3 to be the final national Melee tournament. With Brawl on the horizon, there was going to be no need to return to this game. Mew2King dominated the tournament… until the grand finals.
To a Jigglypuff player from the west coast named Mango.
Weird. That must have been a fluke. First of all, who is this kid? Second of all, he plays Puff. Definitely a fluke. Finally, Brawl is out! Melee is dead. We’re moving on.
The entire community more or less did move on to Brawl. In 2008, Brawl was the dominant game in the competitive Smash Bros. community, and Melee was relegated to side-event status, at best. Many top Melee players, including M2K and Azen, put most of their focus on the new game. M2K’s dominance in Melee transferred to Brawl, where his Meta Knight was far and away the best in the world. With the top Melee player now focusing on Brawl, there is little to say about the game in 2008 and early 2009.
Melee was seemingly dead.
When Brawl was released, many top players criticized the game, including M2K himself. The game was too slow, too floaty, lacked hitstun and the advanced techniques that made Melee such a quick paced, smooth experience. The Brawl vs. Melee war had begun. Despite all of the criticism, the numbers were against Melee players. Brawl was thriving, and for every Melee player that quit the game for being too slow and boring, five new players took their spot. Gradually though, the game was hurting, even to the Brawl faithful. As the meta game evolved, the game became slower, not faster, as camping techniques like Planking and timing out began to see dominance at high levels of play. Meta Knight was not only the best character in the game, but by FAR the best character in the game, and the easiest to use to boot. MK dominated Brawl top 8s everywhere, and despite exciting and creative play from top level competitors like Ally (Snake), ADHD (Diddy) and DEHF (Falco), the Meta Knight army was taking its toll on the Brawl meta game.
Meanwhile, Melee players continued to run small tournaments, in conquest for the elusive 70% of the $45 pot.
Then, in an era where Brawl’s meta game was dominated by Meta Knight dittos, a Melee played named HomeMadeWaffles opened a Youtube account, uploading tournament videos featuring the best of the West Coast, including Pound 3 winner Mango and arguably the best Captain Falcon in the world at the time, Silent Spectre.
In a teams set at one of these tournaments, this happened.
Yes, that really happened. Oh my god.
The wombo combo gave Melee the most exposure it’s had since Brawl’s launch. This kind of moment certainly wasn’t something you were going to see at a Brawl tournament. HMW’s excitement was contagious, and slowly, Melee was gaining back some momentum.
In early 2009, Alukard announced what would become one of the most important, and memorable, Melee tournaments of all time. Revival of Melee would take place on March 8th 2009, one year after Brawl's release. Billed as the biggest Melee-only tournament since Brawl’s release, M2K would attend the tournament, and Mango would be making the trip from Socal, allowing for the much anticipated rematch from Pound 3 a year earlier. This was going to be the tournament where M2K would prove Mango’s win was just a fluke. Also attending was Florida Falco player DaShizWiz, who was making waves with that set in Florida.
Melee players from all over North America would make it to ROM. With 136 players in attendance, ROM was by far the biggest Melee tournament since Brawl’s release. But mere attendance wouldn’t be enough to revive the game from the dead.
In winner’s finals, M2K met Mango once again.
Mango defeated M2K decisively, with a 4 stock in the final game. Since his come to dominance in 2007, M2K was never so utterly defeated. Was he rusty from Brawl? Perhaps Mango was actually just that damn good. Whatever the reason, he had a match in losers finals with DaShizWiz.
And then this happened.
ROM is fondly remembered as not only one of the most exciting Melee tournaments of all time, but as the spark that really did revive Melee from near death. Mango solidified his spot at the top of the Melee world, and would dominate nearly every tournament he attended for years to come. With the wombo combo and M2K’s incredible comeback on Shiz, excitement for the game was coming back. While Brawl still dominated, tournament attendance for Melee side tournaments was increasing. The hype built up to July 2009 and by far the biggest Smash tournament of all time up to that point: GENESIS.
With 292 entrants, GENESIS would be the largest Brawl tournament of all time up to that point. Melee had… 290 entrants, which was the biggest Melee tournament up to that point.
All the big names were there. Mango. Mew2King. Shiz. Zhu. Even an up and coming Jigglypuff main named Hungrybox.
Oh and apparently some European player who plays Peach was going to come to America for the first time. Apparently he’s good or something. Whatever. Europe isn’t good.
While you’d be hard pressed to recall what happened at the Brawl tournament at GENESIS, Melee took centre stage, and may have been the most exciting tournament in the game’s life up to that point. That European Peach player was Armada. The 17 year old Swede made his American debut at GENESIS and proceeded to dominate every top ranked player, including M2K and Mango. With PEACH. WHAT IS GOING ON?
Mango and Armada would face off in one of the most incredible grand finals you will ever see. This would not only kick off the greatest rivalry in Melee history, but the true revival of Melee. The game was producing the hype moments that Brawl simply was not. Despite being 8 years old at this point, Melee was still evolving, and new players like Hungrybox and Armada were playing the game in ways people hadn’t ever imagined possible, with characters once deemed nonviable at the top level of play. The two gods of the game, Mew2King and Mango, were capable of losing sets. Who was Armada playing with in Sweden that was making him so good? High level Melee had story lines. You didn’t know what was going to happen next.
For the next few years, Brawl continued to outpace Melee in the attendance game. But Melee tournaments were getting big numbers, approaching the ones seen during the Golden Age. New players that Brawl took in were making the jump to Melee. Retired veterans were making comebacks. More and more Melee only tournaments were being run, and were successful. Melee was back, but what happened next no one could have predicted.
The Apex series of tournaments kicked off in 2009 and soon became the biggest annual Smash Bros event, bringing in 200+ entrants for both Melee and Brawl in 2010, 400 for Brawl and 300+ for Melee in 2012, and 338 for Brawl and 336 for Melee in 2013. As it would turn out, Apex 2013 would be the last major tournament where Brawl attendance exceeded Melee attendance.
In October 2012, some random nobody noticed tournament organizer Mr.Wizard doing a poll on the Evo Championship Series Facebook page. Wizard was gauging interest in what games should be on the roster. So this dude decided to make a thread on Smashboards about the poll. It was mostly a joke.
Melee was over 11 years old at this point. Even if the game was the highest voted on the Facebook poll, the Evo staff was likely to laugh it off and disqualify it due to not only being old, but requiring CRT televisions. Somehow, Melee won the Facebook poll. By a lot. Whatever, it’s just a dumb poll that means nothing.
Then, Mr. Wizard announced something we never saw coming as a part of the Evo 2013 line-up announcement. In addition to the 7 announced games, there would be an eight game added to the line-up. Whichever game’s community donated the most to breast cancer research would have its game added to the Evo roster.
Is this really happening?
As it turns out, the Melee community had grown up. The game being over ten years old, many of the players who competed in high school now had full time jobs and money.
Super Smash Bros Melee won the donation drive with $94,683. Melee was back at Evo for the first time in 6 years.
With the news that Melee would be on the main stage at the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, hype was higher for the game than ever before. Starting with Apex 2013, entrants for Melee tournaments skyrocketed, often surpassing Brawl. At Evo 2013, Melee demolished the previous record for highest tournament attendance with an astonishing 709 entrants.
Coming off the incredible success of Melee at Evo 2013, Samox released his much anticipated Smash Brothers documentary in October 2013. Following the story of 7 top Melee players and exploring the history of the game, the documentary was featured on many gaming websites and outlets that would have never given competitive Smash Bros. the light of day. Melee was being seen by more eyes than ever before, and as a result, the community grew.
The one-two punch of Evo and the documentary ushered in a new era for Melee: The Platinum Age. Not only was Melee far more popular than Brawl at this point, but it was more popular than it had ever been in its entire life, now twelve years old.
It didn’t stop there. 2014 kicked off with Melee being invited back to Evo. After witnessing the game's undeniable popularity in 2013, there was no donation drive needed this time. Days before Evo 2013, there was a brief scare that threatened to close down not only the stream, but the entire Melee tournament. Nintendo of America had become aware of the event, and wanted to shut it down. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and the tournament went on as expected. A year later, Nintendo would be sponsoring Evo 2014, complete with a message to the Smash community from Reggie Fils Aime himself. For nearly 13 years, the Smash community thrived without the involvement or support of Nintendo. That finally changed in 2014, with not only Nintendo sponsoring Evo, but holding an invitational event for Smash 4 at E3 2014, featuring top competitive Melee and Brawl players. It was the biggest stage the competitive Smash community had ever seen. Believe it or not, it gets better. MLG, the company that helped Melee reach greatness, brought the game back for their Anaheim event in July 2014.
The combination of E3, Evo and MLG, in addition to other large tournaments, in June and July 2014 has been dubbed “The Summer of Smash”. 2014 was by far Melee’s biggest year ever.
This brings us to the current day. Despite the release of another new Smash Bros. game, there would not be another Brawl situation. Melee would have its biggest tournament to date in January 2015 at Apex 2015, with an unfathomable 1037 entrants. At the same time, Smash 4 would have its first major and bring in a whopping 837 entrants. Compare that to the number of entrants at GENESIS for a moment. The Smash Community has come a long way since then.
Melee, and the competitive Smash Community in general, is stronger and larger than ever before. After nearly 14 years, Melee is bigger than ever and shows no signs of slowing down, with another appearance at Evo to come later this year. I think it’s about time there was a competitive Melee discussion thread on NeoGAF, so let’s begin!