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Starting off with 14 characters (there are an additional 11 to be unlocked), the basic premise of having Nintendo's stars beat on each other until the timer runs out is pretty standard. However, much emphasis is put on knocking opponents off ledges while avoiding the same fate. In typical Nintendo manner, there are many power-ups to assist you in the melee. The actual combat isn't as intricate as other fighting games, however the ultra-cartoony layout of the many, many arenas sometimes adds a strategic element not usually found in fighting games.
Melee's strength lays in the mayhem created in four-player fights. The camera does an excellent job of positioning itself so all combatants are constantly visible. Also, Melee sports some of the best visuals seen in a Nintendo product. All of the characters are highly detailed, and the movements of each are smoothly infused with personality; Donkey Kong lumbers and Princess Peach fights with grace.
As the multiplayer mode is the key reason for this game's existence, the single player mode is decidedly weak. There's an adventure mode that plays somewhat like an old-school, side-scrolling Mario game. Sadly, despite its good looks, its gameplay is rather uninspired. This game is clearly at its best when there are two or more players with controllers in their hand. --Mark Brooks