Eurogamer‘s Tom Phillips reported earlier this week that the Nintendo Switch will have GameCube Virtual Console (VC) games, and that one of the first available titles will be 2001’s wildly popular Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Phillips suggested that “the desire within Nintendo [is] to continue making Super Smash Bros. Melee easily playable”, and that this version of the game is aimed first and foremost at the competitive audience.
As a member of this very audience who’s mostly followed Melee’s competitive scene as a spectator rather than a player, I believe that there are quite a few things that Nintendo has to do if they want competitive players to even give VC Melee a chance.
Melee players are extremely finicky about their game, and there’s a reason why it’s being played more than ever fifteen years after its release: it’s a beautiful accident the competitive community mostly considers perfect as is.
So without further ado, here are the five things the Super Smash Bros. Melee for Virtual Console needs if Nintendo hopes to attract competitive players to that version of the game.
1- Top-notch emulation
By top-notch, I mean truly top-notch. VC Melee has to run without a single hitch. Here’s a video I always like to use to show people how fast and how precise Melee is at its highest level.
What you see in the above video requires insane precision and muscle memory. Many of Melee’s advanced techniques are nearly frame-perfect (meaning that they must be executed with close to 1/60th of a second’s precision) and have been practiced ad nauseam by the world’s best players. Don’t expect them to move away from their GameCubes if timing changes (or worse, varies) because the Switch’s GameCube emulation isn’t up to snuff.
This is a very real possible issue, seeing as the Wii U’s SNES and N64 emulators were pretty terrible in their own right, and had input lag issues. Input lag is every Melee player’s worst nightmare, which is why the game is still being played nearly-exclusively on CRT TVs (GameCubes have terrible input lag on HDTVs), and which is why VC Melee also needs…
2- GameCube controller support
With GameCube controller support, competitive players migrating to VC Melee will have a wired controller to play the game, which greatly reduces input lag: this is one of the main reasons for which most competitive players use the GameCube Controller Adapter for Smash Wii U.
The second reason for this is the fact that these players have used this controller for over fifteen years to play their game, and it is once again a question of timing and muscle memory. If they cannot use actual GameCube controllers (and not GameCube-ified Joy Cons), don’t expect the pros to use VC Melee in tournaments.
There exist two main versions of Melee: North American (NTSC) and European (PAL). There are also different versions of each version, but I digress – let’s just focus on these two main ones.
There are a few notable differences between the NTSC and PAL versions, the most notable of them being the removal of certain glitches, less lag, and many character-specific tweaks that change the game’s balance.
The Melee community generally plays the version that is specific to its region, but nearly all international tournaments use the NTSC version, regardless of the fact that PAL came out later and is generally seen as the “more balanced” and “updated” version of Melee.
Balance-wise, PAL would be a better choice, but since most of the competitive Melee audience is North American and that the NTSC version is widely used in big tournaments, Nintendo must use that version on Melee for the community to move from GameCube to Switch.
4- Not changing what doesn’t need to be changed
This point is kind of similar to the first one, but I think that it needs its own space on this list.
Even if the emulation is perfect and even if Nintendo uses the NTSC version for VC Melee, they have to remember not to do anything to the game’s various glitches and imperfections. Melee is heavily physics-based, and the competitive scene relies on all sorts of little quirks in its engine to play the game at the highest level.
What may be seen as a glitch to Nintendo is, in the community’s eyes, just a part of the imperfections that make Melee as good as it is. Nintendo cannot allow itself to alter any elements of Melee’s base gameplay for its VC version.
Am I saying that VC Melee basically has to be the exact same game as it was 10 years ago? Yes, but Nintendo could still allow itself to change one of Melee’s characteristics without enraging competitive players.
5- Make the C-Stick Great Again
One of Melee’s main problems for casual and competitive players alike is that the C-Stick (right stick) is friggin’ worthless in single player modes, as it controls the camera rather than the player’s Smash Attacks and aerials.
Changing this would make the game more accessible to beginners, and would also give competitive players a way to train alone without having to resort to the Name Entry glitch shown in the above video.
What would you like to see in Super Smash Bros. Melee on Nintendo Switch Virtual Console?