Super Smash Bros. Melee has arguably the most dedicated competitive scene in the FGC. Maintaining a thriving community 20 years after the game’s release is quite a feat. Even more impressive is the way in which the community continues to improve and optimize the competitive experience of this 20 year old game. They have created specialized controllers, comprehensive training modes, hardware fixes, and an entire netplay system.
On July 10th, a new Melee fan project was released, called “Beyond Melee“. It is a sprawling mod which adds a plethora of new content, as well as balance changes for Melee’s base content. Multiple small fan-made mod packs have been released in the past year. In fact, these packs are part of Beyond Melee, such as the addition of Wolf to the roster. However, none of those mod packs were as large, comprehensive, and transformative as this one. Let’s take a deep dive into exactly what this project adds to the base game.
(Credit: Beyond Melee)
The mod adds 5 fan-made characters to Melee‘s roster. These characters are Shadow Mewtwo from Pokken, Wolf and Fay from Star Fox, Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask, and Raichu from Pokemon. However, 5 fighters from the original roster are notably missing: Mr. Game & Watch, Luigi, Ice Climbers, Kirby, and Yoshi. This is presumably because these characters will be altered in some way, and have yet to be completed.
The mod’s balance changes are nearly as transformative as the roster expansion. Melee is known to be a game with fairly poor balance. Nearly half of the roster is generally unviable at the top level. A group of 7-8 fighters win the large majority of tournaments. Beyond Melee attempts to rectify this issue by buffing the unviable characters.
Roy’s hitboxes have been extended, his jab has been made a combo tool, and his back aerial is now a kill move. Pichu now has Shine, which used to only be held by Fox and Falco. Additionally, his attacks are now better combo tools. This has taken him from one of Melee‘s weakest characters to one of its most fearsome. Zelda, who used to rely on back-air and forward-air, now has a variety of good offensive tools and mix-ups.
The balancing does not just involve buffing bad characters, though. The devs have also nerfed the defensive capabilities of many characters. Jigglypuff’s stalling game has been gutted, and Mewtwo’s air and up special have been changed from evasive tools to combo tools. The full changelog and the devs’ balance philosophy can both be found on Beyond Melee‘s website.
In competitive Smash, very few stages are considered viable for tournament use. This is because most stages in the series have hazards and layouts which introduce too much random chance into the matches. In later titles, a toggle was added to enable or disable hazards, which broadened the amount of tournament friendly stages. However, Melee has no such toggle, meaning that its competitive stage list still has a fair bit of jank.
Beyond Melee removes the hazards from Melee‘s competitive stage list. It also adds multiple new stage layouts designed for competitive play, such as the Small Battlefield layout.
It also features a variety of new themes for previously existing layouts. For example, it has a vaporwave-themed version of Yoshi’s Island.
Beyond Melee will continue to be improved upon and expanded. It’ll be interesting to see if it develops its own thriving competitive scene, similar to the Brawl mod Project M. Will it stay relevant and carve out its own niche? What new ideas and content will it bring? Only time will tell.