Genesis 7 Proves Super Smash Bros Melee has a Long Life yet to Live
The 2020 Super Smash Bros Melee competitive scene began in earnest over the past weekend with its first super major tournament, Genesis 7, in Oakland, California.
Genesis is a storied competition that often sets the overall tone for the year. Always a stacked event, the previous winners include a threepeat from Armada, along with singular wins from Plup, Mang0, Hungrybox, and, most recently, Zain.
This year has been one of upheaval for the Melee community, with the simultaneous rise of Smash Ultimate and some players leaving entirely or defecting, albeit mostly momentarily, for the alluring shine of the new. Most notably, after Melee god Armada retired from Melee singles in 2018, people argued the game was dead — or was the road simply repaved for new players?
Many people that I speak to about Melee often have vague recollections of its past popularity, playing a JigglyPuff at sleepovers, the utter mayhem of a 4 vs 4 match. It has a nostalgia factor. However, for many competitive gamers, Melee is a longstanding touchstone of the fighting game community and maintains a singular popularity among fans.
Genesis 7 Melee Grand Finals garnered around 103,000 viewers on Twitch, according to Esports Charts. Evo Japan, which featured other fighting games along with Smash Ultimate and happened on the same weekend, garnered closer to 98,000 viewers at its peak. So, while Melee’s total is down from last year’s Grands, it’s worth examining why a twenty year old game is still able to garner this much attention.
Smash Melee is a testament to talent, complex gameplay, and community.
I have watched many fighting game tournaments over the year, from local events to a stacked Evo Street Fighter event, but nothing I’ve seen compares to a well executed ledge guard or shine spike. Melee’s frenetic gameplay and energy players bring to each match is unparalleled in gaming.
During the Genesis 7 Mang0 vs Leffen set, I was sitting in the orchestra of the Paramount Theater, listening to chants of ‘U-S-A.’ A theater worker, much older than the typical Melee fan and only there to police our wristbands, leaned over and whispered, “How is that blue Fox so fast?” I had no choice but to answer him honestly “I don’t know.” But that’s the allure of Melee, the constant: ‘how did they do that?’ because the meta is ever-evolving.
In a game absent of DLC, players are still able to find interesting, creative, and exciting ways to change up gameplay. This year, Genesis 7 viewers saw an incredibe comeback from Hax$, a player who invented an entirely new controller (the B0XX) so that he could continue to compete. A player Twitch chat may have called ‘washed’ two years ago, Hax$ took 4th place and his place on the stage with storied players Leffen, Mang0, and Hungrybox.
Melee also lacks the support of Nintendo, so most prize pools are generated from the community. Genesis 7 was still tweeting requests for donations in the days preceding the event. Though the prize pot for Melee and Ultimate was similar, it was primarily community generated; so, while indie games like Rivals of Aether, who have the support of their devs, get a pot bonus, Nintendo continues to give away controllers.
Sitting at the hotel bar in between sets, a mix of players and spectators crowded around their phones, so as not to miss a moment on stream. A player sat down next to me, nursing a beer. We started up a conversation, then set our phones up side by side, propped against sweating water glasses, in order to better spectate both Twitch streams.
“I just started playing,” he told me. “It’s kind of thrilling to be bad. But that’s where I want to be in five years.” He inclined his head toward the phone where Mew2King was playing Army. My new acquaintance was rooting for Army, I was cheering Mew2King, a fact I tried not to rub in.
Comebacks, upsets, nostalgia, talent, vapor wave graphics — far from reaching its twilight years, Super Smash Bros Melee has a long life yet to live and attracts new players every day.
“We are in a new world,” Bobby Scar announced after Zain beat HungryBox in Grand Finals, coming up from winner’s side without dropping a set. “It truly is a new decade. We really are pushing forward even further into Melee.”
Yes we are, Bobby Scar, yes we are.