While European League of Legends was changing the narrative at MSI, the weekend just passed also saw the return to form of one of the oldest, coolest esports in the world. After months of Smash Bros Ultimate dominating headlines and tournaments, Super Smash Bros Melee roared back into action at Get On My Level 2019 in Canada, to raucous acclaim, and we even got the winner the game needs after years of dominance by the community’s chosen ‘heel’.
Coming into the tournament it seemed set up for Juan ‘Hungrybox’ Debiedma to win yet another major, but he finished outside the top four for the first time in some years after meeting a returning god and Puff-slayer. Ultimate had deprived Melee of a number of top players including William ‘Leffen’ Hjelte as the TSM man chased that sweet Twitch sub loot, but GOML2019 saw him return to the Melee fold and immediately remind the world why we missed him, and the game so much.
The reason his return was so pivotal was the same reason his rise to prominence in EU made such a difference, because Leffen kills dominant floaties. Just like he forced Adam ‘Armada’ Lindgren to finally pick up new characters by dominating his Peach in a way nobody else could, Leffen has a habit of making Hungrybox, a man who rarely loses to any other gods, look decidedly more ordinary than is the case, sending him to losers, and breaking his spirit in a way we’ve rarely seen.
By the time Leffen’s Fox was done with the world number one, he was done with the event, and Florida Falcon main Wizzrobe was able to complete the coup de grace. There is some irony in the result too, after years of top players complaining that HBox refused to play friendies, thereby denying them the chance to practice vs a truly elite Puff, it was very obviously the Liquid man was totally unprepared for a Fox of that calibre, having not faced one since Leffen took his leave of competitive Melee.
Intensity, speed, style
Sadly for the Swede, Ultimate had prepared him perfectly for facing off against a floaty character, but not the sheer speed and intensity of a spacie ditto vs Joseph ‘Mango’ Marquez or Jeffrey ‘Axe’ Williamson, the fastest and best Pikachu main in the history of Melee. Happily for neutrals and fans of Mango, it cleared the path for C9’s finest to win his first Major in a long time with his natural nemesis already vanquished, and sure enough the veteran American was able to convert on his chance and take the championship ring.
We’ll leave the details in the VoDs, because that’s the best way to enjoy the game, but the reactions on social media said it all. When Melee is played well, there is no game like it, and that isn’t a dig at other Smash titles. The ethos behind Melee is so different to Brawl, Smash 4 or Ultimate that comparisons don’t really work, where in reality the second game in the series is just a unique masterpiece, so brilliant it transcends things like eras, and ignores updates that allow for clearer graphics or more songs to listen to.
For now though, it is just what Melee needed, a shot in the arm to remind everyone why they fell in love with the game. The storylines are there too, with Leffen on his anime trip to get back to the top and Hungrybox desperate to prove this an aberration, rather than a new trend. With more majors to come, and the summer of Smash just getting started, this is a decent time to be a Melee fan after some dark moments, and Sunday night was the first flash of what looks like a lightning revival.