Right now, the popularity of e-sports is at an all time high. Strategy games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and StarCraft II are drawing in an enormous amount of viewers and huge cash prizes. Although fighting games might not be as popular as some of the PC strategy games right now, they are still breaking new grounds, with EVO 2013 being by far the most popular fighting game tournament to date. To put it simply, professional gaming is becoming a phenomenon that is impossible to ignore.
But one of the most interesting games that has developed an intensely competitive community is Super Smash Bros. Melee. Many people consider this GameCube hit to be a party game that’s meant to be enjoyed by mindlessly button mashing with your friends in a living room. As the years went by however, a competitive scene grew around the game, centering around the game’s blazing speed and the technical prowess needed to perform at a high level. The Smash Brothers, a documentary about the competitive SSBM scene, chronicles the entire timeline of how the Smash community came to be, all the way from its humble beginnings to the insane hype it created at EVO 2013.
Created by East Point Pictures, The Smash Brothers is formatted more like a TV series than a regular documentary. It’s divided up into 9 episodes that run for approximately 30 minutes, and all of it is freely available to watch on East Point Pictures’ YouTube channel. The creators chose 7 of the best Melee players and told the story of how the community evolved through the perspectives of these players. They unfold the narrative through these player vignettes, and it all feels very natural on how they highlight a specific player, but continue the timeline of how the scene as a whole progressed.
Anybody who has a passing interest or curiosity about Melee owes it to him or herself to watch this excellent documentary. The creators focus on delving into the players’ backgrounds and personalities to see what makes them tick. Episode 3, for instance, puts the spotlight on Isai, a supremely gifted player that is sometimes held back by his unique personality. It was easily my favorite episode, at it was extremely fascinating to not only hear how he describes himself, but also what other players think about him as a player and a person.
It’s important to note that this documentary was practically made for me. When I played SSBM in the early 2000′s, I was firmly aware of the burgeoning competitive scene around the game, as well as many of the pro players and advanced techniques that were needed to play a high level. But I never knew of the rivalries and intricacies of the scene at large, and The Smash Brothers does a fantastic job of telling the story of the players and their personalities, and how each of them were essential in transforming the Smash community.
There are some technical issues and audio bugs throughout the documentary, but it’s hard to give any real complaints when the creators are making this free to watch on YouTube. If anybody is curious to see how a 4 player GameCube party game turned into one of the most highly competitive, technical fighters around, The Smash Brothers is worthy of your time.