It’s the beginning of 2004 and Super Smash Bros. Melee is starting to show signs of life as a competitive game. In the two and a half of years that the game’s been alive, you’ve probably sworn among your friends that your Roy was unbeatable or that Sheik was an unfair character. But a quick journey through the Internet, most likely supported by your stepdad’s broadband connection, would show you that you weren’t the only person to think they were hot shit. In fact, your perception on what was fair or competitive was probably far different than quite a few other people.
In Melee’s infancy as a competitive scene, tournaments didn’t quite yet have a standardized format. There wasn’t quite a defined legal stage list yet, as people still disagreed on what stages were fair or not. West Coast tournament series like Tournament Go still included items on medium or low as part of tournament format, while East Coast players strongly advocated against using items in tournament.
By this point in time, the best smashers from both the East and West Coast had already met at TG5 – and the West reigned victorious, with the tournament’s top three spots taken by Ken, Recipherus and Isai, while the Virginia legend Azen placed only fourth, having lost to Isai and Recipherus. However, the first tournament of 2004 was now in the East Coast’s territory in Woodbridge, Virginia. It marked the beginning of a transformative year for Melee.
*NOTE: If anyone has more information about these tournaments, please contact us! We acknowledge that a lot of the data is incomplete!
Game Over (85 entrants)
4. DA Dave
5. Chillin / Wes
7. Sultan of Samitude/Jason (DA)
9. Chu Dat/Mike G/Kamaal/Mild
There’s a beautiful kind of irony to this tournament being named “Game Over.” A more appropriate title would be its acronym: “go,” considering that this tournament was the first one that featured all the best from California, Virginia and New York. These three were considered the three best regions in the United States. Moreover, Game Over’s ruleset provided a vague, but important kind of blueprint for future tournaments.
In addition to items being turned off, each player had five stocks, double-blind picked their characters to start a set and then played the first match of a set on a random stage between Dreamland, Yoshi’s Story, Fountain of Dreams, Battlefield, Final Destination and Pokemon Stadium. The loser of the first game could counterpick to any of these stages or counterpick to Kongo Jungle 64, Mute City, Corneria or Princess Peach’s Castle, where they could then see which character their opponent selected and then counterpick another character, if needed. It’s not the MLG-ruleset that later became the standard, but it was a pretty good start.
Furthermore, games were limited to 10 minutes each – and if the timer ran out, the character with the higher stock won, though if both players had equal stock count, the one with the lower percent won. In case of a tie in both percent and stock, both players would play out the sudden death. Another interesting note about the tournament: doubles had team attack turned off, the opposite of what later became the doubles standard.
As for the actual tournament itself, it provided the Melee scene its first massive upset: the relatively outspoken, but heavy underdog Chillin, back then a chubby kid starting to gain confidence in his Fox, defeating Melee’s king in Ken. Keep in mind that Ken had never lost a tournament set before 2004, solidifying this moment and tournament as Chillin’s breakout. Chillin ended up placing fifth, losing only to Azen in winners semis and Ken in a Fox ditto runback in losers quarters.
Over notable moments of the event included Azen beating Isai in winners finals, giving East Coast fans the confidence that their best player could hang with the top competitors of the other coast. At least until Ken completed his losers run, making his way thorough Chillin, DA Dave, Isai and Azen twice to take the tourney. However, smashers now knew that the king of smash, Ken, could bleed. One thing for sure: no more items.
Zero Challenge 1
Not much is known about this tournament other than that it was back to usual for Ken, who plowed through everyone he faced. This was also a strong tournament for Eddie, who also placed second in teams with an unknown partner, right below Ken and Isai.
The Next Ohio Tournament
Although we don’t have much information about this tournament, we know that Joshu, a Sheik main and member of the Ship of Fools crew, won it. According to the old Super Smash Bros. Wikipedia page (not ssbwiki!), this tournament also marked the first significant tournament that Ohio and Michigan smashers attended together, showing that the two communities were on their way to becoming as prominent as the two in Illinois and Indiana.
Show Me Your Moves(“over 40” entrants)
The first of a legendary Midwest tournament series, as well as one of America’s longest running regionals, the only recorded evidence that we know of outside of the placings are that it garnered over 40 entrants.
3. Chu Dat
Based on what we were able to find out about the tournament, Azen began it by playing Mario for fun, but quickly lost a set to Chillin in winners bracket. He then played the rest of the tournament seriously, defeating Mild (Chillin’s brother and Virginia’s best Sheik player), Chu Dat and Chillin twice to win the tournament.
Smash 4 Cash (Per what Chillin wrote in History of a Smasher, NOT ssbwiki!)
June ??? (over 40 entrants)
2. Mike G
9. Chillin/DA Dave/Matt Deezie/???
In case it hasn’t been obvious from reading the past Smash History articles, the MLG and pre-MLG eras still featured players that were relatively young and busy during the school year. As a result, this was Isai’s first major tournament attended since the winter, though many still had him as the favorite to win. However, his path to victory at this tourney didn’t just go through Deadly Alliance – Smash 4 Cash involved some of MDVA’s best and even a new crew coming from Fall River, MA that claimed to be as good as anyone else.
Isai dominated the tournament, winning sets over Mike G, Mild and West, but this was also the first significant regional where two of New England’s best, KrazyJones and Hayato, made top eight, with the former placing as high as fourth, eventually losing to Mild. Connecticut’s Mofo also upset Chillin in bracket, while the Maryland Roy main NEO broke out, finishing seventh. More notably, this was Mike G’s first significantly high placing at a major, showing the first ever dominant performance shown by an American Peach player.
MLG Chicago 2004 (60 entrants)
5. Jv3x3/Neddle of Juntahh
As is unfortunately the standard for MLG tournaments from the golden era, the bracket has been lost. Isai managed to take his first set ever off Ken, but Ken ended up winning the tournament.
However, one particularly hyped up match in bracket was Ken vs. Eddie, since Ken had previously lost a money match to Eddie at Tournament Go 5 – and a lot of of the Midwest wondered if Eddie, arguably its best player and Ganondorf hero, could defeat Ken and elevate the region’s status to be as highly viewed as the East and West Coast. Ken eventually beat him and Eddie was upset by KishSquared before Eddie could get a shot at Isai and a rematch with the SoCal Marth.
What’s also important to remember is that this was the first ever smash event ran at an MLG-sponsored event, which had a tremendous effect on the otherwise fragmented Melee scene and gave it a unified ruleset. Here’s a good post for more information on MLG’s importance toward Melee’s initial growth.
FC 1 (98 entrants)
13. DieSuperFly/Jarrod/Neddle of Juntahh/Jv3x3
The first tournament series to bring the best of the West, Midwest and East Coast to a neutral ground, FC1 was deceptively marked by the Midwest’s rising players for the first three quarters. Rising stars like the Kish crew, Vidjogamer, Dope, Darkrain, Aarosmashguy and Iggy tearing through bracket to place in the tournament’s top 16, representing the Midwest well, even if its arguably best player Eddie bustered out at a disappointing 17th place.
With Eddie, their biggest threat out of the picture, Ken, Azen, Isai and Wes predictably took the tournaments’ top four spots. And thus, a still existing legacy of the Midwest being unable to defend its region ultimately began with FC-1. At least it was the biggest tournament of its time!
MLG Atlanta 2004
2. Mike G
The only notable thing at MLG Atlanta 2004 was Derigo’s upset of Chillin in losers. Other than that, this was just another strong tournament for Azen.
Tournament Go 6 (112 entrants)
2. Captain Jack
3. Chu Dat
9. Ken/Balefireboy/J-Dawg/Sultan of Samitude
13. Takuto/Blair/Mike P/Dave
Tournament Go 6 is arguably the most important tournament in Melee history before 2013. Being the first tourney to have over 100 entrants, not only did it feature the best of the Pacific Northwest, MDVA, California and NYC, it also featured some of the best Japanese players to fly over to California, including Captain Jack, thought of as second only to Masashi in Japan at the time. Imagine everyone’s surprise when Captain Jack handily destroyed Ken’s Marth in friendlies before the tournament, even with characters like his Donkey Kong and Bowser. At this point in Melee history, smashers had seen Ken lose before, but never so dominantly.
Imagine the significance of this: you just saw a guy come from an unknown region, one you’ve heard nothing but legends about, and then defeat the best player in your national scene with Bowser. It’s the equivalent of someone coming from another country, defeating Mango with, well, Bowser before the tournament and then saying that there’s a guy even better than him.
Tournament Go 6 also featured some of the most shocking upsets in Melee history. Along with PNW’s best player Sastopher upsetting Ken in winners bracket, TG6 featured a then unknown-Sheik player named DieSuperFly, who had only been playing the game for about half a year, and entered only two other national tournaments at that point within a month, upsetting Ken, causing the formerly untouchable king of smash to finish in a humiliating ninth place. At least Sastopher was unquestionably the best in his region and was thought of as one of the best Peach players in the world – DSF was essentially a nobody who had just eliminated a god from tournament.
Chu Dat’s performance this tournament also singlehandedly brought up if Ice Climbers were better than people thought, with his wins over players like Zulu, Wes, Isai (twice) and even Sastopher: in a matchup that many thought was unwinnable. Chu Dat had succeeded locally before, but make no mistake: despite getting double eliminated by Captain Jack (while attempting Sheik and Jigglypuff counterpicks), Chu Dat has Tournament Go 6 to thank for being a catalyst to his rise as one of the best Melee players of all-time.
TG6 also included a bizarre counterpick war in winners and grand finals between Azen and Captain Jack after Azen infamously chaingrabbed him during Sheik dittos, despite the latter refusing to do so. This prompted Captain Jack to choose Doctor Mario instead, while Azen picked Marth later to counter the Doc. After three grueling best-of-seven sets between the two, Azen won, prompting many to say that he was now the new world No. 1. Obviously, it wasn’t as simple as that, but he certainly now held the championship belt.
There’s much more we could say about TG6, which also was the first international major to use four stocks, but we’ll save it for another article. For now, I’d highly recommend reading this highly entertaining post-tourney Smashboards post by the organizer Matt Deezie, who talks about what kind of guests smashers were at his house.
MLG Seattle 2004
We don’t know much about this tournament, but in case you’re wondering about its second place player, the answer is yes. That’s the same JV who provided the basis for the term “JV,” in which a player who finishes a match without any percent on Stock X can claim to finish with a “JV(X+1)” match. Was that the most confusing explanation ever? Maybe.
MLG San Francisco 2004 (50 entrants)
1. Captain Jack
4. Chu Dat
Captain Jack’s return to the states wasn’t just surprising because he won, but also because of Isai eliminating Ken from bracket. Keep in mind that this was now the second event in a row where Ken had failed to win.
Consider how there was now a wide open spot for who the world’s definitive No. 1 player was. If it wasn’t Ken any more, was it Azen because of his performance at TG6? Or did Captain Jack clearly take the mantle at MLG San Francisco, showing that he held dominance over the West Coast? How good was Masashi to where even Captain Jack claimed to be worse? Would Isai be the best in singles if he tried?
Show Me Your Moves 2
In the second of the Midwest’s premier series, KishSquared took the crown for SMYM2, while Darkrain had his first top eight finish at a regional.
The last of an inconsistently ran Maryland series of tournaments, only 30 or so entrants came, per ssbwiki. Azen won the tournament with relative ease, not dropping a set.
MLG Los Angeles 2004 (somewhere “under 100 entrants”)
…9. HugS (?)
For an event that took place in such a smash-heavy place like Los Angeles, you’d think there would be more information about this event. Unfortunately, this is all we have. Congratulations to HugS for breaking out at this tournament!
Gettin’ Schooled (63 entrants)
1. Azen/Mike G./Chu Dat
12. SD Fox
While this was an exceptionally hyped tournament due to the influx of MDVA, Midwest and NYC talent coming down, Getting Schooled also marked Chillin’s worst placing of the year, as he finished only 13th. The tournament wasn’t run efficiently either, as Azen, Mike G and Chu Dat split for first due to the lack of time.
MLG Boston 2004
Not much we know here, other than this.
MLG New York 2004
3. Captain Jack
Just like that, in the last major event of 2004, Ken silenced any doubters that thought he had lost his edge as the world’s best player (possibly Masashi withstanding). Azen also finished a disappointing fourth-place, showing that he still had flaws in his gameplay, while Isai got his revenge on Captain Jack and played Ken in ten thrilling games.
Because we were criticized last time for giving readers “blue balls,” (by none other than tafokints and the Crimson Blur) by just listing our Top 10, here’s a brief explanation for each of our picks, though again – we acknowledge the inherent lack of data.
NOTE: We decided not to include Masashi or any of the international players who did not enter an American tournament, due to too much speculation being needed.
10. Mike G
Even with a disappointing 25th place at TG6, Mike G was one of DA’s best players. At three of the year’s other tourneys, Mike G either placed second or first (well, tied for first). It doesn’t hurt that he one of the forefathers of Peach’s meta in the pre-Armada era.
Rob$, then one of Texas’s best smashers and hailing from Crystal City, had one of the year’s most underlooked tournament runs at TG6, where he defeated players like Lunaris, GERM, DA Dave and the Ken-slayer DSF en route to a fifth place finish, showing that he might have taken the mantle for world’s best Falco. A lack of data prevents him from being higher, though you could certainly vouch for him.
While he left quite a lot to be desired, with a few inconsistent showings after defeating Ken early in the year, it’s important to note that Chillin also had victories over Azen and Chu Dat . Even if the latter two were his training partners, his victories here still stand as testament to Chillin’s clear potential as a player.
DA’s loudest trash talker and the world’s first premier Samus player, Wes had many good showings, traveling out of New York frequently and placing in the top eight everywhere he went. A lack of a top tier win, however, hurts his placing on our list.
The way people talked about Sastopher beating Ken back at TG6, you’d think that he was a random Peach. However, at the time, the Washington Peach was his region’s best player and he rarely, if ever dropped sets locally to other players. Though beating Ken was certainly a significant upset in Melee’s history, it was nowhere near as random and seemingly out of nowhere as the one to DSF.
5. Chu Dat
We mentioned Chu Dat’s legendary Tournament Go 6 run, which skyrocketed him to our top five alone. However, he was just behind Azen in the race to become MDVA’s best player – and after Game Over, Chu Dat never placed outside the top four of a tournament. How’s that for consistency, for the world’s first ever top-level Ice Climbers?
Other than the fact that he was the first relevant Captain Falcon player and a guy who was doing things like shield dropping, tech chasing and triple kneeing long before Darkrain reached his prime, Isai also had a terrifyingly good Sheik and was commonly thought of as the world’s best doubles player. In fact, before Game Over, many wondered if Isai was actually better than Ken and just didn’t care enough to compete.
Putting Azen less than first might feel strange for viewers, given his victory at the world’s biggest tournament in TG6. However, his 0-4 record against Ken hurts – and even his record against Captain Jack is split at 2-2 despite his TG6 win. Nevertheless, Azen never dropped a serious set outside of the top four for the year, only losing once to Chillin while playing Mario.
2. Captain Jack
With a first place at MLG San Francisco 2004 over both Ken and Isai, split sets against Azen and having a status as Japan’s second best player, Captain Jack also solidly vanquished every other American player he entered. If he was this good, could you imagine how good Masashi was? Think of it this way: could you imagine anyone else’s low-tiers beating Ken in friendlies before the year’s biggest tournament?
Ken had several hiccups on the year, losing to Isai, Captain Jack, DieSuperFly, Chillin and Sastopher, but by the year’s end, he delivered a dominating performance at MLG New York 2004, finishing first at a tourney with the other top four without dropping a single set. Add in his undefeated record against Azen, the East Coast’s best and his history of dominating all of 2003 without a single loss and you have someone who, even with questionable losses, was still thought of as Melee’s king.