The Book of Melee: An Excerpt of My Final Melee Project

Hi. I wrote a book about the history of professional Super Smash Bros. Melee. Feel free to skip the following if you don’t care about me and just want to read a sample, first-draft chapter.

A little under three years ago, I started this website, eager to have some kind of platform for my thoughts on pop culture. Then just a student meets aspiring sportswriter meets smasher (the alliteration is unintentional), I didn’t really have a plan, nor did I expect to get a following of thousands of weekly readers. Since then, this website has received over half of a million views, as well as led me to meet some of my dearest friends.

Around late 2016, with my grandfather telling me to have no regrets about my career, I had an idea. When I shared it to my family, he and my normally gaming-skeptic father were the first people to believe in me.

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My grandfather and I (with short hair and 15 pounds heavier) are the two, left to right, in the back; my granduncle and my dad, left to right, in the front.

Why not write a book about Melee history, one that would cover its major tournaments, players and show the resilience of gaming’s greatest cult following? I had heard of books written about professional gaming before, but never an equivalent to Bill Simmons’ “The Book Of Basketball” for a specific video game community.

To the average person, the premise sounds ridiculous. For smashers who know the rich lore of our scene, it’s more than reasonable. “The Smash Brothers” documentary already proved that Melee has a story worth telling.

Inspired by my years of being a sports fan, my family and my community, I began writing.

Two years later, with the memories of my late grandfather still clear in my mind, I’m happy to confirm that my book has turned from a dream into a reality. In February of this year, I officially finished the first draft.

There’s still work to go. For example, I don’t know how I will price it. My website has always been free-to-read, but this project has taken countless hours of research, fact-checking, speaking to others and editing. Currently, I am still reviewing all 162 pages with the help of a few select readers and editors.

Furthermore, I want to keep it accessible for both veteran smashers and those eager to learn about our community. Frankly speaking, there’s no confirmed marketing plan, “book tour,” or cover art. I don’t have an estimated self-publish date yet, but I’m shooting for the end of the summer. By then, I’ll have more interviews and likely an even better experience for my readers.

Regardless, that’s enough about me. Here’s an excerpt from “The Book of Melee,” from a chapter that details Armada’s Genesis run.


Chapter 15: Genesis

The fifth of 11 children growing up, Armada had an unremarkable start to his career. Introduced to Melee by one of his older brothers, Alexander “Aniolas” Lindgren, he fell in love with it, relentlessly grinding out hours of solo practice and becoming the best within Gothenburg.

That wasn’t enough. He wanted to become the best player in the world, a feat many saw as impossible for him due to living far away from the best smashers in the United States.

Armada dreamed of making a name for himself, but the obstacles facing him seemed insurmountable. Due to living in a big family growing up – and under a father who made a modest living as a welder – money was another factor that he needed to overcome if he wanted to travel, especially coming from Sweden.

“We were not the most fancy-dressed,” Armada told Rolling Stone, referencing adversity he and his siblings faced in school. “And I was a gamer, so that was something a lot of people really liked to pick on me for.”

“Maybe I found the bullying an inspiration to prove them all wrong.”

Hidden behind Armada’s individual willpower came a deep-rooted love for and from his own family. With the help of two brothers, Aniolas and Andreas “Android” Lindgren, Armada endlessly practiced Melee, finding out about tournaments across Europe. Slowly, but surely, Armada overcame the odds against him, traveling to these tourneys and quickly rising to the top of the pecking order within his continent.

His combo game in particular gained him a cult following among veteran smashers who saw his recorded matches, noticing how ruthlessly he destroyed the competition in Europe. This was seen through both Armada’s sheer speed and control of Peach, as well as his punish game, which looked Mew2King-esque, if not even more impressive at times.

Now attending Genesis, Armada had yet another test, in a country where he could barely speak the language, but looked to prove himself in his most beloved game.

Several smashers were skeptical of Armada succeeding in the United States. Many assumed that European greats of the MLG era, like Ek and Amsah, had just beat up on vastly inferior competition.

The Europeans didn’t even play on the same version of Melee as anyone else – the PAL version of Melee had small, but noticeable differences to certain characters’ hitboxes, attacks and weights. Many smashers also bragged that they too could look like Armada if they constantly played opponents with “bad DI.”

Blitzing through pools, save for a tight 2-1 set with SoCal Ganondorf main WhatIsFear, Armada advanced to bracket, where a couple of heavy hitters awaited him, NorCal Fox Lunin and Mango’s best friend Lucky. Nonetheless, he quickly defeated them to make it to winner’s quarters.

A little-known fact – after Armada won game one, Lucky successfully counterpicked the Swede to Poké Floats, a legal but little-used and frowned-upon stage of competitive Melee back then. This stage was eventually banned from tournament play, due to inherently anti-competitive qualities, such as its highly varied terrain and shifting environment. Either way, Armada closed the set out, 2-1.

The Swedish Peach began to gather a crowd of viewers, amazed that he could defeat some of the United States’ most impressive players. Now guaranteed for top 12 at Melee’s biggest tournament ever, Armada would have to run the gauntlet, facing only America’s premier players from then on.

Against DaShizWiz in winner’s quarters, the Swede had his first challenge of the tournament. In the first game of their set, the Florida Falco two-stocked Armada in under two minutes. The result confirmed what many thought would be the Swede’s best-case scenario – that he wasn’t too bad, but still not a supermajor contender. Little did they know just how wrong they were.

Instead, the Swede adapted, taking Shiz to Mute City and winning by two-stocks. Armada once again two-stocked him in their third game. He then faced the player that everyone in the venue felt sure that he’d lose to: Mew2King, specifically his impeccable Marth.

Back then, this specific character and player combination was considered unwinnable for any Peach player. To put it bluntly, either Mew2King was going to defeat Armada or everybody was fundamentally wrong about how they viewed Melee.

Just like he did against DaShizWiz, Armada lost the first game, but then came back looking stronger. Clutching out a victory in game two, the European champion then two-stocked Mew2King to win the set. He had not only defeated a former world champion, but he did it with a character that no one ever saw at this level before, dominating a matchup that some saw as impossible.

His next opponent, awaiting him in winner’s finals was Mango, marking the first battle of their rivalry. Most bizarrely, their matchup featured two characters, Jigglypuff and Peach, that several in the MLG-era discounted as either a cut below top tier or not good enough to win nationals.

Mango and Armada’s success stories leading up to this moment proved that Melee had a long way to go before it could come close to solved. In just a year’s time, Mango had become the undisputed lord of Melee. But like how Mango took the throne from Mew2King at Pound 3, was he too destined to be displaced by Armada?

To start their set, Mango’s Jigglypuff looked completely lost, as Armada two-stocked it in game one. The match caused many in the large crowd behind the two to go quiet, as they were not used to seeing their country’s best player get outplayed, let alone with his most fearsome character.

In game two, Mango picked Falco, perhaps inspired by how previously close Shiz came to beating Armada. Keep in mind that Mango had played Falco for a year and a half at this point, even beating Mew2King with the character.

Two-stocking him back on Yoshi’s Story, Mango looked in control of the set, as if he downloaded the Swede. But with a third game on Final Destination, one in which Armada’s conversions off grabs against Mango were especially dangerous, Armada went up 2-1, adapting to Mango’s own adjustments.

Heading into the set, the excitement among American smashers quickly changed to desperation when they saw Armada take a 2-1 lead. Maybe the United States wasn’t much better, if at all, at Melee than anyone else.

For the first time since his rise to the top, the crowd began to root for Mango. Even as he barely held on to win game four and take the set to its final game, smashers knew that any moment Armada got a hit, he could flip the tide of a match in a few seconds.

The two were transforming the metagame in a way that hadn’t been seen since Ken vs. Bombsoldier. And on their last game of the set, after going back and forth for three stocks, Armada hit Mango with a final neutral air to catch Mango in the air, both of them at high percent. The king was slain.

“Wow,” gasped commentator HMW within seconds of Armada’s victory. “You’re too fucking good, Armada.”

Bloodthirsty for another shot at Armada, Mango swept Hungrybox, who himself had defeated a slew of top level opponents to make it to loser’s finals. Though their actual Jigglypuff ditto matches weren’t anything noteworthy, if you watch these games again, you can hear the shock in HMW’s voice, still in disbelief from what he saw in winner’s finals and recovering from it.

Armada had come all the way from Europe to the United States, a region that took its own dominance in Melee for granted, just to beat the best American players on his first try. His Genesis breakout illustrated the kind of hunger that still existed within the post-Brawl era, that anyone would fly thousands of miles for a couple of thousand dollars and for the glory of being Melee’s best player, a year after its competitive scene was destined to die.
 

When grand finals started, Armada ruthlessly three-stocked Mango’s Falco. As viewers gasped at every combo Armada hit, it looked like his turn to make mincemeat out of Mango, just as he had done for his previous opponents.

Think of this as Rocky vs. Ivan Drago, but with an ironic twist. Formerly having no one believing him, Armada now looked like the heavy foreign favorite, despite actually being a massive underdog. Mango had a personality and reputation more akin to Apollo Creed, but he remained the United States’ last hope, similar to Rocky.

Eventually, after Mango switched back to Jigglypuff, Armada stood on championship point, up 2-1, with Mango one game away from finally being dethroned. This lead to a crucial game four that later became known as one of Melee’s greatest games ever.

The two battled back and forth on Battlefield, trading their first three stocks. Armada led for most of the game, but Mango had finally found a hole in the Swede’s shield-heavy gameplay. If he could grab Armada instead of throwing out unsafe aerials on the Swede’s shield, he’d rack up percent, while maintaining strong position after a throw. His newfound patience began to manifest itself in strong counterplay.

Armada and Mango were now at their last stock at mid-percents, with the two of them battling for center stage. But in a situation where Mango had begun grabbing, the SoCal Jigglypuff did something unexpected, rather than grab. He landed behind Armada’s shield and proactively jumped forward to instinctively cover a roll.

For the first time all set, with Melee’s biggest tournament on the line, the SoCal Jigglypuff played his trump card: Jigglypuff’s rest. It landed, giving Mango game four and setting in stone the greatest in-game read in Melee history.

Right as the rest hit, the hundreds of smashers watching roared with approval. Chants of “Mango!” and “USA” deafened the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds venue.

The Swedish Peach wasn’t yet broken. After going down early in game five, Armada scrapped, tooth and nail, to make a comeback, with both of them ending up at high percent on their last stock. But after a trade between Jigglypuff and Peach sent both of them flying upon collision, Mango ended on top, resetting the bracket and taking the first set of grand finals.

Forced to compete against a character he hated and playing in a venue that almost entirely wanted to see him lose, Armada had gone from being the hero of the Genesis tournament to being rooted against. Mango swept him in the second set, also dominating Armada’s desperate Fox counterpick in the last game.

Loud cheers greeted the Genesis champion Mango upon his victory, but they also went toward his newfound Swedish rival, whose legend had just started.


Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you all updated. Until then, here’s to carving our chapter in gaming history.

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