The following is an excerpt of “The Book of Melee,” my upcoming 150+ page account of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee’s history.
Kevin “Dr. PeePee” Nanney is an unusual case study of how to become the best Melee player in the world. Unlike Mango, Mew2King or Hungrybox, the North Carolina native came from an obscure Smash region. He also had an especially embarrassing tag – it came from an inside joke, referring to when he was younger and spilled juice on himself.
After years of casual play with Mario, Dr. PeePee stumbled onto videos of MLG era Melee around 2007. Fascinated by what he saw, he continued to watch the competitive scene from afar, furiously taking notes, learning about advanced techniques and thinking about Melee every day. He was hooked before he had ever entered a tournament.
“I spent more time than anyone else I can think of just recording matches versus my brother on my VCR, uploading it to my computer and watching it for hours,” he told Red Bull.
Dr. PeePee had seen success in other activities, like running, soccer and academics. According to him, he graduated with the fifth best grades in his high school class. Studying and hard work were nothing new to him.
In Melee, the star student found untapped strategy and potential. Rather than primarily seeking to become the best player in the world, he hungered to push his own limits, not just as a competitor, but as a student of the game.
Eventually switching to Falco and entering tournaments, within two years, Dr. PeePee became the best player in North Carolina. An active Smashboards user, he also slowly gained a reputation for being the hidden Melee guru of the Atlantic South, frequently discussing Melee’s intricacies online with whomever would engage with him.
There were still roadblocks – particularly his Floridian rival Hungrybox, who dominated him whenever they played. Moreover, as a college student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Dr. PeePee knew traveling for Melee could be difficult.
Nevertheless, he persisted. With a dedication toward learning the rules of Melee, Dr. PeePee would be deterred by no one.
By mid-2009, Dr. PeePee already had a slew of victories, including wins over both of the East Coast’s top Captain Falcons, Scar and Hax. At Revival of Melee 2, his first-ever national, he finished second, defeating Lucky, Jman and the Mango-slayer Kage. He then took games off Hungrybox, showing signs of progress in a matchup he previously looked lost in.
Dr. PeePee’s Falco stood out from his contemporaries. He liked playing at medium and long-range distances, also boasting a better ground game than any other Falco, with a deadly dash dance that made his pinpoint lasers more threatening. In an age where Shiz, Zhu and other Falco players saw success, Dr. PeePee began to slowly stand out from the pack, leading many to wonder if he could soon reach an elite level.
He began taking sets from Hungrybox, winning North Carolina’s HERB3 over him in late March 2010. After a fourth place showing at Apex 2010, just under Mew2King, Armada and Hungrybox, Dr. PeePee looked ready for a greater breakout, one that would happen at Revival of Melee 3 in November.
After initially dropping a set in winner’s bracket to Toronto Sheik legend KirbyKaze, Dr. PeePee clawed his way back to grand finals here, tearing through Hungrybox, Jman and KirbyKaze in the runback. His only opponent left was the tournament favorite, Mew2King.
Before grand finals, to the shock of everyone watching the two competitors, Mango announced to the venue that he was going to bet $50 on Dr. PeePee winning the tournament. Perhaps Mango noticed the same will to win in Dr. PeePee that he had in the past.
As the star of a new era clashing against an old guardian, Dr. PeePee battled Mew2King for two fierce sets, finally coming out on top in a game-five classic second set. His brilliant stage control and decision making surpassed the man who once looked like he had solved Melee.
Two months later, at the start of 2011, he traveled to San Diego for Winter Gamefest VI. The dorky Southern Falco with an even dorkier tag was suddenly the new kid on the block. Now competing on the other side of the country, Dr. PeePee prepared for a clash with Mango, his new mentor.
When the two played for the first time at Pound 4, Mango destroyed Dr. PeePee in friendly Falco dittos, casually three-stocking him. Nevertheless, his new apprentice remained determined as ever to improve, now listening to Mango’s advice for improving, and incorporating newer ideas of his own.
A year after Pound 4, they were now ready to play again in bracket at Winter Gamefest. Testing his own apprentice, Mango played Captain Falcon for most of their sets, as well as the tournament. Dr. PeePee would end up on top, not just beating the Captain Falcon, but staving off an effort from Mango’s Falco in grand finals.
With Hungrybox, Mew2King and Mango off his hit list, Dr. PeePee only had one name left among the Melee elite: Armada. At mid-February’s Pound V, 2011’s first supermajor, he’d get his shot against the Swede.
But first, the Swede needed to get far enough in bracket to play him.
After getting destroyed by Hungrybox at Apex 2010, nobody knew Armada’s plan leading up to Pound V. Most expected him to pick Fox against Hungrybox; others suggested that he’d try Ice Climbers.
When the stone-face Swede picked Young Link to start his winner’s bracket set against his nemesis, nearly everyone watching the set gasped. This marked the first time a player of Armada’s caliber had seriously picked a low tier in tournament since the MLG era, when ChuDat used to pick the same character against Peach. For the first few minutes of the match, people in the audience laughed and groaned at the heavily defensive, projectile-spamming, zoning heavy gameplay.
After four minutes passed, Armada’s brilliance began to show. The Swede started to run away with the first match, slowly gaining a big lead through the use of bombs, boomerangs and nimble movement to weave in and out from Jigglypuff’s aerial threatening space. This wasn’t a gimmick – this was the art of war.
Eight minutes later, Armada completed a double-two stock 2-0, with a simultaneously baffled and wildly cheering crowd. Soon following, he faced off against a red-hot Dr. PeePee, fresh off a 3-0 over Mew2King.
This was a set that featured Mew2King willingly falling off the stage to end a three-stock loss game one, rage quitting under a minute in game two and a final loss in game three. According to Dr. PeePee, the set made many smashers consider if Falco was the best character in the game.
Like Mango at Genesis, Dr. PeePee was the United States’ last defender against Armada. Meanwhile, Armada desperately looked for his first ever major victory in the United States, having already failed three times. The Swede ended up prevailing, eking out a close 3-1 set to make it to grand finals.
As he had done at Revival of Melee 3, Dr. PeePee rose from the ashes. Grinding out a 3-2 victory over Hungrybox in loser’s finals, he once again prepared for a rematch with the only player left in Melee’s stratosphere whom he hadn’t defeated.
Both Dr. PeePee and Armada came from regions that weren’t known for having any notable competition. Their rises came at unexpected times when no one had ever heard of them or where they came from. Because they were forced to improve on their own, both became known for their analysis, as well as their adaptation skills.
However, they still had their differences. Armada played reactively, picking “correct” options to earn his openings, extensively comboing his opponents and overwhelming his enemies through sheer willpower. Dr. PeePee excelled in the neutral game, frequently ending his combos early and hiding any technical errors through tactical genius, safe play and positional pressure. If Armada could break his opponents in just a flash of a few seconds, Dr. PeePee preferred to entirely dictate the pace of his matches.
Grand finals started off with with a bang. Dr. PeePee three-stocked Armada, locking him down and never letting him get a chance to start his combo game. American spectators began to cheer “USA,” just as they did with Mango at the first Genesis. Alongside this chant came a chant that became synonymous for following Dr. PeePee, “Stack it up!”
In a video of a North Carolina local grand finals, North Carolina Melee community leader MrBeenReady claimed that it came from two local smashers telling another group of people at a movie theater to “stack it up” in reference to the high prices for popcorn. Over time, it became a running gag, catchphrase, dance and chant. To date, however, many argue over its origin, with some saying it came from a fast food restaurant.
Armada responded with a victory of his own, then defeating Dr. PeePee in game three to go up 2-1. Just like the first Genesis, the American defender stood on his last legs. Heading into possibly his last match of the tournament, Dr. PeePee went all out, intentionally opting to play off raw emotion and not overthink any more.
In game four, the two of them went blow-for-blow again, dragging each other to their last stock. The crowd screamed at every hit either one of them got, with the lights shutting off in the venue adding unintentional hype for a hollering packed group of spectators. In the closing seconds of match four, Dr. PeePee finally hit Armada with a final back air to catch his recovery, sending the set to its final game and leading to an eruption of applause from the heavily American crowd.
On Fountain of Dreams, the last game of the set, the two once again pushed each other to their limits. One combo later, Dr. PeePee had taken a set from Armada for the first time ever, reset the bracket and now had another set to win. The Swede never recovered.
It wasn’t as dramatic as the first set of grand finals, but when Dr. PeePee followed the reset with a 3-1 victory, it was official – the man from nowhere had become the clear world No. 1. He had defeated each of his greatest challengers over the span of four months.
The Melee community boasted many talented players, with five names now standing above everyone else: Mango, Armada, Dr. PeePee, Hungrybox and Mew2King.
Inspired by a similar concept within the Street Fighter community, these group of players were eventually dubbed the “five gods” of Melee, known for their consistently high placings at supermajors and their remarkable consistency against the rest of Melee’s playing field.
It’s not clear when the term “god” started to catch on. Some think it came into fruition after Pound V, while others say it only became widespread after 2013, due to Scar’s frequent use of the term on commentary. To date, smashers argue over which of the “gods” were actually qualified for the title, as not all of them had an equal level of success.
By this point, the Melee community had already seen Mew2King and Mango rule the game. Hungrybox had his stretch of excellent play, while Dr. PeePee looked like the newest contender for Melee’s top spot.
Only one player among the Melee gods had not yet achieved an American title: the European wanderer himself, Armada.
Thanks for reading. The current release date is expected sometime in late August 2018. Stay tuned.