Prepare to be shocked: at one time I very nearly walked away from video gaming. After graduating high school in 1999 at the age of eighteen I moved away from my childhood home to the big city to go to college, meaning that my spare time was spent on studying and my spare money was spent on setting up my new life. I had all of my classic Nintendo consoles hooked up at my new apartment and still enjoyed time with my Nintendo 64, but as the line up of compelling new games began to dry up I began playing less and less.
When the Game Boy Advance debuted in 2001 and the only new Super Mario game available was a port of Super Mario Bros. 2 (a game I already owned twice over in different incarnations), I expressed a mild interest, but was in no great hurry to pick one up (in fact, I never actually did). Then the Nintendo GameCube landed in 2001, and once again without a big new fantastic Super Mario game to back it up, I just couldn't work up enough interest to spend $200 on a new console. There was something on the horizon that I wanted, and that would be the game that eventually became known as Super Mario Sunshine. Until it was released, however, I decided to sit things out and wait.
By June 2002 a date for Sunshine had been set and when the price of a new GameCube dropped to $150 I decided to make my move. While picking up the console from the store I made a snap judgment to buy Super Smash Bros. Melee as well. I chose it primarily for the positive buzz about its single player adventure mode and because, at the time, it was the only game available that seemed to contain the most fun. I wasn't expecting too much. I'd played the original Super Smash Bros. for the N64 and wasn't exactly overwhelmed. I took my new purchases home, hooked it all up, and turned on the game. The game's opening video clip started up, and in that single moment the metaphorical giant white-gloved hand of Nintendo reached out from the television and yanked me back into the world of video games.
Super Smash Bros. Melee kept me occupied until Super Mario Sunshine arrived later in the summer. I ran through the adventure mode with each available character which just unlocked more characters with which to run through the adventure mode. I built up my smashing skills in order to whomp the CPU-controlled characters so I could unlock new stages. I went hunting for trophies. I dived into the whole Smash Bros. experience, unlocking and exploring as much of the game as I could possibly discover. Aside from a game rental here and there, Smash was the game that ate up my GameCube time (and I absolutely loved every minute of it).
I don't play the game as often these days, mostly because I've unlocked just about everything and done all I can do in single-player mode. I do get a little multiplayer mayhem in now and then, however. At E3 2006 a few of us from AMN had a friendly little after-hours tournament one evening at the hotel. It was a perfect way to blow off a little steam and recharge after long days of pacing up and down the convention center, proving once again that Super Smash Bros. Melee is the perfect party game. I bought the GameCube for Super Mario Sunshine, but it's Smash Bros. that brought me back into the gaming fold.