Saleem “Salem” Akiel Young is a professional Smash Bros. 4 player known for his high level Bayonetta play. And, for the past few days, he’s been on a titillating Twitter tirade calling out Melee players left, right, and center.
It all started when William “Leffen” Hjelte responded to Dominique “SonicFox” McLean on Dec. 23, agreeing that the Smash Ultimate character Snake “sucks.” Salem saw this and snapped back, accusing Leffen of being misinformed. It then quickly spiraled out of control.
With the release of Smash Bros. Ultimate on Dec. 7, the rift between the Melee and Smash 4 communities—something we’ve grown accustomed to—is here. Every time a new version of the game is announced, the Melee community has become notorious for playing it for a few weeks before deciding it’s not good enough and giving up on it entirely.
It’s been the same with Brawl and Smash 4, and it’s only a matter of time before it happens with Ultimate. It’s not necessarily the fault of the Melee community, but it often gives players of the newer versions of the games—who think they’re just as competitive—a skewed impression, resulting in a conflict of opinion.
Melee, which has been available to play on the Nintendo GameCube since 2001, has a strong and passionate following. It’s arguably been the most popular fighting game in the emerging esports scene, despite the release of multiple new titles, such as Street Fighter V and Tekken 7.
The competitive side of the game has a vast history, with the scene beginning to gain traction in recent years in part thanks to the added exposure of Twitch and the growing online community, as opposed to the underground and local scene it once was. As previous iterations of the franchise come and go, the patchless Melee, woefully ignored by Nintendo, has stood vigilant.
In the days leading up to Christmas, the feud between Leffen, known in the past as the “villian” of Melee, and Smash 4 player Salem, both winners of EVO, in 2018 and 2017, respectively—began to unravel.
In a string of tweets propelled by a difference of opinion, Salem proclaimed that, “Melee players only know Melee,” and that, “there’s a reason you guys can barely scrape the surface of other Smash games,” implying that Leffen’s judgement of Smash Ultimate was worthless.
Amused, Leffen responded, “This is the most pathetic thing I’ve ever read,” proclaiming that he was merely “an average high level player,” who’s only had success because he mains Bayonetta—a character widely considered overpowered in Smash 4—further driving the argument between the two players.
After Leffen stepped back a little, and the drama seemed as if it was about to die down, Salem tweeted, “Melee isn’t a part of the actual Smash community and I’m not just saying that because I don’t like them. I’m saying that off years of research,” a statement that’s probably already being copy pasted into Twitch chat as we speak.
Adam “Armada” Lindgren, the legendary Melee player that’s never finished outside of the top four at 39 major tournaments—winning 21 of them, with 13 second places finishes—chimed in, defending the community.
Despite being renowned for avoiding controversy in the community, Armada said, “I’m the GOAT of Melee,” before listing off each of his individual titles and accolades, including achieving number one in the Brawl mod Project M, and securing multiple top four finishes in Smash 4, without even owning a Wii U.
“I have more titles in both Apex and EVO than you and Apex doesn’t even make my top 5,” he continued, “Check your facts before talking shit.”
It was clear as to whose side the community was on, but Salem remained cocksure, referring to Armada as “Mr. one trick pony,” and baiting him further by tweeting, “All you’re saying is you only know one game.”
At this point both the Ultimate and Melee communities got up in arms, urging Salem to stop, begging him to withdraw. It’s one thing calling out Leffen, a player known for his candid matter-of-fact attitude on social media, but not Armada—anyone but Armada. He’s the poster boy of Melee, he’s what Roger Federer is to tennis, what Lionel Messi is to soccer, and what Michael Jordan is to basketball, you just can’t call him out like that on Twitter.
Everything went quiet for a few hours. And then suddenly, BOOM, Salem dropped his Link-esque donezo manifesto,” a somewhat similar document to Austin “Link” Shin, mid laner for CLG in 2015, but this time titled, “Years of Research”—admittedly a little less provocative sounding, without all the bells and whistles.
Salem took to Twitlonger, giving an explanation to his previous rash statements, apologizing to the Melee community as a whole, but further calling out “a few bad eggs,” who he said, for the third consecutive Smash game in a row, had created an “us vs them” scenario. He went on say specific players in the Melee community have always looked down upon other games in the series and enjoyed watching the scene slowly rip into two.
He called out Leffen once again, expressing that he’s someone who seems to always stir up drama instead of “staying in his own lane.” He then went on to mention Joseph “Mango” Marquez, Melee’s bearded fan favorite, claiming that he “constantly drinks, does whatever he wants and doesn’t care about anything,” before accusing him of being “extremely dangerous,” and that, “During the Smash Ultimate Invitational some Smash players were scared of what he would do next.”
The overall Christmas message that “Years of Research” gave was that Salem merely wanted Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to be the game to “finally get us all together behind one title.” Despite all the controversy, backtracking and hypocrisy, he has a point.
It’s overly enthusiastic, and much too early to say if Ultimate will be the game to change the minds of a generation of Melee players, but it’s a heartwarming thought. For now, the Twitter drama has simmered down, with both Salem and Leffen wishing each other a merry Christmas. Let’s hope it stays that way.