Massively-hyped games never seem to deliver. It’s not that they’re no good; it’s just that they seem to be held to a higher standard, and to please everyone they would have to do things that no game could do.
A producer at Sega recently told me: “In the gaming community, there will always be complaints – you just have to do your best to put out what you feel is a quality game.”
For the last few years, no game has seen as much hype as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the latest chapter in Nintendo’s long standing fighter series.
So does it deliver?
For those unfamiliar with the world of Smash Brothers, think of it as a way to relive some of those arguments you had back in grade school. It’s a 2D, action-centric fighting game that pits legendary and recluse Nintendo universe characters against each other in mortal cartoon combat.
But it’s more – oh so much more.
Brawl plays and feels like a love letter to the Nintendo universe. Sure, there are the expected mainstays like Mario, Link, Peach and Zelda, but much credit has to be given to the developers for including names that the mainstream might not get, but that dedicated gamers will freak out over.
Look for names like Olimar from Pikmin, Meta-Knight from Kirby and Sheik from Zelda. Fancy a trip back to the 80s? Try not to smile too much as you unlock characters like Mr. Game and Watch and even R.O.B the gaming robo.
For the first time ever, characters from non Nintendo titles enter the fight. Solid Snake, complete with cardboard box and rocket launcher from the famed Metal Gear Solid series sneaks in, as does everyone’s favorite hedgehog, Sonic.
While these are great additions, it also begs the question: if this is the final Smash Bros. game, as stated by producer Sakurai, why not push for more outside characters? Who wouldn’t love to see Cloud from Final Fantasy VII take on Link, or Mega Man go head to head with Samus? Producers have gone on record as saying that they only included characters from companies that approached them, but imagine if they took a more aggressive approach.
Brawl’s in-game environments are amazing in their own right. Based off Nintendo games past and present, each stage has interactive environments that directly affect the outcome of each battle.
For instance, the Mario Kart stage has two different levels on which to fight, each with shy-guy’s racing full speed towards you get in their way and you can expect to be swept right off your feet. Some of these stages are not what you’d expect, like Pictochat, which places fighters literally in a message created on the Nintendo DS chat program while objects and terrain are being drawn all around them.
Even cooler scenes include a 3D creation of the first 2 levels from the first Mario Brothers and a Wario Ware stage.
These small touches really make Brawl shine. Sure, it was delayed countless times during it’s development cycle, but when you get a title with so much depth and replay value, it makes it worth it.
Brawl isn’t like most games, where it can be completed within a day or two of purchase. From mastering move sets to unlocking trophies and characters, this is a deceptively deep game.
Of course, at the heart of Brawl — like the other Smash Brothers games before it — is the actual combat. Damage taken by each character is represented as a percentage at the bottom on the screen. Matches, especially those featuring more than two characters and items, are incredibly frantic, so much so that players new to the franchise might be a bit overwhelmed at first.
However, the real beauty of Smash Brothers is that for a game adopted by the hardcore crowd, it’s incredibly accessible. The control scheme is intuitive and simple. There’s the jump button, a block button and two attack buttons. Which way you move the control stick governs your move choice, making it easier for new players to discover new attacks without having to worry about long button combinations.
Super Smash Brothers Brawl is controllable through four different control schemes; Wii-mote and Nunchuck, Wii classic controller, holding the Wii-mote sideways and yes, even the sturdy old Gamecube controller. This ensures that everyone can be comfortable right from the start.
Each character and each stage comes with its own strategy and play style. Brutes like Donkey Kong and Bowser may not move very fast but they are incredibly strong, while Link and Mario’s attacks may not pack the most power but they’re quick enough to deal a lot of damage quickly. There are characters who can fly, who are better with projectiles, even ride motorcycles and … fart. Half the fun is playing around with each character and seeing just what they can do.
Ask any seasoned Smash Brothers player what’s best about the series and odds are they’ll say the same thing: multiplayer. For the first time ever, multiplayer isn’t limited to your console, as Brawl takes the fight online with the Wii’s Wifi service. It’s a nice touch, using a democratic voting system for players to chose match types and stages, but to fully open up the vast array of customization options, you’ll have to connect via the hated friend codes.
For the majority of matches played online, we experienced quite a bit of lag, which admittedly happens to many games upon their release, especially ones with so many players online at one time.
Capping off the already robust customization, Brawl features a Stage editor screen where players with a bit of patience and dedication can create their own arenas to use in game. You start off by choosing the size, background (only three sadly — has there ever been more of a case for Nintendo to introduce downloadable content?) and music you’d like to use. You’re then taken to a grid like screen where you’re able place terrain, and items anywhere as well as change the position of already placed elements. Though the choices are admittedly a bit lacking, it’s extremely rewarding to battle your friends on your own creation.
You can exchange stages you’ve built with friends and even submit then to Nintendo, which will pick the best ones and make them available to players all over the world.
Brawl is more than multiplayer. Gamers looking for more of a solo experience will find plenty to love as well. There’s a classic mode, which is your basic win and advance gameplay. There is also event mode which presents a rather robust series of challenges that deal with performing special moves at certain times or defeating enemies in a certain time frame. You can chose to put your fighters through training against customizable enemies and environments or try your hand at stadium mode, a retooled version of the bonus target breaking stages from classic mode.
The greatest draw for solo players is the Subspace Emissary mode, where each of the characters come together to fight a mysterious enemy (it’s a Nintendo game – is there any other kind?) An adventure mode that harkens back to the days of previous Smash Bros games, Emissary plays like an eclectic mix of Brawl and platforming game as each new level manages to channel the spirit of the source material while still maintaining the feel of Brawl. For instance, the level you play as Donkey and Diddy Kong, you feel like you’re playing a retooled version of Super Nintendo classic Donkey Kong Country. Emissary will take most players a good eight or nine hours to complete, even if they take advantage of the cooperative mode.
With it’s incredibly accessible and addictive gameplay and insane amount of replay value that will keep even the most fickle gamers coming back for quite some times, it joins Super Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess as games Wii owners need in their library.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl delivers.
Genre: Fighter, Action, Platforming.
Launch Date: March 9, 2008
Learning Curve: [rating:4/5]
Overall: [rating:4.5] Editor’s Choice