Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Someone must have reminded Nintendo about that other territory.
First of all let me have a moan about the delay. Nintendo of Europe, as pathetic as ever, have cited translation as the reason for the six month delay from Super Smash Bros. Brawl being released in Japan to us ever-neglected Europeans finally getting it over here. It’s almost as if they don’t bother starting the translation until after the game is out in Japan. But enough about that, time to talk about the game.
The core gameplay of Brawl is the same it has ever been. Unlike traditional beat-’em-ups where you deplete an opponent’s health bar, in this your aim is to increase the damage percentage of your opponent. The higher the percentage becomes, the easier it is to be knocked off the platform and once you are knocked past a certain distance you lose a life. Items such as baseball bats, laser sword and bombs can be used to increase the amount of damage dealt.
This time however, two new items are introduced. Firstly, evoking all sort of nostalgia, are the assist trophies which work in the same way as the pokeballs. Instead of pokemon, these summon characters from numerous past games including the Ninja from MGS, Andross from StarFox and even a Nintendog which fills the screen, obscuring your view. The second new item is the smash ball. During a fight this will appear and randomly float around the screen. Once a character destroys this it enables them to use their final smash, basically their finishing move. These range from Mario’s mega fireball attack to Gannondorf transforming into beast Ganon from Twilight Princess.
As you would expect, the selection of characters is as varied as ever. The detail in the character models is much higher than in the previous game. Series regulars such as Mario, Link, Samus etc all return. Newcomers include Solid Snake, Diddy Kong (!), Pit and of course Sonic the Hedgehog â€“ the â€œwho would win in a fight, Mario or Sonic?â€ argument can finally be settled.
Each character has their own stage based on a game from their past. Amongst my favourites are Shadow Moses (with cameo appearances from a few Metal Gears) and Delfino Plaza from Super Mario Sunshine. A selection of stages from the previous game are also included which is a nice touch. One of the big additions to Brawl is the stage builder mode and once stages are made they can be shared with friends via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Unlike Melee’s single player adventure mode which felt rather tacked on, Brawl’s version, called the â€œSubspace Emissaryâ€, has a fully fleshed out story mode. The story is told via pre-rendered cutscenes written by Kazushige Nojima, who has previously worked on the Final Fantasy series. After seeing these it’s a wonder as to why Nintendo have shunned away from using FMV cutscenes in the past in games such as Metroid and Zelda. They are simply fantastic, more so because of the fact there is no dialogue at all and most of the communication is done with subtle character movement and gestures. Memorable moments such as Pikachu teaming up with Samus to fight Ridley or Link and Yoshi battling the bad guys in a forest are simply terrific. The levels consist of 2D side-scrolling and are linked together by the world map. Once the levels are completed you can return and replay them at any time. The secret characters are unlocked in this mode whenever they join your party, or they can be unlocked the usual way by meeting certain criteria in the melee mode. Stickers can be collected throughout the story mode which are used to power up attributes such as weapon damage and shield strength.
Remember when gaming wasn’t a chore and everything you did with them could only bring a smile to the face? Remember when games had their own style of music and story that wasn’t ripped from Hollywood? Petridge Farm remembers and so does HAL Laboratories, the makers of Kirby and the super-duper Smash Bros. series. (GameCube controller not included)
The very fact that it’s a fun game to play rules Brawl out as a straight beat ’em up. It’s more of a party game given the amount of variable and wild-cards that can be administered to a match, ranging from the generic items; health; conjured old mascots and PKMN who fight for you; and the victory-snatching Smash Balls. It’s by no means as anti-competitive as the latest Mario Kart, as evidenced by the series stalward stance as the Nintendo’s platforms’ premier (only?) multiplayer fighter. Even if you’re on the receiving end of an unlucky and unbalanced assault, the sheer carnival brashness – helped along by some wiinomenal graphics – of it all will see you through many a beasting with a smile.
The lifeblood of any fighter is it’s set of locked treasures, and Brawl is a veritable Aladdin’ Cave of Nintendo booty. A discography of orchestral soundtrack, a sticker-book, a trophy cabinet that makes the 360’s achievements look positively dull (right… you… OUTSIDE! – Ed). The campaign mode only acts as a shortcut (though by no mean short in itself) to the new characters and Kingdom Hearts-esque CG cinemas.
The new additions are pure fanservice, which is something most devotees of Nintendo are finding sorely lacking with the Wii. Could this then be a last hurrah of the golden age of first-party masterpieces, or is hope still carried on the wings of Icarus?
Secondary Score: 9/10
While the adventure mode does have a lot more depth than you would expect, the normal fighting mode the series is famed for is where most of the fun is had, especially in multiplayer. Fans prayers have been answered with the inclusion of online multiplayer. Despite owning a Wii since launch this is the first game I have actually purchased that works online. The online aspect wasn’t as much hassle as I was expecting it to be. There are three online modes, team battle, normal mode and spectator mode. The first two can be played either with randoms or with a friend. You are allocated a twelve digit game-specific friend code and to play online with friends you must add each other. Playing with randoms is where I experienced problems where the game couldn’t find anyone to match me up with; it all seems a bit hit-or-miss as to whether it will work or not. In spectator mode you basically watch a match and bet coins on who you think will win. A nice touch with the online portion is that you can make up a mini gamertag of sorts for other people on your friends list to see when you are online. It contains your friend code as well as a headshot of your Mii and a caption. Since the Wii has no voice chat, comments can be allocated to each direction on the d-pad to taunt your online opponent with.
Being a Nintendo game, memorable tunes are expected and Brawl certainly doesn’t disappoint. It contains signature theme songs from pretty much every major Nintendo game you can think off, as well as songs from the MGS and Sonic series. Some have been left untouched while others have been remixed and updated. More and more songs can be unlocked during play when they appear randomly as pickups and they can be listened to at any time using the My Music feature which lets you chose which themes are played on each stage and how often you hear them. I’d probably go as far to say that due to the sheer diversity this game contains one of the greatest videogame soundtracks you’ll ever hear.
There is so much in this game worth mentioning. I haven’t even got round to talking about the photo mode and replay feature which, using the Wi-Fi Connection, allows you to send photos and replays to your friends and also receive a pick of the best daily from Nintendo. There is also the Masterpieces section which is basically demos of some of the characters respective games such as Super Metroid, Lylat Wars, F-Zero etc. and more of these can be unlocked throughout the game. The trophy collecting also makes a welcome return.
I wrote in a prior review that Metal Gear Solid 4 was the ultimate fan service but I take that back. This is it, a Nintendo fan’s wet dream. Just like the previous Smash Bros. games it has one of the most complete multiplayer modes you’ll find. I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about this game other than the connection problems with randoms online and the slightly too long loading times in places. If you own a Wii, not owning this is simply not an option.