Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl review.
Finally it has arrived, Super Smash Bros. Brawl
, one of the most anticipated Wii games for 2008 and possibly the most anticipated game for the hardcore audience. Things have certainly changed for the title. First off, we have multiple franchises being represented that are not owned by Nintendo including Sonic the Hedgehog, a long-rumored character who was part of a GamePro April Fool's joke for the predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Melee
. We have the addition of a full-fledged single-player game, dubbed the Subspace Embassy (SSE) and even the sought after online multiplayer mode. That short list of added content whipped fans into a fever, causing them to foam at the mouth with anticipation. Add to that a few delays and the official website's, Smash Bros. DOJO!!,
constant teases and updates and you have a whirlwind of hype, perhaps TOO much. Does Super Smash Bros. Brawl
have what it takes to KO the hype and become the best game in the illustrious franchise, or will the title flounder under its own weight?
Audio & Visual
Although the Wii is not much more powerful than the GameCube, the folks over at HAL Laboratory have still managed to make Super Smash Bros. Brawl
look more appealing than previous iterations. Of course, in the natural order of things, this is to be expected. But to top it off the title now comes loaded with added cutscenes which are found as part of the new single-player mode, the SSE. The developers also tricked out the levels to their full extent, many having a type of night & day cycle where we see the stage change drastically, often adding new hazards such as the Spotty Bulorb and rain-slide in the Pikmin
-based stage or destructible platforms in Pit's stage.
All of the character art looks as it should with the exception of one unlockable character. I do not want to spoil the surprise for anyone, so suffice it to say that he looks better in SSBB than he did in his previous game. As for the others, many of Nintendo's characters are of the cartoon variety so sticking to their design probably wasn't difficult, however the Fire Emblem
characters, and the third-party character from Konami are not cartoon inspired by any means. Thankfully the art director managed to stick to the respected title's universal art theme, creating the characters true to their franchise, while making them fit into the rest of the roster.
Audio has never been my thing but the sound aspects of the title are worth noting. The speaker inside the Wiimote is used to illicit appropriate sounds from your selected character, such as monkey noises from Donkey Kong, which adds a bit of pointless fun to the experience. However, returning Director Masahiro Sakurai brought something far more noteworthy for audiophiles as well. Sakurai collected a total of 36 composers for the title, allowing the creation of an incredibly diverse soundtrack spanning Nintendo's first and second party franchises as well as incorporating third party music. The title is setup with stages possessing multiple scores that are randomly selected upon entering them. Should you so choose, you can even listen to specific tracks at any time via the "My Music" feature. Sakurai took it one step further and decided to make the tracks a sought after commodity much like the trophies. In Brawl, one now has to collect CDs, which unlock hidden tracks for use in stages or the "My Music" player along with the trophies. Early reports point at there being over 300 songs available, originals and remixes!
Oh god are there features. A quick rundown would cover the single-player games, multiplayer and options, but when you break it down the list gets pretty hefty. The new single-player campaign, which can actually be played by one or two players, is much longer than I expected and is crucial to unlocking various characters, songs and trophies. The SSE offers much more of a single-player experience than the old classic mode including a bit of a story complete with the aforementioned nicely-rendered cutscenes. Whereas the Classic mode would take a player about 20 minutes to complete, the SSE should run the average gamer between 12-16 hours of game time, just to complete. Of course the completionists out there (Hi, my name is Patrick, I am a completionist) will have to go back and make sure they hit every secret room to be sure they grabbed every trophy, every CD and unlocked the three characters from SSE (although these can be unlocked multiple ways). The one knock I have on the new single-player adventure mode would be that areas of certain stages seem largely pointless, such as loading a new area with only a handful of enemies in it before moving onto another load screen. The overall level design for the SSE is a far cry from the Brawl stages, but they are tolerable.
The other main feature to the title would be the classic brawling aspect. The latest addition to the franchise sports a collection of 35 characters, some with multiple forms, spread across 41 stages, 29 that are available for play from the beginning. The largest roster yet bundled with the wide assortment of stages, including many moving stages, vertically and horizontally, have expanded the classic brawl mode almost as much as the SSE added to the single-player mode. As usual, a player can play against AI opponents ranging from easy to intense (levels 1-9) or a mix of friends and bots.
The addition of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service is perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the title and allows gamers a variety of options during online play. Since launch the service has been experiencing some technical difficulties due to "strain on the pipeline," an issue blamed on the wild success of the title, which has pushed over 1.4 million units in North America since its release last Sunday. The feature has not been without its bumps but a Nintendo spokesperson told GamePro that "we have seen improvements in online play performance every day since launch." Sad, yes, but Nintendo is sure to iron out the bugs in short order if they want to keep their Wii's slim online offerings competing with the likes of the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.
Problems aside, the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection offers more than just the ability to brawl. Battles can be initiated using Nintendo's infamous friend code system or by randomly chosen players. The service also contains a Spectator mode which allows viewers to not only watch others in battle, but even wager their precious coins on the outcome of the match. In fashion with Halo 3
, players can also save their replay data and even take "snapshots" during battles which can be sent to friends, or submitted to Nintendo. The Wi-Fi service also supports other play modes including Target Smash! and the Home-Run Contest, but these are more timesinks allowing one to show off or show a friend how to do something (once again you can send them replays).
Brawl is feature-rich title with literally hundreds of reasons to cause someone to keep playing. I have already mentioned enough content to keep most people busy for about 40 hours, and that is without trying to collect all the unlockables, trophies and CDs or perfectly your brawling abilities. But like any good infomercial; THERE'S MORE! Brawl brings back another Melee feature, the Events mode which pits the players (solo or with a friend) against a series of challenges. There are 41 events in all, and completing these also unlock various objects including playable stages. There are still other aspects of the title which I have not touched upon but honestly, who cares about all of these features if the overall gameplay sucks?
Thankfully, Super Smash Bros. Brawl
has retained the same classic gameplay that we know and love for the series. The pick up and play mechanics of the franchise remain, with various simple button combinations pulling off a wide range of moves for all characters. Although the title does not use the waggle function of the Wii, it does allow one to choose from four distinct control schemes. Personally, I have decided to stick with the true classic controller, the Wavebird, for my brawling, but others will be happy to know that the title supports the Wiimote, Wiimote + Nunchuck, and the actual Classic Controller, which is most often used for the Virtual Console. All of the input tools have slightly different button layouts, as expected, so be sure to try them all to figure out which best fits your play style.
For better or for worse, the game plays more like the original Super Smash Bros.
than its GameCube predecessor. The matches have a slower pace to them, along the lines of the Nintendo 64 version, but are no less fun and no less frantic. Perhaps the biggest change in gameplay comes with the removal of "wave-dashing" and "shorthopping," techniques that many saw as exploits or glitches, but were commonplace in the pro gaming circles. The removal of such "abilities" has leveled the playing field and should enable the multiplayer aspects of the title to thrive, so long as no other useful exploits
With any fighting game comes the discussion of a balanced roster and so far, I have not seen any obviously unbalanced character in the likes of Ness from the original title, or the use of Oddjob in GoldenEye 007
(short targets for the win!). The idea of powerful, yet slower characters competing with weaker but more agile characters remain and the spectrum is ever more spread out with the introduction of all the new and returning characters. Players should be happy to know that you have a fighting chance no matter which character you or your opponent chooses.
The biggest change to the core gameplay outside of new characters to learn and counter has to be the addition of the Assist Trophies. These little gems are a new item, which appear as a greenish crystal spire on a platform, and unlock characters from various first, second and third party franchises. The easiest way to describe them would be as a Pokeball for any possible character, some stink but some can easily devastate an opponent or even a group of them. Gameplay as a whole remains solid, but one aspect that has annoyed me is the feeling that the battles between characters can be trivialized due to an excessive amount of items being dropped into the playing field. Luckily, this aspect can once again be modified via the options for Brawl battles.