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Super Smash Bros. Brawl Review

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Developer: HAL Laboratory Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: March 9, 2008 Also On: None

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is possibly the single most important first-party game released for the Wii since its launch. There were midnight launch events and tournaments worldwide, and players around the world were expecting only the best. As far as raw numbers, Brawl is everything Melee fans could ask for: thirty-seven playable characters (Melee had 26, Smash Bros. had 12), a plethora of new stages (including some very unique ones, like Wario Ware or Pictochat; as well as some from Melee), a stage creator, newly acquired characters (Sonic, Snake), and most aniticapted of all, online play.

The game is presented in either 4:3 or 16:9 mode, and in 480p, if you have the component cables and a compatible display. In my case, I hooked my Wii up via component cables to a 50” 1080i LCD TV, and was blown away. I have also played Twilight Princess and some other top-tier Wii games on that TV, but Brawl looks stunning. It is easy to mistake the quality for 720p, especially when a wider angle is displayed in-game. The stages and backgrounds are designed with tiny details which really look amazing in HD.

Players of Melee (including myself) have dreamed for years of playing Super Smash Bros. online, but even I thought that it would never happen. I’m happy to report that lag is virtually not a problem at all. Online play is very much like local play. You can do anything online that you can do locally: Brawl, homerun contests, or events. When connected to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, you are able to choose With Friends or With Anyone to play with. The “with friends” menu also has a friend roster screen, on which is displayed your Smash Bros. Brawl friend code (which is different than your Wii friend code). You are also able to add and edit friends on this screen, up to 64 total, which is plenty of space.

You can also add very short messages (something like 16 characters) to go with your “up”, “down”, “left”, and “right” taunts. This is the ONLY type of communication online. Due to this limitation, you pretty much have to be sitting at your PC on instant messaging or on the phone with your adversary(ies). It is worth noting that there is no censorship of these messages at this point, so swearing is allowed.

Unfortunately, there is no type of online “in-game” presence, so if you’re playing single-player or local multi-player, you’re listed as “offline”, and are only “online” when you’re sitting in a Wi-Fi menu waiting. When you create or join a room you choose your character, add any computer characters you want, and choose a map. Your character is then placed on a perfectly flat horizontal map with the punching bag character to beat up while you wait for the other players to join and choose their characters.

The actual online gameplay is great and virtually lag-free. Interestingly, unlike most games, when a player lags in Brawl, the game actually slows down, rather than one player freezing or jumping around. This keeps it fair for everyone. I did run into a little bit of this lag on the random people online mode, but that is to be expected with random people with random Internet service providers. Additionally, you can see nothing about the people you play in “Anyone” mode. Not their names, not their taunts, nothing. So if you were hoping to meet some new friends on here, you are out of luck.

As in Melee, there are two single-player modes in Brawl. There is Classic mode, which is really just the same as it has been in the last two games. The new Subspace Emissary mode replaces Melee’s Adventure mode. Subspace Emissary is a very long cinematic adventure involving all of the characters in the game. Unlike Classic mode which consists of “Battle, battle, smash the targets, battle, battle, boss”, Subspace Emissary shows short clips of beautiful CG videos which lead into a fight, puzzle, boss, or platforming stage. Characters do not speak in these clips, only grunt and laugh, sounds like that. The story is told entirely by their actions and expressions. In this mode, you choose which stage you want to play from a map, with an exclamation mark showing the next stage in the story. You must also save your progress in this mode, since it takes many hours to complete.

I had a party at my house the day that Brawl came out and played quite a few tournaments. You can tell that Nintendo has expected players to take this game more seriously and competitively than the last two titles, as the tournament system has been beefed up. You can choose to have 2, 3 or 4 players per match, as well as player names, stages, items, etc.

Because this game supports GameCube controllers, I expected the tournament controller situation to be a bit tricky, but Nintendo did it very well. When a tournament match is about to begin, it asks for the first player (let us say Kirby) to press A. Whichever controller presses A is set to be Kirby’s controller. Then it does the same for the other player. This way, you can play with whatever controller is handy, and you do not have to find whichever controller is linked to your player number.

Personally, I prefer the classic controller, because both analog sticks are uniform and all of the buttons are accessible. The default control scheme for the GameCube controller is very similar, substituting the C-stick for the right analog stick on the classic controller. The cool thing is, you can literally pick up a GameCube controller and play Brawl exactly as you played Melee. You can also choose to play with a Wiimote and nunchuck, or just a Wiimote (held sideways). Using a settings menu, you can literally configure each button on any controller configuration to do exactly what you want it to.

A new addition to Brawl is the Final Smash. It is essentially each character’s super-move. Occasionally, a color-changing Smash Bros. logo ball will float onto the stage, and in order to use it, you have to attack it. It takes less damage from some characters to use it than from others, but obviously not all characters are equal in every way, nor are their Final Smashes. Initially, I thought that this was a bad idea and that Nintendo had made a bad move by moving away from its near-perfect balance in Melee.

Surprisingly, I absolutely love this new feature. It adds a really unique twist to the game, almost like Power Stone for the Dreamcast. If you can get this item, you are practically unstoppable for a short period of time. For some characters, this simply turns them into a better version of themselves, like Wario, who turns into a kind of Super Wario, with cape and all, or Sonic, who turns into Super Sonic. For other characters, it gives them a one-time-use super attack, like the “frickin massive” beam for Samus. The game also has a lot of comedy thrown in, like some of the new taunts, or Wario’s “side+B” attack, in which he pulls a full-size motorcycle out of his pocket and rides it towards his enemy. If you fall off, you can even pick it up and throw it.

Even the audio in this game is astounding. All of the character voices sound spot-on, and the music is very powerful and orchestral, as it was in Melee. How often do you get to hear your favorite retro game tunes played by a symphony? There is just so much good about this game that it easily drowns out the shortcomings of the online play. This is basically the dream of Smash Bros. fans everywhere. Imagine Super Smash Bros. Melee, but with a ton more of everything, a real single player story, a level creator, and online play. It is simply unstoppable and is set to become one of Nintendo’s most memorable titles ever.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 9.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.8
Written by Dave Review Guide