Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Nintendo Wii)
by Alex Lucard on March 10, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Labs
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 3/09/2008

It’s out! What is arguably the most anticipated game of this generation of gaming. This game has had more hype and fanboys salivating over its release than Halo, Fable, or any other game that has had a crazy ass gigantic marketing blitz over the past five years.

The first Super Smash Bros. was a huge hit for the N64. It’s sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee was the best selling game on the Game Cube and was a good game in its own right. This newest venture into the SSB series by Hal Labs has promised to be bigger and better than any fighter ever. It has Sonic the Hedgehog from Sega and Solid Snake from Konami’s Metal Gear series, making this the first time non-Nintendo characters have been featured. It promised a gigantic new story mode featuring all the fighters. It damn near promised to change the genre as we know it. Did it?

Of course not. For the most part, SSBB is merely a tuned up, expanded and improved version of the Game Cube game. It features a lot of the same characters with the same exact move sets and even a lot of the same stages. My first impression was that SSBB was going to be fan boy fodder first and foremost. Various Capcom related fighters, after all, have done the All-Star gambit, but they did it first and the gameplay was solid, instead of unresponsive but entertaining like the SSB games. Nintendo fan boys however, are amongst the most rabid and fanatical in the industry, so even if the game was a glitchy nigh unplayable mess, this would still sell like hot cakes and receive 9’s and 10’s across the board simply because Mario and Link can team up to fight Pikachu and Donkey Kong.

So being that I am not a fan of ANY Nintendo first party titles (Pokemon comes closest and Game Freak is its own company), it makes sense to have me as the one detractor step in and give the game a whirl. Factor in that I am a died-in-the-wool hardcore SNK fighting game fan and one would think that SSBB was destined for a lower than the usual “SELL YOUR SOUL TO OWN THIS GAME” response the rest of the media is going to be labeling this game.

So did I spend the rest of this review ranting about how this game is far too easy and simple and how I’d rather face Geese Howard than a freaking hammer brother, or did I join the legion of SSBB disciples?

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

Let’s cover modes first. SSBB has its standard “Classic” mode were you choose a choose a character and take them through a dozen stages ranging from handicapped matches to target practice until you finally face Master Hand, the big bad of the game. There’s also Stadium mode where you play through three different mini games in an attempt to get a higher score than you previously held. There’s Event mode where you play through various events featuring specific characters and conditions you must reach in order to clear the event. These all fall under “Solo” mode.

Under “Brawl” is the multi player experience where you can set conditions, damage, items, and the stage to your liking. You and 1-3 other friends or CPU’s can battle it out in any way you imagine, from time based battles to health based battles to even coin collecting battles.

This year they have also added a “Create” mode where you can design your own stage. Eat that Fighter Maker!

All of these modes have the end goal of getting you trophies for your gallery, stickers which can be used in Adventure Mode, or Coins, which can be used in a shooting gallery to net you either or both of the former. Setting the collection aspect in a shooter appeal to my Ikaruga/Gradius/Trigger Heart Exella loving heart, and is leaps and bounds better than what was offered 7 years ago via a crappy lottery. There’s also a new “Challenges” screen where you can unlock items, trophies and more by fulfilling different (and secret) conditions.

Adventure mode is the big one this year though. It is called “The Subspace Emissary” and it pits all the good aligned characters in the game against the evil aligned characters, including a cloaked Minister, the R.O.B,’s and more. SSE last about ten hours and you can unlock every hidden character in the game by playing it rather then spending hours fighting hundreds of other battles. You’ll follow multiple teams at once through their own stories and paths until the teams link up. Some paths I strongly prefer over others. Samus and Pikachu is a lot of fun, but Link and Yoshi? Ick. Having to play as the two worst characters in the game was awful.

As SSE is the big and heavily touted aspect of the game I nearly stuck this game in the Platformer genre instead of a fighter. After all, there are one hit deaths in the level, you can die from jumping, and at times the levels are auto scrolling. Even though I hate platformers and consider them my least favorite genre, there is something about the story, which is told through wordless cut scenes, that is very entertaining in an old school fashion. I’ll admit I marked out with each new character that joined my team, deliberated over whether to be Meta Knight or Lucario when they had to fight and so on. Story Mode will no doubt be everything Nintendo-Philes have dreamed it would be. Even though it featured a lot of characters I could care less about, it still drew me in. That’s pretty darn good.

In all, the collection of modes are quite nice, and although the game does feel like a minor upgrade at times, all one has to do is tackle the ten hour long Adventure Mode (The GCN version was maybe 15 minutes long at BEST) and the new use for coins, and you realize that the options open to you here are quite great indeed, This is easily the best of the three SSB games in terms of plot and options.

Story/Modes Rating: Classic

2. Graphics

The in game fighting graphics are again, a little bit better than the GCN game. However, the cut scenes and new backgrounds are amazing. Even though I dislike the platformer aspects, I am constantly impressed by the level designs and attention to detail that can be found in Adventure Mode.

The game does show its game cube roots however, Mario looked better in Super Mario Galaxy, Link and Zelda were better done in Twilight Princess, Samus has her Metroid Primeand so on. Games like Umbrella Chronicles and NiGHTS are far superior to SSBB in terms of Wii visuals, but HAL has still made it self a pretty game. Pit, Meta Knight and others have never looked better.
The cut scenes are gorgeous and there are some nifty new backgrounds,but in the end, SSBB is showing its Gamecube and N64 roots here. A slightly higher score than what I gave Melee, due to the cut scenes.

Graphics Rating: Good

3. Sound

Here’s the thing. When I reviewed SSBM, I only gave it a 7/10 here because it was all tracks lifted from other games for the most part and I couldn’t give it a perfect score because it would be like calling a greatest hits album the best that “Band X” has ever put out. No thank you.

Here I can do it easily. Why? Because of the vast amount of music in this game. You can unlock well over 50 new tracks in the game. Even the classic tracks have been remixed or updated in ways like an orchestral scoring. This was a wonderful treat, and it was really the direction I had hoped Hal would go this time around. They gave each of these musical pieces, that are amongst the most famous in all of gaming, and put their own twist on them. Simply excellent.

Sound effects are the standard fare you’d find in multiple Nintendo games. Voice acting is rare, but what is here is good. All Pokemon are voiced by their anime voice actor, and Snake is the only real character that talks. Everyone else makes an occasional noise or comment, but this is definitely a game that cares more about the score and the blips and bloops rather than actors.

This is easily the best overall musical soundtrack I’ve seen in video game. It leaves Persona 2 and Guardian Heroes in the dust. Granted it’s because it’s a collection of the best music Nintendo has to offer, but it’s still mindblowing that the game contains approximately 125 tracks.

Sound Rating: Unparalleled

4. Control and Gameplay

Okay here’s the thing. As fun as Super Smash Bros. Brawl is, it is awful to play. Controls are often unresponsive or they perform a totally wrong move. Characters are slow to react, run, or even turn around. Compared to games like Street Fighter IIor King of Fighters ’98, SSBB is a sad excuse for a fighter. Hell, the 3-D Mortal Kombat games have controls that look solid and well made compared to this game. The format of the controls and your need to literally crack your analog stick to make it respond will leave yourthumb sore or callused and your wrist sore after a few hours of gameplay.

Here’s the thing though. Even though this is a badly designed game, no one will care. It’s about mashing buttons, wailing away with your controller to smash friends off the screen and nonstop chaotic action as you use items that randomly fall from the screen to lay your enemies out for the count. It’s also about letting fanatical geeks get off digitally by pitting their favorite characters against each other. Because, oddly enough, gameplay and solid controls are the last thing most gamers are looking at with this series, Hal will continue to make the series without any improvement to gameplay or, as this game shows when compared to SSBM, it has actually gotten WORSE. But with millions buying it and being entertained by what is on the screen, who am I to point out the common sense or the logic that should be applied to the game rather than what is?

I’m being harsh here, but I’m a critic. It’s my job here to be honest with my readers and the honest truth is that SSBB is highly entertaining, but it also plays like it didn’t make it through Beta Testing. Some characters don’t respond to the double jump request. Some do entirely different moves then what you tell them to, and considering how utterly simple the gameplay is designed to be, that tells you something is pretty messed up. Seven hours of Adventure Mode alone helps you to realize an entire book of things Hal could do to make this game play decently.

After many hours with the game, you’ll learn where the issues are and what you can do to compensate. Still, Super Smash Bros. Brawl makes me feel bad for Time Killers and how much I’ve ripped on it in the past for gameplay.

At least there are four different control schemes to wade through this game. I would strongly advise not using either the Wiimote or Wiimote/numchuk versions. They’re the worst of the lot. The Classic Controller and Game Cube control schemes are your best best. I stick to the GCN simply because I know it, but the CC allows for a wireless experience that doesn’t suck.

In all,you have a badly made game when it comes to gameplay and some serious control issues, but as most people will be playing this in multiplayer mode, the action will be so fast and frantic, you won’t have time to care.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

Now back to being positive. Perfect score here. There are dozens of characters to play as, over 500 trophies to collect, and so many different things to clear, you can easily spend 100 hours with this game. It has the potential to be longer than any RPG, and it packs in more options and modes than any other fighting game ever made. Even at fifty dollars, you will easily get your money’s worth out of SSBB and then some.

Replayability Rating: Unparalleled

6. Balance

Okay, part of the fun of SSB is that the series is wildly unbalanced. Some characters are just completely awful, while others are pure beatstick dominance. Anyone that has played any form of the game for for than 15 minutes knows that Captain Falcon in the hands of a high quality player is up there with Sub-Zero from the originalMortal Kombat. Me? I prefer Pikachu. No not because I’m a Poke-holic, but because I like the speed and the distance based attacks. My other stand bys are either Donkey Kong or Marth. I find I also love Pit and Meta Knight out of the new characters. Zero Suit Samus is a vast improvement over the armoured bu can’t jump higher than c at is tall version. But now I’m rambling.

As unbalanced as the characters are, the plethora of stages and customizable options actually helps to balance things out. Do you have a friend who is cheap as hell with Captain Falcon?Use the stage builder for one that focuses on the characters weakness and plays to the strengths of your own character so that you have a decent chance of winning. Do you find Pikachu too hard to hit because of his Quick Attack? Make him a giant so that you have a better chance of hitting him. Things like that are all viable options so that gamers of all different skill sets can get together and still give each other a challenge.
Although the characters themselves could use a little tweaking, the options in Brawl mode ensures everyone can have a good time without pulling their hair out or being bored by a lack of challenge.

Balance Rating: Good

7. Originality

This is the second weak mark for the game. The majority of the game is the exact same thing we’ve seen two other times before. Don’t worry, I rip into most fighting games for this problem. However even other fighting games don’t recycle the exact same stages and move sets. SSBB DOES. In its defense it has added a story to its adventure mode and lengthened it dramatically. It’ s also given us a lot of new fun characters and tweaked old things like the Home Run Contest and the Target shooting to be far better than the original versions. I adore the shooting game they’ve added and feel the Events and Challenges give a bit of freshness to the game.

For the most part though, we’ll seen and done this dance with Hal and SSB so many times before that very little of the game outside Adventure Mode and the characters feels. Even those things I just mentioned are merely face lifts. I just worry that the fourth game in the series will fall the same pattern of little new content and people will still clamor for it. It is a bad precedent to set.

I appreciate what has been added here, and also some of the cosmetic changes they’ve made, but it’s not enough to make this game really standard apart from the other entries in the series,

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

The first day I had this game, I put seven hours into it. The next day I put nearly the same amount of time. It has been a long time since any game could truly hold my attention for more than an hour. These days I play more for review purposes than actual entertainment where I am sucked into the game. Well not here. Even with all my bitching about the controls and the vast amount of rehashing, I was still there playing through Adventure Mode hoping that I would get another new character soon or debating whether to save the various stickers for characters down the road or use them on my current lineup. I would play five battles straight with Peach to unlock an item from the Challenges mode, then I would play ten battles in Pokemon Stadium 2 to unlock something there. There was always something new that would show up to hook me into playing just a little bit longer. Then a little bit more. Then I realized I was 2 melee stages away from unlocking somethingelse and 4 stages away from making Solid Snake appear for battle.

Needless to say, I was hooked. And I’m not even a fan of most of these characters. Super Smash Bros. Brawlhas that crazy X factor that just makes you a zombie for the game in spite of its very apparent flaws. This is the measuring stick for how to make a game that makes people want to play it and forsake everything else.

Addictiveness Rating: Unparalleled

9. Appeal Factor

It’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl.. It’s hard to imagine a game having more mainstream wide-reaching appeal than this one. People are going to buy this. It’s going to be the best selling game of the year, possibly the best selling game on the Wii. It’s going to win a ton of GOTY awards. It’s going to help sell Wii’s just by its very existence and it’s going to single-handedly continue Nintendo’s dominance of this console generation.

Appeal Factor: Unparalleled

10. Miscellaneous

One of the things the Super Smash series does best is load their games with an amazing amount of extras. My mind is still boggled by all that was put in here. Best of all though, the series has started to bring in non-Nintendo characters. Sonic and Snake give this game a perfect score here just by their inclusion. I keep waiting for Simon Belmont, Mega Man and Captain N though. Especially the latter. I personally want to see Terry Bogard and Ryu in the game, but I doubt I ever will.

New characters, new modes, tons of new items, and all sorts of crazy crap to keep you occupied for hours into the triple digits. For sheer fan service only Marvel vs. Capcom 2 equals SSBB. One could buy the game for the extras alone and be satisfied.

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

The Scores
Story: Classic
Graphics: Good
Sound: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Unparalleled
Balance: Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Unparalleled
Appeal Factor: Unparalleled
Miscellaneous:Unparalleled
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary

Come on people, if you own a Wii, you’re going to buy this even if I didn’t recommend it or even if we at Diehard Gamefan totally ignored its existence. This is going to be one of, if not THE biggest games of the year, so give it a shot. It might have some issues gameplay wise and I want to seriously suggest they retool the engine for round 4, but it’s nigh impossible to not have fun with this.



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Alex Lucard

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