Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Nintendo Wii)
by Guy Desmarais on March 13, 2008

<Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Sora/HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 03/09/2008

What is arguably the most hyped game of this generation has finally been released. If you’re a long-time Nintendo fan, chances are that this game has been dancing in your dreams from the day it was first announced. March 9th 2008 could very well have been the happiest day of your life. A game that throws together every recognizable character the company has ever created (and a couple of well-known outsiders) has to be the perfect game, right? It can’t be anything else than the gift from above, sent to us mere mortals by the Gods of gaming, as a sign that you might have been doing something right with your life after all.

Not so fast! Maybe this game is a major letdown. There’s always a chance that something could have gone wrong somewhere in the updating process from “Melee” to “Brawl”.

Thankfully, such is not the case here.

Let’s start from the basics. As soon as I booted up the game, I noticed that there’s a lot of options.

Scratch that. There’s more than “a lot”. SSBB is more like the “all-you-can-eat” buffet of video games. The menu lets you see everything that’s available, and quite frankly, my mind still cannot comprehend how much stuff was crammed on that single disk. Simply playing through everything the game has to offer may very well take the next year for a person with very standard gaming skills like me. Even for the hardcore players, you know that they will want every trophy, sticker and music CD available in the game. Quite frankly, this just might be the biggest game, in terms of content, that I have ever played.

First and foremost, there is the very foundation of the franchise, which is the normal “Brawl” mode. It simply pits between 2 and 4 players together in a fight. The action here is frantic and very fast. You don’t have a lot of time to think, especially when the maximum number of players is involved, so a quick and easy control scheme is a crucial element of the game.

On that front, I must admit that controlling the characters still feel a bit slippery and imprecise, even though I see a lot of improvement from SSBM. Having used every control scheme that the game offers, I think that the remote/nunchuk combo is a success, even though the Gamecube controller is still the king in terms of playability. The classic controller also feels pretty good (quite similar to the Gamecube controller I fact), while the Wiimote-only configuration is functional, but cramped. It can be useful as a back-up controller when there isn’t enough for everybody, but don’t pull it out unless it’s an emergency.

As for ameliorations, I must mention the new grab recoveries, which enables some weapon-wielding characters the ability to use their grabs to hold on to ledges. Sure, it gives some of them an advantage over other fighters, but the series has never been about making every character equal. From what I understand, Super Smash Bros. Brawl prefers to design the fighters as faithful as possible to the original source. This means that Donkey Kong, who is a super-powerful ape in his games, is still a super-powerful ape in SSBB. On the other hand, the Ice Climbers, who are small, weak characters that do nothing but break stuff in their own game, are still small and weak in SSBB. The balance goes to hell because of that, but the fan service portion of it all is quite spectacular because playing as Sonic really feels like it used to. The same can be said about Peach, who is still the same useless damsel in distress that she has always been.

For some reason, the controls feel a bit tighter here than they were in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Smash attacks are easier to pull off, and there is now an option to disable pushing up on the joystick as a way to jump. This is pretty neat as it means that I no longer look like an idiot, hopping around for nothing while all I’m trying to do is to use my up special.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget the new “Final Smash” attacks, which is just as close to a fatality as we are likely to get from a Nintendo game. It’s very well implemented, and truly adds something unique to the game. As soon as a Smash Ball appears on screen, everything becomes even more violent and crazy than usual, as everybody starts chasing the sphere like wild dogs fighting over the last piece of meat. Most of them are very unique and inspired. I can only think of two or so Final Smashes that are a bit on the bland side (Like Peach’s. It’s raining fruits? WOW.), but it’s all great overall.

While the classic Brawl mode is still pretty much a tweaked version of what it has always been (not a bad thing, mind you), the same cannot be said about the adventure mode. This time around, we get the royal treatment with a brand new mode called “The Subspace Emissary”. Instead of the dozen or so themed stages that we got in Melee, we now have a full-fledged adventure which could have been a stand-alone title and still stand tall as one of the Wii’s best game. I had a small idea of what the mode would be from the short videos I had seen, but the end result simply blew me away with its expansiveness and surprisingly intriguing story.

Sure, it is a classic “save the world from a mysterious evil” storyline, but the world that needs to be saved is one inhabited by some of the most popular characters in video games history. There is no dialogue at all, but there is an enthusiasm that transpires from every cut-scene that truly shows that the director cares about its protagonists. Each new member of your party gets introduced in a fashion that respects its previously-established identities, and each of them mixing with faces you wouldn’t usually see outside of their respective series sends a little tingle down your spine that makes you feel as if you really are watching something special. If you played a lot of games in your life, seeing Solid Snake team up with a Pokémon to take down an enemy base will be one of these surreal moments that cannot fail to bring a smile to your face.

I truly was sceptical of how a story could successfully bring so many different personalities together, but it turned out great. In fact, it probably exceeds any expectations one could have had. Fans of every series can now rest; their favourite character has not been desecrated in any way, even though I doubt many people were praying that the Ice Climbers would stay true to their roots.

As for the way the “Subspace Emissary” mode actually plays, I was a bit thrown off at first. I immediately noticed that jumping between platforms was a bit of a pain in the ass. Turning off the option to push up on the control stick to jump helped tremendously, and it all seems a lot less tedious now. The fighting works well, as the enemies are varied and the side-scrolling stages are often separated by standard stock matches to keep things fresh. It is possible to upgrade your characters’ stats with the help of the many stickers you will collect, and they actually make a difference, so learning how to efficiently manage them adds a fun little challenge. It was actually more than a challenge to me, as I am not a big RPG/strategy gamer, which means that my inventory managing skills are on par with those of a brain-dead monkey. Still, with a little bit of practice and through some trial-and-error, I now have a very powerful Link who can instantly smash almost any baddie off the screen. As for seasoned RPG fans, I don’t see this causing them any headache.

I also need to mention that the adventure mode can be played cooperatively. It is very enjoyable that way, and actually makes some of the toughest parts quite a bit easier. The only time where having a partner becomes less fun is during the platform-jumping parts, where one player will assuredly be faster than the other, leading to some camera problems because the focus always stays on player 1. If player 2 is out of the screen for a long period of time, he starts taking damage until he comes back into view or until he becomes too far away, which instantly teleport him next to his partner. The damage part shouldn’t have been there because skills are not uniform among gamers, so there’s always someone who will be left behind. Sure, being cruel to weak people can be good for a laugh, but it becomes annoying when it starts playing on your own life-count too. Still, none of this is enough to take away the fun of teaming up Mario and Link as the ultimate Nintendo combo to kick some Primid butts.

Now that you know how the “insides” of Super Smash Bros. Brawl work, let’s get shallow and talk about its outer beauty. While it might not be the best looking game on the Wii, it would still be an understatement to say that the game is pretty. The problem is not the design of the characters or of the background. It’s just that when pausing the game and zooming, it is possible to see some jagged edges here and there, as well as the occasional clipping issue. However, from a simply artistic point of view, I have to say that it makes the Nintendo characters shine under their best light. Sometimes, it’s only small details, such as the stitches in Mario’s overalls or Bowser looking darker than usual. However, some of the upgrades are complete makeovers, like Pit getting the full 3D treatment or Fox looking about as real as a talking Fox can be. I would have thought that the technical side of thing would take a bigger step up from Melee than what we got, but the stylish graphics more than make up for it, especially in a stage like “Yoshi’s Island” or “Smashville”.

While I have some minor issues with the graphics, I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the music. It is the best soundtrack ever assembled. I have been playing video games for about 20 years, and SSBB takes just about every theme and tune that has ever been stuck into my head, remixes them and then presents them all in one practical package. Sure, you need to unlock some of them, but there are more than enough songs available from the start to give you a taste of the musical prowess this game accomplishes. This leaves you eager to find every last CD, in hope of finding that certain song that made your favourite game that special.

The fun thing with this is that once you unlocked a song, you can then play it as often as you want in the option menu. You can also determine how often each song will appear on each stage. The sound effects are also pretty good, with each character’s usual voice actor coming back to make it all feel even more authentic. The only way I can accurately describe this game’s soundtrack is with the words “total package”. Please excuse the Lex Luger reference.

So there you go: Super Smash Bros. Melee is the best selling game on the Gamecube, and I wouldn’t surprised if in the end, Super Smash Bros. Brawl does the same thing on the Wii. After all, just how can you compete against a game that pits Pokémon against Mario characters? Just by putting these two together, you’re already reaching a very wide demographic. The rest is just icing on the cake. Without completely reinventing the franchise, SSBB adds just enough flavour to the recipe to keep it all fresh. The multiplayer brawls may still be the main attraction, but the adventure mode is a bright new star.

I don’t know how long it will take for me to go through everything the game has to offer, but I know that it will never seem like a chore. Everything here is quite enjoyable, be it the events, the stadium challenges or simply fighting against the computer. Time flies by pretty quickly when playing this game. In fact, pulling myself away from the TV screen in order to write this review was a painful experience. I don’t know how long it will last, but for the moment, I have a severe addiction, and it’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl.


THE RATINGS
Story/Modes: Unparalleled
Graphics: Great
Sound: Unparalleled
Control: Enjoyable
Replayability: Unparalelled
Balance: Good
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Unparalelled
Appeal: Unparalelled
Miscellaneous: Unparalelled
Final Score: Classic

Short Attention Span Summary

You know these stupid questions that people always ask, like “what would you bring with you on a deserted island” or “if you could only watch/play one movie/game for the rest of your life, what would it be”? Well, if the hypothetical deserted island had any electricity, Super Smash Bros. Brawl might be your best bet if you want to be occupied for a while. It has more things to do than you can probably even imagine. The whole game is crammed with moments that make you smile and remember why you love playing video games. Oh yeah, it also stars some of the most adored characters in gaming history. This is the very definition of getting more for your money, or “more bang for your buck”. You won’t regret it.




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