Let the games begin! The latest rendition of Nintendo’s triple A fighter has finally been unleashed in the West (At least part of it) and it is one heck of a ride. Like Jefe’s plethora of piÃ±atas, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is filled to the brim with wonderful treats that will surprise and amaze you. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just stepped off of the boat, Brawl has something for you!
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the Smash Bros. series as a whole, constitutes one of the simplest and most rewarding fighting games in existence. The control scheme is as simple as can be (At least as far as fighting games go), and it lends to the great success of the series. The A button launches a standard attack while the B button triggers a special attack. Combined with the directional pad the player has all of the tools they’ll need to engage the enemy. Given this level of simplicity Brawl is a great game for those new to the fighting genre, however pros will find that there are many subtle nuances to the control scheme that will push their skills to the limit. This is where Brawl begins to shine, as it is a great introductory product as well as something that will keep the players engaged for years as they try to slowly master everything it has to offer.
Another very cool feature of Brawl that adds to its accessibility is the option to choose one of four control methods. The Wii Remote provides a good level of control that allows for smooth gameplay. For those wishing to have a slightly more fluid experience the Wii Remote and Nunchuck attachment grant the player the use of an analog joystick instead of a somewhat limiting four-way directional pad. Also on the list of control schemes is the Classic Controller that can be purchased and attached to the Wii Remote. This controller acts like a “normal” controller and has dual analog joysticks as well as all of the standard buttons; unfortunately the Classic Controller’s buttons are not in the most optimal places so there is a slight learning curve to this method. Perhaps the best method of controlling Brawl though is the through the use of the Nintendo GameCube controller. That’s right, the controller from the previous generation of Nintendo consoles seems to offer the easiest and most friendly means of control for most any player.
Another lovely day on the battlefield.
So now let’s dissect this behemoth of a game and see just what makes it tick. Upon powering up the Wii and loading the game the player is greeted by the usual Smash Bros. opening complete with symphony orchestra and choir. There are three main modes in Brawl, these three modes are Group, Solo, and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The three modes contain the local multiplayer component where you and friends can play a game together, the single player portion with the Subspace Emissary campaign, and Brawl’s online multiplayer area, respectively.
First up is the Group mode, arguably the mode that will be frequented most often. This mode is the bread and butter of the Smash Bros. experience. Here you will square off against your friends, each vying for the title of champion. The selection of characters is extensive and ranges from nimble, light hitting characters to sloth-like powerhouses. Balance is something that no good fighting game can do without and thankfully Brawl has nailed it. Putting skill levels aside, most any character can square off against any one of the other characters and come out victorious. This is not to say that one character will always beat another, but as a rule you can never go into a battle at a disadvantage. If you have four controllers of any type and three friends who can spare the time to come over and play, you’ll find that Group mode will be an enjoyable and fun experience for all!
Next on the list is the Solo mode. As its name implies, this mode is meant for only one person. The two major methods of play in Solo mode are based around the Classic mode and The Subspace Emissary campaign. Classic mode features a linear path that pits you against eleven increasingly difficult battles against single, multiple, and special enemies. Also included in Classic mode are two levels of a mini-game known as Break the Targets. This mini-game is a Smash Bros. mainstay and challenges the player to race the clock to break ten targets that have been spread around an obstacle course. Rounding out the bulk of Solo mode is The Subspace Emissary campaign which is a lengthy story-driven trek through the world of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Players are treated to a wealth of beautiful cinematics and a cornucopia of levels to play. Sadly though, The Subspace Emissary suffers from a bad case of the repeats as the gameplay quickly becomes stale and repetitive. Perhaps as a way to supplement this dullness though, Nintendo has allowed The Subspace Emissary to be played with one or two players, meaning that you and a friend can battle through The Emissary together.
On the topic of The Subspace Emissary it offers me a chance to discuss one of the more glaring issues that I, as a gamer, had with Brawl. Part of the fun of any Smash Bros. game is being able to unlock all of the hidden characters. When playing The Subspace Emissary secret characters can be unlocked by having them join your team. Unfortunately though this causes the player to totally skip one of the most rewarding parts of the game: having to face the secret character on the field of battle and eliminating them before you will be able to use them. It may seem like a silly nitpick, but seeing the words, “Warning! Challenger Approaching!” had a certain feel to it that made unlocking a character all the more meaningful.
Princess Zelda of Hyrule – After seeing her skills you have to wonder why she lets herself get kidnapped so easily…
The final mode, and probably the one thing that fans of the series have been waiting for, is the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. In short, this mode allows you to play Brawl against other players online via Nintendo’s fledgling Wi-Fi service. There are two modes of play in this mode, one called “With Friends” and another called “With Anyone”. Friend mode, for better or for worse, uses Nintendo’s infamous Friend Code system. Any person you wish to play with must enter your code and you must enter theirs, it is quick and painless but in this day and age there are far more efficient ways to go about it. However once the codes have been entered starting a battle is as easy as pie. You can create a room or one of your friends can, and then up to four players can fight it out on a battlefield with the full range of options that Brawl offers. Conversely, the “With Anyone” mode pits you against one to three random and anonymous other players. You will not know who you are facing or anything about them. This is strictly a battle, nothing more and nothing less. While this mode offers a quick fix if your friends are not around, the options are limited and you can only do short fights. As far as connection speed and lag is concerned, most of the games I played ran without flaw at a steady clip however due to the large number of people playing the game in the wake of its release the Nintendo servers have been severely overloaded and therefore problems, at least for the time being, are a very real thing.
Peppered in amongst these modes are also smaller mini-games that will allow you to further hone your skills. The aforementioned target smashing game can be played whenever you want. As well there are a slew of companion games like it. Take, for example, the home run game in which you try to hit a sand bag long distances or the Multi Man Brawls which require you to fight hordes of enemies while staying alive for ridiculously long periods of time. Of these modes though, the best would have to be “Event Mode” which provides you with all sorts of off-the-wall challenges that can not be found anywhere else in the game.
The mighty mustachioed plumber pummels the exorbitantly evil Koopa King.
Options are something that Brawl has in ample supply. Suffice to say there are enough game modes to keep even the most avid gamer busy for a while. But if you thought that was all Brawl had to offer you’d be wrong! Another new feature that was added to Brawl is a tool known as “Stage Builder”. This nifty little addition allows the player to create their own levels on which to do battle. While the stages are not as elaborate as the ones packed with the game, the stages that can be made offer a wide range of functionality and playability and make for a never-ending storm of new material. If you think you’ve made a really good level you can send it to your friends if you want! Even better, every day one map will be chosen by Nintendo and beamed into your Wii via the magic of the Internet. Disappointingly though these maps will be removed after twenty four hours have passed and it kind of makes you wonder what the heck Nintendo was thinking on that point. Regardless, Stage Builder offers something new and different and extends the ridiculously long life that Brawl already has.
One final area of interest would have to be the trophy and sticker collections that you will inevitably amass during your adventure. Trophies are just as they sound, visual representations of the things you’ve seen in Brawl as well as in hundreds of other games on Nintendo consoles. Each trophy is a detailed work of art and you can even arrange them in small scenes and take pictures of them to show off to your buddies. Stickers afford the same treatment and can be shown off and displayed, however stickers have the unique distinction of serving a very special purpose. In the single player Subspace Emissary mode the player can attach stickers to their characters giving them helpful status bonuses. This adds a whole extra layer of depth to the somewhat dry single player campaign and is one of those neat little things that you might not use, but will be pleasantly surprised to see is there.
Perhaps I lied though, there are a few other bits I’d like to touch on before wrapping this thing up. The soundtrack in Brawl is stunning. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best soundtrack ever put together for a Nintendo game and perhaps any game ever! Classic tunes have been retooled and remastered with the stylings of a full orchestra and choir. There have also been scores of new scores (no pun intended) written solely for Brawl and it all comes together perfectly. Also the visuals are something to note. Despite being on the “underpowered” Nintendo Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl looks amazing and runs fluidly with very little interruption. Our favorite mascots have never looked better and they all blend together seamlessly despite clearly being from different worlds. It is apparent though that the Wii is running on all cylinders to keep the game moving along, this is especially apparent during the rare times when you have the maximum number of combatants on field as well as a sea of items. The game will slow down ever-so slightly but it is hardly anything to cry over.
Looking back over things, it is clear that Super Smash Bros. Brawl goes far and beyond the call of duty. While they could have simply stuck with standard modes and features, the developers chose another path. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a carnival of choices, all of which are pleasing in one way or another. Yes, The Subspace Emissary is a tad disappointing, but it is hardly bothersome and the fact that they did not have to include it, yet still did, shows the love and care put into the final product. Multiplayer battles are still as fun and as heated as ever and the inclusion of online play only serves to sweeten the deal. In short, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an irresistible package for a Wii owner and is one of the best, most polished games ever to grace our television screens. Taking these details into account, I declare Super Smash Bros. Brawl a MUST BUY.