Super Smash Brothers Brawl Review

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How do you improve on a game that many would argue was already near perfect? With more of course. Such is the case with Super Smash Brothers Brawl which is, I’m afraid to say, simply Super Smash Brothers Melee …times 1 million. Yes, it is basically the exact same game as the series’ previous iteration with just a whole lot more crammed into it. You can use the same controls, most of the characters are the same, and although it’s spruced up with fancy cut scenes and given a new name, even the Adventure mode is really the same as before. Yes, Super Smash Brothers Brawl is just Melee with more content, but I’m finding it incredibly hard to be upset by this. Turns out more of the same is exactly what many of us wanted.

In case you haven’t been playing video games for the past ten years, or maybe you just didn’t own a Gamecube (which is a mystery to me), the Super Smash Brothers series features classic Nintendo characters like Mario, Fox McCloud and Samus Aran duking it out on a plethora of stages based on classic Nintendo games. Far from a standard fighting game, the controls don’t rely on knowing complex button combinations and difficult moves, but are instead simple attacks performed mostly with one button. The games also differ from traditional fighters in their end goal: instead of trying to KO your opponent by taking their life down to zero, you are attempting to knock them off the edges of the screen. The more damage done to them the further they will fly and the more likely it will be that’ll they’ll go soaring off the side, top, or bottom of the stage. It’s an incredibly simple game at face value, and yet players who put their time into it can find a truly deep gaming experiences. The true beauty of the Smash Bros. series is that almost anyone can access it and play decently, but it can also be mastered and fine tuned.

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So far I could have been describing any of the Smash Bros. games, and as I previously noted with the gameplay, Melee and Brawl are pretty much the same. So what sets Brawl apart from it’s predecessors? Content. Content on top of content. There is so much content on this single Wii disc that I’ve actually rolled my eyes when another secret has been unlocked. Not in annoyance, mind you, but in disbelief. To start, the game has more fighters then ever, including non-Nintendo newcomers Sonic and Solid Snake, all of whom look gorgeous on the Wii. While the graphics could always look better on another system, considering the Wii’s power they are by far some of the most stunning we’ve seen. Now add a whole new set of impressively creative stages, along with many classics and bonuses from Melee, and you’ve got a massive number of enticing possibilities for almost every battle.

Of course, with these new added characters and levels comes the question of the games balance. Many times when new characters are added to a fighting game the game become unbalanced, with many fighters having unfair advantages over others. This can lead to poor battles, repetitive character choice, and other problems with the larger game. Luckily Brawl doesn’t fall into this trap, as the tweaks to the old characters, Final Smashes (discussed later) and new characters all make the battles even more balanced then they were before. This is especially obvious when looking at how a truly skilled player can take a character that initially seems to have no benefits, like newcomer Captain Olimar,  and with practice use that character to dominate. It also helps that each set of character’s unique moves and characteristics make the game play differently, even though the button presses are fundamentally the same. For instance, newcomer Solid Snake’s moves are perfect for a stealthy player, with many moves that take time to unfold on opponents, while another person playing with series standby Donkey Kong is going to focus on the heavy hits right away. Thanks to this, each character requires their own strategy, far more so than with most fighting games.

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What is even more impressive is that with all these new characters and stages the game still hasn’t lost any of it’s simple fun. There are very few moments in gaming that match landing a Falcon Punch at just the right time, or getting that last KO on Hyrule Temple after a truly epic battle. And if there already wasn’t enough excitement  in the matches already, you can add “picking up a Final Smash” to the list of things that your friends will be screaming about. The Final Smash is a new addition to Brawl that allows each character to perform their own special move that, more often then not, causes at least one KO. It not only adds something new to the battles, but also changes how the fight is being played whenever a ball appears. The battle instantly changes from four players beating each other up, to four players suddenly in a mad dash to do enough damage to to Final Smash Ball to open it up and release its power.

Of course you don’t need to have four friends to play the game. The single player aspect of the game is also jammed packed with content. You’ve got your classic mode where you duke it out through different enemies and stages, the stadium feature where you hit a boxing bag with a baseball bat for distance, multi-man brawl where you can beat up on bad guy after bad guy, and the brand new Adventure Mode titled “The Sub Space Emissary.” This adventure mode is about eight hours of platform-esque gaming thats semi-fun, but really doesn’t make up a true single player game. The real problem is that the game still controls like a fighter but plays like a platformer, so none of the battles or jumping mazes ever get that challenging nor do they really “wow” you. You can up the difficulty to some extremely hard settings, but there’s a difference between a game being challenging because of it’s gameplay, and a game simply being challenging because all the enemies do massive damage. The “Sub-Space” adventure mode should in no way be a deal breaker, though. You don’t buy a Smash Bros. game for the single player; it’s just an added bonus like the trophy and sticker collecting features in the game which can almost all be completed without touching the Sub Space Emissary mode.

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Here is where I want to stop complaining and applaud the fact that online gaming has finally come to Smash, but Nintendo sure makes it awfully difficult. The entire system for Brawling online is, admittedly, incredibly safe for children but incredibly annoying for jumping in and playing with your friends or strangers. There is no voice support, which completely ruins much of the fun of playing with friends, and even when you do manage to organize everyone together to sign online, you have to worry about bouts of lag. Of course for people who don’t have the option to play with physical friends, online Brawl is still a great idea even if it isn’t perfectly executed. While there have been some reports of major lag, most times online play runs especially smooth considering the massive amount of things going on at once. I guess this is a decent first step, but if Nintendo is at all serious about going online, which I doubt, then they’re going to have to figure out a way to make their child friendly online service a bit more user friendly too.

It may sound like I’m tearing the game a new one with my complaints, but when a game is this good, what else are you going to do in a review but talk about the problems? Seriously, the characters are more balanced than ever, the music is even better then before, the stages are more clever and vibrant, and the new items and gameplay mechanics all work wonderfully. I’ve been playing the game non-stop for the past week and I’m pretty sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the stuff I can unlock and all the different ways to play. So sure, the game is more of the same, but it seems like more of the same made better. Think of it like the 6 Million Dollar Man - It was good originally, but they’ve rebuilt it and made it even better.

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Comments

  • By Ilchymis, March 17, 2008 @ 5:32 am

    Wonderful review! I’ve only played 3-4 hours with some friends, but I totally have to agree with the eye-rolling at the achievements. I don’t understand how they got so much crap on that disc! It’s like a marvel of modern technology, or something.

    Great job!

  • By Bucky, March 17, 2008 @ 7:00 am

    I picked up the game on Friday. I have only played about 2 hours worth, and those 2 hours were spent learning the controls. This is my first time ever playing any of the SSB series of games.

    I did play a few matches online, but most of them suffered what seemed to be horrible lag problems. I hope this condition approves soon.

  • By Timothy W. Young, March 17, 2008 @ 9:26 am

    I really need to get my Wii online so I can play multi-player.
    The game definitely rocks!

  • By Canucklehead, March 18, 2008 @ 7:19 am

    I tried is over the weekend and have to admit that I was not sold. It was just a button-mashing frenzy! Of course, having my ass handed to me by an 8-year-old didn’t help.

  • By Razak, March 18, 2008 @ 8:24 am

    Just like any fighting game a player with some skill will destroy a button masher 9 out of 10. If you take the time to learn the subtitles of the game it pays off. That being said, it is also one of the best button mashing frenzies out there.

  • By Lukatoll, March 21, 2008 @ 6:09 am

    Nice Review!
    I still need to pick this game up but the base exchange never seems to have it!
    Later we should all post our Brawl Codes and hold a little tournament :)!

  • By Peter Farlow, November 26, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

    A really great review. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the blog template!

  • By dday, July 24, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

    ive played this game over and over and it never gets old and this game is great for multiplayer than first but the mini missions is neat

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