Super Smash Bros. Brawl - WII - Review
After debuting on Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros. has become one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises. So it’s no surprise that Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the most anticipated Wii game of 2008, and one of the most anticipated games of the year overall. The wait has been long (Brawl was originally said to be a launch game) and the hype huge, and despite both of those factors, Brawl still manages to deliver a magnificent experience that exceeds the lofty expectations.
Despite an expanded single-player mode, Brawl is still all about the multiplayer experience. Not only does the game live up to its previous incarnations, but it improves upon them. While the standard fighting plays very similarly to Melee at first glance, there are some subtle adjustments that make the game better. A few of the characters who felt lacking before have been better balanced for Brawl. For example, Link and Samus in particular seem to be far more effective fighters than before.
The game also features no less than four controller options. These include the standard Wii remote, the remote and nunchuk, the classic controller, and the trusty GameCube pad. All are functional, although the single Wii remote on its side is limited. Smash vets will no doubt prefer to keep using the GameCube controller. In addition, all the buttons assignments are completely customizable on all controllers.
The most obvious improvement, though, and the biggest overall, is the addition of the smash ball. This shiny orb appears at random and floats about the stage until someone manages to break it open. Upon doing so, the player is granted the ability to perform a character specific final smash. Most often a devastating attack, the final smash can be an instant KO.
This devastating power may seem a bit cheap to purists initially, but cracking open the smash ball is no easy feat. It moves about without rhyme or reason. And that makes it all the more fun. As soon as the orb appears, every character rushes towards it frantically.
Despite being on its third installment, the chaotic free-for-all multiplayer mode is even more fun than it was before. In addition to the improved gameplay, Brawl features more fighters and stages than ever before. Most of the newcomers are very welcome additions and fit right into the mix. I could go on and on trying to explain why Brawl’s multiplayer is so good, but the honest truth is that it is just plain fun. You have a great fighting system, fun items, and a great list of iconic characters and nostalgic stages and music. Simply put, Brawl is one of the finest multiplayer games I have ever experienced.
Even in the “Solo” modes, Brawl allows two players to work cooperatively. This includes the most anticipated new mode, the Subspace Emissary. This is basically an extension of the adventure mode from Melee. And although it has clearly received a bigger and better treatment this time around, some of the core issues still exist. Brawl controls great as a fighter, but as a side scrolling platformer it feels a bit clumsy. The level design isn’t particularly great either, although the massive final stage was enjoyable in a Metroid-esque way.
The Emissary does feature some very cool CG cinemas, however. Even if the story, which contains all of the characters, can’t (and doesn’t) make a ton of sense, the cutscenes are beautifully rendered and directed.
In fact, Brawl is a very good looking game overall. Character models look great and animate well. The game also features a few very cool visual effects. Add in a smooth framerate, 480p and 16x9 widescreen, and you have one of the best looking Wii games. The only minor shortcoming is that some of the stages look better than others. Just contrast the beautiful Fire Emblem level with the rough Super Mario Sunshine one to see the full range.
Sound-wise Brawl also shines. And while the sound effects are good, the music absolutely steals the show. One of the coolest things about Melee was its soundtrack, and while I was initially a bit disappointed that Brawl doesn’t seem to feature the same orchestral sound, the jaw dropping quantity of classic themes is undeniable. In fact, unlocking new music is almost as enjoyable as finding new characters and stages.
Speaking of unlockables, Brawl has no shortage of them. Whether it‘s trophies, music, stages, characters, or stickers, there is never a shortage of bonuses to be earned. The game also features an excellent system for doing so, allowing for multiple ways to get the major additions, and a challenge screen where everything else can be unlocked by accomplishing certain listed feats.
There is also a stage builder this time around. You can even submit your creations to Nintendo, which may in turn release them through the wonder of the Internet.
But the Internet plays a more important role in Brawl, because now you can take your game online. Or at least you can try. I’ve consistently encountered inconsistent performance from the system. At times it works well; at times it lags and is slow to connect with other fighters. I assume this is an issue with the sheer volume of users now that the game is out, and hopefully it will work as intended soon. Still, the mode is strictly a casual addition. Don’t expect much in terms of stat-tracking or ranks. Smash Bros. is much more fun when played with people in the flesh anyway, but the simple online mode will be a nice bonus if it eventually works consistently.
But despite the fact that the online is currently iffy and the Subspace Emissary isn’t the incredible gameplay experience that many hoped for, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is still a phenomenal experience. It adds some major improvements over the previous versions, while retaining the incredibly fun multiplayer experience. The game is a veritable Swiss army knife, loaded with features and bonuses. But in the end it’s the standard multiplayer that will have you coming back again and again. The experience is unmatched and no Wii owner should be without it.
Review Scoring Details for Super Smash Bros. Brawl
The core fighting system is as addictive and raucously fun as ever. Add better fighter balance, a wealth of control options, and the brilliant final smashes and you have a game that easily exceeds its excellent predecessor. The adventure mode (Subspace Emissary) leaves a bit to be desired, however.
It may not feature the visual polish of Super Mario Galaxy, but Brawl is one of the best looking games on Wii. Characters look great and animate beautifully, and the visual effects are outstanding at times. A few of the environments look a bit bland, though. The game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per seconds and features both 480p and 16x9 widescreen.
The sound effects are good, but the music steals the show. Brawl features an overwhelming collection of classic themes that will have you humming along from start to finish.
Brawl gives you the choice between various difficulty levels for just about every aspect of the game. Easy can be defeated without much trouble, normal provides a decent challenge, and the higher levels will give even Smash Bros. fanatics a run for their money. It’s very well balanced overall.
While the basic gameplay feels pretty much the same, Brawl is an improvement over Melee in many ways. The characters feel better balanced this time around and the final smash may be the best addition of them all. The game also features a staggering selection of play modes and a fantastic rewards system that will keep you playing to unlock new characters, stages and music.
It’s pretty rare that a 10 is such an obvious decision, but in the case of the Smash Bros. series, it’s almost a given. The multiplayer is every bit as fun and phenomenal as it has always been, but it has been made better than ever for the reasons mentioned above. The game also does a commendable job of including co-operative features in almost every mode.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl delivers on its massive hype in almost every way. This is a game that reaches a fun factor which few games dare even dream of. It is absolutely packed to the gills with content, and features enough improvements over its predecessor to make it the best installment in the series by far.