Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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Good: Gameplay, special moves, Assist Trophies, Final Smashes, multiplayer, soundtrack, stages, ridiculous amount of options and unlockables

Bad: Somewhat limited online play

In the gaming world, "sure things" are extremely rare. Despite this, I don't think there was a doubt in anyone's mind that Super Smash Bros. Brawl was going to be an instant classic. The Nintendo 64 and Gamecube games in the Smash series are among the elite multiplayer experiences in history, and Brawl promised us more characters, more stages, more options, and more fun. It delivers on absolutely every account, and you'll be hooked from the very first match.

The sheer amount of gameplay modes and options is almost overwhelming when you first dive into Brawl. Most of your time will probably be spent in the standard mode in which two to four players battle it out. Nothing has changed about the core objective, you still pummel your rival Nintendo mascot until they're weak enough to be knocked off the screen. However, there are tons of new items, my favorite being the Assist Trophy. By throwing one of these, you summon random characters from gaming history to briefly join the battle on your side. Little Mac from Punch-Out, Mr. Resetti from Animal Crossing, Gray Fox from Metal Gear Solid, and even Nintendogs and Excitebikes make appearances. They're great for making the usually-frantic combat even more chaotic and hilarious.

Another great addition is the Final Smash moves. On occasion, a glowing sphere will fly around the stage, and you'll gain the Final Smash ability if you attack it until it breaks. It's great when it shows up, because everyone's focus immediately shifts from beating each other up to trying to break the sphere. Once broken, your character starts glowing and you can unleash a massive attack with the B button. They're always devastating and often hilarious, such as Kirby's in which he puts on a chef hat, materializes a giant cauldron out of nowhere, and cooks his opponents. Mario shoots a giant wave of fireballs, Solid Snake hangs from a helicopter and shoots a grenade launcher, and Starfox gets some help in the form of his Landmaster tank. These attacks can change the flow of the battle in an instant.

I'm trying to think of any other game in history that offers as many unlockables as Brawl, but nothing even comes close. Music tracks, stickers, trophies, characters, stages, and more are unlocked through various means, and there's an absolutely insane amount of them. The criteria for each is different. Some have you completing specific challenges, while others are based on your number of versus matches, beating Classic mode, total play time, amount of times you use a character, etc. etc. You can even take coins you win during battle and use them in a "Coin Launcher" to get more trophies and stickers. These don't affect gameplay, but it's nice to see references to hundreds of Nintendo games and characters.

Outside of the standard Brawl mode is a variety of others, including a full single player experience called The Subspace Emissary. The narrative is ridiculous and confusing, but the levels are standard side-scrolling platforming fare. Smash Bros. gameplay shines brightest when it's full-on four-player mayhem, so this change of pace isn't quite as solid. It's not bad by any means, but I found myself having far more fun with the Brawls.

This is one of the few Wii titles that features multiple controller options, and it was certainly a smart move. Smash Bros. veterans will be initially thrown off by the standard Wiimote/Nunchuk combo, but will start to feel comfortable with it after a few hours. However, "comfortable" doesn't mean perfect, so I eventually opted to go back to the standard Gamecube controller. You can also use the Classic Controller or Wii remote by itself if you'd like, but both of these options are noticeably inferior to the GC controller or Nunchuk method.

Nintendo obviously knows this game will be played for years to come, so they crammed as much stuff onto the disc as possible. On top of the standard Brawls, a full single player experience, hundreds of unlockables, countless options, and a Coin Launcher minigame, they still included online play, a level editor, and playable demos of the classic games the characters come from. The level editor is somewhat basic, but it's still nice for when you've played every other stage 100 times. Online play is also lacking in modes, but all you really need is the basic Brawl. This game is so multiplayer- heavy that it's only natural to bring this series online.

Brawl runs in 480p and 16:9, but it still doesn't look terribly different than Melee. There's a little more detail in the stages and everything runs at a smooth 60fps, but don't expect a huge graphical upgrade. On the audio side of things, Brawl completely eclipses Melee, with tons of fantastic, fully-orchestrated classic tracks. As you unlock more songs, you can even adjust the frequency they appear on specific levels.

As a lifelong Nintendo fan, Smash Bros. Brawl satisfies on a multitude of levels. Not only is the gameplay fantastic, but the nostalgia factor is unreal. It's a compilation of excellent characters, environments, and music that Nintendo has built up over their long history. No other gaming company could even come close to achieving what's been done with this game. There's something every match that sparks a memory of a classic game, whether it's the recreation of the first two levels of Super Mario Bros., a musical track from Tetris, or the sudden appearance of Gray Fox in the form of an assist trophy. The value of this game is unparalleled. For $50, you get one of the greatest multiplayer experiences ever created, along with enough content and options to keep you playing until the next generation of consoles. Smash Bros. Brawl is an absolute triumph for Nintendo in every way, and ranks among the best games in history.

Graphics: 8.0

Sound: 10

First Play: 10

Replay Value: 10

Gameplay: 10

Overall: 9.9