Super Smash Bros. Brawl Reader Review
Smash Bros is a legendary Nintendo fighting game with a twist. Gone are life meters and in come percentages. The higher the percentage gets, the more elaborate and swift your ring-out inspired death will be. If you haven't played Smash before, you really should at least sample it before you die. Rest assured, this is what you bought your Wii for.
Taking the backbone from melee, Brawl has many, many modes to sample. Most are available to play solo or co-op. Classic mode is the same thing you've been playing since the original Smash Brothers lavishly claimed that, "Something is wrong in the world of Nintendo!". Basically it pits you off in a series of battles against AI opponents with various preset rules. It feels very stale after you've played through with even half of the roster, with the only real variance being the characters you face. The adventure mode has been replaced with a new experience that is designed around giving the player a solid narrative journey. Well, as solid as the mostly speechless Nintendo posse can manage anyways. It's mostly pantomime stuff but genuinely entertaining. The CG cutscenes are nicely animated and they beam character with their comic expressions and movements. There is also a degree of player control over the events in the storyline. The main issue with this mode is that the characters weren't entirely designed with platforming in mind and it shows here. Certain characters just can't hack some of the level designs, particularly those with awful jumping skills or sub-par maneuverability. Within this mode you can expend your hard-earned stickers and equip them to your characters trophy stands. These will boost the character's strength. The stickers are lost when used and the rarer ones tend to give the largest boosts. The other "main" game mode is All-star mode, a survival-like adventure that pits you against every member of the games playable cast one after another (including two Olimar's!) with limited healing items.
Other modes of play are just as interesting and engrossing, the home run contest makes it's return with that poor sandbag. The multi-man melee mode now has co-op and a larger array of variants including but not limited to 100-man melee, 15 minute melee and the terrifying cruel melee. There are event matches but they are nowhere near as challenging as they were in Melee, even though there is now a difficulty slider. Also, Melee provided you with additional characters in this mode but now that all characters can be unlocked in the Subspace emissary, it all feels a little flat. Break the target's is no longer character specific either, electing to provide you with five set stages of varying difficulty. You are awarded for completing these with every character, which like spamming Classic mode can get boring fast.
Of course, the mode that is going to get the most playtime religiously dedicated to it's altar is the one marked: "BRAWL!". This is the multiplayer, containing a large variety of customisable rules. You want to do a one life survival match with giant characters? You got it! How about a Pokémon battle with curried Pikachu? You can have that too. The lifespan you can get from this mode could last years, assuming you can hold the interest of several friends for the duration. The entire game in general is much better played in a group than on ones own. Then again, you no longer have to be alone as there is an online mode to this madness. You can spectate on matches and even levy wagers on who you believe the victors will be. Of course you can take part in mortal combat yourself with ease, though the full range of features is only available to people on your friendlist. Interestingly if you are online fighting and you disconnect, the AI will take over and finish the fight for you seamlessly. Theres also a tournament mode underneath the multiplayer shelter for those of you that enjoy climbing trees against recoloured clones or have a particularly large attendance.
The most annoying thing about Brawl online is the lag. Even with three people in the match it can feel very slow. When I played with four (Two American's and two British players on a Gamecube stage for reference) the lag was horrific. When playing a fast evasive character, this can cause many problems. After putting up with it for a few hours I almost got used to it but it was still inexcusable for an "online experience". Lacking the frenetic appeal of an "on the setee with a few friends" matches I'd gotten used to since the original Smash Bros arrived explosively on the Nintendo 64.
Interestingly the game has a challenges board that feels a lot like an advent calendar or something akin to Microsoft's achievement system. It contains rewards like new music tracks, trophies or even new stages for multiplayer. Initially, everything is a mystery but when you unlock something on it, the adjacent tiles are revealed and the way to open them is described. It'll take you a while to open all those doors though. You are awarded with several golden hammers that can force open certain doors without fulfilling the requirements but due to the limited supply and inability to force open the rewards for some of the harder challenges there isn't much point wasting them.
The bulk of the game's trophies are obtainable from the coin shooting mini-game. Unlike the previous installments lottery-based system of obtaing them, Brawl allows you to take matters into your own trigger finger. You fire the coins that you have earned in the other game modes at moving targets, clearing a chain without missing a shot will often grant you a random sticker - the games other and more pointless collectible. Though these generally aren't why you're here. At intervals, a randomly plucked trophy will spawn and run around in one of a few patterns across the screen. Often it will obscure itself behind invincible objects or holes in the table, especially if you don't already have the trophy. There is still a large amount of randomness to deal with and it burns through your coins worryingly quickly if you don't pay enough care. After obtaining trophies you can view them alongside a sometimes misinformed "encyclopaedia Nintendica" information snippet featuring the character or objects first and last appearances.
An interesting new feature is the ability to create your own battlefields for use in multiplayer. While simple it can be quite addictive. User craeted content is the "in" thing these days. You can even use your favourite music track. This mode seems fairly limited at first glance but the combinations available can be quite diverse and fiendish. Sadly with these user generated stages, the AI seems to get confused even when set to the highest level, so they are again best played on with friends. These user stages will even be placed in the random stage selection for you, but won't be available when online.
Hedgehog versus Snake
Obviously, people will be interested in the most hyped pair of characters. On loan from Konami and Sega are Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog who also come complete with their own stage, an assist trophy and a series of collectibles from the coin shooting game. Sonic is now the fastest character in the Smash bros series, outclassing previous speed-freak, Captain Falcon by a good degree. With the Bunny hood he can run along the track in the Gamecube's Big Blue stage and keep up with the F-zero racers (Even able to suicide off the opposite side). He isn't however the strongest of characters. The rabid, unwashed fanboys can now see whether Mario's moustache is better than Sonic's spines. Snake, in stark contrast is a very powerful, far less agile combatant. His smash attacks use a wide range of military gear like his Stinger missles and Claymore landmines. They are slightly harder to connect than normal smash attacks but they have large range. He also remembered to pack his creator's quirky sense of humour, recieving communications from his Shadow Moses team-mates about each of the games characters. Sadly though, while they were heavily used in the hype of the game and proclaimed on the back of the box, both require a decent amount of time to unlock.
While I'm on the theme of newcomers though, I'll go into the Nintendo ones too. Olimar, Pit, Zero Suit Samus, Ike, R.O.B, Diddy Kong, Wolf O'Donnell, Lucario, Pokémon Trainer (In reality an umbrella name for Ivysaur, Charizard and Squirtle), Meta Knight, King Dedede, Lucas and Wario are amongst them. They fill the roster out quite nicely and it all feels very balanced. There is one possible exception to this however, Ike is a little powerful as his forward smash with even minimal charge can one-shot some of the lighter characters as low as 20%. He is quite popular with the button mashers online due to this. Most of the veteran characters make it through into this update, notable exceptions are the dropping of Mewtwo in favour of Lucario, Roy stepping aside for Ike, Pichu and Doctor Mario were seemingly culled for being too cloney and Young Link has been replaced by his modern Wind Wakeresque counterpart, Toon Link.
Final Smashes and Assist trophies are also new additions. Each character posesses a powerful finishing move which can only be performed after obtaining a smash ball, these float around the screen until a fighter successfully cracks it open with a flurry of oft-panicked attacks. This is to encourage the players to fight over it because everyone wants the power they hold. The effects range from pure damage like Samus' through a form change like Sonic's or just plain support like Peaches sleeping and healing item combination. Assist trophies do exactly what they say on the tin and consist of various characters from Nintendo's back catalogue. Nintendogs jump in front of the match, obscuring the view. Mr. Resetti gives you a stern telling off, obscuring parts of the screen with his rantings and in certain cases, blowing up with pure mole-powered temper. Tingle beams down a large amount of random items and a large Metroid will latch onto an opponent and sap their energy over time for example. Some of these serve to unbalance things but to be honest, you won't care because you'll be having too much damn fun.
Race to the finish!
It's a brilliant game which is easily learned but difficult to master. You certainly get a lot of fun out of it, particularly with a handful of friends swarming your TV. In closing then, it's definitely worth a splurge, I doubt you'll regret it if you posess a soul. Just don't expect too much to be different, it's really more of an update than a sequel but don't let that put you off, we've been stuck with Melee for the best part of a decade and it's certainly improved on that. It has it's issues, granted, like the slightly wonky character balancing and the fact that it is open to so many button-mashing, brainless victories when luck wanders in. Theres also that Jigglypuff annoyance, but this title is something you won't find elsewhere. What would be an almost perfect party game is let down by its dodgy online, maybe when it comes out in Europe there will be less lag playing with them. If you play it with people in your house though, be prepared to wake the neighbours.
...Not that it's actually out officially in Europe yet.
9 / 10