1 Store804 Reviews
Pros: online play, tons of unlockables, simple but deep gameplay
Cons: duplicate characters, looks a lot like melee, bogus story
With some games, it takes an investment in order to appreciate what a game is all about. I originally was going to pass on Super Smash Brothers Brawl because I didn't put that original investment into Super Smash Brothers Melee. While these two games aren't hard to simply pick up and play, I knew it took time to truly understand and master the more advanced mechanics of the game. However, I snapped to my senses when I realized that I was able to pick up the more advanced mechanics in Pokemon after spending some time with the game. That and Super Smash Brothers Brawl was widely anticipated to be one of if not the greatest Nintendo Wii game to date.
The single player mode of Super Smash Brothers Brawl has a subspace emissary mode, which hashes out a story. In this mode the Ancient Minister leads its subspace army against the characters in Brawl. Each character has its own unique role in the fight, but most stories do not hash out the characters much beyond their pre-defined persona. However there isn't much to the story beyond this. Most storylines are way too short and contrived. If you're looking for a powerful story, then you'll definitely be very disappointed in this aspect of the game.
Super Smash Brothers Brawl is a 2D fighter. Instead of a power bar which indicates when your fighters faint, there's a damage meter. Reaching a specific measure of damage doesn't automatically disqualify a fighter; rather it makes them fly farther through the air. A fighter is disqualified when they fall off the edge or are blasted into the stratosphere. So the more damage you deal, the easier it is to blast someone off the screen. Many times the stage comes into play as well. A stage might scroll to the side or vertically and thus if you stay put your character will fall off the edge. Similarly there are stages with short platforms and others with longer ones making it easier or more difficult to disqualify an opponent. Finally there are certain components of a stage that can deal a lot of damage like lava or spikes when landed on. There's also a catapult that's part of Toon Link's ship that can propel you off the edge of the stage even with little to no damage.
There are dozens of different characters to play as, 35 in all. Each character has its own moves and traits. Some can fire projectiles of varying ranges, while others can jump high and do a host of different things. While the hope is with this many different characters that they are all unique yet are equally as powerful. Sadly this is not the case. Many characters' abilities mirror others while some characters are vastly more or less powerful than others. I wouldn't mind one or the other but having both seems a little silly. For instance tiered set of characters can provide instant handicaps the same way that the different teams in Tecmo Super Bowl did. However, when you combine that with a subset of characters that are nearly identical it just seems as if not enough time was spent play testing and tweaking the character's power and ability.
During matches there are several items that can appear. Some are weapons that can deal a tremendous amount of damage to your opponent, while others can lower your damage total. There are some other more unique items that can appear like stopwatches that slow down the action for everyone but the person who activates it. There are assist trophies that flood the screen with items that can damage other players. Similarly there's a pokeball that can release a pokemon that deals damage. Finally, there's a smash ball that occasionally floats around the screen. Once it's attacked 3 times, the person who initiated the last attack gets to perform a final smash. The final smash varies per character, but is all but guaranteed to do a ton of damage when it lands and in most cases it sends your opponent(s) flying across the screen.
There are a host of different modes and rules to play. If you have people who you can play with in your home, most of the time will be spent in versus mode. In this mode you play in teams or in a free for all between 2 and 4 human or computer controlled opponents. The match can either end after a time limit or when your opponents run out of players. In this mode you can select the same character to play with or a random player. In addition stages can be chosen randomly, in a rotating manner between players, in order in which they're listed, or the loser of the match gets to select. The sheer diversity of the different options makes this mode worth the price of admission.
In addition to versus mode there are a bunch of different single player modes that have an optional multiplayer aspect. One of the main single player modes is the subspace emissary mode. This furthers the story by pitting you in battles against other players under the backdrop of the story. There's a classic mode that sets up a bunch of random matches against characters from their host stages. The homerun contest has you doing a ton of damage to a sandbag in a short period of time before hammering it with a baseball bat. The amount of distance the sandbag travels determines your score. There's also a multi-man brawl mode that pits you against several generic opponents for a period of time or set count. You also have the option to play many of these modes in competition with another player or cooperatively like in the subspace emissary mode.
You can also play Super Smash Brothers Brawl online via the Wii's Wifi capability. The online mode implements Nintendo's dreaded friend code system. That is, you're given a 12 digit number representative of an offset between your own Wii Number and the game itself such that it's unique per game, per system. Once you register other people's friend codes, you can play with them online. Alternatively, you can play with strangers as well. Another shortcoming of the Wifi mode is that there's no voice chat even among registered friends. You can preset 4 different taunts to use during online play, but voice chat would be nice. Besides 4-way Brawls, you can also watch matches in spectator mode and win coins by betting on winners. You can also compete in a homerun contest online too.
There are a ton of unlockable characters, stages, musical tracks, modes, trophies, and stickers. As for the characters, out of the 35 total playable characters, 14 of them have to be unlocked. That still gives you a ton of playable characters when you first break open the packaging. Unlocking characters can be done one of several ways. You can either unlock them by playing a set amount of matches in versus mode (450 matches unlocks everyone); each character can be unlocked in the subspace emissary mode too; finally most character have a third way to be unlocked through another single player mode (like Classic Mode, Target Tests, or 100-man brawl). Unlocking musical tracks is a simple as either unlocking a new character or stage, alternatively CDs will randomly appear for a few seconds. If you can pick them up, that unlocks a random track you do not have yet. Unlocking just about everything else is a little more stringent. In order to unlock every stage, trophy, and sticker you must explore every aspect of the game in depth. I like the unlockable system because it's diverse in its requirements, but it also is logical in terms of the purpose of each unlockable. That is, if you're renting the game for a night or two to play with friends, you can gradually unlock all the different characters (and many of the stages) just by playing versus mode a ton of times.
Super Smash Brothers Brawl is deliberately very flexible regarding its controls. You can use any one of 4 different controllers with Brawl: the Wiimote held on its side, the Wiimote and Nunchuck, the Classic controller, and the GameCube controller (wired or wireless Wavebird). All of these controllers can be completely customized as well. I found that most of the controllers worked well. The Wiimote held on its side doesn't work all that great because the B trigger is hard to press and the face buttons are hard to reach in a pinch. The Wiimote and Nunchuck work well together, however my wrists get really sore after a playing over an hour at a time. The Classic controller is a fine option if you have a way to store your Wiimote connected to it without it becoming too cumbersome. The GameCube controller is also a good option. However, the wired GameCube controllers might not have enough cord length and the Wavebird's wireless can have some noticeable lag to expert players. Overall the controls are strong in terms of flexibility; however no control method is without its flaws.
As for the actual controls, unlike many other fighter games, you don't have to worry about pressing buttons in a certain order to perform a special move like in Street Fighter or King of Fighters. Instead you have a normal attack button, a special attack button, a shield button, a grab button and a jump button (which is also typically mapped to tapping up on the controller). Combos can be derived from using these buttons, but that's up to the user to figure out given a specific character, stage, or scenario. Also unlike many technical fighting games, you can simply mash buttons and come up with a good deal of success. My daughter can just mash buttons and find herself the winner against myself and even computer opponents. So the controls are simple on the surface, but they can lead to more technical results.
The graphics are pretty good. The cutscenes look really nice as do most cartoon cutscenes on the Wii. However within the game, the graphics are very similar to that of the GameCube's Super Smash Brothers Melee. What's kind of neat is that each character is represented in their truest form. That is Solid Snake has a lot of detail, while Toon Link is cell-shaded. Aside from a few purposeful instances like Mr. Game and Watch, the framerate is fantastic. Animations are smooth, deliberate and clearly one of the best aspects of the game. I would have preferred a more three dimensional environment, but that was a design choice made long ago. The backgrounds also really heighten the experience too. Environmental effects really make the game standout from its predecessor. Overall the graphics are pretty well done, but I would have expected more given what I saw in Melee.
The audio in Super Smash Brothers Brawl is pretty good. There are a ton of musical tracks that pay homage to many of the great Nintendo franchises. There are even a few tracks dedicated to the newer characters like Sonic, and Solid Snake. In addition there are dozens of unlockable soundtracks as well. These consist of secondary themes familiar to fans of a specific series. The composition is pretty well done. Most themes can fit into a given stage, though some I have a hard time getting into than others.
As for the sound effects, they are pretty solid. Most sound effects were borrowed from Super Smash Brothers Melee. The general tone of the character generated sound effects are pretty dull, however some of the stage generated sound effects can sound pretty epic at times (like in Solid Snake's stage). Overall the sound effects get a good grade from me. For those more interested in Nintendo nostalgia they will grade even higher.
Super Smash Brothers Brawl has an astounding amount of replay value. There isn't much which can equal a four way match with everyone in your living room. Those matches can go on throughout the night. The sheer amount of options keeps it fresh for even more hours. The fact that you can now do this online takes it one step further. Admittedly the online experience isn't breaking any paradigms established by Xbox Live, but it does add value to the game. Being almost 30 with two kids, there aren't many people who can come over on a Friday night and play Smash Brothers until 2am; so this is a handy feature for me.
What makes the game so incredible from a replay value perspective is that the gameplay is so deep. It's easy to pick up, but the more effort you spend to learn the gameplay mechanics, the more it rewards your ability in the game. Sure, it isn't as technical a fighting game as Tekken or Guilty Gear, but it isn't a shallow fighting game either. In addition, Super Smash Brothers Brawl also follows the Halo recipe of having a ton of tightly tested gameplay options. There are tons of fighters, stages, music, and items that appear throughout the game. You can play online or 4 player simultaneous in the comfort of your own living room. Yes many of the fighters aren't balanced, but that can help to handicap beyond a starting damage value. Like Halo, on the surface Super Smash Brothers Brawl doesn't seem that special from a gameplay perspective until you actually sit down and play it.
For solitary gamers, there isn't much here as you would find in a deep RPG like Dragon Warrior VII. However, there is enough to validate a rental. The token single player modes are light, but plentiful. The number of trophies, stickers, and other unlockables do provide a reasonable incentive to play further. However based on the nature of the fighting game genre, there aren't too many solitary gamers who enjoy it anyway. Super Smash Brothers Brawl just happens to have the most to do in a fighting game in single player mode, which doesn't say much.
Overall, this game follows the tradition of hit or miss Nintendo Wii titles. Suffice it to say, this is definitely a must own game for any Wii owner. Even if you aren't a big fan of fighting games, Brawl is very accessible to inexperienced gamers. It's kind of funny because the genre of fighting games is saturated with a ton of games which cater to the most advanced gamers around. Guilty Gear, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter, and King of Fighters all require precision, discipline and the ability to adapt. But with Smash Brothers Brawl, you can be a competent player without knowing all the moves or having great coordination. That's what makes this game work so well.