Review / Super Smash Bros. Brawl

The Wii has seen many, many titles land on its store shelves but none of them have been as anticipated as the next iteration of Nintendo’s marquee mascot fighter. Brawl has been the one title that all the Wii apologists have pointed to ever since the critics and hardcore gamers started to doubt the little white box. Nintendo has done its fair share of stoking the fanboy flames on their own as well, with the likes of their Smash Bros. Dojo website. The Dojo was leaking out tiny bits of information for months before the game’s release and by the time the game was ready to launch the hunger for the title had reached truly epic proportions. The big question, of course, is whether or not a game could ever live up to such a massive hype train. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. Indulge me, if you will…

Get ready to ru-… um, Brawl.

The first thing you’ll notice about SSBB is the amazing level of depth Nintendo has managed to cram onto such a tiny disc. The Wii doesn’t have the advantage of Blu-ray or quadruple-layer discs so when you really step back and take in the scope of the whole game, it’s breathtaking. The menu screen presents you with basically every option you could ever want in a fighting game, and then some. The most interesting new addition, however, is the Subspace Emissary single-player campaign. Emissary basically strings together a rather loose story line for the sole purpose of getting you to fight pretty much every character in the game. The missions vary from beating someone up to, um, beating up more than one person, and from time to time you get to take on a boss character of some sort. Now that’s not to say the mode is trash, in fact it can actually be quite engaging once you let yourself accept the total incongruence of the characters you fight as/against to the storyline itself. The boss fights do a little to break up the rather linear gameplay, and as a whole the mode is a worthy addition to the series.

Time for a slideshow!

The next mode you’ll want to let yourself get lost in with undoubtedly be the promised online component. This is where the game takes a turn for the worse. Brawl truly rewards the player for having a vast list of friends who also own the game in a number of ways. The most crucial aspect of any online game is the flow of the gameplay, namely the framerate. The framerate of a game can make an average experience an above-average one, as well as turn a brilliant game into an unplayable mess. This is where the size of your friends list comes into play. When you choose to play an online match you’ll be given two options. The first option allows you to play with people you know on your friends list. These match-ups are smooth, with solid framerates throughout, and can get very heated when you have 4 experienced players in the fray. The second option you get is a random brawl with whoever happens to be available for a game at the time. I can honestly sum up this particular mode with two words: don’t bother. I know some of you may think I’m being a bit dramatic regarding this, but trust me, it’s worse than horrible. The first thing that will make you raise your eyebrow in this mode is the time it takes for your Wii to find absolutely anyone to play with. Out of 10 random online matches that I attempted to join, half of them took 5 or more minutes to fully connect. Simply put, it’s unacceptable. The game allows you to play around in a “training room” while you’re waiting, but after about 30 seconds of blowing the crap out of the animated punching bag, you will quickly grow impatient.

Ok, so lets assume you managed to survive through the match-making process, it’s sure to be smooth sailing from here on, right? Wrong, oh so wrong. The framerate problems start from the very second the stage appears on the screen. Even the character’s loading animations take at least 4 times as long as they are meant to. After the 3-second countdown to the fight (which ironically can take up to 10 or 15 seconds) the fight begins. I could talk for 3 hours about how bad the actual fighting is, but I’ll finish this paragraph with one comparison that should tell you everything you need to know. While playing a local VS. match on my Wii with no internet connectivity it took me less than 5 seconds to move Pikachu from one side of the Hyrule Castle stage to the other. While playing an online match, without any interference from my opposing players, it took me nearly 30. (Reviewer’s note: The connection this game was reviewed on is 15meg cable)

The good outweighs the bad

Now, I don’t want this review to seem like a complete and utter bashing of Brawl, because in all honesty it’s one of my favorite Wii games yet. The reason I wanted to really flesh out the problems with the online mode is that if you want this game, there’s nothing I’m going to be able to say to change your mind, but I also want everyone to know exactly what they’re in for if online play is important to you.

The classic single-player fighting mode is fantastic and just as fun as it has ever been. The sheer number of characters that are available to you is remarkable and you can unlock countless additional fighters, trophies, stickers, etc. until your Nintendo fanboy meter explodes with joy. Long-spoiled third party additions like Solid Snake and Sonic are welcome additions and they offer varied styles of fighting that definitely keep you on your toes. The final smashes are fantastic and endlessly inventive. Each character in the game has been taken to the peak of detail and then put on an elevator and taken even higher.

As most of you probably already know, Brawl is just pure fan service in and out. The game just screams “Thank You” to all the Nintendo fans that have been following their first-party titles since the days of the NES. If you’re 25 or older, all I have to say is Mr. Game and Watch and you’ll all know just how deep this game goes.

I like shiny things

Graphics have never really been the strong point of the Wii, and while Brawl certainly looks good, nobody is going to mistake this for an Xbox 360 title. In direct comparison to the Gamecube’s SSB title the game looks quite a bit better. Animations looks much smoother (offline) and the detail on each of the characters has been bumped up a considerable amount. The stages are amazingly deep with real-time deformation of the terrain as well as countless surprises that can not only be gorgeous, but also deadly. The one main gripe I have about the game’s visual presentation is that you just never get a chance to enjoy it. The game moves so fast and the stages are so big that in order to keep your eye on every character the camera has to zoom out to the point that all that extra detail is completely wasted. When you’re playing a one-on-one match and the camera is up real close it’s hard to believe it’s the Wii, but when you have a full 4-player brawl happening it might as well be on the N64 because all you’re seeing is pixel-sized characters anyway. This, of course, is not a graphic problem, it’s just a design issue that is inherent to the style of game Brawl is, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. Overall though, I guess I’d feel safe to say that if you’re looking for a pretty game, Brawl won’t disappoint.

Last man standing

In closing, you probably already know if you’re going to buy Brawl, so I won’t waste my time trying to convince any of you hardcore gamers that this is a must-have title if you own a Wii. I will, however, urge all you casual players who somehow found this review to go out and at least rent the game and give it a try. The game has so many layers of depth that even the most shallow of player can find enjoyment with whatever they decide to take for a spin within the walls of Brawl. My guess is that even the casual players will end up wanting to put this disc in their collection after just a few spirited rounds with their friends. Basically, if you own a Wii and don’t own this game, there’s probably something wrong with you.

+

  • So much content, you’ll feel like you’re ripping Nintendo off
  • Subspace Emissary is a fresh addition to the series, sets the game apart from previous versions
  • (Friends Only) Multiplayer is great

  • (Random) Multiplayer is atrocious, simply put
  • Friend codes can be frustrating
  • You’ll probably lose alot of your social life for at least the first couple months
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