Super Smash Bros. Brawl Wii
We all knew it was coming. Our cousins across the globe had already told us what it was like. Now the Europeans get the Brawl experience. And it was well worth the wait.
I had to do a lot of things for this Brawl review, namely waiting a couple of days for the ‘holy freaking pancakes, Brawl is awesome!’ factor to wear off so I could take a decent look at the game. I also had to resist the urge to play every time I mentioned a great element, otherwise the review would never be finished. Was it necessary to unlock all the characters in one go? Or was it necessary to play it for 13 hours straight (with 2 bathroom breaks of course)? You tell me. I did it anyway because Brawl is just that good.
The single most important thing to assess about Brawl has to be how well it plays, how well the combatants move and strike. If Brawl were a car, it’d handle like a dream. Each character moves just as they should, some feel heavy and slow, others glide and jump around. They’re as powerful and fight as you’d imagine. It all makes sense, and feels right.
The Smash Bros series has always been famous for its all-star rosters, so much so that there is a game mode named ‘All-Star’. It’s the gaming equivalent of the Oscars. And I’m not talking C-list celebrities. Certainly not the ones who were on Big Brother once, had the personality of a door knob then milked it for every last penny. Brawl has the Will Smiths, the Michael Caines and the Mariah Careys. The talented, popular ones that you actually care about. For this latest instalment, the big news is the inclusion of non-Nintendo characters, Snake (of Metal Gear Solid) and Sonic (from Sonic the Hedgehog). Other welcome additions include the infamous Wario fresh from his WarioWare outings, and Captain Olimar of Pikmin fame. Also, the roll call has been given a serious kick in a better direction. In the previous game, Melee, it was loaded with ‘clone characters’ that were basically copies of other characters with near-identical move sets. This made the roster seem larger than it really was. This time around, HAL have made the selection of characters far more unique and varied than any other fighter out there. Characters that were previously clones now have a lot more individual characteristics to make them worth using, and the new additions have great styles that take Brawl’s depth one step further.
You’ll soon learn that Brawl doesn’t do things in half measures. It doesn’t like just having one or two of something. That isn’t Brawl’s way. Brawl likes the number ‘squillion’. It is no longer a number used by children in the playground. Brawl put an end to that. Brawl has a squillion characters, a squillion modes and a squillion unlockables. The reason I felt the need for this description is to help you comprehend just how much there is to be found in this game. I actually tried counting how many trophies, stickers, stages and songs there were to be unlocked, in addition to the ones you start off with. In doing so I nearly died. So, for safety’s sake, I’m going to make an educated guess of a metric squillion. And each one of these is a nugget of gaming history to savour. You’d be hard pressed to find a game worth mentioning from Nintendo’s expansive history that’s been missed. It’s like a photo album of nostalgia, loaded with a description of each trophy for those unfamiliar with that historic artefact.
Game modes are in plentiful supply. Aside from the aforementioned All-Star mode, there are 5 other single player modes, Classic being the simplest of these. Fight through 12 stages, arcade style. It’s the very heart of Brawl, a raw experience interspersed with special stages. The Adventure mode has become much meatier, now going by the name ‘The Subspace Emissary’. RPG elements have been added, such as the stickers, which you can apply to characters to give them special attributes and you get to pick which members of your team you want to play with. The levels themselves are in the style of a side-scrolling platformer, their design relatively bog-standard, but with some quite brilliant set pieces and boss battles, supplemented by a good variety of enemies. The Subspace Emissary plot is not central to the overall game but does a good job of loosely bringing together all of the characters without being overly complicated and confusing. The highlight is undoubtedly the brief but wonderfully rendered cut scenes that appear after each level.
There are other game modes too, some full games in their own right, all combining to add considerably to Brawl’s already impressive lifespan. The Stage Builder deserves a special mention as it enables you to create your own multiplayer levels. It’s rather basic in terms of visual customisation but structurally you can re-create most ideas from your imagination, adding yet another bag of hours to the pile of lifespan.
Eventually, we get to the multiplayer. Readers familiar with Smash Bros will understand if I take a little pause to prepare myself for this. The multiplayer aspect of Brawl is what it’s all about. The sheer fun of beating each other senseless is brilliantly captured in gaming form. And you save money on hospital visits. Almost every single thing you can do solo, you can do in co-op with a friend. That includes the Adventure mode as well as the always fun Multi-man brawls and the Home run contest. If you’re looking for any kind of offline multiplayer experience, Brawl has something for you.
Even if you have a lack of friends, Brawl likes you. If you’re feeling glum because you can’t fill all 4 player slots for multiplayer matches, you can easily add in CPU opponents. There are plenty of difficulty settings for you to set these bots at, ranging from walk in the park to devilishly fiendish. These keep the game fresh as you can always set up challenging scenarios for yourself. There’s also a full online mode offering versus and team battle, complete with a waiting area for you to practice against the training bag while you are allocated opponents. The online performance doesn’t match up to the sublime in-game implementation of Mario Kart as it can be sensitive to lag, so ensure your connection is otherwise unused and fingers crossed your opponents will have equally good connections. If conditions are on your side there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Brawl also utilises the internet in other ways. You can swap screenshots, replays and even your own stage creations with friends, as well as receiving some stages and replays from Nintendo from across the globe.
When you get into the match, there’s far more options than just your own attacks. The stage is gradually peppered with a vast array of items to be used. From health pickups, to baseball bats and Smash-making weapons like the Final Smash ball. This unleashes your character’s Final Smash move, and while this may seem like a game breaking addition at first, it becomes clear that they are not always simple to use. The chase for these can put a spark into any fight no matter what’s going on. Assist Trophies are another new addition, basically acting like the pokeballs, unleashing a random character from a hoarde of games to help you take down your foes. Again, these are very sought after and fuel the energy levels.
Brawl manages to appeal to and be approachable for all varieties of gamer, a rare trait which is ideal for this big Wii title. Four different control options as well as an as-deep-as-you-want-it combat style mean that whether you’re a parent looking forward to seeing Mario and Sonic have a punch-up, or a Nintendo fan wanting the Nintendo Chronicle (of love), Brawl can offer you an outstanding game. Gather your friends, this is the perfect multiplayer experience.