Super Smash Bros. BrawlESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Nintendo/Game Arts
1-4 Players (offline)
1-4 Players (online)
Wii Remote/Nunchuk Compatible
Classic Controller Compatible
Gamecube Controller Compatible
EDTV – 480p
Any diehard Nintenoholic knows the name Super Smash Bros. This series has only been around since the N64 days but it has garnered a large following since that time. It is a series that has allowed gamers to pit their favorite Nintendo mascot against another Nintendo Mascot for some head to head fighting action. Who would have thought that this simple formula would prove so successful? The most recent release in the series, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, is the third iteration and it definitely has been one of the most anticipated games scheduled to be released on the Wii. Through its development time the game has seen numerous delays but it has finally been released to the masses. And let me tell you, after my extended play time it i would have to say that it really is a game that delivers on all fronts.
The visuals of Super Smash Bros. Brawl are, in my opinion, some of the best that the Wii has to offer. There is ample use of many effects such as lighting, particle and water to name a few, and these effects manage to bring each level to life. Each of the levels is beautifully rendered in full 480p widescreen too. I took my review copy home and played it on a 42-inch Sharp LCD TV and the game looked great. Having it fill my whole screen was very enjoyable given that a lot of Wii games don’t take advantage of its ability to do true 16x9 widescreen. Each of the 40 or so levels just jumped off the screen with color and light. From Zelda’s Bridge of Eldin level with the sun setting to Ice Climber’s Summit level with its Northern Lights in the background glowing, each and every level really does manage to pack some punch.
One of the main attractions is the levels that you will get to fight on. Each of these levels are very well designed and are such a throwback to so many Nintendo games that they will have you reminiscing games of the past. It is a true testament to the developers as they were able to take key levels of so many different games and make them into fighting stages. What is really neat is that a lot of these levels change as you play and you won’t find yourself just fighting in one area. For example, when you fight in Delfino Plaza (Super Mario Sunshine) you will find yourself fighting in numerous different areas, from up above the whole plaza to all the way in the back on roof tops. It is this ability to take key areas of famed gaming levels and allow you to fight in them that makes this game so visually appealing.
Each of the 35 characters blends into every level so well it is amazing. There is no doubt that the power of the Wii has added to the updated look of each character as they move about so effortlessly with countless amounts of animations. Each punch, kick or smash move is beautifully rendered and the amount of detail that has been put into each of these moves is clearly evident. From Kirby’s “on the head spinning kick” to Donkey Kong’s “ground smash” every move you pull off is silky smooth.
Technically speaking this game is rock solid. There wasn’t a hiccup in sight when playing any of the various levels. Even with lots of special effects going on from all four characters at once this game maintained a solid framerate with no slow down to be seen anywhere. There is also no clipping to be found, something that I was quite amazed at given how detailed some of the levels were. I have to say that for a game that has so much going on the screen at once I would have for sure seen some graphic anomalies, however this was not the case and it is a true testament to how well the developers used the available hardware.
The audio in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a true compliment to everything else found in the game. The soundtracks in each level are quite superb to say the least. I took the time to go into the “my music” section of the options and there are a countless number of songs that are included in this game. It is amazing to see the large variety of music that comes from Nintendo based games. Heck, during my exploration through the “my music” section I started to just play random music as I typed this review as I wanted to listen to some of the 100 or so songs while hitting my keyboard. You’ll hear such songs as the Ocarina of Time Medley (Zelda), Meta Knights Revenge (Kirby), Star Fox 64 Main Theme, World Map (Pikmin 2), Wild Pokemon Battle! (Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire), White Land (F-Zero), and an exclusive Super Smash Bros. Brawl version of the MGS4 – Theme of Love. The music manages to suit each level that you fight on too and I found this quite a feat given the diversity of all the available music. As for the rest of the sound effects, they too are just impressive. From the sounds of each character to the recognizable sounds of some of the special items, it is all true Nintendo through and through. There is absolutely nothing that you can find wrong in the audio area as it truly does compliment and already great game.
For those that have not had a chance to play any of the previous two games, Smash Bros. is a multiplayer fighting game that features a huge number of characters from all over the Nintendo universe. If anything, you can basically equate this game to being the solution to all those arguments you may have had with fellow videogamers, and Nintendo fans alike, as to who is the toughest Nintendo character around. You initially start off with 21 characters and you can unlock 14 more for a total of 35 to choose from. You can choose from such characters as Mario, Kirby, Pikachu, Luigi, Link, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong or Samus to name a few. But beyond the strictly Nintendo-centric ones, you will also find a couple of non-Nintendo characters too such as Sonic or Solid Snake, both who have had games released on various Nintendo Consoles.
The beauty with all the previous Smash Bros. games is in their ability for anyone to pick up and play the game, and this feature is carried over to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. There are basically two main attack buttons, one for normal attacks and one for special moves. Where the beauty of this set up lies is that you only need to tilt or tap your control stick in a certain direction when hitting either button. This allows you to pull of different moves, including a smash and “final smash” move. The latter is a special finishing move unique to each character. Nintendo has also enabled a wide arrange of control schemes to allow any level of gamer to play. You can use the Wii Remote by itself, the Wii Remote and Nunchuck together, the Classic Controller or a GameCube controller. Each control scheme is very well suited to allow anyone to play. I myself prefer the Classic Controller, however many friends of mine like the GameCube Controller option given that they played Super Smash Bros. Melee so much that it just feels right to them.
As noted, Smash Bros. is a fighting game. These battles are fought out on a number of well known videogame themed stages. A lot of these themes are based on the characters in the game. There are up to 40 different stages for you to fight on. The main goal in Smash Bros. is not just to pummel your opponent(s) health down, but you must knock them out (or off) of the arena with a smash attack. As you battle your opponent their damage is measured in a percentage, which is displayed on screen, and the higher the percentage the farther they will fly when hit. Sounds simple, but it is not. Given that the game is tailored to any level of gamer, it can be quite simple at first, however once you figure out the strengths and weaknesses of all the characters at your disposal you must learn when to go on the offensive, and when to be defensive. Once you learn the balance of each character then you can really start to show off your skills. Plus each level that is offered varies, so choosing the right character is important, and knowing how to use said character in various levels (e.g. short airborne platforms or on-ground combat) is just as important too.
As you fight on any or all the levels, various types of items spawn on the battlefield for you to use. The first player to grab, or eat, said item can use it. These items are very unique given that a lot of them come from games where characters originate (e.g. 1up boxes, super mushrooms, and fire flowers to name a few). However, there are also other items that are either from previous Smash Bros. or brand new to the series. Finally, there are also assist trophies that spawn on the battleground. Grab and break this item and non-playable characters will spawn and help you in your battle. The first time I saw the motorcycles from Excitebike come across to help me (and in classic 8-bit form too!) I just had to chuckle. Should you not want any items to spawn during battle you do have the option to toggle them off in the options menu before you fight. However, I wonder why one would do this given the Nintendo references of each item, and the fact that it manages to add a bit of intensity to the game as you fight to get items that you really want, be it against the computer AI or a friend who may be sitting with you in the living room or online.
Speaking of computer AI, I found that the computer controlled characters were quite competitive. I played most of my games in the normal skill level (default) and I found that depending who my character was, and who the computer controlled characters were, that each game was different in terms of the overall experience and challenge. It really hit home how important it was to really understand each character’s strengths and weaknesses. There were games where I did not have to use any defense; however, there were a lot of games that I had to really pick and choose when to fight as I was on the defensive a lot. It is this ability of the AI mixing it up that makes this game so good. There were those times that I felt indestructible, however later on I really got my ass handed to me over and over again. You could never tell when the computer would pick it up. Having this game provide the mixed experiences was great as the game was not a cakewalk, nor was it a game that was unbeatable. And for those looking for more of a challenge against the computer, you can crank up the AI skill level as well.
As I ventured through the various menus and setup options in Super Smash Bros. Brawl it was very evident that one can tailor this game to their specifications via the amount of customizability that is offered. When you play in the special brawl mode you can adjust so many things including gravity, fighter size, game speed and even if your characters are metal or not. There is so much you can do to make each brawl your own creation. You also have the ability to customize your regular matches too, but just not as detailed. Here you can adjust how often items spawn, and what stages are selected to name a few. I thought it was good that you couldn’t do too much adjusting in regular brawl mode as those smarty-pants out there could then make this mode too easy for themselves and it wouldn’t be that fun. In terms of the types of brawls you can participate in, these range from team to single player battles including timed matches (most kills/least deaths win), last player standing and coin-collecting matches where the number of coins that each player has when the time is up determines the winner. You can also set up tournaments for up to 32 players on a single Wii. Bottomline, there is a lot you can do to please everyone who wants to fight.
Something new to the Smash Bros. franchise is the inclusion of online. Yes, I said online. For the first time in the series Nintendo has made it possible to mix it up with other people over the internet. You can play in a quickmatch against anyone by selecting the play “with anyone” option. Once in there you can play a standard match or a team based match. The game will attempt to find three other competitors online. You can also spectate random matches and place bets on who will win. This is a good way to see how various characters match up against others. Of course you can also play against friends; however you will have to utilize the dreaded friend code. That being said by having to enter this series of numbers actually opens up some new options. Here you can really customize an online match just like you would if you were playing against other people at home. As well, you can add in other local players who are in your living room with you, this is something you cannot do when you choose to play “with anyone”. You can even play in a home-run competition too. My main concern when taking any game online, especially a fighting game, is how lag may affect it. Well to my surprise lag was not an issue when playing. Given that Nintendo’s online strategy has not been that big of a factor in their games I was worried, but after a few games I found that this concern was premature. The majority of my games didn’t have a hiccup. Sure, I did hit a laggy game now and then, but that was far and few between. Overall anyone with their Wii hooked up to the internet should find their online experience an enjoyable one indeed.
Beyond the straight fighting, offline or online, there is still so much more to do in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. There is classic mode, event mode, training mode and stadium mode. Each of these modes offers a unique experience. Classic mode has you going through a variety of battles in a specific order until you reach the famed and mysterious Master Hand in a final battle. Event mode has you completing a set of challenges, such as pulling off a super smash or defeating a series of enemies in a specific time period. Training mode allows you to practice moves as items spawn. This is a great way to learn each character’s strengths and weaknesses. Stadium mode allows you to try your hand at fun mini-games like the home-run contest or multi-man brawl. Except for the classic mode, all of these can be played with one or two players at a time.
The aforementioned modes are not the only other singe-player modes as there is one more to mention, and this one is the biggest attraction of the single player experience. It is an adventure mode titled The Subspace Emissary. Here you will jump into a story driven platform based game that has all the characters in the Super Smash Bros. Brawl joining together for one big adventure. During the story you will find various characters interacting with each other. The story is divided up into a number of different chapters where you choose which of the characters available you want to play. You are also treated to some pretty slick cutscenes which convey the story in a great visual manner.
The gameplay of the adventure mode consists of side-scrolling platforming. As you jaunt across each level you are faced with moving platforms, pits, fire, water, wind and other hazards. Of course you also have to fight a lot of enemies too. Each level is a throwback to a game that some of the characters come from. For example, you will no doubt recognize where the mine kart or barrel launchers come from. I found that these platform levels were quite fun to go through as they not only jarred memories of games of past, but they offered up some really interesting challenges as well. The Subspace Emissary is a great addition to Super Smash Bros. Brawl and it will take you anywhere from 8-12 hours to get through it. There is an added bonus to this adventure mode as well; you can have a friend join you for some cooperative play. Unfortunately this is an offline option only, but hey, it is a great option to have.
Finally, all the play does have some rewards. Scroll through the menus and you will notice a Vault option. As you play through the various game modes you will amass a collection of stickers and trophies, as well as added content to the game. The Vault allows you to enter and do a lot of different things that are seen as bonuses to the game. First off, you can take your stickers and trophies that you collect arrange them for your viewing pleasure should you desire. If you have any coins you can play a coin launcher game where you can add even more stickers or trophies to your collection. There is also stage builder in the Vault. Here you can create custom stages to brawl in arenas of your own design. You can save these stages for later play or delete them if you choose. There is an album in the Vault too where you can view, save or delete the pictures you have taken. There is also a replay section in the Vault. Here you can watch your saved replay data and relive some of your greatest battles. I should note that you can send custom stages, pictures and replays to your friends using the WiiConnect24 feature. In the challenges area you can select information on how to unlock new stages, trophies, stickers or more. There are also masterpieces that you can collect and view in the Vault. These allow you to play demos of iconic games that are based on many of the characters that are found in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. These are essentially trial versions of a lot of games found on the Wii Shopping Channel. Finally there is the chronicle section that is found in the Vault. Here you can take a look back at the software that Nintendo has published over the years. This is a great way to see how many games that Nintendo has made for its various systems, including the ill-fated Virtual Boy.
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