Thunderbolt logo

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

After years of waiting that were lengthened by numerous delays, Super Smash Bros. Brawl has finally hit the shelves of Japan. While most gamers will have to wait until March (or later, for those outside of North America) to get their hands on this title, an estimated 500,000 copies have fallen into the hands of players in Japan, including myself. After putting quite a bit of time into this game, I would have to say that it was most definitely worth the wait, and that those still waiting have something to get excited about.

screenshot

From the very beginning, Brawl is indeed quite different from the previous entry in the series on the Gamecube, Melee. “More items, more characters, and more features” could be used to sum everything up. And while many fans of the last entry wanted something along these lines, the results are not what most expected. The game has caused quite a stir among many competitive players, but most will find almost every change welcome, especially making the game more balanced for players who aren’t as serious.

Going into the launch of this game, I decided to re-acclimate myself with the Smash universe, and play through Melee to get ready. Having not played on a truly competitive level, but still being aware of the more advanced tactics that are used in higher level play, I was curious to see whether or not these would be retained in Brawl. And indeed, many will find that these have not been carried over. This is probably due to the fact that most of those things were merely exploits or glitches in the game, and not truly meant to be there. I’m personally glad this was the case, as it makes the game a great deal more accessible to casual players, especially new players that have never experienced the series before.

screenshot

The roster is also quite different this time around, having a nice mix of older characters and newcomers alike. The addition of Solid Snake of the Metal Gear series was perhaps the most surprising, mainly because Metal Gear is a series that is quite different from any of the major Nintendo franchises, and the character Snake himself doesn’t quite seem to fit, at least at first. Sonic of the classic SEGA Sonic The Hedgehog games is also here, and it’s weird but satisfying to see Nintendo and SEGA’s mascots duke it out in the same game, considering the history between the two. But then again, they seem to be getting very friendly, with Sonic also appearing in the recently released Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games.

Many off-beat and forgotten characters were included, such as R.O.B./Robot (from the NES, a nifty peripheral used in conjunction of Gyromite and another, more forgettable game, Stack-Up), Pit (from the Kid Icarus series), Pikmin & Olimar (from Pikmin, of course), and Dedede (from the numerous Kirby games, many times appearing as the boss). Returning characters include: Mario, Fox McCloud, Bowser, Samus, and Link. To that end, we get a nice diversity that was sorely needed since so many Nintendo franchises that weren’t being explored have finally got their comeuppance in the realm of Smash.

screenshot

Items have also been changed, but most of the older stuff is still here, such as the baseball bat, proximity mine, Pokéballs (many Pokémon have been swapped for new ones, too), and rabbit ears. New additions are Assist Trophies and the Final Smash. Assist Trophies are similar to Pokéballs, but instead of monsters, characters from various series will come and help you out, or possibly hinder you and everyone else. Some of the more interesting ones include having a Nintendog cover up a large portion of the screen causing it to be incredibly difficult to keep track of what exactly is going on. I personally enjoy the Excitebike one, where, once thrown, a steam of racers from the game will come out and attack for you.

Final Smashes are essentially a floating item that must be broken in order to obtain. Once you explode it, your character will glow, and you can save the attack until you’re ready to use it, in which case you hit the B button. Depending on your character, you will either have a brief transformation occur, do a super move that will likely KO your opponent, or in Samus’ case, lose your armor to become a new character, Zero Suit Samus (which can be reversed if you use a Final Smash with Zero Suit Samus, thus giving her armor back). Almost every character has different moves, save for Fox and Falco, who both have a Landmaster tank warped to the screen and players are able to take control of the behemoth for a limited time. This is quite possibly the most powerful (and useful) of the Final Smashes, but the coolest is by far Sonic’s. After activating, the 7 Chaos Emeralds from the series surround Sonic, and he transforms into Super Sonic, who is a powered up version that is also able to fly (which can be quite difficult to control at times).

screenshot

For those creative gamers out there, the new stage creator mode will be a blast to fiddle with. If you’re not satisfied with the starting ‘set pieces’, you can unlock more by creating and playing on levels made from this mode. There are three example stages from the beginning, though they are incredibly basic and are primarily there to see what an average stage might look like. I have not fully delved into this mode enough to really have an opinion, but the feature is nice to have in case I feel the original stages are not quite up to snuff in a few years. And speaking of original stages, there are levels from Melee in this game as well, though they are direct ports with no changes. While it is a shame that they weren’t redone, it is interesting to play on them and feel nostalgic. The game itself has a large selection of newer stages, and a hidden ones to unlock as well.

In fact, Nintendo has increased the unlockables this time around by a great deal, with music, items, Assist Trophies, and of course stages and characters. Most characters will be unlocked by playing the epic single-player adventure mode, Subspace Emissary. This is the first time in the series that there has been a “true” single-player mode, and this time there’s also plenty of beautiful cut-scenes to go along. While the plot is simple, it goes along with what the game represents, and does a great job of keeping you interested without dialogue. I myself did not expect the game to last this long, and it took over 8 hours to complete this mode, and that was only at 82%. This is because there are things to unlock still, even after completing the game. Starting off slow, the Subspace Emissary mode picks up and becomes quite engrossing. It may annoy some players since this is the only way (as far as I know at this time) to unlock certain characters, but once everything starts to pick up it becomes less tedious and more fun.

screenshot

Lastly, the feature added that doesn’t really affect the main game, but could be considered the greatest addition to Smash, Nintendo WiFi compatibility means that we will finally be able to play with our friends online. This also means that any stages created in the stage builder mode will be able to get submitted to Nintendo, who will showcase different ones on a page inside Brawl’s online menu. Having not tried WiFi personally, I have heard that there are problems at the moment with getting connections to the main servers, though whether or not this is the case I cannot test. It is unfortunate that Nintendo will be limiting public play by only doing limited settings, though with private games everything is customizable. No voice chat is included, but each character is assigned four different phrases based on their taunts that are presented on-screen once you activate a taunt. Various other modes are included online as well, not just the regular Brawl (main) mode, such as Break The Targets and Home-run Contest. There is an interesting, smaller new feature added that many will be interested in using, which is the ability to take snapshots. These can be saved to SD card or the Wii itself, or sent to friends online to share your victories or show off interesting scenes, or even your latest stage.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a vastly improved entry into the venerable series, and it is great to see Nintendo not sitting back and releasing a “Melee 2.0”. Instead, a new approach was taken, and everything about the past two games that made the series so enjoyable was increased exponentially, and thus making it a much more enjoyable game. This is the game to buy a Wii for, folks. Super Mario Galaxy may not have been that game, but this one definitely is. Brawl is easily the most fun I’ve had on a Wii, and could be the most fun I’ve had with a game in ages. It’s just that good. There is just so much to do, and so many different and refreshing things added that it would be a crime not to at least take a look.

10 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2008.

Gentle persuasion

Like chit chat? Join the forum.