Super Smash Bros. Brawl

March 12, 2008

Does Brawl live up to the expectations? For the most part, the answer is a surprising yes. Brawl‘s incredible depth and breadth means that players will continue to explore it for months, and the balanced multiplayer mode will keep them coming back for years after that.

For those who haven’t played a Smash Bros. game, it is basically a fighting game featuring platformer movesets. The title brings together characters from many Nintendo franchises and pits them against each other in a four-player free-for-all. Brawl does nothing to change this, and focuses on enhancing the experience. The game supports the GameCube and Classic Controllers, as well as a Wii Remote with or without nunchuk. Though a GC pad makes the most sense, it is nice to see such thorough support, and the other options are certainly playable. Fully customizable button layouts make it so everyone will play how they want.

Brawl‘s visuals are as good as the Wii gets. With widescreen and 480p support, it won’t disgrace a large HDTV. The sound might even outshine that, though. Brawl sports the largest soundtrack in recent memory, with hundreds of songs from various Nintendo series, and a few from other companies.

Solo players will find more in Brawl than they did in Melee; most notable is the fleshed-out Adventure Mode, now dubbed The Subspace Emissary. It is by no means a full title, and only takes 8 to 12 hours for the average player. However, it proves to be a fun diversion and an interesting way to unlock characters. Classic Mode, on the other hand, seems to have gotten a bit less attention. Melee‘s Race to the Finish has been dropped, and a few more levels have been added, making it feel a bit tedious and repetitive. Event and Stadium modes add a bit of gameplay, but it’s unlikely that either will be a large timesink.

It’s in multiplayer that the Smash Bros. series shines. Brawl has increased the roster size to 35 and included 41 stages, ensuring that none get tired too soon. Some additions, like Olimar and Wario, play like no other character, and truly present a challenge. Some returning characters have had their movesets altered, like Mario with his new F.L.U.D.D. from Super Mario Sunshine. For the most part, it feels much the same, and that’s not a bad thing. Characters are largely balanced, so high-level players will be working with a much larger slate of possibilities.

Nintendo and developer Sora have thrown in lots of extras and collectibles. The Stage Builder mode will see a lot of focus, and is adequate if not amazing in scope. In addition to collecting trophies, players can also collect stickers to boost characters in The Subspace Emissary and music to play in regular and created stages. Most characters and stages were made easy to unlock, but collecting all trophies and stickers is a much more daunting task, and will appeal to those gamers that like the 360’s Achievements.

Brawl is certainly not perfect, though. With all the modes, it lacks a certain focus. Most things can be unlocked by playing things on Easy mode, so there’s less of a sense of achievement with getting them, and The Subspace Emissary is filled a little too much with original characters in a title that is so much about nostalgia and fanaticism. The lack of pointer support is a bit strange for a Wii title, though GameCube controllers are definitely the way to go anyway. Also, currently Nintendo’s online servers are unreliable and disconnect-prone. Hopefully this will be remedied with time.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a great party game for a great party system. It’s not a magnum opus, but rather the logical progression of the series, and that’s okay. Pick this one up.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.