There's practically no reason to offer a review of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It's going to sell millions upon millions of copies regardless of what anyone says. We all know it's phenomenally fun and destined to become Wii's biggest game of all time, so what else should a review even bother to say? Spend 500 words arguing about wave dashing or meteor smashes? Nah, we'll just say "buy this immediately" and let you get back to smashing.
But if you want a detailed breakdown, we'll sure deliver one. The core game, where you pick your favorite Nintendo mascot and bang away at 34 other classic characters, is wholly intact and just as smooth, addictive and deceptively deep as it was on the N64 and GameCube. Passersby will think all four players are just banging on buttons; experienced gamers will know just how important each attack, feint and dodge really is. It's completely engrossing and will hands-down be the one game you and your friends will be playing for months to come - if not years.
Now imagine all that online. Brawl's biggest addition, other than adding Snake and Sonic perhaps, is Wi-Fi Connection support, and it functions... fairly well. If you're brawling with pals off your Friend Code list, the experience should be generally clean and lag-free. However, our attempts to play random opponents led to more than one unplayable choppy scrap that ended in disconnection. There's also no practical way to communicate with other players, and it's a total pain in the ass to share saved pictures. Apparently swapping 16-digit Friend Codes isn't enough, as you also have to share 12-digit Brawl codes. We'd say this'll get ironed out as the weeks wear on, but Wii's online "presence" has never seemed a priority.
Moving down the list of important additions we come to the level editor. The more you play, the more pieces you unlock for the editor, so there's definitely an incentive to keep trudging through the main game well after you've unlocked every character. Plus, through WiiConnect24, Nintendo will feature the best user-submitted levels each day. We had a go at the editor, attempting to recreate some classic NES levels with Brawl pieces. Here's how one went down:
Eagle-eared gamers will recognize Metroid Prime's title screen playing in the background. That's thanks to Brawl's utterly astounding soundtrack, which will probably go down in history as one of the greatest collaborative works in all of gaming. We're talking 300-plus tracks of Nintendo excellence, with submissions from Yasonuri "Chrono Trigger" Mitsuda, Yuzo "Streets of Rage" Koshiro and Koji "everything Nintendo" Kondo. And with soundtrack options that change the frequency of each song, plus playlist editing, Brawl's sound category is off the charts. There's nothing to even compare it to. If you're into game music (or even feeling nostalgic) at all, you will absolutely adore the tunes here.
If that's all Brawl had, it would still rank among the best Nintendo-published games of all time. But there's more. Much, much more, in the form of Subspace Emissary, a seven-hour adventure mode that bucks every trend Nintendo usually employs in its key games. This extensive quest is packed with cutscenes that rival Square-Enix and mascot interaction well beyond anything Melee dished out. No one speaks in these cutscenes, but seeing Mario, Link, Kirby, a grip of Pokemon and all the rest teaming up to beat back an invasion is a spectacle that just has to be seen. Our favorite moment, seen below, is the perfect example: it's simultaneously the most ridiculous and amazing thing we've ever seen in a Nintendo game, and a welcome change of pace from the usual "no one talks, no pre-rendered scenes" mantra.
But this is all surface stuff, pretty fan service that Nintendo fans will lap up with an ear-to-ear grin even if the gameplay stank. Luckily (and quite predictably), this isn't the case - the Subspace Emissary doesn't control as tightly as say, a Mario or Metroid game, but we never once suffered a death or loss of items that was due to sloppy mechanics. It's an unnecessary component to the bashing, brawling, blasting main game, yet it's one of the sturdiest platformers in years, minor floaty control issues notwithstanding. Oh, and two people can play, so don't think you're off the multiplayer hook just because you chose the adventure mode.
And on top of all this there's still the Event mode (covered here), a sticker collection that alters various characters' abilities, tournament options and a customizable Special Brawl mode to keep you and your friends busy well into the summer. So, what's the final verdict?
Before we award Brawl the high score it deserves, we have to climb on our high horse for a moment and spout some related complaints. This is a mountainous achievement, the likes of which Wii will probably never see again. Brawl brilliantly shines as a beacon of hope for Wii development, a rallying point all other programmers should gather around. Future developers - take a page from Sakurai and spend some time honing your game to its best. No more shoddy ports and please, no more tacked-on motion controls.
And that last bit - motion controls - leads us to the second aside. This stands a good chance of being the Wii's highest selling, most beloved game, just as Melee was on GameCube. And it has nothing to do anything Wii was paraded around for. The waggle control option is horrendous, forcing us to play with either a Classic Controller or GameCube standby. We'll repeat that last part: the safest way to play Wii's best game is with Nintendo's seven-year-old GameCube controller. Doesn't that bother anyone? It's got nothing to do with the quality of SSBB, but we have to wonder aloud how many "gamer games" are being restrained so Nintendo can crank out cheap family game after cheap family game.
The final word on Brawl is nothing but love. From the digital-crack gameplay to the ocean-deep customization to the enjoyable Subspace Emissary, it's completely jam-packed with Nintendo love. The sights, the sounds, everything is an unfiltered pat on the back and incessant in-joke for longtime fans. For everyone else, it's a dependably solid fighter that destroys its predecessor in every way, opening up the door to even more new players. All in all, it's the Wii's perfect party game and Nintendo's most extensive work.
So for all this, we have to go with a 10. It's Wii's equivalent of Halo 3, a sequel that didn't change much at the core, but piled so much extra content on top that you'd be a damn fool to pass it up. It'll outlast Twilight Princess, it'll outsell Mario Galaxy and it'll most likely stay tucked inside your Wii for untold months to come (at least until Mario Kart comes out). Brawl is not perfect, but we don't award half points - we go 9 or 10, and the former is simply too low.
Mar 6, 2008