Seven years. That's how long it's been since a new Super Smash Brothers (SBB) game. With time also comes rising anticipation for a game everyone just knew was going to be awesome. My anticipation level for Super Smash Brothers Brawl was through the roof. When the game was pushed back in the U.S. from October 2007 until February 2008 and then back again until March, I was disappointed. However, it's clear straight away that the push backs were needed, as my anticipation level for this game was not let down. Super Smash Brothers Brawl is everything you thought it would be and more.
When you boot up the title you will notice that the graphics are a bit sharper than the Gamecube counterpart, but at the same time, we aren’t talking Super Mario Galaxy. Yes the game does have an option to choose 16:9 or 4:3, but the graphics themselves don’t appear to be leaps and bounds sharper than they would on Gamecube. They are good, but not great.
The gameplay really does not differ much at all from the original SSB or SSB: Melee. However, one thing I did notice is that this time there are a lot more levels that require you to be aware of what is going one within the level itself, rather than just being concerned with staying on the platform. Case in point: Wario’s level. This level is taken right out of Wario Ware: Smooth Moves. In the midst of bashing your opponent out of the arena you are given certain tasks to accomplish such as staying dry, taunting, or “Chisel it!” when you are told to do so. If you complete these smooth moves correctly you will be rewarded with an added bonus such as getting bigger (as if you ate a mushroom) or becoming invincible for a time (same as getting a star).
At first, I was kind of disappointed that a lot of the levels didn’t let you simply battle it out. However, the more and more I started to play, I realized that when it came to level design, the ‘pay attention’ levels balanced with the levels where you could just focus on battling. Not only can you play in levels that are already created, but you can take over and create your own levels. This can be fun for the artistic mind, and can make for some pretty interesting and sometimes intense multi-player brawls.
If you've been away from the Smash Brothers universe for a while, worrying about the levels is the least of your concerns. You must get back familiar with the controls. It took me a few matches to get myself accustomed to the controls again. They are by no means hard if you have played the SSB series, but since it had been more than a year since I played Melee, I was a bit rusty.
There are a few ways that you can play Brawl: with a Gamecube controller, a Wii-mote and Nunchuck, a classic controller, or just the Wii-mote. By far, the easiest of these is to play with the Gamecube controller. If you do not have one, I’d suggest investing your money in one. It’s not that the Wii-mote and classic controller are atrocious to play with, they just don’t have the same feel. Personally the classic controller didn’t handle tightly enough and I felt as if I couldn’t pull off a simple smash attack. The Wii-mote by itself is alright until you realize that to block you have to press the B-button, which is hard to push when you are holding the Wii-mote to the side. I give second place to the Wii-mote and Nunchuck combo. Motion controls aren’t used so that’s not the issue. But getting used to this combination of controller is actually a lot easier than the classic controller or the Wii-mote by itself. Point being, stick with the Gamecube controller.
After you find the controller that is right for you, you have to start brawling. There are a few new features to brawl that will make your experience that much better. Let’s go with the biggest which is the Final Smash. This is a multicolored orb that floats around in the middle of a match. As it floats your aim is to try and smash it open. The first person to hit it doesn’t necessarily receive it; you have to keep smashing it. That can be tough because the orb floats in a seemingly random fashion and sometimes a person can hit it three or four times and not get it. But the person who hit it after them may be able to open it because it was already weakened.
Every character has a different Final Smash. Each Final Smash is aimed at giving your character a huge advantage most likely resulting in a KO for other characters. For example, Mario’s Final Smash is a huge fire blast attack that does massive damage to anyone that is caught in the blaze. Pikachu turns into a ball of electric energy and can be guided around the screen to cause damage to whoever he comes in contact with, thus resulting in a massive amount of damage to the other players. Seeing all the different Final Smashes is what helps keep the game fresh even after many hours of playing.
In the midst of all those hours you will definitely spend playing Brawl, you will come across different areas of the game that can be played besides your regular free for all. You can do events such as smash the targets, multi-man brawl and home run contest. Along with these familiar events are two standalone modes, classic mode which has you go through various characters before you reach the Master Hand, and a new mode called the Subspace Emissary.
The Subspace Emissary is causing a little bit of buzz in the gamer community. It is a story based aspect of Brawl that actually tries to intertwine most of the characters in brawl and have them work together to fight the enemy. For example, Link hooks up with Yoshi because Yoshi just so happens to be sleeping in the forest that Link is walking in. Samus meets Pikachu inside of a spaceship because they are doing experiments on Pikachu’s electrical energy. Or torturing him, I’m not quite sure. And the reason I’m not sure leads me to one of my biggest disappointments with the Subspace Emissary: no dialogue. I’m not saying there is no speech, I’m saying there is not a single word spoken or that you can read in a subtitle. Period. This is an absolute shame because I would have loved to hear, or read some inkling of what the a character like Fox was thinking when he’s getting dragged away by Diddy Kong so that he can help find Donkey Kong. You can keep up with what each character is thinking without dialogue however, and in this regard I applaud the developers, but i would of been nice to see some dialogue or even subtitles?
Seeing the characters interact is a thing of beauty because it manages to do what the SSB franchise is known for and that is to bring nostalgia and familiarity. This is an area where SSB succeeds so well and why it has done so well over the past number of years. The fact that the Subspace Emissary gives the characters a personality makes playing with them in brawl a little bit more personal.
I have played Brawl for probably over 30 hours now and I haven’t unlocked every character. I purposely didn’t read the blog posts online that gave away the secret characters because I wanted to be surprised, and so far I have been. The most recent character I unlocked surprised me because he never crossed my mind as a possibility to be a secret character in Brawl. That just goes to show that surprises lie around every corner and that this SSB is definitely not what you may think.
Overall, Brawl is what you would expect it to be; it’s fun, it’s pick up and play, it’s hours worth of accomplishing tasks. It's all about getting trophies, beating 15-minute multi-man brawl, seeing how far you can hit a sandbag, seeing how fast you can KO your opponent, trying classic mode on various difficulties, doing event matches, and just plain having fun. Brawl is going to be one of those games that should keep you satisfied until the next Super Smash Brothers is released, even if you only play a little bit every day. It truly is a unique game because it’s simple, and yet the concept will last you not only for hours or days, but weeks and months. If you can’t enjoy this game, stop playing video games.