(This review has been adapted to fit CCGR\'s review standards from its original form as seen on Revolve21.)
Brawl is Nintendo\'s frantic, over-the-top take on the fighting game genre. Brawl throws 35 of the company\'s popular characters (and a couple of extras from other publishers) into a battle royale, equipping them with signature weapons, attacks, and a huge array of items from Nintendo\'s expansive game catalog. Though the game\'s appeal is greatest for those who have followed with the company\'s history, Nintendo masterfully brings its historical triumphs together in a game designed for today and tomorrow. Frantic and yet paced, accessible and yet strategic, simple and yet wildly addictive, Brawl is one of very few games that not only aims to please everyone, but also comes very near to achieving that goal.
For those of you just looking for another recommendation for Brawl, here it is: Brawl is an amazing game with more replay value than can be expressed. If you\'re not put off by the over-the-top violence, then this game absolutely belongs in your library regardless of your particular gaming preferences. If, however, you\'re looking for a more detailed review, sit down and buckle up; you\'re about to get what you\'re looking for.
Even from the opening cinematic of Brawl and its epic landscape and heroic cast, complete with a powerful score by Nobuo Uematsu, long time gamers can tell that they\'re in for a treat. Brawl is, in many ways, Nintendo\'s message to its devoted fans; the game is a huge piece of nostalgic fan service. From the wide variety of characters new and old to the massive collection of in-game collectibles based on an array of franchises, from the expansive soundtrack featuring most of gaming\'s great composers to the usable in-game items that pull from even more franchises, followers of Nintendo are left with hardly little room to ask for more. The title is not perfect, but it is practically a dream come true for fans of the included franchises, and is accessible and appealing enough for everyone else to enjoy thoroughly. However, since franchise fans have no excuse for not owning Brawl already, I\'ll now focus on discussing Brawl as a game entirely on its own merit instead of its value as fan service.
The main draw of the Super Smash Bros. series has always been its crazy multiplayer action. Though the game has expanded to include other modes since the series\' first incarnation, the core of Brawl\'s experience is still in the high-speed arenas. Unlike conventional fighters, Brawl is about knocking your opponents into oblivion without actually killing them. In order to achieve this, opponents must first be dealt considerable damage. As opponents are beat up, they become more susceptible to being knocked off of the fighting arena and past the point of no return. Additionally, item usage is (generally) heavily emphasized in combat. In this, Brawl has much more in common with a competitive action game than a traditional martial arts simulation style of fighting game.
With the exception of a few clone-like characters, everyone in the cast is equipped with a unique list of attacks. Attacks vary in speed, power, and range. Some characters focus on a flurry of hand-to-hand strikes, some characters fight from a distance with blasters and bows, and some characters focus on strong, sweeping strikes with a sword. Though every character has a unique move set, actually using these moves is very easy. Characters have basic attacks, smash attacks, and special attacks, in addition to a shield, grab, jumping, item-using, and dodging skills. Each attack is executed with a simple combination of pressing a button and applying the directional pad or control stick.
I must detour for a moment here. Brawl supports numerous control schemes. Full support is given to the Wiimote, Wiimote and Nunchuck, Classic Controller, and, for fans of Melee, the Gamecube controller. All control schemes are easy to use and intuitive with no control scheme holding an intrinsic advantage. Nintendo has done a kind thing for gamers by giving them these options. However, the one thing that I should mention is that there is no motion control. There\'s no reason to complain about this, but the lack of IR support for the menus does seem a bit odd. Nevertheless, game controls are tight, responsive, and easy to use, no matter which controller style is being used.
Returning to the fighting system, in spite of the simplicity of using attacks, using them effectively is nowhere near as easy. As a rule, "button mashing" tactics won\'t help players overcome their opponents. Knowing exactly which attacks to use at which times is highly strategic. Moreover, the way it is implemented allows for gamers to learn at their own speed. Nintendo managed to balance the learning curve extremely well in Brawl. Even more strategy is brought into the game through the items that appear randomly in the arena throughout a match. Some of these items provide character alterations such as invisibility and weight, some of these items heal fighters, some of these items provide new melee or ranged attacks, and some of these items provide random effects.
Of particular note among the items are the Pokeballs and the new Assist Trophies. Pokeballs, when thrown, result in a random Pokemon appearing to use one of its attacks. Generally, these means damaging enemies, but it can sometimes result in healing effects or putting enemies to sleep. The Assist Trophies are similar in concept, but they are almost exclusively attack driven; they are also more effective than Pokeballs. Assist Trophies, when picked up and activated, result in a randomly chosen character from another game showing up and acting in a way signature of that character. An example would be a Metroid that attaches itself to an opponent, dealing damage in the process.
A feature that is truly new to the series is the Final Smash. The Final Smash is executed by acquiring a power up (represented by a glowing Super Smash Bros. insignia that floats around the playing field, requiring that it be attacked sufficiently in order to claim it) then using the special attack button. The Final Smashes are very big, very flashy, and very powerful. These attacks can result in a massive shift in match standing for the user. However, these attacks do not assure victory. Just as there is a strategy in using the standard attacks and items, the Final Smash must be executed at the right time in order to be effective. Some Final Smashes (such as Mario\'s, which damages nearly everyone on screen) are easier to use effectively than others (such as Captain Falcon\'s, which requires an enemy be standing right next to the player to be effective). Nintendo managed to balance the Final Smashes very well, and they are a most welcome addition. When the Final Smash sphere appears, all players typically race for it; this adds a new level of competition, and an occasional change of pace, to the game.
In regards to the core game of Brawl, the level of customization available in the main battle mode is ridiculous. The drop rates of every item can be adjusted, computerized players can be customized in their battle intelligence, gravity can be adjusted, and so much more. There are multiple ways to define the win condition of a match. It is possible to play to gain the most knock offs in a given amount of time, to play with a limited number of lives, to play for coins gained by dealing damage, and so on. The main battle mode is where most players will spend most of their time, but it is far from the only mode.
There are also a variety of survival modes that require players to face off against armies of enemies for as long as possible. Aside from modified battles, however, there are a few other options. A series of Break the Target levels are in the game. These levels involve running around a stage as a given character to destroy ten targets scattered about the stage in as little time as possible. However, the three newest additions to the series are the level creator, enhanced Adventure mode, Supspace Emissary, and the Wi-Fi Connection mode.
The level creator is far from being the most innovative or exciting level creator ever seen in a game. That being said, it is a nice gesture that should be appreciated for what it is. The level creator gives would be level designers a blank canvas on which they can give life to their ideas of amazing playing fields. The variety of design elements is not very exciting, but the basics are in place. Levels can be created in one of three level sizes, placed on one of three backdrops, and set to any of the songs unlocked in the main game. Once those decisions have been made, an empty grid is presented to the level designer. From here, designers can apply floors, slopes, stairs, a few structures, and a variety of interactive elements such as moving platforms. Perhaps the coolest feature of the level creator is that completed levels can be submitted to Nintendo\'s servers via the internet. And, in turn, a created level is chosen every day to be made available by an automatic daily download. Though it\'s uncommon for user-created levels to hold their own against the ones built into the game, this feature ensures continued newness and variety for a long time to come.
Subspace Emissary, the newly redesigned Adventure mode, is another nice gesture. The Adventure mode is a story driven sequence of platformer-esque levels involving the whole of the game\'s cast (Subspace Emissary being the easiest way to unlock the full cast). As far as the story narrative is concerned, it plays out in a series of cutscenes between each of the levels. However, the cutscenes are completely devoid of dialogue or verbal explanation of the events. The result is a flashy silent film without the slides of text. For those willing to get past the generally uninteresting (though very nice on the eyes) story, the platforming aspect of the Adventure mode can be fun. Generally playing out like a traditional 2D platformer with expanded moments of fighting, and leading to a normal brawl with a boss, the mode does offer a nice change of pace. Then again, the character handling for the platforming segments is identical to the fighting game, and it doesn\'t translate as smoothly or enjoyably as it could. Because of this, Subspace Emissary doesn\'t come close to being a game-seller, nor even all that great, but it is nice to have included.
The Wi-Fi Connection support is, possibly, the thing most likely to motivate fans of the series to buy Brawl. At its core, Brawl\'s multiplayer fighting translates well to internet play. It\'s easy to set up for a randomly matched online game. Friend codes are present for those who want to play with people they know. Unfortunately, the execution of online play does seem a bit troublesome. For me, and many others across the internet, actually getting into a random match is difficult. This could be a matter of overloaded matchmaking servers (which is very possible given the sales figures of Brawl). Whatever the case may be, it is not always easy to get into an online match. However, once in an online match, the game code seems pretty solid. If everyone in the match has a decent internet connection, lag is hardly present at all. On the other hand, a weak connection in the group could make the gameplay much less enjoyable. Because of these things, online play really does work best when playing with people on your friends list.
Games like Brawl are meant to last gamers a very long time. Having an enjoyable, accessible, deep, and, most of all, addicting, fighting system is central to the lasting value of a game. Nintendo has succeeding in creating such a system, but they didn\'t stop there in giving gamers more bang for their buck. The reality of the matter is that there is a ton of stuff to unlock in the game. Players can unlock characters, stages, usable items, songs, trophies, demos of Virtual Console titles, and even some more. The inclusion of the Virtual Console demos is a strong marketing move by Nintendo as it not only gives players a glimpse the characters\' origins, but also turns players towards purchasing those games. Of all of the unlockables, the trophies are what will be most commonly acquired. These trophies include characters, items, and other things, straight out of Nintendo\'s past. Admittedly, the unlockables have a bit of nostalgic appeal, but those who enjoy unlocking everything in a game will get a great deal of play time from Brawl.
Of course, the fact that Brawl is a visual treat for the Wii hardware will make that time even more enjoyable. The visuals of Brawl are some of the best on the system at this point in time. Initial screenshots had some people concerned that the game wouldn\'t look much better than Melee did; however, once Brawl was seen in action, all concerns were relieved. In action, Brawl is beautiful. The character models are smooth, the environments are alive, the special effects are strong, and everything runs at a reported 60 frames per second.
First of all, the character models take the focus in Brawl, so why not start there? Given the variety of the source materials, few of the characters have an art style that is consistent with any other characters. Nevertheless, from the polygon counts to the high resolution texture maps, all of the characters are highly detailed. That, while well and good for screenshots, doesn\'t necessarily mean anything for gameplay; fortunately, every action of every character shows polish and fluidity. The animation portrays natural (or unnatural as the case may be) actions in a convincing manner. Heavy strikes look deliberate, quick jabs are lithe, and ridiculous maneuvers actually look plausible. Still, every action is animated in a fashion that remains true to the source material.
Next, the environments will definitely catch your eye while playing the game. With stages varying from serene outdoors to high speed space chases, all of which are inspired by the game\'s source materials, the variety of the locales will hardly get stale. The level of detail in the environments is also very impressive. For example, a space level inspired by Starfox contains a ship cruising through an asteroid field. The farthest reaches of the background have a decent starscape. Of primary interest is the astroid field itself. Each chunk of rock is well rendered and lit; each asteroid is highly detailed, spinning aimlessly through space. However, the environment doesn\'t end there. Other things happen in the background while fighting, including Arwings (the primary fighter ship of the Starfox games) flying through. Other stages include interactive environments, demanding gamers be on their toes to avoid attacks from the stage itself. Some stages have destructible environments, allowing the playing field to change throughout a match. Still, in all of this, the graphical detail never takes a hit while stages come alive. Instead, the way that the various worlds come to life causes Brawl to further impress on a visual front.
Beyond the characters and the environments are the special effects. Fortunately for those who like eye candy, Nintendo does not fail to impress. Though the life of Brawl is found in its characters and worlds, it is the special effects, from the subtle to the extreme, that really give the game the oomph it needs to be an eye-catcher, leaving very little to be desired. Lighting effects are implemented very well. This is especially seen in the Final Smashes where dimming and a great deal of glow effects take place. The energy burst and spark effects associated with the clashes add vibrancy to the fights. Likewise, explosion, fire, and smoke, effects give the combat a much bigger and more powerful feel. Unfortunately, the significance, and beauty, of the special effects can hardly be captured in words. Truly, this is one area where seeing is believing.
Unfortunately, the music of Brawl also needs to be experienced first hand to fully understand how masterful it is. As mentioned at the beginning of the review, Brawl\'s soundtrack consists of a great number of songs pulled from the various franchises represented in Brawl that have been rearranged by some of the finest composers in the industry. From Koji Kondo, who has written most of Nintendo\'s most well-known songs, to Nobuo Uematsu, known especially for the Final Fantasy soundtracks, to Yasunori Mitsuda, responsible for the masterpiece soundtrack of Chrono Trigger, few game soundtracks have ever dared to be so ambitious. Even more important than ambitions in this case are results. The bottom line is that Brawl\'s soundtrack is moving, diverse, and completely beautiful. Even without the nostalgic factors, it is clear that this soundtrack was a labor of love for all who worked on it. The expansive list of unlockable songs, combined with the game\'s jukebox-like mode, nearly warrants Brawl\'s purchase on its own; the music is simply that good.
Likewise, the sound effects and voice samples are nothing to scoff at either. Signature voice samples are present, fitting, and polished. From Mario\'s victory cry to Ganondorf\'s evil laugh, the spirit of the characters carries over in the sound department just as well as it does in visual department. Beyond the sampled voices, attacks and items carry a range of sound effects with them, as well. Many of the sound effects are remastered versions of sounds from the various source materials, such as Mario\'s jumping attack, which has a sound based on what was heard in the first Super Mario Bros., but not all sounds come from older games. Regardless of source, the sound effects are always spot-on.
The only thing left that really demands attention is Brawl\'s moral fiber. Given the very nature of the game, violence is a central element. The violence in Brawl is almost always over-the-top in a cartoonish way. Even in the more realistic characters like Snake, the result of the violence is never a bloody mess or broken bone. Instead, the violence leads to sending opponents soaring through the sky. To clarify, players do not fight to the death, in that sense; players gain victory by knocking opponents out of the playing field. Beyond the violence, there is some mild crude humor seen in Wario\'s passing gas. Additionally, the new Zero Suit Samus (seen in the second screenshot) and Shiek (Zelda\'s alter-ego), wear form fitting outfits. These outfits are no more revealing than a wetsuit, however. On the positive side of things, the game\'s barebones narrative gives emphasis to heroic virtue and self-sacrifice.
To sum things up, Super Smash Bros. Brawl may not be the most original game ever made, but it is a very solid title. Easily in the running for one of the best games released this year, as well as one of the best games to hit the Wii so far, Brawl offers more bang for your buck than nearly any game on the market. The game is an absolute must have for fans of Nintendo\'s long list of franchises, but Nintendo\'s ever-present desire to make games that involve everybody ensured that Brawl can be enjoyed by nearly everyone. With the only room for complaint being in the mediocre Adventure mode and sometimes troublesome online play, the game gets every else extremely right. If the over-the-top violence and other moral factors do not turn you away, Brawl is one game that absolutely belongs in your collection.
-Kenny Yeager (
Second Take by IBJamon
Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a fun, accessible title that has loads of replay value. Coming at this game from the perspective of someone mostly new to the series, I bought it because of a recommendation from others. It did take me a while to warm up to it. At first it seemed kind of like mindless button mashing, which was disappointing. After playing a few rounds with some friends whose skill wasn\'t too far from my own, I started to see a glimmer of what made this so fun (verses playing it against someone who punished me for grabbing a controller). The more I played, the more of that hidden depth to the seemingly simple fighter started to emerge. Once you start to get into it, it\'s a blast. While it\'s definitely not for everyone (my wife just won\'t see what\'s supposed to be fun about it) it\'s easy to recommend to fans of the Nintendo characters, as well as those who enjoy beat \'em ups. I think that the ESRB rating of Teen is very fair, perhaps even a little conservative. It by no means pushes the T rating, which is nice to see.
Sexual Content/Nudity 8.5/10
Appropriateness Total: 43/50
Game Play 17/20
Game Score Total: 46/50