Super Smash Bros. Brawl Review
EDITOR'S NOTE: This review was originally written for a 10 point scale, but I've translated the score to the appropriate star rating.
As we all know, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a 3D fighter for the Wii featuring characters from all over the Nintendo spectrum, and even a couple from Kojima and Sega. There are 35 playable characters in all, with 41 stages based on Nintendo games from Mario and Zelda to more obscure entries in the Nintendoverse like Electroplankton for the DS and Kid Icarus (okay, not incredibly obscure, but definitely overdue for a sequel).
The basic gameplay of Smash Bros. has always been about working up your opponent's damage meter that is presented as a percentage, and the higher it is, the farther they will be hit. Now what you want to do is get it up high enough so that they can't recover from a strong attack and they will go past the boundaries of the stage and die. Every character has moves that can double as attacks AND as recovery. It's very straightforward and easy to understand, but there's a lot of depth to it if you're looking for it. A great fighting system indeed.
Let's talk about the characters. As previously mentioned, there are 35 characters in all, compared to the 12 in the original on the N64 and 25 in Brawl's predecessor on Gamecube. Now, a large character count is always welcome, but a lot of the time, some characters feel too similar or some feel much more powerful and useful than others. Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the most part does away with these problems. There are still character clones like Falco and Ganondorf, but they have gotten slightly changed movesets so they aren't just slower versions of other characters or something like that like they were in Melee and Smash 64. Also, the characters have been all tweaked a little bit to make a fighter that is very balanced, even more so than Melee was, and that game was balanced very well.
Now, about the stages. There are 41 stages in the game, and thats just the ones that the game provides for you. There is a fantastic stage creator in the game that is very simple and user-friendly, and a decent stage can be made in 30 seconds. Thats how good it is. Now, back to the provided stages. A big part of Brawl's levels is stage deformation and transformation. Many of the stages have destructible features like the platforms in Skyworld or the columns in Luigi's Mansion. Some of the stages also completely change like Port Town: Aero Dive and Castle Siege.
Brawl features a huge list of songs (Over 200!) from just about every Nintendo franchise ever. A lot of them are remastered and even orchestrated and they all sound great. Seriously one of the best soundtracks ever in a game.
The graphics in Brawl are pretty impressive. It runs at 60 frames per second and never slows down, which is impressive considering the amount of stuff happening on-screen. Still, even with all this, it still feels like an improved version of the engine powering Super Smash Bros. Melee on the Gamecube. But you aren't playing this game for the graphics, anyway.
The single-player options in Brawl are decent. There's classic mode, which is like arcade mode in most other fighters, and event matches, which are matches against computers with special conditions. There is the stadium, which includes modes like Multi-Man Brawl and Home-Run Contest, which involves hitting a sandbag as far as possible with a Home Run Bat. But the biggest addition is the Subspace Emissary adventure mode. The SSE is a side-scrolling platformer with the controls of Smash Bros. and all the characters teaming up to fight the Subspace Army which is trying to do...something. The story doesn't make much sense, but that doesn't matter. There are really beautiful and funny cutscenes featuring these characters interacting with each other during each level, and this is definitely the highlight of this mode. But the compliments stop here. This mode is very boring and repetitive, but it is the easiest way to unlock every character, so you have to force yourself to do it if you don't want to play hundreds of multiplayer matches. The controls for Smash Bros. are perfect for fighting, but bad for platforming. Let's face it, Smash doesn't feel like a platformer. It's much more floaty than any platformer out there, so it just doesn't work that well. The mode isn't unplayable, it just isn't that fun. At least it has co-op.
Multiplayer is what Smash has always been all about, and Brawl has it all. Just about every mode you could imagine is here, and since I don't have a lot of time, I'm not going to go over them very extensively. Basically, there's all the modes that were in Melee, but with more stages and characters and little permutations to be found. There is an online mode, and currently it doesn't like to work very often because Nintendo didn't prepare for the massive amount of people who are going to try to play this online at any given time. Some matches work perfectly, while others are downright unplayable. Oh, and it uses friend codes and text chat. At least when you're playing with friends you have every option you do when playing locally. It isn't a bad feature, it's just disappointing. It will likely get better in the coming weeks. Anyway, local multiplayer has always been a highlight of this series, and it works just as well here as it ever has. 4 players on screen with items and special effects flying everywhere, all running at 60 frames. Nice.
Presentation: 9.8 - Everything is very easy to navigate and stylish. Some unnecessary loading screens.
Graphics: 8.0 - It is a good looking Wii game, but it isn't a huge improvement over the Gamecube game.
Sound: 10 - Punchy effects and an incredible soundtrack. Seriously, the soundtrack gives this a 10 alone.
Gameplay: 9.5 - The controls are incredibly responsive and well-done, as has always been the case with the series. Multiplayer options up the ass. Meh single-player.
Longetivity: 10 - There are so many options that there are endless ways to play. Multiplayer is incredibly fun and addictive. Subspace Emissary isn't the best mode, but as an extra, 8-10 hours is pretty damn good. A decent online mode that is a bit inconsistent in the latency at the moment adds to the entertainment too. You can play this until the next Smash Bros. game, and then some.
OVERALL SCORE: 9.5 - What are you doing reading this, while you could be buying this game? If you own a Wii, buy Super Smash Bros. Brawl. If you don't, buy a Wii, and then buy Super Smash Bros. Brawl.