A game for friends.
THE GOOD: Online play is fantastic; best soundtrack ever; superb 60 fps graphics; huge selection of fighters and stages; flawless fundamental gameplay; great fun when playing with friends.
THE BAD: Loading times are horrible; you can't play user stages online; if you don't have friends or an online connection, then this game is not for you.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl is here and I have been playing it for a while. But with all the reviews that I have read and seen, I couldn't agree with none of them. For some reason, their experience of the game was different from mine. For closer inspection, I noticed that every reviewer's experience of the game was also different from each other. From hours of playing the game and inspecting the whole thing, I finally got it. How every player chooses different characters, how every character chooses different stages, how everybody uses different control schemes, and how nobody can agree with anybody. This is the review of the most perfectly balanced game ever made yet.
First, we will get to the most important and the most used part of the game: the online play. By my experience, it's the best part of the game. After you have entered the friend codes, you can immediately play with them by looking for your friend in the online menu. It shows if your friend is online, offline, playing a brawl, is in spectator mode, or if he's looking for a match. To join the match, just select your friend, and you are immediately thrown to the Select your Character screen. Once you have selected your fighter of your choice (which we will get to in a moment), you can choose from all the stages you have unlocked. Yep, all stages in the game (except the ones made by you) are fully playable in online. This is including the classic Melee stages!
Because there is more than one player in an online match, of course, you just vote on the stage you chose. The one voted by the most players will be the stage you will go in. If you all chose different stages, then the game will pick one out of the four chosen. It's a very easy, fast and satisfactory process. When playing online, you can assign short messages to your taunts. By performing a taunt, your message will pop up. You can show any of the four messages during the battle. They may be short messages like "LOL", "Owned!", "DUNDUNDUNDUN, CAN'T TOUCH THIS!", or "GOAAAL!", but they get the point across nicely and quickly. Voice chat would have been nice, but this makes a fun substitute.
After collecting dozens and dozens of friend codes, you will have a huge list of many people, and you will very quickly forget that this isn't Xbox Live. It works a lot like a server browser on a PC game. Just look for somebody hosting a game and you are easily playing. And a great feature in this game to make getting more friends very easy is that you can request friend codes. In the character select screen, under the players name it shows a button "Friend Code Request", and when you click it, both of your friend codes are added automatically into both of your rosters. This is a fantastic online system, and I cannot complain in it's design.
But that is not the only part of the game! There are a couple more online modes other than playing with friends. The other one is Team mode, where you and another online player team up to fight dozens of baddies. There's also the Home Run minigame available to play online, you and a co-op friend work together to throw the sandbag as far away as you can. There is also a Basic Brawl to play without friend codes, but apparently nobody plays this mode, since I could not find another person in the game playing this mode. There's also spectator mode, where you bet on which players will win with coins. The game goes and spies on somebody else's game and you see them fight. If the one you bet on wins, then you get a lot of money! But if the guy you bet on loses, then you lose money. It's like gambling, and a fast and tension-inducing way to get a lot of money for other parts of the game. You also get snapshots, replays, and user stages free from the WiiConnect24 daily, which is always nice. The online play is usually lag free, but sometimes, there are spikes of lag that makes the game unplayable. But this is rare an only happens with players that just logged in to a match. The game synchronizes and actually fixes the lag after a couple of seconds.
It has a great online, but what exactly is Smash Bros? It's a fighter, but it's not very violent at all. Think the old Tom and Jerry cartoons of the 1940's. You punch your opponent and they actually go flying! In fact, the way to KO them in these series is by throwing them away from the stage, not by actually killing them. Unlike other fighting games, this game is also funny. It's very comical and you get a blast playing with friends in the room. The game itself has not changed much since it's last installment 7 years ago, and that's a very good thing. It has however been improved. This is thanks to its new physics engine. Brawl is the first game in the series to use the Havok physics engine. The big change is not very apparent first, but it does become apparent when you start playing the game at a deeper level. When you throw an opponent, they will bump into another opponent if they are in the way, something that did not happen in Melee. Objects thrown roll down surfaces accurately (although in exaggerated speeds), and surrounding objects get thrown in the air if there is an explosion.
Also unlike other fighting games, there are items. You can use these items to help you play defensively or offensively. In fact, items make Smash Bros what it is. There has been people saying that the true way to play Smash Bros is with the items turned off. Which is the stupidest thing I have heard yet. They say only "noobs" use items, but it takes a pro to be able to dodge the items. Turning off items just says "we are not good enough". There are two new kinds of items in Brawl, and they are Assists Trophies, and the Smash Ball. Assist Trophies are like Pokeballs, but instead of Pokemon coming out of them, characters from hundreds of different games come out of them and create havoc in the stage. Some trophies, like Shadow, can change the speed of the game to be in slow motion, and trophies like the Nintendog, can obscure the whole playing field, so you have to rely on your memory of the stage to make sure you don't fall to your death. These items are a lot more fun and impressive than your average Pokeball, but it would be nice if these were playable characters, considering how great and detailed they are.
The other new item is none other than the Smash Ball. They are the Smash Bros equivalent of the fatalities of the other conventional fighting games. When your character breaks open a Smash Ball, they instantly get a super power that they can use to make a spectacular KO. For example, Fox will fly to the sky and fall with his huge Landmaster tank and run over and fire at his opponents. Ness will call out his PK Starstorm power and make a huge rain of meteors far into the stage. Sonic will turn into Super Sonic and turn extremely fast, making people run for their lives, if they can. As I said before, some people will complain it makes the game unfair. It doesn't. You can avoid a character's final smash.
This brings me to how this game is balanced. Although it doesn't initially sound like it, this game is perfectly balanced. It may not seem like it when you pick, for example, Kirby and then you get pummeled instantly by Ike's seemingly unavoidable sword attacks. But you actually can avoid them, as all characters have weak points, and you have to find them. For example, Ike's attacks need to charge, and small projectile or a fine kick in the butt from behind will cancel the charging process and he will be left vulnerable. Strong characters are slow, and super fast characters are weak. Some stages are designed for a certain character and final smash, and other stages are designed for the other kind of character and final smash. It's all in tactics and strategy. Knowing your characters strengths and weaknesses are essential to becoming in success. So if a "noob" comes with someone like Ike, you know what character to use and throw him into shape.
This is the game where "noobs" cannot survive with an experienced player.
Yet it's very accessible. Unlike other fighters, there are 15 different controller configurations that all do different attacks. In Smash, there are only 3 different buttons that do attack: normal attacks, special attacks, and grab attacks. Normal attacks are done using the main button, be it 2 or A depending on which control style you are using. These are punching and hitting. Special attacks are unique moves that each character has. They can range from a small gun, to a jet pack, depending on the character. These moves can be used to fight from far away, or get back to the stage if you get thrown out, or to deflect projectiles. These can be done by the secondary button, be it 1 or B depending on what controller you use. And the third button is for grabbing, shielding and dodging. This can be B, Z, L, or R depending on what controller you use. When close to somebody, press the button while pressing the D-Pad or Analog Stick, depending on your controller, in the direction they are to grab them. By grabbing them you can hit them and increase their damage while they are trapped, and then you can manually throw them off the stage. Do the same thing, but by facing away from your opponent, and you can dodge, great for dodging attacks, projectiles, and other hazards your opponent throws at you. This is crucial to be a pro at the game. Also, pressing the button without moving will create a temporary shield that will protect you from most attacks, but after time runs out, it explodes, and you are left unmovable for a couple of seconds, making you highly vulnerable to a one way trip to the losing screen!
So why so many options for buttons? That's because you can play Smash in 4 different ways. The first way is the Wiimote sideways. This is most like a NES controller. It's quick, fast and easy. The second way is the Wiimote with the Nunchuck attached. This gives you use of the analog stick and access to motion controlled activated smash attacks, which are very helpful. The third way is by using Nintendo's Classic Controller and the last way is for the Gamecube controller. Both of these play mostly the same way, except with the control stick being in different places, obviously. This part has a lot of controversy, as everybody seems to want to use the Gamecube controller. This is just because is the one they are used to. However, I have been using the Wiimote sideways as my main way to play, and I have found myself being a lot better at the game. Only the "noobs" are using the Gamecube controller, as far as I have seen.
The game has a lot of characters to choose from. You can choose from Mario to Solid Snake to Sonic. Literally. Plus, there are 31 stages in the game! And if you add the returning stages from Melee, it makes up all the way to 41 stages! What is better yet, when you get tired of playing them in a year, you can go ahead and create your own stages! These stages won't have the same production values as the official stages, but you have enough tools to create a great layout to play in. It's a real shame you can't play these online, because that would have been incredible.
The graphics have gotten a great improvement from Melee. This is greatly apparent on the character models. They are absolutely incredibly detailed! If you thought seeing Mario's overalls in Melee was impressive, wait to you see Diddy Kong's and the Ice Climber's fur effects, Ganon's clothes and hair, Sonic's fluid animations, and Fox's equipment in his belt! The stages are also impressive, since the environments have a great sense of depth and action. They are always moving too, like Final Destination, Summit, and Port Town. If you pause the game and move the camera, you can see how much detail went into the stage even on the parts that you don't see in normal gameplay, as the stages keep on going well into the sides! Phenomenal light effects, fireworks, and moving parts make the game a joy to the eyes. All that and in 60 fps, it incredible. The game is not as 'pretty' as Super Mario Galaxy in that is does use of next-gen graphical effects like blur of depth, bump mapping, and other gizmo's, but it uses of what we had always had for years and creates a fantastic show out of it.
The main production attraction of the game is its soundtrack. The whole thing is licensed, and it only has one new music piece, the main theme made by the same guy that made the Final Fantasy music, in the game. But with 200 tracks of superb music remade and remixed by over 40 artist and composers just brings awe to the work that went into the music of the game. It has new orchestral compositions of classic tunes, and it has remixed modern versions of other tunes from many different games. The amazing orchestral version of the Star Fox theme and the string arrangement of the Smash Bros theme are examples of the hundreds of songs that are on the game. Of course, you may think that quality over quantity is what counts. But what is incredible is that all of these songs are just plain amazing, catchy, and great made. The sound test is actually one of the most visited parts of the game in my experience!
But the game is not perfect. In fact, it's not very polished, believe it or not. The game has absolutely horrible loading times. Well, compared to other games, they actually aren't that bad, but considering this is an actual Nintendo game, where it has a perfect record of their games not having a single loading screen ever, it's a big shock on how this was missed. It takes almost 3 seconds to load a regular match and almost 10 to load a Subspace Emissary (the single player mode) level. It's just unacceptable from Nintendo. The single player mode also could have been better. The level design is rushed, as it feels it wasn't designed for Smash Bros' gameplay. However, the story is fantastic, and the cutscenes are greatly made, even if they look like they could be made in real time. In fact, most of the times the in-game engine looks better than the CGI videos.
There you go. That is why Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the most perfect multiplayer game I have played yet. This game is the most perfectly balanced, most addictive, and funniest game you will play with friends. But if you have no friends and don't have access to online play, then this game is not for you. But if you have more than one person living with you, and have a Wii, then this is a game you cannot go wrong with. It surely deserved the biggest review I have done to date.