The Gamecube gave us some truly spectacular Nintendo titles, although it didn’t exactly give us the same from third parties. So, odds are high that if you owned a Gamecube, knew someone who owned one or came within 100 feet of one, you played or knew about the greatest Gamecube game: Super Smash Bros. Melee. If you owned Super Smash Bros. Melee, you’ve probably been playing it since its release, as its multiplayer slugfest never gets old. And happily, that fun factor hasn’t changed with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, one of the most anticipated sequels since Halo 3.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl is Nintendo’s third outing in what’s possibly its biggest multiplayer title of all time. Many of the characters from Melee have returned to Brawl for more bruises and knockouts, and in fact, the only character that hasn’t returned is Mewtwo, which is odd, consider one of the new characters plays very similarly to him. Other characters have met the cutting room floor, including Pichu, Dr. Mario and Roy, but in one of the most surprising decisions in the often-isolated Nintendo universe, third-party characters Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog have joined the smashing. All together, Super Smash Bros. Brawl includes 35 characters (not including alter egos), which provides for some terrific variety in the gameplay department.
Plenty of new items have been packed into each match, along with old favorites such as the pokeballs and hammers. In addition, some items from the original Super Smash Bros. have returned, which will delight long-time fans. Yet two of the coolest items are completely new: the Assist Trophy and the Smash Ball. Assist Trophies are basically pokeballs, but with Nintendo characters. Open one of these and Little Mac, the Excitebikes or even a Nintendog will jump out and help (or harm) you.
Yet the biggest change when considering whether to play with items is the Smash Ball. This sphere of power will randomly appear on the screen and float around until enough damage is done to it and a contestant gains the Final Smash. Pressing the B button will activate the character-specific Final Smash, at which point all Hell breaks lose. These Final Smashes range from an almost-guaranteed death for every adversary to laughably weak maneuvers that the programmers clearly didn’t try very hard to refine. The Final Smashes also all look cool, but they aren’t even close to balanced with every character, as you’ll find yourself dreading Captain Olimar’s End of Day and letting out a sigh of relief at Donkey Kong’s Bongo Beat.
In addition to the new combatants and gameplay elements, Super Smash Bros. Brawl includes many new stages from titles such as Pikmin, Animal Crossing and even Pictochat. Of course, some old favorites from Melee have returned, and the third option (creating your own stages) has also been added. Unfortunately, you can’t use your custom stages online, as Nintendo has already anticipated stages in the shape of naughty words or parts of the human anatomy. But, at least the game supports the Nintendo WiFi connection for online brawling. Get those friend codes ready.
Because Super Smash Bros. Brawl supports online play (and same-screen matches too, of course), multiplayer matches will undoubtedly consume the vast majority of your game time. However, that doesn’t mean Nintendo has slacked-off with the offline elements; Classic and All-Star Story modes have returned, along with Target Smash, Home Run Contest and the Event Matches. All-Star and Event matches have co-op settings, so even story mode is friend enabled, but the biggest new feature is the Subspace Emissary mode.
This mode finds you in control of almost every character as they trek through an admittedly confusing story of an alien race attempting to destroy Earth. This mode can be played with a buddy, but it clocks in at roughly 20 hours, long after the freshness of the platforming concept wears off. The cut scenes are outstanding, but this mode is definitely the game’s weakest point. And, since you have to play this mode to get all of the characters, this part of the game seems more like an errand or chore than a fun game.
At least it’s a colorful one, though. Super Smash Bros. Brawl wouldn’t be a Nintendo title without the flashy use of graphic design and pretty colors, and the visuals in this title are stunning, with characters and stages looking surprisingly detailed. The fabric of Mario’s overalls has never looked this detailed, nor have Captain Falcon’s punches looked so beautifully destructive. The beloved trophy system makes a triumphant return as well, along with stickers and a CD collection.
With these small touches and multiplayer options that are as addictive as ever, this is the best Smash Bros. game to ever hit a Nintendo console. The WiFi matches arguably need some work, and the clone characters need to be done away with completely, but this game is still a console seller, and the experience of playing it will quickly make it clear why.
- Score: 9
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of the most fun multiplayer experiences you will have on any console. Period.
— John Dempsey