Thursday, September 4, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl--Review

"An epic, amazingly fun game that lives up to the hype"

It's been seven years since Super Smash Bros. Melee soared to first place as one of the GameCube's most beloved games. Finally, its much anticipated sequel, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, has arrived. But how does Brawl live up to Melee? How well does it stand on its own?

Gameplay: Multiplayer: The Super Smash Bros. series revolves around a deceptively simple mechanic-unlike most fighting games, your goal is to knock the enemy off the stage into oblivion, rather than whittling down their health. Each character has a percentage that increases as they take damage; the higher the percentage, the farther they fly, and subsequently have a harder time recovering to the stage. Although this seems easy, most enemies will not just fall to their doom, and you'll often have a tough fight ahead of you before knocking the enemy away.

Items are a pivotal and controversial method of defeating your enemies. There are dozens of items for your use that stem from all Nintendo franchises-throwing a Poke ball will make a Pokemon appear to assist you for a short time, and grabbing a Heart Container will drop your percentage and help you survive longer. Items can be turned on or off for those who don't like using them.

Another important gameplay mechanic is the stage itself. More than a simple platform for fighting, almost all stages in Brawl have their quirks, known as “stage hazards,” which cause harm to any player or disrupt the battle in some way. For example, the Halberd stage, from the Kirby universe, involves fighting on a small platform that eventually docks with the main Halberd ship, where cannons and bombs can injure the combatants.

But simple multiplayer brawling is far from the only game mode. Many modifiers, called “Special Brawls,” can be used to change up the fight. For example, in a metal Brawl, all players start off affected by the metal box item, making them heavier and fall faster, and in a giant Brawl, every player is huge. “Stadium” game modes return from Melee, but are now co-op. Stadium modes include the Home Run Contest, where the goal is to knock a sandbag as far as possible with a home run bat, the Multi Man Brawls, where goals involve defeating as many computer-controlled enemies as possible under various conditions, and the Target Test, where you choose your favorite character and attempt to break ten targets as quickly as possible. There is never any shortage of things to do with friends.

However, the biggest change in multiplayer from Melee to Brawl is not how you play with your friends, but who you play with instead-because Brawl uses the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection to allow online brawling. “With Anyone” allows you to have a standard 2-minute match against random opponents, while friend matches against registered friends allow you to customize all the options as normally as in a normal match. The Home Run Contest and Multi Man Brawls can also be played online with friends.

Gameplay: Singleplayer: Brawl has several modes that can played solo (or co-op, in some cases). Classic mode is the standard Super Smash Bros. singleplayer game, in which you face off against random opponents in several matches before a showdown with Master Hand. However, Adventure mode is the newest and most radically changed singleplayer mode. Adventure mode now has a story, called the Subspace Emissary, that can be played solo or with a friend. The plot revolves around a hooded enemy called the Ancient Minister, whose army of villains attempts to suck the world into dark portals made of Subspace. The varied roster of characters form interesting alliances and take on the Subspace Army-and for a story with no dialogue, there are some interesting plot twists. Gameplay in Adventure mode works differently-it's a sidescrolling beat-em-up where the goal is to make it to the end of the level without losing all of your characters. This seems easy, but on higher difficulties, it can be a real challenge.

In addition to Classic and Adventure, Event matches return from Melee. Event matches pit you, as a certain character, in various scenarios against other characters. Although the Events are not as varied as they were in Melee-most simply revolve around defeating one or more enemies as a specific character-they are still a fun diversion. There are even co-op Events that are completely different than the solo Events.

Graphics: Brawl pushes the Wii's graphics to the limit. Although some say there is no noticeable increase in graphics between Melee and Brawl, there is very clearly much more attention to detail. Mario's overalls are perfectly rendered, every piece of fur on Donkey Kong is visible, and metal characters gleam in the light. The graphics are likely the best on the Wii.

Music: The Super Smash Bros. series has always featured remixed versions of iconic Nintendo songs, but Brawl blows the previous track lists out of the water. There are almost 300 songs drawn from the many franchises of Nintendo, and at least half are completely remixed. While some of the more famous Nintendo songs are featured, there are also many selections that will surprise you-who ever thought of fighting to the tune of the Wii Shop Channel? A key new feature is My Music, which allows you to choose between many songs for each stage and decide the probability of each playing when you select the stage to fight. Not every song is unlocked at first, and must be collected by finding CDs, which randomly drop during battles. It's almost impossible to find a flaw in the music selection-with so many songs to choose from, there's something for everyone.

Replayability: Brawl possibly shines more in this department than any other. If the dozens of different modes were not enough, there are several interesting objects to collect. Trophies, small statuettes of hundreds of different Nintendo icons, return from Melee, and can be found both in singleplayer modes as well as in a new game where the focus is to use coins accumulated through simply playing the game to obtain new trophies. Stickers are a new item that can be found in all game modes. There are hundreds of stickers of many different Nintendo characters, and they can be attached to your character in Subspace Emissary to increase various powers, similar to stat buff items in an RPG. Both trophies and stickers can be arranged into various positions, and then you can take a picture of your design and send it to your friends. This feature also applies to normal brawls; pausing the screen allows you to alter the angle and distance of the camera and then take a snapshot.

However, the biggest addition to Brawl's replayability is the Stage Builder. The Stage Builder gives you a decent selection of pieces and a to place them on, and then lets you run wild. You can choose a background for the stage and a song from any you've unlocked, and even test the stage mid-construction to make sure it's playable. The only limit to the stages you can make is your own imagination.

Another feature bound to make matches more fun is the replay function. Any match less than 3 minutes long can be saved as a video. These replays can be sent to friends. In addition, pictures, replays, and stages can be sent to Nintendo, who will choose the best of each and distribute one a day to all players. These downloaded snapshots, replays, and stages disappear at the end of the day to make way for the next day's.

TOTAL: Brawl is the most replayable game on the Wii and likely its best game overall. There are so many single and multiplayer modes that its unlikely you'll get bored for a long time. In the end, Brawl is one of the best games this generation and is a definite buy for any Nintendo fan.

Score: 10/10
Release date: March 9, 2008
Platforms: Wii
Originally written for GameFAQs

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