Saturday, 7 April 2012

REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (100th Post)

If anyone were to ask me what the most anticipated release in terms of videogames has been since the dawn of the medium several decades ago, I'd undeniably struggle to conjure up the image of a more packed metaphorical hype train than the one that belonged to Super Smash Bros. Brawl a number of years back. At Nintendo's E3 conference in 2006, this gargantuan beast of a videogame release was first unveiled to the public's eyes in the form of a memorable teaser trailer, and from that point onwards an absolute ton of people, gamers and casuals alike, got very, very excited. And you know what? Super Smash Bros. Brawl, one of Nintendo's greatest and most certainly biggest creations, deserved every last bit of hype it received and then some. For me and many others, no other game beats Sakurai's smashing legend from a content perspective, and I highly doubt anything will top it until the series' next installment drops in several years time. Brawl is truly an absolutely massive game, celebrating almost all things Nintendo in a single, quality package; one very fitting to be reviewed here on the blog as a celebration of 100 published pieces of writing from yours truly. Heck, I'd struggle to think of a more fitting game to review for this oh-so special occasion - Not even titles I prefer in terms of quality such as Skyward Sword, Metal Gear Solid 3 or Persona 4 deserve this one-off spot more than Brawl, and I'll tell you why in the space of several paragraphs and a couple thousand words right now. Here's hoping I do this legend of a game justice...

Super Smash Bros. first emerged on Nintendo's first polygonal 64-bit system back in the late 90's, acting not only as the big N's step in to the fighting genre, but also a dramatic departure from many fighting games before it, such as Street Fighter and the original Tekken. Brawl's pre-predecessor packaged 12 playable characters, only four of which were unlockable, as well as nine stages to do battle on, eight items to make use of and two distinct game modes in the form of a basic single player and local multiplayer. How far we've come since then. As if the sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube, didn't add enough, almost a decade later Brawl hit the Wii with the most content found in the series yet, and most definitely the largest amount of things to do in any release in the gaming medium ever at the time. 35 Nintendo all-stars to play as (including a number of 'alter-egos'), 49 items, 41 stages as well as a stage editor mode, well over a thousand collectible trophies and stickers reminiscing Nintendo's vast history, 128 achievements to keep you hooked for countless hours, a full single player (or co-operative, if you wish) adventure complete with fantastic CGI cutscenes and a heap of stages and bosses, the addictive group options the series is known for, many returning modes from the previous two Smash Bros. titles and much, much more. I could write a several-thousand word essay on the metric megaton of content found in Brawl, but I'd rather cut down on that and discuss about my opinions regarding the game. Yes, the amount of things to see and do in this release is certainly plausible, but as the old saying goes: Quality, not quantity. Thankfully, unlike many releases, particularly ones that fit under the fighting genre, Brawl packs a lot of both of these things, blending the standardised Smash Bros. formula with a multitude of modes that are different enough to keep things fresh for a very long time. I've owned the game since before I even received my Wii, and after owning the game for well over two years, I'm still brawling to this day. Nothing screams longevity and lasting appeal more than this title.

At the heart of it all is Brawl's freshest mode, one absent from the first two Smash Bros. releases: The Subspace Emissary. This 10-hour adventure mode sees you taking control of almost every character in the game, and as I mentioned previously, battling a number of bosses and watching some truly brilliant CGI sequences involving the cast. This mode, which can be played on your own or with a friend through local co-operative play, is drastically similar to the Kirby games which is to be expected from Sakurai-san, who is also hailed the pink blob's creator. It's an action-packed 2D platformer with less of a focus on jumping and avoiding obstacles (although this is still evident) and more on beating the living daylights out of packs of truly bizarre enemies to advance. It doesn't work that well as a platformer, in that it's not difficult to slip up and collide with some spikes only to get launched off the screen as if things couldn't get any worse, but ultimately, I digress. Subspace Emissary is admittedly one of the weaker things Brawl has to offer, but having said that it's still a particularly enjoyable addition complete with some memorable and occasionally hilarious sequences. The plot itself is enjoyable, too. In basic terms, an evil known as the subspace is wreaking havoc in what I like to call Trophy Land, a universe housing an unexpected collision of various Nintendo worlds. Samus teams up with Pikachu in order to retrieve her power suit, Fox McCloud is forced rather hilariously to work with Diddy Kong who is trying to rescue his father-turned-trophy Donkey Kong, and so on. All of these branches intertwine throughout the adventure, and eventually even the supposed villains come up against a mysterious force threatening the whole of Trophy Land. Brawl's story takes many well-known Nintendo sagas and manages to successfully combine them while making them feel unique when paired up. All in all, it works. Subspace Emissary is something you'll play through once and unlikely do so again, but you'll love it on your initial playthrough. This mode is only the icing on Brawl's content-stuffed cake, however, hence why I've got it out of the way before the main bulk of the game: multplayer.

While the Subspace Emissary mode was always a big part of the third Smash Bros. release, what many were most excited about on the run-up to the game's launch was without a doubt the aspect that makes each game in the series what it is. I'm of course referencing the multiplayer mode the series offers, an aspect of Brawl that can be described as near-perfection with some buds, or even just with some computer-controlled opponents. Up to four brawlers choose from a roster of 35 key characters from Nintendo's vast legacy, including the likes of Mario, Link, Samus and Fox McCloud to name some of the more obvious ones. Of course, there's many other fighters to be found in the game, not forgetting the two legendary cameo appearances from non-Nintendo heroes in the form of Solid Snake of Metal Gear Solid game, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Nobody thought Mario and Sonic would be fighting on the same ground in an official release, but Brawl made that happen and it was very awesome to say the least. In terms of what the multiplayer itself has to offer, it's very similar to that of the previous two releases. Up to four players duke it out on a battleground based on a Nintendo world in an attempt to smash each other off the screen. You see, Smash Bros. is a very unconventional fighting game - While there is an option for stamina-based health, the default involves the percentage meter. Each fighter starts out at zero percent, with their percentage increasing when they receive damage. The higher a fighter's percentage, the more weakened they are and therefore the easier it is for them to be smashed off-stage, in turn losing a point or life depending on which adjustments are made to the rules. The controls are rather unconventional, too: Instead of complex button combinations being key to victory, each fighter has an easy to memorise move-set, with directions mixed with either the A or B button performing different actions. Quickly flicking the control stick in any horizontal or vertical direction will perform a chargeable 'Smash attack', which is key to defeating an opponent. All in all it works just as perfectly and uniquely as the previous two Smash Bros. games.

Brawls can be fully customised, allowing you duke it out with friends or virtual opponents on more balanced fields, if you wish. 9 difficulties of AI are perfectly tuned, and only the best of the best will dare to clash with a level 9 opponent without the admittedly unbalanced perks of the game's 49 Nintendo-based items (if only you could switch off items in a certain other multiplayer Wii release...). On the other end of the spectrum, truly frantic battles ensue when the madness of items is introduced, with nobody being able to predict how a brawl will turn out. Things are made even more frantic thanks to the Smash Ball, another of the many newly introduced elements found in Brawl. This item takes the form of a floating ball that occassionally decides to make an appearance during matches, and when broken by a player's attacks, their chosen fighter has the ability to unleash the Final Smash, an often brutal attack that fills the entire screen. Almost every fighter has a different Final Smash, giving you incentive to try them all out. Back to the balancing, the game is, in essence, the perfect fighting game to play with your friends and on your own. Unlike conventional fighters, brawling against anyone, CPUs or real-life opponents, never seems to get boring - the achievements involving you having to play over 100 hours of brawls and other such great lengths honestly aren't as ridiculous as they seem.

As if the ridiculous extent of customisable options in multiplayer as well as Brawl's newly introduced story mode aren't enough to keep anyone playing for hours and hours at a time, there's a lot of other modes to distract you, too. Multi-man survival contests, a boss rush mode, assault course-style Target Tests, the classic solo mode of the first two Smash Bros. releases, topped off by all of the collectibles portraying countless slices of Nintendo's history from the mid-eighties up until 2008... all of these things and more are neatly packed into the game, which unfortunately takes us to the one big gripe I and many others had with this release. Smash Bros. games have always been slightly flawed, but the experience is always so friggin' fun that it's pretty difficult to do anything other than completely blank out these minor inconvieniences. However, there's one error in the series' latest release that sticks out like a sore thumb, and that's the online multiplayer. It's not bad, by any means, but playing against random opponents across the world proves to be jumpy, and there's no perks to doing so in the first place - no levelling system, no unlockables, nothing. You might as well just play against three CPUs, because your experience won't differ other than the fact it'll lag-free. There is an interesting coin-betting system, in which you spend Brawl's currency on your expected outcome of a match, but it's a bit pointless watching others duking it out when you could be getting involved yourself. Playing with registered friends works absolutely fine, mind, which is very useful if you don't have any buddies to play against locally. Again, though, there's no real perks to this other than you fighting your mates rather than AI-controlled opponents. So, that's Brawls biggest flaw out of the way, and what's surprising is that it's still miniscule. There are a few other issues - the infamous stumbling, a few cloned Final Smashes, and the overpowered fan when used against non-human opponents, but nothing else I can think of, and I've been playing this game for years.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an absolutely phenomenal, undoubtedly noteworthy release for gaming. It's the ultimate celebration of Nintendo, and one that packs countless bits and pieces referencing the company's vast legacy in video game development and publishing. It's also an awesome game to play, whether you're playing by yourself or with friends, and the amount of content found within the dinky dual-layered disk is unbelievable, and will keep you occupied for hours and hours, months and months, and maybe even several years. Oh, and there's just one last thing regarding the game that I'd like to mention: the soundtrack is amazing. Super Smash Bros. Brawl's hundreds of music tracks, consisting of both original untouched versions of Nintendo classics, remixes and entirely new pieces, are composed beautifully, and reflect on the game perfectly. That wasn't exactly the most relevant thing to end this review on, was it? I guess I'll write something else, then. As I mentioned at the start of this post, there really isn't a better game I can use to celebrate a noteworthy time on a gaming blog; nothing other than the 2008 release that celebrates a rather large chunk of the medium. So, now that the post count of my long-running blog has reached triple-digits, I'll sign off this landmark piece with one admittedly clichéd line. One simple sentence to act as the climax of my 100th post. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm just getting started...



Jess said...

Loved this, impressive as always! ^_^
Ahh I loved Brawl, definitely worth the score you gave it and I agree with everything you wrote. You can tell you put loads of effort into this :D I'll share on Twitter

Kezz said...

Actually didn't expect you to review this. xD

I remember when I couldn't wait for this game to come out, and I was totally blown away when it did. Loved it. Put about 300 hours into it, and I'd still probably be playing more if my Wii would actually read the disc. >.>

But yeah, excellent review, I can completely agree with with what you've wrote and the score you've given it. Happy 100th post, man. :3

ThePunnyGuy said...

There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said. Great way to mark your 100th post, best one I've read since I started following your blog. I wasn't truly into Nintendo gaming when this was released, but once I bought it, my attitude towards gaming pretty much completely changed. Anyway, awesome post, let's see what the next 100 will bring.

Tom said...

Great 100th post. Awesome review, loved the game as well. I mean, where else but the Smash Bros. series would you see Kirby fighting Bowser? xP

Noodle said...

Thanks for the feedback, folks. I couldn't be more glad that this oh-so special piece turned out as well as I wanted it to!