MDb Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl: by Jesse D

This is a spoiler-free review.

For any game that puts fans through two years of hype and anticipation, plus a series of delays, one would have some pretty high expectations. As the third entry to Nintendo's smash hit (pun!) fighting series, one could only imagine how well-executed Super Smash Bros. Brawl have to be to meet these expectations and succeed its precursor Super Smash Bros. Melee, an already tough act to follow. Can this be possible?

For the sake of readability, I'll keep this review categorical and to the point.

Visual bliss from start to finish. Brawl pushes higher polygons and sharper textures for both its characters and environments. Every visual element is immaculately detailed and the lighting and reflection exhibit great attention to detail. Outdoor environments have beautiful, ambient backgrounds. Each stage comes to life in its own way and with its own personality. This is one of the best-looking Wii games to date.

The Smash series has always had a very tight and friendly control scheme that, despite its simplicity, can do quite a lot. Brawl is no different, and includes a number of tweaks that make the elegance of motion and fighting much smoother than even Melee. It's now more intuitive to perform wall jumps and grapples to save yourself from falling (with certain characters), not to mention grasping an edge.

You can now grab items in mid air or while moving. It's possible to walk and jump while using certain items such as the Fire Flower or Super Scope, allowing you to keep your target in range.

In what I consider to be a deal-breakingly wise decision on the part of the developers, support was included for many different types of controllers. You can use the sideways Wii Remote, Wii Remote + Nunchuck, Wii Classic Controller, or even a GameCube controller. If you feel comfortable with the GameCube controller and its implementation in Melee, I'm pleased to say that it translates directly to Brawl.

With the help of dozens of veteran composers, Brawl is an aural nirvana. With scores of scores (pun!) preserved and remixed from numerous titles of Nintendo's (and Konami's, and Sega's) past, Brawl's soundtrack is legendary.

The voice acting, while just a minor novelty to the Smash series, is also a major improvement over the embarrassingly awful snips from Melee (think Star Fox). The major actors from the Metal Gear Solid cast reprise their roles for Solid Snake's codec conversations, creating (hilariously) spot-on recreations of something you'd expect to see in an MGS title. Hearing David Hayter's voice for Snake gives the game a sense of dedication and authenticity.

Well, it's a fighting game, and an addictively fun one at that. The multiplayer will extend this game's replay value for years to come. It's just as exciting and hilarious as ever to play against your friends, with more gameplay features than before.

The online multiplayer is a great addition, and allows me to have regular matches with buddies in other parts of the country. During peak hours it can be laggy, which is a bit of a problem for a split-second-reflex game such as this. But for most of my online experience thus far, most of my matches with friends had only a little lag, but were just as fun as the melees of days gone by. The 'With Anyone' matches, however... They've been playable, but barely.

Enemy AI during a brawl has been majorly fine-tuned over Melee, meaning that the CPU opponents no longer camp on edges to deliver cheap shots in blind fits of raw and contemptful rage. They make greater use of special moves and tactics to put up a more unpredictable fight.

The single player classic mode remains, with pseudo-random variations in the characters and stages that you play. The target stages that were once unique to each character have been replaced by a generic set of stages used by everyone. I find this to be a stint of laziness, but nothing more than a mere nitpick.

Subspace Emmissary is the successor to Melee's Adventure Mode. Using beautiful cutscenes and slightly game-specific scenarios, SSE (as we call it) combines all of Nintendo's personalities into a (roughly) ten hour adventure. Sounds like a neat idea, right?

Ten hours is waaaay too much. Sure, you can save your progress as you go, but here is what I mean: Brawl's control scheme is great, for a fighting game. SSE is essentially like a beat'em-up 2D platformer. Those controls mixed with platforming just don't work as well as they should. Despite how beautiful the levels are, they're ultimately uninteresting and they make the general gameplay redundant and tedious. Couple that with some frustratingly unbalanced fights, and you have yourself a chore.

SSE isn't bad, per se, but now that I've completed it, I don't foresee myself playing any more of it unless in cooperation with a friend.

I've always been a huge fan of the Smash series, and Brawl is now seated as my favorite of the three. It's hard to imagine that they could really one-up the greatness of Melee, but they certainly pulled it off. The game just wreaks of content, features, stages, characters, cameos, unlockables and addictive gameplay. It looks gorgeous, it feels silky smooth, and it sounds great.

No great game is without flaws. The novelty of putting famous game characters against each other in a free-for-all fight has worn away. The magic of Melee isn't potent here. But despite this, despite what flaws I could find, and despite my distaste for Subspace Emmissary, it's all forgiven by some of the most thrilling mulitplayer gameplay to grace a console.

In the tradition of meaningless scoring systems, I give Brawl a 9 out of 10.