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Daniel Golding
25 Jun, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl Review

Wii Review | Overrated, or a smash?
How would you describe Super Smash Bros. Brawl to an alien? The packaging of the Wii-friendly iteration makes simple work of it: “Nintendo Worlds Collide!” It’s a neat summary, and one that captures the basic appeal of the series from its early days on the Nintendo 64. Like Disney of the 1990s, Nintendo now possesses a handful of franchises that are well-loved and guaranteed to line the company’s pockets. However, unlike Disney, in Smash Bros., Nintendo have found a way to successfully combine these separate parts into the one appealing whole. It’s Pikachu versus Mario. Donkey Kong versus Kirby. And now, Nintendo are outsourcing: Sonic versus Snake, that great fanboy fantasy, is finally a reality. The appeal of the game is almost a given. But the quality itself? Brawl is a game that redefines the sheer depth of features, options, and possibilities for players. But why, we ask, does it seem so uninspired?

We should mention that it’s quite possible that the delayed PAL release for the game has dulled its impact somewhat. If you’ve got an internet connection and have more than a passing interest in the series, you’ll have known everything there is to know about the game months and months ago, via The Smash Bros Dojo blog. The world of gamers is now an instantly global one: think of the YouTube videos you’ve watched, the reviews you’ve already read, the forum posts you followed. Perhaps you even managed to import the game. This distance is both an advantage and a disadvantage for obvious reasons. Ultimately, though, the game should speak for itself, hype or no hype.

Mario had trouble explaining this position to Peach.

Mario had trouble explaining this position to Peach.
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Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the definitive full stop to the series, the punctuation mark that indicates the completeness of a franchise. Here is a game so evolved (and we use that word carefully) from the initial incarnation that it has reached saturation point, and it is impossible to imagine further development. Any wish you’d ever had while playing the original, or Melee has now been made possible. You want online play? Granted. You want to play as Sonic the Hedgehog? Granted. You want a level builder? Granted. Perhaps it even indicates an analogy between videogames and computer software: what we have here is Super Smash Bros. 3.0, with improved options and features. It is undeniably an amazing improvement, and those who loved Melee will undoubtedly want to upgrade to Brawl, but only in the same sense that those who use Word 2003 will want to upgrade to 2007. At its absolute core, the game is the same.

That might seem like a thinly-veiled insult, but it’s more a simple observation. After all, keeping the same basic gameplay might not be a bad thing in any sense. In fact, you could mount a pretty good argument that changing what isn’t broken would be a bigger mistake than to leave it untouched. The previous Smash Bros. games were wildly successful for good reason. The initial ‘pull’ of the game might have been the chance to beat the pulp out of your least-favourite mascot, but long after the novelty wore off, players kept coming back. The mascots eventually ceased to be characters and instead became simple avatars with strengths and weaknesses within the Smash Bros. universe. The gameplay just somehow stuck. Maybe it was the fresh and unique approach to the fighting genre that stood out. Maybe it was the sheer fun of the multiplayer, and the real sense of competition and reward it offered. One of the major strengths with all Smash Bros. titles is that (and like all good Nintendo games) there never feels like there is a barrier standing between you and your character. What you do really counts. The game never steps in to help out your movement or attacks. It is your skill on trial, and nothing else.

We never understood what was so deadly about sausages. We think Ness is vegetarian.

We never understood what was so deadly about sausages. We think Ness is vegetarian.
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And of course, that remains true for Brawl. The gameplay is wonderfully tight, and victory feels as rewarding as it ever did. There is still a beautifully held line between competitive balance and fun, and we’re sure that this game will still be doing the rounds until the next Nintendo console is released. The little tweaks that have been made to the gameplay are for the better as well. The combat has somehow been shifted upwards, and you’ll now spend the vast majority of your fighting time airborne without noticing it. There are no obviously useless characters, though some will take practice to reach their full potential. The dreaded ‘clones’ of Melee are now all but eliminated (though the Starfox triplets leave a little to be desired), and the Final Smash Ball brings a great new surge of tension to the game. The levels are aggressive in the truest sense - it often feels as if the landscape itself does not want you to be there and is doing the best it can to help eliminate you. Returning Melee levels provide well-needed respite, and the option to make your own and share with others provides potentially limitless variety.

Additionally, the game is leaps-and-bounds ahead of its siblings, aesthetically speaking. Many stages, such as the Pikmin-inspired ‘Distant Planet’ are nothing short of beautiful, while others, such as ‘Warioware, Inc.’ provide some great and quirky art. The effort put into the music is nothing short of exhaustive, with an enormous track list filtered from every game that has a remote connection with Smash Bros. Most are completely fresh arrangements, as well, and with over 30 composers working on the game, it’s more than likely the arrangement was done by the original composer. Cutscenes, so often implemented to the detriment of good gameplay, are here a work of magnificence, with one late sequence in particular being truly breathtaking.

Moments later, Mario regrets serving baked beans as Wario's evening meal.

Moments later, Mario regrets serving baked beans as Wario's evening meal.
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In fact, so much love and devotion to detail has obviously gone into this game that it feels somehow unfair to criticise it. If the problem is that now, everyone who loved Brawl’s predecessors can now play the game the way they want to, what kind of criticism is that? It’s certainly not a stinging rebuff of the game, but it is a flaw. If ever there was a game pulled down by the weight of its feature set, it’s Brawl. The game feels like Masahiro Sakurai and co. have created a sandbox to surpass the sandbox genre - there are simply so many ways to play that Brawl lacks identity. For example, the game can be played with any controller set-up imaginable on the Wii: Wii remote, Wii remote plus nunchuck, classic controller, or GameCube controller, while the buttons can be configured to your slightest whim. Taken on its own merits, this means that any player can play in their preferred fashion, but it’s indicative of a larger feeling - that the makers were afraid, or unable to push Brawl in a single, definitive direction of its own.

The one area where Brawl takes a chance and tries on a new hat for the series, so to speak, is the story mode, here amusingly titled ‘The Subspace Emissary’. All Smash Bros. titles have had a single player mode, but this marks the first major attempt to actually tell a story. It’s reasonably engaging and can hold your attention (which is more than can be said for the previous single-player modes), but unfortunately fails to be anything more than an interesting barrier to unlocking all characters. The Subspace Emissary showed all the signs of being an interesting and modern take on the side-scrolling platform-adventure, but it seems that it was not to be: the enemies, with the exclusion of some bosses and reoccurring Nintendo faces, are uninteresting and the stages uninspired. It’s still enjoyable, and certainly the first thing that you’ll do in the game (as, unfortunately, Brawl falls prey to that familiar trap of forcing players to play lengthy bouts to unlock the most interesting characters), but it won’t be the first thing you think of when you recall Brawl in a decade’s time.

Perhaps by being willing to limit itself, Brawl could have been a great game. As it stands, it is simply the strongest iteration of a great series. This is no understatement, or a downplaying of the game’s strengths. The game that hits store shelves tomorrow is a very, very fine example of design and will undoubtedly remain one of the Wii’s most attractive multiplayer games until the end of the system. In saying that, however, it’s worth noting that by squeezing so many improved features into the one game, the makers have somehow managed to turn Brawl into something not too dissimilar from its GameCube sibling.
The Score
It’d be nice to end this review with the standard, “If you liked Melee, you’ll love Brawl!” and it might be true. It might also be the case, however, that if you liked Melee, you will find in Brawl only the enjoyable memories of that previous game. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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90 Comments
5 years ago
The time has finally come, it is surreal. And to think we were promised an online Smash Bros. at Wii launch.

Speaking of online, people in America have stated that after the latest firmware update, Smash Bros' online is more regularly stable...
5 years ago
Interesting review, took a fresh sort of spin on things. I haven't played the game but to be honest after melee I can't see much more appeal in the franchise and I had a feeling they might try too hard on this game. I'm not really sure if I would agree that a game can have too many features though, I guess it would depend on the sort of people.
Multiple console owners probably will have enough to play without going through Brawl in its entirety however I think its a game that Nintendo fanboys will love. Firstly because its Nintendo, and secondly with a small range of great games coming out on the Wii they will want the ones that do last to last awhile.
5 years ago
Man I was interested in this game like three months ago.
5 years ago
Ahh, walking a thin, fine line between criticizing and praising the game. Made for a strange read.

I think the Smash Bros. series has finally gotten out of the "game for everyone to play" category and is now in the fighting game territory. Where the science in the actual physics and hit detection is now the more discussed topics about the game over "oh wow character x is in the game". The additions and ridiculous amount of features cater for the core gameplay rather than the Nintendo-ness of the game itself. Fighting games are all about refinement and new characters and I believe that's exactly what has happened.

I think Hal Labs did a fine job at refining the actual gameplay over the, lets face it, easy task to make this look, sound and smell like Nintendo. Fighting games, especially their sequels, go under a lot of scrutiny, not in presentation but the fighting mechanics. Debate still rages on whether Melee's lightning fast tech-heavy play is better than Brawl's simpler but more calculated approach. Kind of like the jump from Street Fighter Alpha 3 to Street Fighter 3.

I wholeheartedly agree about the very hostile levels though. They just don't want you to be on the levels. Thankfully Melee levels and the editor is there for a more calculated play.
5 years ago
Yeah, I think Melee is the superior game, especially since in Brawl the dumbed the speed of the game down.
5 years ago
I loved brawl when I got it, and thought it was one of the best games. I didn't see ANYTHING wrong with it, and think it deserves more than an 8. But that's just my opinion.
5 years ago
I actually prefer Brawl over Melee. Mainly because Melee skewed heavily towards faster characters imbalancing the roster by quite a margin. Bowser was useless in proper competition in Melee but now he's a force to be reckoned with.

Debate still rages on about which is better though. I'm just glad they are different enough so you don't feel like you have an identical copy of the previous game.
5 years ago
Well, for some idiot reason, I sold melee ages ago, like a year or two, so I can't really remember what it was like. For some reason my sister said she didn't like it, but she likes brawl.
5 years ago
Never played Melee because i skipped the 'cube. Though with 1 day left the anticipation is killing me SSB on the 64 was quite possibly the most played game ever on the console, moreso than Goldeneye or Mario Party...
5 years ago
Oooh.......8.Lock your doors at night Daniel!
5 years ago
Looks to me like someone's rating a game in a controversial way in order to attract more hits (as demonstrated by the fact that you rated its lifespan an 8.0 because apparently, the fact that the game's lifespan may be limitless could be a "limiting factor")... well, good luck with that.
5 years ago
i still dont see the attraction of smash bros. I bought the gamecube version and try as i might, i just found it boring. jump and attack button. I can see that people really like the fact that you can have characters from all the nintendo franchises but that novelty really wore off quickly for me.

i cant see how it stands up next to fighting games like soul callibur, street fighter and tekken. no doubt i will probably give in and get it in the end anyway... because im stupid.
5 years ago
Gizmocreative wrote
i still dont see the attraction of smash bros. I bought the gamecube version and try as i might, i just found it boring. jump and attack button. I can see that people really like the fact that you can have characters from all the nintendo franchises but that novelty really wore off quickly for me.

i cant see how it stands up next to fighting games like soul callibur, street fighter and tekken. no doubt i will probably give in and get it in the end anyway... because im stupid.
You and me both Gizmo. Having 8 million characters and 4.5 billion things to unlock in it still doesn't make the actual gameplay fun. I remember having fun in an all-nighter at a mate's house many years ago on the N64 version, but subsequently I just haven't been able to get into these games.
5 years ago
Gizmocreative wrote
i cant see how it stands up next to fighting games like soul callibur, street fighter and tekken. no doubt i will probably give in and get it in the end anyway... because im stupid.
For me, its the fact that it isn't like SC/SF/Tekken/blahdeblahblah. I, and everyone I play with, can pull off every attack (one button + maybe a joystick in one direction), so the focus becomes on using the attacks well, not on "dude stand back so I can hit punch-kick-block-up-down-left-punch-punch-kick-left to use a fireball". Basically, its the accessibility that does it for me (I know you can button-mash in any fighter... but you can do that in Smash too). The Nintendo fanservice is all an afterthought for me, when I first played the original Smash and even Melee I only knew the Mario characters and the Pokemon anyway. However I do very much enjoy the aspect of using Squirtle to beat the crap out of Sonic.

I'm not entirely sure how having 'too much content' makes the game directionless, though. Particularly criticisng things like multiple control systems, since you can be damn sure that if it only had one control system every reviewer would be tearing it a new one for not having enough options. The only way I could really see having all that extra content being a negative is if you argued they spent too much time, say, rendering trophies that they could have spent tweaking the gameplay / adding more characters / etc. Which might be a slightly valid argument depending on what you're more fond of in Smash games - the gameplay or the fanservice.
5 years ago
I much prefer Brawl over Melee. When I wrote our review on GAMEparents a few weeks ago (which I've just gone back and taken a look at), I noticed that I spent a decent amount of time on the single player aspects of Brawl. I found those elements excellent and well worth the purchase of this game.

Add to that the multiplayer stuff - which is actually the main game! - just makes it even more of an easy buy.

Actually surprised at how much I disagree with parts of this review... I don't consider myself a Nintendo fanboy in any way, but I feel the text of this review is pretty harsh when it didn't need to be, but that's possibly just Daniel's writing style.
5 years ago
Hindsight reviews are always the best. It easy to get caught with the hype of the game and make a fair judgement.

I'd say if GTAIV reviews were rewritten now, not many would give it a prefect 10.

I think if you did a case study you'd see that reviews done in territories that have had the game released much later are always much lower and probably a more accurate score of the game.
5 years ago
Aielyn wrote
Looks to me like someone's rating a game in a controversial way in order to attract more hits (as demonstrated by the fact that you rated its lifespan an 8.0 because apparently, the fact that the game's lifespan may be limitless could be a "limiting factor")... well, good luck with that.
FWIW, here's my personal take. Brawl is a good game, but the longevity's only worthwhile if you enjoy the mechanic. If you don't, or if you grow bored with it, it's just so much more of the same - by the time you've played through the single player, you've probably exhausted your interest in the game.

For a comparison, Dead or Alive 4 also got an 8/10 for longevity, despite it also having 'limitless' gameplay. If you enjoy it, it's limitless, but if you get bored doing the same thing over again, that 'limitless' gameplay is pretty much the same as Tetris - you're just doing the same thing over and over.

It's a good fighting game, but take out the Nintendo fan-service, and that's pretty much all it is - a good fighting game, one that we've close to played before.

8/10 is still a good game. I'd ask this though - what has Brawl added that changes our perception of the genre or defines the genre in a way that games before it haven't?
5 years ago
Evan wrote
8/10 is still a good game. I'd ask this though - what has Brawl added that changes our perception of the genre or defines the genre in a way that games before it haven't?
Evan, I don't necessarily agree that every good game must change/redefine the genre. There are many game series where the first one truly did introduce us to some very interesting gameplay mechanices, but the ones later on in the series carry on with more of the same.

For me, this doesn't mean they're not great games themselves, after all, I enjoyed the first, so why not simply enjoy the later games just as much?

The problem we have as journalists is that we can get hooked into the mentality that requires a game to have new features for it to be a winner. I've seen that often and the problem is that for the average gamer, often "more of the same" is exactly what they want.

The true issue in a game franchise is when the latter games in the series DROP in some sort of quantitative way. So, when the first game rocks but the sequel was a quick hack put together to cash in on it.

Games like Brawl which take the existing franchise, enhances it with modern graphics, additional content, one or two new modes and different sets of collectibles, for the majority of fans of the first, it's likely to be a great game. From another perspective - for those new to the franchise, would you recommend Melee over Brawl? I certainly wouldn't.
5 years ago
on reflection there are certainly elements of this game that make me want to explain myself. I am not much of a multiplayer gamer as i dont personally know many gamers and I never have anyone over to play so my collection is very 'single player heavy'. I do enjoy gaming with and against other people so there is that factor that weighs on my mind. So my purchase of this would definitely be more for the single player factor rather than the multiplayer.

i am also, as some of you know, a fanatical collector so the collecting of trophies is a big appeal to me. its just the gameplay that doesnt make me too excited about it.

so i think im sitting in the middle of a see saw at the moment. damn my indecisive brain.
5 years ago
MrAndyPuppy wrote
Evan, I don't necessarily agree that every good game must change/redefine the genre. There are many game series where the first one truly did introduce us to some very interesting gameplay mechanices, but the ones later on in the series carry on with more of the same.
Completely, but there's also a reason why a game that's very near and dear to my heart, Ultima VII, would fail in today's market, despite it being excellent at the time. It's just been too long.

Quote
The problem we have as journalists is that we can get hooked into the mentality that requires a game to have new features for it to be a winner. I've seen that often and the problem is that for the average gamer, often "more of the same" is exactly what they want.
This is far broader than Brawl, but it's important to remember that an 8/10 game is still a good game, one that I'd personally happily purchase. It's just that it's important to have some variance in scoring, otherwise it's impossible to distinguish between those games that really do define or change the genre and those that just give gamers more of what they want. Even Madden tries to advance in each iteration ...

Times move on, and depending on how long it is between iterations, the competition may have moved faster than the creator. 'More of the same', unless something creative is done, almost inevitably means an indistinguishable game if left too long. If GoldenEye were released for the first time ever today, my guess is it'd score a 6 or 7 out of 10. That's just because everyone's moved on. Brawl's still a good, solid, enjoyable game, it just isn't as innovative in its niche as Melee was, and as such, it seems wrong to me to give it as high a score (bearing in mind that I didn't review either).

All my personal viewpoints - don't take these as the reasons for the review score, given I didn't review it. It's just that the score matches what I feel having thought about it a bit.
5 years ago
Gizmo, if you get it I'll be over to fuck you up at it icon_razz.gif
5 years ago
Jibbs wrote
Lock your doors at night Daniel!
I still agree with Yahtzee. Now, I better lock my doors.
5 years ago
StompBrother wrote
Ahh, walking a thin, fine line between criticizing and praising the game. Made for a strange read.
Yeah. It was probably the most difficult review I've done, because really, there's a certain amount of the game which people will love if they loved the previous versions. For the record, I'm one of those people. However, the entire time I have been playing the game I felt like there was something... wrong, as well. I tried to get that across in the review.

And I'm sorry, Aielyn, but I didn't rate the game in order to generate controversy. You might never believe me, and I don't necessarily blame you, but I rated the game with nothing but my honest opinion.
5 years ago
Evan wrote
but it's important to remember that an 8/10 game is still a good game, one that I'd personally happily purchase. It's just that it's important to have some variance in scoring, otherwise it's impossible to distinguish between those games that really do define or change the genre and those that just give gamers more of what they want. Even Madden tries to advance in each iteration ...

plus more good stuff
Yup - I pretty much agree with this... I don't think we were disagreeing, more sort of going along in parallel. icon_smile.gif

Cool, cool.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  26/06/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Genre:
  Fighting
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  4

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