The third game in the zany fighter series has finally arrived on the Wii after years of anticipation, delays and tons and tons of teases on line. The game's anticipation has only been pushed to breaking points from the constant trickle of information from the official website. But sadly the game took a hype cutter when it was released in Japan well over a month before North America and most Smash Bros players could only feverously press refresh at fan sites to see all the new content and hidden characters found in the game. By the 4th of February everyone knew the final roaster. But enough of this background stuff, let's get the game.
Anyone who played Melee or the 64 version and liked it will love Brawl. Brawl brings in plenty more options, modes and game play tweaks that make the game series feverously fun to a new level. It isn’t a big step forward like Melee was to 64 version, but still makes new improvements and doesn’t feel like the same game with a fresh coat of paint. New items, stages, and surprises make games unpredictably fun. The new addition of the Smash Ball and the Dragoon create a frenzy as they fight to break open the ball and collect the pieces of the Dragoon, both items can drastically change the shape of the battle. Some Final Smashes take a little skill and luck to pull off, such as Marth's Critical Hit Final Smash, or knowing when to use it, such as Peach's Peach Blossom. Thankfully once a Smash Ball has been claimed by a fighter, it can be knocked out of a fighter and the fight for the ball can continue.
Several other new items are added to the mix including Super spicy Curry, Cracker Launcher, Smart Bomb and the Soccer Ball to name a few of my new favorite items. The game also removes two items, one good, one bad. The cloaking device has been removed thankfully, but the Red Turtle shell has also been removed... or replaced by Hot Head, a fire item that clings to the ground and goes around it. One thing about the items is that several of them are very small and you have no idea if you picked up a motion sensor bomb, deka nut or a Frankin Badge, unless you pause the game and zoom into your character.
While we're on the tangent of things too small, when playing several levels you find yourself having a tough time focusing in on your character. This is epically seen in New Pork City which is a massive level with tons and tons and tons of details in the background and your characters fade from vision. Mainly of the levels feature moving parts or dangers, where some places like Mushroomy Kingdom is welcomed (it's a steady pace), other locations, like Rumble Falls which speeds up and has 1 hit KO thorns sticking out in places can be very annoying. Not to say that all the level are bad. The new Battlefield is a welcome addition and is a lot more enjoyable then it's too dark to see Melee counterpart. Other favorite levels include Mushroomy Kingdom, Castle Siege, Shadow Moses Island and WarioWare, Inc. stage. However, some of my most disliked levels from Melee have returned, including Jungle Japes, Big Blue and Rainbow Cruise. I would have loved to see Princess Peach's Castle, Kongo Jungle and Mute City would have been preferred.
Unlike Melee that had 1, maybe 2 songs per stage, the Brawl stages can have well over 6 songs choices to battle at. The music ranges from 8 bit rips from the original games to complete arrangements by several awesome video game musicians. I would seriously drop 80 bucks for the soundtrack because it's full of awesome songs. Here's a list of a few of my favs:
Chill - from Doctor Mario
Break the Targets! - original song (sounds like The Breakfast Machine)
Crimean Army Sortie - from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Wi-Fi Waiting Room - original song
Easton Kingdom - from Super Mario Land
Among a ton more...
One of the only problems is that the returning Melee stages are stuck with only one or two songs from Melee and doesn't give you a bigger choice. Also would have liked to see one of the Dark Samus battle tunes from Metroid Prime 2 or 3, mostly 3 because that one is pure awesome.
Smash Bros will forever be a multiplayer experience, this is even echoed in the new single player mode called The Subspace Emissary. You could play by yourself, or a second player can join up. If you’ve played Adventure Mode in Melee, you won’t feel too out of place in Subspace. The course moves along with you and you come across enemies, items, trophies and new item Stickers. You come across all the fighters, except 3, in Subspace and they all have a little story arc to them. Lucus must muster up the strength to stand up for himself, Mario must save Peach, Diddy Kong must save Donkey Kong. All of which may sound a little familiar, but it’s well placed together with quick and silly cut screens showing off the character’s personalities. For an example, Diddy’s urgency to save Donkey Kong while Fox brushes him off and Diddy has to drag Fox to help him. The final 3 Brawlers can be unlocked once Subspace has been beaten, or by playing 450 Brawl Matches.
The Brawl Matches is where the true heart of the game lies. Very few game experiences match a close Smash Brothers game. The online mode gives a single person some human players to fight against, but depending on the connection it can be a blast or like pulling a fingernail off. With a quick connection games are fun and fast. Due to limited options with the Brawl with Anyone, you’re only allowed 2 minute Brawls with strangers. No text, no voice chat. Which is ok, I get annoyed when I hear preteen squeaky voices when playing other online games. With Brawl with a friend you can set up more options and give quick little one liners to your friends. I currently have mine set to “You” “Must” “Recover!!!!!!” I’m such a dork..
There’s other options when connecting online, you can watch people Brawl, which is ok. You can do Home Run Contests, 100 man Brawl and a few other options. Most people will stick to Brawling.
As stated above, the music for Brawl is awesome and range from Russian Folk songs (Tetris) to Zelda: The Twilight Princess and Wii Sports, but the music isn’t the only nostalgia filled area of the game. The entire game has references to tons of Nintendo games. Melee introduced trophies, which are expanded upon and feature newer releases. The stickers also add a ton of familiarity to the game by using production art as stickers. You’ll see tons and tons of stickers with familiar faces and some not. Brawl makes references to the game and in the Chronicle lists the system and the date it was released. No other additional information. Which is sad really, such a huge amount of history of games would be great to read up on in game.
Overall I definitely enjoy this game and love all the references to previous games, the frantic game play of versus matches and the astounding collection of music. Veterans will feel right at home with the GameCube controller, and new players will have plenty of ways to get into the game with the 4 control schemes, Subspace to practice in and a ton more.
Images from Nintendo, the top one was fan made.