"You need to be a Nintendo fan to enjoy Smash Bros. The entire appeal is playing as all those characters from your childhood you’re nostalgic for. I’ve tried playing Brawl with people who’d never played Zelda or Metroid or Kirby, and all I got was a bunch of bored shrugs. But if you have three friends who are interested, the offline multiplayer is some of the most fun you’ll ever have with a fighting game. Notice how I stress “offline multiplayer”, as the single-player game is dull, and the much-..."
You need to be a Nintendo fan to enjoy Smash Bros. The entire appeal is playing as all those characters from your childhood you’re nostalgic for. I’ve tried playing Brawl with people who’d never played Zelda or Metroid or Kirby, and all I got was a bunch of bored shrugs. But if you have three friends who are interested, the offline multiplayer is some of the most fun you’ll ever have with a fighting game. Notice how I stress “offline multiplayer”, as the single-player game is dull, and the much-hyped online play is a huge disappointment.
So let’s start with the bad parts. Single player was not the strong point of the first two games, and the trend continues in Brawl. The main mode this time around is Subspace Emissary, and for it, I have one word: booooooooriiiiiing. It’s a 6-hour-long version of Melee’s Adventure Mode, which (if you’ll recall) wasn’t very good itself. It’s a side-scroller where you fight generic enemies and go through generic levels and fight a boss every now and then. There’s an uninspired plot tying this all together: Nintendo characters go beat a vaguely-defined bad guy. There isn’t a single line of spoken dialogue, so the cutscenes are like watching a silent movie. Hey, Nintendo! Putting a bunch of flat characters into the same plot makes the plot boring. Please realize that one of these years. The worst part of this mode is the last level, which makes you play the whole game again (every level and every boss), but in maze form. Ugh. I wish I could wash the taste out of my mouth.
There are other single-player modes, but they’re all lame. Classic Mode (a series of basic fights with a boss at the end) has taken a serious step back from Melee; did you like Race to the Finish, end-of-level bonuses, or unique Target Tests for every character? They’re all gone. Sorry. Master Hand doesn’t have any new attacks, either. All-Star Mode is considerably more boring than its Melee counterpart; this time, you fight all the characters in order of their series debut, beginning with Mr. Game & Watch. Not only does this mode drag on way too long, but it’s anticlimactic; you fight the most recent character last, which means the last fight is against...Olimar. Not Giant Olimar. Not Metal Olimar. Not Team Olimar. Just regular Olimar.
There’s also the Event matches, which are both fewer and less inspired than they were in Melee. They’re matches you have to beat with special conditions, but most of them now fall under the “beat Characters A+B with Character C” and “Beat Character B with a particular attack” categories. The fun stuff, like the 7-second F-Zero race from Melee, just isn’t there. Finally, there’s Stadium, which is virtually unchanged; it includes Target Test, Home-Run Contest, Multi-Man Brawl, and one new mode (boss rush.) If any of those can hold your attention for more than five minutes, you’re a stronger man than me.
This game is packed with content. You think you’ve seen games with lots of unlockables? You haven’t played Brawl yet. It’s too bad that so much of that is lame. There are several hundred trophies to collect, each of which represents a Nintendo character or item and has a paragraph of info included with it. The prose used in the trophy descriptions is of the self-congratulatory, “Ah, Nintendo...” style, so reading them quickly becomes tiring. There are also several hundred stickers to collect, each of which has its own power-up effect on your characters in Subspace Emissary. If you love collecting trinkets, Brawl is the game for you. But let’s not kid ourselves: no one is getting Brawl for sticker collecting. It’s all about the multiplayer.
Remember that promise of online play? Whoo boy. If the friend codes and lack of communication weren’t bad enough, the lag is awful. I have yet to play a smooth online game. Complete waste of time. That’s all there is to say about it. It’s high time Nintendo ripped off Xbox Live. I would gladly pay the $50 a year if it meant good online play for Brawl.
Brawl is a disappointment in many different ways, but there is one perk to it. One gigantic perk. And that is the offline multiplayer. When you have four people together beating up each other as their favorite Nintendo characters, everything just clicks. The pacing is fast, chaotic, and fun, fun, fun. There’s thirty-five characters to choose from, and forty-one stages, and a few dozen different items, so Brawl is no slouch in variety. The fighting engine is virtually unchanged from Melee; as far as presentation goes, I couldn’t tell the difference until I compared them side-by-side. So like Melee, it’s not the deepest game you’ll ever play, but the fun factor is through the roof. This is a hell of a good time.
New characters (Solid Snake and Sonic biggest among them), new stages, and new items aside, the only new features are that characters now have multiple taunts (instead of one like in Melee) and each now have their own unique finishing move, called a Final Smash. Break a floating Smash Ball, which randomly appear like any other item, and you’ll unleash an attack of varying usefulness. Peach’s just puts people to sleep and sprinkles some healing fruit onto the stage, while others, like Bowser’s Giga Bowser transformation, are guaranteed to get multiple KOs. Very neat feature. The offline multiplayer is so much better than the rest of Brawl, it’s like playing a different game.
Whether or not you should get Brawl depends on specific conditions: if you’re a Nintendo fan, you have three friends who are also Nintendo fans, and you liked Melee, get it. If you’re not into Nintendo, your friends aren’t, or the previous Smash games did nothing for you, then don’t get it. While Melee was a quantum leap ahead of the original, Brawl is an incremental upgrade: more of the same. More characters, more stages, more items, more music, more content. On the checklist for the next game? A good online mode and a single-player game that’s worth a fart. Oh, and a system more powerful than the Wii. It’s disturbing how similar this looks to its six-year-old predecessor. Get on it, Nintendo.
Community review by phediuk (March 15, 2008)
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