Super Smash Brothers Brawl: Same Shit, Bigger Bowl

April 9, 2008

Alright, so it’s been a while since I posted, but I’ve been busy playing video games, watching anime, planning a wedding, immigration (which is mostly over, at least), and (looks over review) apparently my use of parenthesis remarks.  I really need to learn to cut those down.

Anyways, SSBB came out not too long ago, and while I’ve never been a big fan of the series my husband adores it, so we were out at Best Buy before opening on release day to get a copy (and managed to get out before most of the people with pre-orders.  Go figure).  Pretty much it’s just a bunch of added characters, maps and modes, with no real difference in gameplay, but enough has been added to be worth going over.  The first I should mention being the number of control schemes.  Beyond the predictable wiimote+nunchuck combo and classic contoller options, you can also use just the wiimote, or the GC controller.  It’ll make transitioning from Melee easier, but on the other hand this game makes [i]no[/i] use of the wiimote’s capabilities.  C’mon Nintendo, at least let us use the pointer on the menus!

Sub-Space Emmisary

This is the one major addition to the game, and my favorite part, although not enough on its own to justify the price tag.  It’s largely a 2D platformer in playstyle, despite the pretty graphics, and an occasionally annoying one at that.  For the most part it’s a good play though, with several difficulty levels to choose from, from ‘two-hit wonder’ to ‘I’m scared to even try it’ (but hey, I’m a wuss like that).  The story is decently told with cutscenes and proves that pictures really are worth a thousand words from its lack of voice acting.  (And while I’m on the subject, the graphics in this game are flippin’ gorgeous.  You can practically count Wario’s nosehairs–alright, not really, but they’re a step up from Melee, and DK does look a lot fuzzier now).  It also introduces most of the characters, with a few left to be unlocked.

New Characters

I’m sure anyone who’s interested has already looked up who’s in here, but allow me to list a few–Sonic, Solid Snake (complete with cardboard box), Lucario, Pokemon Trainer (who controls Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard), Lucas (a Ness clone with blond hair and less courage), Wario, Toon Link, and of course, my favorite, Zero Suit Samus–she plays differently from Samus, and is harder to shift between than Zelda and Sheik, you have to use her Final Smash to either break or recover her suit.  I wish they were totally separate characters, or easier to swap between, as I prefer one to the other, but if I can use her Final Smash I’m gong for it.

Some characters could have easily been left out though.  Lucas is a bit pointless since he’s virtually identical to Ness.  Likewise, Falco and Wolf are virtually identical to Fox, right down to the Final Smash.  The two Links at least have a difference in strength and speed, even if they do share a finishing move.  Overall though, there’s a good breadth of choice between strength and speed, and melee versus range.  Snake uses a lot of projectiles, from grenades to missiles, while others (most notably the ‘sword and board’ types–Link, Marth, and Ike) are very limited in attack range.

Colour swaps really need work though.  Some characters don’t have enough difference to be able to easily tell between clones (Sonic especially), especially on certain maps that have a tint to them.


Completists, you have your work cut out for you.  There is a lot of stuff to collect here, from stages (including several from SSBM) to game demos (presumably to entice you to buy them for the Virtual Console), stage builder pieces, trophies (over 200), assist trophies, songs, and stickers (which can be used in SSE to customise a characters power).  One nice thing about SSBB though, compared to damn near every other game on the market with such things (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy) is that there is a screen which tells you how to unlock certain things.  Not everything–well, not initially, anyways, it’ll show those to the left and right of what you’ve already unlocked–but you can find pretty much everything in the game relatively easily without shuffling off to Gamefaqs, which is a pet peeve of mine.

Some of the new stages are interesting in that they aren’t static.  The Pictochat stage is a prime example, although several others also change.  Luigi’s Mansion, for example, can be knocked down if you hit the scenery hard enough, and will rebuild itself after the whole house is gone.


The heart and soul of the game, and where I think everything falls apart, though obviously others disagree given how popular the series is.  I’ve seen very few games manage a decent multi-player fighter, and all of those were various shades of wrestling.  When you get past two players, often the mechanics of movement get too convoluted.  That’s not really the issue here, but anyone who’s played a two-player platformer of any type should know how aggravating it is to stay on the same screen as your partner.  Obviously, this isn’t a concern in Brawl aside from getting thrown too far, but it brings yet another problem–zoom.  When players spread out enough, the camera zooms out, and it gets harder to figure out what’s going on, or even which character you’re controlling.  Some of the larger maps are especially bad, and I’ve seen a near universal hatred for New Pork City, because it’s a large stage that is pretty much permanently zoomed out.

Overall, it’s a decent 2D platforming game, but I’d thought those went out with the SNES era.  The graphics are quite nice (you can see the fabric texture on Mario’s clothes, for example), and the music is well done as well, although it’s mostly lifted from other games so I can’t give the Nintendo team too much kudos for that. If you liked Melee I certainly suggest you get it.  Otherwise, it’s probably be a good idea to rent it first, because while there are significant changes, it’s still essentially the same game.


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