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.

Collectables

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.

Brawls

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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This game is a good time waster, andif you’re looking for something mindless to do while avoiding chores, it’s not a bad choice. The multi-plater, however, is lacking. One of the selling points for the game is the ability to play with up to 8 people at a time. The new vs mode works for that in that everyone is on the same field. It’s not that great of a way to spend time with friends though. The rounds are very short, only a couple minutes, and it gets repetitive very quickly. But the worst failing is really what should be it’s best feature–the absurd number of players you can have on at a time. And absurd is really the best way to describe it–by the time you get up to four players, things get chaotic enough that it becomes little more than randomly spitting bubbles everywhere. There’s just no way to even attempt strategic play. I can’t imagine how that would work with 8 players.

New features

There are a few interesting changes in this game from older incarnations, although not all the old features were kept. The most notable is the addition of the S ball. This ball will put you at 20 ‘slides’. From then on until you hit 0, if a ball thrown doesn’t hit a ball of it’s own colour, or another special ball, it will slide along the edge in one direction until it hits either another ball of its colour, or it can’t go any further. Bonus balls will also fly across the screen at times–hitting them will gain you that ball for your next shot (although you can save one ball at a time for later use). Another change is that the screen doesn’t move down at discrete intervals anymore–instead it moves slowly, so that you don’t even notice that it’s moving. The old two-player mode is gone though, replaced by the 2-8 mode I mentioned above. Frankly, I preferred the older version.

Obviously, this game uses the Wiimote/Nunchuk for control. It’s pretty intuitive, even if sometimes it’s hard to get quite the angle you want.

Graphics

Normally, I wouldn’t leave this until last–graphics don’t make or break a game for me, although they can influence my opinion of it.  But in this case, they can seriously break the game for some people.  That’s not to say that they’re bad, though.  They work fine–not overly complicated, just simple animeish designs in bright colours.   It’s the same style the series has always used, and since the game is pretty simple, they work well enough.

The problem, however, is that the colour scheme sucks.

Honestly, this has always been the case,  but each colour of bubble had a different pattern on it, which aided in telling them apart.  Bash has done away with that, making all the bubble sparkle instead.  Myself, I have a hard time telling red and orange apart on a good day, and occasionally get others mixed up as well.

For my husband, who is colourblind, the game is unplayable.

Overall, it’s a decent timewaster, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price.  The multiplayer is too chaotic to be a good party game, and there’s no story, so there’s nothing to entice you to lay further other than the game itself really. There isn’t really any point to it besides being a way to kill some time.

First of all, this is not the Soul Caliber we’ve come to know and love. You will not be facing opponent after opponent, waiting to see who lives and who dies (or, as the case may be, who lives and who accidentally jumps off the edge). The gameplay is vastly different, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re looking for more of the same, well, SCIV is coming out in a few months.

I’m not going to touch on the sound and graaphics of this–if you’ve played SCIII you already know what to expect. The models are about as good, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not at least partially lifted from that game (which puts the graphics level above almost everything else we’ve seen for the Wii so far). For some reason, Lloyd from Tales of Symphonia has been added, and the style is different enough to look out of place. Otherwise, nothing really to quibble about.

Story

This game takes place after a younger Sigfried obtains Soul Edge from Cervantes. He is then recruited by the leader of the Holy Roman Empire to help them fight off an invasion, and he needs to find the shards and restore Soul Edge to do so. Initially, the story is jsut about finding the shards, though you will meet allies along the way. Some also want the sword’s power, some want to destroy it, some don’t give a flying fudgecicle. (Hey, there’s enough swearing in video game culture already.) Most of them should be familiar to fans of the series.

One interesting twist is that the leader of the invading army also wields a powerful sword…Soul Caliber. This raises a lot of questions about what role the two swords play in this scenario.

Gameplay

Buttonbashers, rejoice!  Or at least keep a bottle of water handy, because it’s easy to get quite a workout with this game.  Rather than complex combos using numerous buttons, in Legends you attack by swinging the Wiimote, which makes the basic swings very intuitive.   There are still combos to be performed, and many signature attacks from previous games are still here, but for the most part you can swing the controller wildly to get the job done.    Step attacks can be a royal pain though, as they involve also moving the nunchuck, which is much less intuitive (I just ignore them and sidestep with C).  Other than that, the controls are pretty easy to work with.

As far as levels go, in most  you’ll simply have to deal with a multitude of enemies to get to the end–there isn’t much more than that.  Some bosses are trickier, but not every level has one.  There are also some small puzzles to be figured out, but nothing too tricky, at least as far as I’ve player–I’ll confess to not having finished the game.  Overall, it’s pretty basic.

The 2-player mode suffers from the different gameplay though.  There are both co-op and competitive missions, and more to be unlocked via the story,  but they all suffer from one thing–split screen.  Especially on a 4:3 screen, this affords you a very narrow field of view, and really kills this mode for me.

Nostalgia

Has nothing to do with the gameplay, but I got a nice dose of nostalgia from this game.  The initial shot for the Wii menu brought me back to the NES/SNES days, as did the opening cinematic.  Well, cinematic might be overstating it a bit–it’s mainly stills, but very, very pretty stills, which again brought me back to the SNES.  This theme carries over into the game too, as between levels you’ll mostly see stills of the different characters talking over the world map.  Unfortunately, just like many SNES games, they are often posed awkwardly, so that despite the pretty graphics, they’re a bit annoying to deal with.  There are some FMVs in the game, so take heart but if you’re the kind of person for whom the graphics make the game….you might want to rethink this one.  If you’re the kind who still has a working NES hooked up to the TV, on the other hand, I think you’ll like this game.

Overall, I found it a decent experience at best.  I did enjoy the game, but there is nothing that really makes it stand out for me. It’s a difficult game to play for long periods of time (mainly because my arm gets tired from swinging wildly) which kills some of the immersion.  The difficulty also isn’t that high, and while some skill is required, it does get a bit tedious at times, especially in areas where there are waves of mobs to be dealt with before moving on.  The main draw, I think, is filling out the story behind the SC series.  If you’re not a story-driven person, I’d give this a pass.

I’m not sure what it is, but something about this game is insanely fun.  Maybe it’s shooting from planet to planet like a grasshopper on steroids.  Maybe it’s running around in more dimensions than I thought possible.  Maybe it’s just that amusing sound the lumas make before they transform.  Either way, I’m pretty hooked.

Gameplay

When I first saw footage of this game, I was a little skeptical.  It looked a bit gimmicky, and impossible to navigate–lets face it, most of us don’t know how to navigate well in 3D on a 2D screen.  Okay, so it is a little difficult at times.  Fortunately, the camera AI is pretty smart, and 99% of the time you’ll have a good view of where you’re going without having to move the camera (the other 1% usually happens on thin planets, or planets with holes in the middle).

Controls work as follows: The pointer is used for collecting things called ‘star bits’ (not really necessary, but needed for bonus areas and the occasional Luma Shop) .  A second player can also jump in to help with collecting.  A is jump, B shoots out a star bit, shaking the Wiimote makes you spin–one of your basic attacks–the nunchuck is used for movement and Z is a ground pound.  Pretty simple to get the hang of.  Spinning as an attack can be difficult sometimes.  The radius of the spin isn’t much wider than Mario’s body (he needs longer arms) so with enemies that don’t come towards you it can be hard to get in range.  Jumping is often easier, but it doesn’t work on all enemies and when upside down getting the angle right can be a little tricky.

There’s also a number of new mushrooms with new Mario types, such as Bee Mario (my husband likes to say that in Waspinator’s voice, that’s all I can hear when I think of it).  Fire Mario also makes a return.

Story

Wait, there’s a story?  Given that it’s a Mario game, I think we can guess the gist of it, but I’ll spell it out anyhow.  Mario gets invited to visit Peach (the game opens with a rather amusing shot of him heading towards the castle).  Bowser attacks the town around the time Mario arrives, and steals the castle (Along with everyone in it, including Peach of course, who for some reason I haven’t figured out is holding a luma) before Mario can stop him.  Mario then gets recruited by the lumas and their ‘mama’, a girl named Rosalina, to gather the missing stars from their galactic observatory to give it back the power to fly around the universe.  Guess who has the stars?  Yup, Bowser!  Mario has to alternately fight him and Bowser Jr. to get the Grand Stars back to power the observatory.

Pretty basic.  There is a bit of a background story on Rosalina which is told through a storybook, for anyone who was wondering why there’s one human with all those lumas (we still don’t find out why Mario, Luigi and Peach are the only humans among the toadstools though), but it’s not essential to the plot and can be skipped as well.

Luigi also shows up later on, and helps Mario out by finding stars that Mario has missed.  Unfortunately, he always manages to get himself stuck, and needs Mario to help him get back.  And for some reason I have yet to figure out, by some means that is equally elusive, Peach will occasionally send a letter and some 1UP mushrooms.  Aw, isn’t that sweet.

Graphics

Alright, obviously we can’t expect Square-style cutscenes, but for the Wii it has some of the best graphics yet.  It retains the traditional style of the Mario line, but is fairly detailed for being that cartoony.  It’s also quite colourful, in true Nintendo style.

The imaginations of the designers obviously ran wild when designing the levels.  Every galaxy has a different theme, from ghosts to gardens to toys, and you’ll often encounter planets with interesting shapes, such as Yoshi’s head.  Other galaxies will only have a few larger planets, which gives a bit of a different feel to them, but I don’t find them as much fun–they tend to be more puzzle than action, and have the added disadvantage of being able to fall off (most times, you’ll wind up in somethings gravity well, making it harder to fall).  But, you won’t get vertigo either.

Sound

Less imagination here, but much of the music is copied from older games, so you get a nice dose of nostalgia.  The quality is quite good, and it lends a nice atmosphere to the worlds.  The lumas make some amusingly cute sounds when you talk to them (fortunately, you don’t often have to interact with them, because I can see it easily going from ‘amusingly cute’ to ‘annoyingly cute’).  There is very little in the realm of voice  acting, but there being any is a bit of a miracle for the franchise.  It’s probably a good thing there isn’t much though, because the voices would probably grate my nerves very quickly.   The quality is again good, but when no one says more than one line, and they say it anytime you get near…well, just don’t stick around the observatory too long.  Actually, that’s a good idea anyways because the music for there, while fitting, will probably put you to sleep after a while.  It sounds a lot like a lullaby.

One neat aspect that was added was that in certain areas music notes will appear, and as you run through them a song will play from the NES days.  If you run through fast enough, it’ll play at normal speed.

Overall, it’s a damn fun game, and there’s no real flaws that I can find.  The ability to have a second player help collect star bits is a nice touch, so that anyone watching has something to do.  It’s worth picking up.

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System tip:  Get a pair of charger stations for your Wiimotes.  One station comes with batteries for two controllers, and it makes it easy to make sure you always have a charge.  It doesn’t work well with the remote covers though (We cut out part of the backs of ours) because they cover the charge connector and affect the way the remotes sit in the charger.  $50 will cover four wiimotes, and will quickly pay for itself in the number of batteries you don’t have to buy.   Plus, it’s better for the environment 😉