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Old 01-06-2009, 09:59 PM   #115
Seraph
>:3
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Troy, MI
Posts: 11,005

Nintendo Wii
1-4 Players
Developer - Sora
Publisher - Nintendo

Warning, this is a big game with a lot of content to cover, so this review is going to be larger than normal.

My Bias
-Super Smash Bros (the original for N64) is one of my favorite games of all time
-I was MEGA hyped for this game
-The hardcore Smash community pisses me off*
*To elaborate, like with most fighting games, the “competitive community” for this series is full of egotistical and arrogant players who talk down to people who aren’t into the game as much as they are. As a result every time I think about this game I am reminded of this community and it puts me in a negative mood. I will try my best not to let this affect my review.
-I’m Nintendo’s whore

My Completion
Subspace Emissary beaten on Normal difficulty. Around 100 hours put into multiplayer. All characters/stages unlocked.

Note: in case it’s not obvious I will be abbreviating throughout this review. The original Smash Bros will be referred to as Smash64, Smash Bros Melee will be just Melee, and this game is Brawl.

Story
Brawl is a party fighting game, so naturally it doesn’t have much of a storyline.

The Adventure mode from Melee is back but now a fully fleshed out single player campaign called Subspace Emissary. Between every level is a FVM cut scene which helps push the story along. These cut scenes by themselves are entertaining and exciting, with some very cool moments. There is no voice acting throughout the entire thing which is both good and bad in my opinion. I think it’s a good thing because Nintendo’s characters have never had voices and hearing Link having a conversation with Olimar would destroy their characters. However it’s bad as well because it means the entire story is told through choreography and it doesn’t always get the point across.

The story as a whole was really weak. Even after beating the whole thing I really couldn’t tell you what it was about outside of “evil guy wants to blow up world lets stop him”. All the evil villain characters (Bowser, Wario, ect.) have these weird arrow guns that turn the other characters into statues but I never figured out what that was all about. There is never an explanation as to why all these Nintendo characters are somehow in the same world. By the time I got to the end boss, I had no idea who it even was or what it was trying to accomplish. I felt no motivation other than “See those guys? Go kill them they are in your way”.

Subspace Emissary is just one of the many aspects in this game where I’m left with the feeling of missed potential. Given the extensive worlds of the Nintendo franchises represented here, why am I running through a generic forest stage beating up on generic evil enemies? Wouldn’t it be much cooler to run through say Hyrule beating up on Moblins, or Emerald Hill beating up on Eggman’s robots? I am not a fan of knocking a game for what it doesn’t have, but I can’t help but feel Nintendo missed a great opportunity here. Even I could come up with a better and more entertaining story than what’s offered here. In addition, and this is party my fault, but what makes this story an even bigger disappointment is I read online that it was co-written by the writer for Final Fantasy 7 so I my expectations were high.


Obviously this was more exciting than battling Metroids in Pallet Town

This games big appeal is the level of fan service included in it. Almost every single major Nintendo franchise is represented here, pulling characters from the most obscure games they have ever developed. Some of the characters feel like Nintendo is scraping the bottom of the pan for new additions (Pit, R.O.B.) so I’m not sure what they will do for the next Smash Bros game. One of the coolest parts of Brawl is that now Snake from Metal Gear Solid and Sonic The Hedgehog are playable characters.

However despite being one of the biggest Nintendo fans around, I feel lukewarm to the fan service. I think the reasoning behind this is because the characters in Brawl no longer feel like characters from their respective games. The focus of this game feels like it’s about the “Smash Bros” theme and not on the characters themselves. Given how big a fan I am, I should be pumped to see Mario vs Sonic vs Snake vs Olimar, but the feeling just isn’t there.

Overall I can’t say I like the direction this games theme has gone. I enjoyed Smash64 a lot because the theme was simply a kid’s hand playing with his Nintendo toys. Now everything takes itself way to seriously. Everyone’s angry, everything’s epic, everything’s drenched in choir music. I liked Mario when he was the happy go lucky plump fellow he has always been, full of lighthearted fun. Not the new constantly angry look he has on his face, striking weird unnatural kung fu poses and shooting huge DBZ fireballs.

Graphics
Supports 16:9 Widescreen and Progressive Scan

Brawl’s visuals are very nice. The character models, the environments and just about everything else has been improved over Melee. There is a lot of detail on each of the characters. The overall design abandons the cartoony look for a more gritty one. Mario actually has stitches on his denim overalls, Links model was pulled straight out of Twilight Princess. The game has an overall more realistic theme.


Much sexi... prettier character models

The menu system is also a big improvement over the previous two games. Instead of having a “dark hardcore” theme, they have a bright and clean look to them which is great.

This game follows in Melee’s footsteps when it comes to flashy explosions and effects. I personally did not like this change in Melee and it’s even worse in Brawl. To me it just makes things way to hard to follow, especially in 4 player battles. The combination of the flashy effects, busy backgrounds and zoomed out camera angle make heated games very confusing. There have been times when playing that I literally couldn’t tell what was going on.

I have noticed that when this game is running on a Wii hooked up through component cables, the jaggy edges of everything looks bad. Because this game zooms so far out on such complex character models, details like faces turn out a mess.

Music
First of all Brawl is made up of nothing but remixes of various Nintendo games. This automatically loses points with me because I find new fresh music much more exciting than remixes. But with that out of the way, there are some really good remixes in this game.

The Kirby tracks jump out at me as being the best, and there is a great selection here like Butter Bridge from Kirby’s Adventure to even Marx Theme from Kirby Super Star. I also found the Animal Crossing song to be great, capturing the feel of that series perfectly. I stated before that I was lukewarm to the fan service in this game, but a lot of the songs tug at my hearts nostalgia strings. If Nintendo released an official OST for this game I would buy it. There are that many good songs.


They even have the Luigi's Mansion theme in here. Awesome!

For every good music choice made in this game there is a bad one. A good portion of the songs are not remixed at all. So when you see fans boast about 300 SONGS, it’s really about half new remixes and half lazy ports. Not only that but they chose some of the dumbest songs to port over, for example the rich-aristocrat sounding organ song from Fire Emblem: PoR. When Sonic was announced as a playable character my mind raced over all the potentially awesome songs that could make the cut. But Sonic’s music ended up being the biggest musical disappointment of the game. They only re-arranged one of his songs, and for the rest picked some pretty crappy sounding tracks (Scrap Brain Zone, Right There Right On). At least we got Super Sonic Racing .

Because I was hyped for this game the music selection comes off to me as disappointing. The very first info we received from the games official pre-release blog was the list of arrangers hired for this game. Literally every big name composer in the game industry was arranging music for Brawl and my anticipation was high. But for the amount of arrangers and talent behind this soundtrack, I come off with that missed potential feeling again.

The main theme is a step backwards from Melee’s theme. The minute I unlocked alternate menu screen music, I switched the game back to use the Melee theme. This is another aspect that leaves me more disappointed knowing the talent behind it. It was written by Nobuo Uematsu, the guy who writes the brilliant music in the Final Fantasy games. I suppose I expected something amazing, instead it doesn’t even top Melees.

A cool feature of this game is that you can choose the appearance rate of different songs for each stage. So for example because on the Sonic stage I would rather listen to Emerald Hill than Green Hill, I can completely turn GH off and put the chances of EH to play at maximum. I wish it let you attach any song to any stage though. What ends up happening is some really good songs are locked to the crummiest not-fun stages in the game. I love the Earthbound remixes in this game, but everyone hates the Earthbound stage so I never get to hear them.

There is a ton of music in this game and I still don’t have all of it. That’s partly because the way of getting new songs really sucks. They randomly appear on stages and then instantly start to disappear. Too many times have I watched a CD drop on a hill and then go rolling off screen before I can get to it. Luckily there is a way to cheat and get them all.

Gameplay

Controls
Brawl does something I think every single videogame should do: You can re-button map the controller to be how you want it which I love. Too often games are released with a less-than-optimal button configuration crippling them. Brawl’s controller customization isn’t 100% perfect, as you can’t assign EVERY action to ANY button, but its pretty close and a welcomed feature.

If you’re worried that you need to own a GC controller in order to “properly” play this game then don’t be. I personally use the Wii Remote + Nunchuk control setup and it works great. After a little button remapping I can do exactly what I want to in the game, and am never frustrated by the controls. I will say that if you are used to playing Smash Bros with the traditional control scheme then switching to the Wii Remote takes a while to get used to.

There is one little thing irks me about the controls though. This is a Wii game and yet there isn’t even IR control for the menus. This gives me the feeling this was developed as a Gamecube game first, with Wii as an afterthought.
Character Selection
The character selection is pretty robust. They added a lot of new characters in this installment with a bunch of unique play styles. There are 35 characters all together and some of the characters can transform into new characters with completely different move sets. So needless to say there is a lot to choose from to find a character you like. Characters have also been rebalanced to be a little more fair. Speedy characters like Fox were favored heavily in Melee, but now heavy characters like Bowser stand a chance.

Just about every Nintendo character ever
Of those 35, 6 of them are clones (Luigi, Lucas, Falco, Wolf, Gannondorf and Toon Link). It’s understandable why they do this, as it’s a cheap way to fill out the character roster, but it’s disappointing to play as say Gannondorf and see him perform copycat moves of Captain Falcon instead of trademark moves from his own series.

I find it really disappointing that most of the old characters from the previous games have been hardly changed. No, I’m not talking about the petty differences that hardcore fans make a big deal out of like “omg his attack is 1/38th of a second slower”. I’m talking about big main changes to the characters. If you pick a character that was previously in Melee like Peach or Luigi, their move set is exactly the same. Since Melee’s release, Peach has even had her own game filled with tons of new moves, yet NONE of them show up in Brawl and instead we are handed the same old uninspired ButtSlam and ThrowOutToad moves. The same applies to many characters.
Technical Complaints
I have a few technical complaints with this game. First off, Brawls loading times are horrible. It seems that almost everything this game needs to do requires a loading screen. Even starting it up takes forever, which at least for me ruins the pick-up-and-play nature of a fighting game. Furthermore this game makes my Wii sound like a lawnmower. The amount of intense reading done from the disk makes me scared that my Wii is going to break. The save file for this game takes up 128 blocks of memory. If space wasn’t an issue then I wouldn’t care, but on Wii space is a VERY big issue. Why does this game need to take up so much space? I can’t fathom this because it’s a party fighting game with minimal save data. Why does a game like Zelda Twilight Princess (a RPG with tons of save data) take up 1 block and Brawl takes up 128 times that???
One of the awesome parts about this game is the addition of Smash Balls. Smash Balls are items that will randomly appear on the stage and lets the user perform a devastating super move. Since these moves are so powerful and in many cases guaranteed kills, everybody fights over them. Getting a Smash Ball isn’t just a matter of picking it up because the only way to use them is to break it open by constantly beating on it. It’s programmed to stay away from characters too, so when one appears the entire focus of the battle shifts to everybody franticly chasing after it. In my opinion this is the best addition Brawl brings to the series, it adds a whole new level of excitement to matches.


Rape in progress

For some unknown reason they decided to randomly make characters trip during a match. It really does happen at random and gets very frustrating when you’re trying to set up a combo or trying to counter a move. For example one time I was playing and my opponent got the Hammer item (which will instantly kill you if you get touched). I tried to run away to avoid it but my character instantly tripped and I was KOed. It makes it hard to have a competitive sense when playing this game.

Like the previous two games, multiplayer matches have two rule sets in order to win, Time and Stock. Stock I find is best for 1 vs 1 matches because otherwise damaged players can “cheat” by killing themselves which robs the opponent of their point. However Stock isn’t very much fun with 3-4 players because if you die early you are left to just sit and watch everyone else fight. The solution to that is to put the game on Time matches, which declares a winner based on score. This worked for Smash64 and Melee, but they screwed up how points are determined in Brawl. The counter from when you last got hit and when you die takes way to long to time out, resulting in people getting points for deaths they had nothing to do with. Too many times have I accidentally killed myself and watched as one of my opponents got the credit for it.

Subspace Emissary
The new Subspace Emissary mode replaces the old Adventure mode from Melee. What they have tried to do is flesh that going-through-stage experience into a full single player campaign. Because it’s closely tied to a storyline this time around, you cannot pick what character you want to be. Before every stage you are forced to choose between a small handful of characters. I didn’t like this at all because more than half of the game was spent playing as characters I find boring and/or painful. It would be more enjoyable if the stages you had to do were based around those characters and their abilities, creating instances in which only that character could get through (for example have a switch that only Pikachu’s lighting could climb the wall and hit).

I could never tell where I was supposed to go on this confusing map
You can also attach the stickers you find throughout the game to characters in this mode, which allows you to boost their abilities. But once you use a sticker its gone forever, and given the way you find stickers in this game who knows when you will be able to get it again. Some of those puppies are rare. Because of this I never wanted to use them and so I ignored this aspect. This mode takes FOREVER to complete, especially the last stage. After beating it I have no desire to ever go back and replay it, whereas I have replayed Melee’s Adventure mode more times that I can count.
Every Smash Bros game has had neat mini-games where you complete different objectives under a time limit. Brawl is no different in this regard but a lot of the original modes are missing. What happened to “Race to the Finish” and “Board the platforms”? The “Break the Targets” mode isn’t nearly as cool as the previous two games. Instead of having custom stages for each character, designed around their unique talents, there are only 5 generic stages. It’s a shame because I really got into these modes. The sandbag mode returns and is much more improved over Melee’s, now even allowing 2 player.

The amount of unlockable extras in this game in a Nintendo fans dream. The trophies are back and there are more of them than ever before. I really enjoyed this part of the game not because I’m a Nintendo fan, as that had little to do with it, but because I think its interesting to look at all the different iconic symbols of Nintendo’s history and read the descriptions of each one. You can even place these trophies around in a virtual diorama and take screenshots. My only complaint about the trophies is the new way of unlocking them. The Coin Launcher game (shooting for trophies space invaders style) isn’t all that fun and takes WAY too long for trophies to show up. I have about 20 Mario and Pokemon trophies but only 2 Sonic and 1 MGS trophy . In addition to trophies, they have also added stickers which are different pieces of game art that differ in size. It’s kind of neat to look at it all, and some REALLY obscure stuff shows up that I didn’t even know Nintendo had the rights to.


I always knew old Nook was after my Assets

Online
Online Brawl is a complete mess. If you try to play with random players it takes forever to find anyone. I’ve searched for opponents for over a half hour before without any results.

With friends things work a bit better. The online structure reflects Nintendo’s more recent games, where you can actually see if your friend is online instead of both randomly searching for each other. Logging into the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection service is horrible. Sometimes I am able to connect within seconds, other times it takes 5 minutes, and sometimes it takes so long to connect that the game times out and gives me an error. The connection doesn’t hold up very well when connected either. I get randomly disconnected about once every online session I try to have. When this happens it creates even more problems like my friends not being able to see me online.

I can deal with a little lag in my games, as long as things are somewhat playable I’m happy. But sometimes Brawl has terrible latency (the time between user input and the games response). It makes playing online so frustrating because it makes split second reactions or combos impossible. Gamers will give you all sorts of theories as to why the online doesn’t work well, but it just boils down to Nintendo screwed up. Jump Ultimate Stars, a game on the Nintendo DS, is the exact same party/fighting game Brawl is, and that works flawlessly online proving to me it can be done.

This is especially disappointing for me because I purchased this multiplayer game with the intention of playing online. Because the Online is such a frustration to use I find myself not bothering with it and therefore not bothering with this game.

UPDATE: As of January 2009 the lag has gotten considerably better. It's still there, but the game is now a lot more playable.

Let this frozen screenshot serve as a Real-Time example of how smooth Online mode works sometimes.

Being mainly a multiplayer game it’s annoying that you have to unlock characters. It’s a fighting game and everyone wants to pick their favorite, but unless you play through the single player for hours, or play multiplayer for literally hundreds of matches, then many favorite characters are unavailable. Even highly desirable characters like Snake and Sonic who are on the back of the box must be unlocked. Its just bad design, especially since Brawl doesn’t allow you to transfer your gave saves. What this means is if you take your game over to your friend’s house for a party, you must sit for hours and re-unlock all characters on their Wii. Really stupid design choice for a party fighter.

As a whole this game feels like a Melee 1.5. It’s running on the same game engine, the graphics and game mechanics barley updated, and as mentioned before they didn’t change the characters much. Brawl feels more like an expansion pack to Melee rather than a new game, a Street Fighter 2 to Street Fighter 2 Turbo. I think part of the reason they didn’t change much was to please Melee fans. Fans cried enough about the little changes they did make with “They Ruined My Character/Stage/Combo”, so imagine this games fan reception if they had changed anything substantial. I know the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but if I wanted to play Melee then I would.

Lasting Appeal
From a single player perspective, around 20 hours to do everything. Subspace Emissary can be beaten within a few hours and isn’t worth going back to. The computer AI isn’t all that smart so once you have learned their stupid quirks they are easily beaten. Still, it lasts a LOT longer than your average fighting game. All the unlockable content helps prolong the games life if you’re really into that kind of stuff.

Brawl is mainly a multiplayer game though, and in that regard it has about as much replayability as you can get from a game. This is party due to the very nature of a multiplayer game. But it’s also because Brawl has some of the deepest, always changing mechanics around. I’ve sunk over 100 hours in it with friends and it hasn’t gotten remotely stale. This is one of the few games I will still be playing years from now.

Final Thoughts
I was probably over hyped. Because of the Dojo blog updates and multiple interviews I can’t help but think what could have been. The entire game has a feeling of missed potential. You will notice my review is chock full of complaints, However despite all that this is a fantastic game which is a blast to play with friends.

I don’t really need to recommend this game to anybody, because it’s the type of game that’s so hardcore you should have an idea of whether you want it or not. If your curious about the Smash Bros series and have never tried it, Brawl is the best place to start.

Gameplay Video
Sorry for the heavy Interlacing (horizontal lines on movement). As soon as I figure out how to fix it I will
Normal Match - Start
Subspace Emissary - 2:22
Trophies - 3:55
Online Match - 4:50


Last edited by Seraph; 08-21-2009 at 09:54 PM.
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