May 29, 2008

REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. Brawl

NOTE: I'm trying out this flash widget I made. If it doesn't appear, then I'll never do it again. Although I won't be doing it in every review.

I've been stoked about the game ever since I saw the very first footage on E3. And now that I got it, was it worth the hype?

Hell yeah.

Featuring a myriad of single and multiplayer modes and unlockables that can last you years, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is definitely worth the money- even when it's original (Pirated versions are available at Greenhills for 200; and that's a huge deal).

What is it?
Brawl is the third installment of the Super Smash Bros. franchise. The object in the game is not like other fighting games where you normally deplete an energy bar. The object in the game is to rack up some damage and send the opponent flying into the air or falling out the ring. The percentage meter is indicates the number of damage you have inflicted upon the enemy. The higher the percentage, the higher your enemy will fly.

The graphics in the game are awesome! The particle effects when someone falls is probably the best in the Wii, and the character models and animation are equally great. Compared to the GameCube game, the graphics in this one is definitely a step up from that one- a significant one actually- and that's despite the fact that the Wii doesn't have much of an improvement from the GameCube.

The controls in the game is definitely tight and responsive, and most importantly, accessible and simple. You can access different attacks by facing the analog in one certain direction and pressing a face button. So for example, combining A and tilting the analog Up will make a character kick upward, while tilting left and pressing A together will make a character punch downward. Yes, it is simple, but it has a surprising amount of depth.

Tekken/serious fighting game fans may get put off by the fact that there is no more complexity than that and that there is no command list, but what they don't know is that the game has a lot more depth and strategy to it. For example, when falling, one would normally jump. But when the double-jump runs out and you're still a short distance from the ledge, you can actually use one of your attacks to "recover". And when you're in the air, you can use a certain combination to make a "Meteor Smash", among others.

The biggest highlight of the franchise has always been the multiplayer. This time around, everything's been amped up because of its customization options. You can disable a certain item or set the handicap or set the time limit or the lives, or how much time the lives will deplete, or how many items you want placed in one match, etc.. Basically, this is one of the most extensive and not to mention, fun multiplayer on the Wii or maybe on any platform.

The Subspace Emissary
The Subspace Emissary is an adventure mode that combines platforming and brawl matches in the form of boss fights together. It's pretty good and at some point, non-linear, which is good. And the other good thing about it is that it's as long as a separate game. So if you want to unlock all characters, this is the place to go- for about 10-12 hours.

Even though co-op is available, it wasn't given much thought. The only way you can control the camera is to maintain player 2's pace with player 1. So if player 2 is left behind, it's gonna be hard to proceed because the camera is focused only on player 1. So basically, it's a more ideal playing experience solo, despite the fact that the second player can teleport back near the first player by pressing Start or + on the Wiimote.

In between each long level, there is a beautifully pre-rendered cutscenes that are frequently hilarious.

Other Single Player modes
There are various single-player modes that further push the game's value over the hedge.

There is classic mode in which you play a character and fight 12 opponents (and play a few mini-games in between) like the "normal, hardcore" fighter, there is events mode in which you can complete various objectives, Stadium which houses more modes namely: Multi-man brawl in which you can fight a few hundred people until you die, all-star mode in which you are fighting against all the characters in the game and can only be played after every character is unlocked, the Home-Run contest which is a batting game that challenges you to bat as far as you can in 10 seconds, etc.

Another mode is the Masterpieces mode in which you can play demos of the retro games that made each Nintendo character what they are today (Sonic and Snake do not have them). And for the collection of trophies and stickers, there is also the Coin Launcher game in which you use coins collected from Classic mode or The Subspace Emissary to do just that.

There are a lot more single player modes and they are just too much to enumerate further.

Currently, I've collected about 300 stickers (that randomly fall during a match), 200 CD's (which also randomly fall during a match) and more than 100 trophies. The game announces you that, and it announces when you collect every one of them. And that means that there are gonna be more than 300 stickers, 200 CD's and 100 trophies to be found in the game and as if the above modes weren't enough to put the value meter to 10, this puts the meter to 11, if ever there was.

The soundtrack ranges from a remix of the arcade version of Super Mario Bros. to the special Brawl version of Metal Gear Solid 4's Theme of Love, and you can select what song you'd like to listen to in the My Music section. You can unlock more music, though, and that's via the aforementioned unlockable CD's. So practically, I own more than 200 tracks right now, and every ditty is unique and amazingly orchestrated. I definitely love the soundtrack, but if you're a hardcore Nintendo fan (bring out the Family Computers, nerds), you'll simply die... probably.

Stage Editor
Although the stages you fight in are ridiculously chaotic themselves, you can make your own chaotic stage in the stage editor- and you can even unlock parts by making stages alone. You can even upload them onto your SD card and share it with another WIi, or just put it up online!

It's kinda like the Sims. There are available blocks and the blocks of another object cannot touch the blocks of an object already placed. Basically, it's very user-friendly and intuitive because you can just make stages from the get-go and without a hitch.

Speaking of online, you can fight with other players around the world, or in your friends list. However, not many people really play online in this game nowadays, but that probably is because of Mario Kart. On the other hand, watching others play is far easier and you can bet on which team will win, because normally, online matches are team battles.

Other online features include snapshot sending, video sending, and stage uploading/downloading. Stage downloading is particularly weird because it's like a "Flavor of the Day" kind of service in which your Wii downloads one stage per day and after one day, it gets automatically deleted. I mean, what if I want to keep a certain user-created stage? But than again, Wii memory is limited so I guess it's surprisingly sensible.

Overall, the game is superbly done and was definitely worth the wait. The very much requested online isn't really any fun, though, because the only thing you can do is bet coins on the winning team in Spectator mode in which you watch other players brawling it out. Other then that, the game is worth your money regardless whether you bought it pirated or original. There are a LOT of modes, and multiplayer is simply the one of the best on any platform. If you have doubts buying this, it probably is because you're just not a fighting game fan.

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