Wii Fanboy Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl

I'll just come out and say it: Smash Bros. Brawl is the best game on the Wii right now. It beats Super Mario Galaxy, it is a better game than Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and it .. it's just amazing. Smash Bros. Brawl is a must-own game in the Wii's line-up and a benchmark for everything the system can do, both correctly and incorrectly.


The first thing that needs to be said is that this game is huge. It has a competent single-player experience as well as some modern additions to the multiplayer formula of old. That said, it's a mixed bag, combining the best of the old, along with some new. But not everything is roses.

The Subspace Emissary, the game's big single-player campaign, is one of the first things you'll want to dive into. As a primary means of unlocking characters (and padding out the game a bit), it's about a 6 hour affair that liberally douses the player in poor platforming and monotonous combat scenarios that are incredibly easy. It may be cool to have all of the Nintendo characters duke it out in one epic conflict, melding together franchises that really have no business being together (although, it's pretty cool to see Link and Yoshi teamed up, along with many others), but in the end The Subspace Emissary provides more chore and bore than the fun galore Smash Bros. is known for. This portion of the game best serves as a means to unlock characters and give those without friends (or an internet connection) something to do.

But, honestly, who really buys this game for The Subspace Emissary? It's all about the multiplayer action and the fan service roster. And, as one would imagine, the game delivers the best multiplayer action on the console (and then some).

Before I get to the gameplay, however, the controls warrant discussion. The 4 available control schemes (Wiimote alone, Wiimote and nunchuk, Classic controller and the GameCube controller) offer a variety of choices to the brawler, but, for me, the GameCube controller is the best available option. The Wiimote alone is suitable, but with the throw button being assigned to the - button, it's hard to pull that off in battle. And, when using the Wiimote alone, the block is delegated to the B trigger, making it hard to access in the heat of battle. As for the Wiimote and nunchuk, I've found a few issues. For one, you have to turn the ability to jump by pushing up on the nunchuk's analog stick off, or else you'll accidentally start jumping when you mean to do something else. Also, the lack of ridges on the face of the analog stick on the nunchuk caused my thumb to slip constantly, becoming quite the nuisance when fighting off three foes (especially on the smaller stages like Smashville). As for the Classic controller, it feels better than the Wiimote and nunchuk, but the analog stick is the same as the nunchuk's. So I would suggest using the GameCube controller. Your mileage may vary, however.


Now that we've gotten my problems with the control schemes that aren't a GameCube controller out of the way, let's get down to gameplay. Many have commented that the game feels slower than Melee and that a lot of the characters have been nerfed or altered. While I felt this same way immediately, after dumping many hours into the game and going back to the GameCube game, I didn't really feel like it was tuned down that much. That isn't to say there aren't balance issues, however.

Some characters, like Bowser, are just too ridiculously powerful. There are certain smash attacks that deal too much damage (Ike's side smash, Bowser's side smash for two hits and, still, Link's stupid down thrust from the air). These can deal upwards of 50% per hit and, for most combatants, that's half their life, if not more (Pikachu and Kirby get tossed really easily). Some things, however, have been tuned down for the better, like Samus's charged shot and Fox's laser beam (it no longer traps you like it did in Melee). Overall, though, there is an amazing balance between the fighters that means not one single character is usually favored over others in 4-player conflicts. That is, unless you're Snake, in which case everyone in the game is favored against you. Seriously, Snake's attacks take way too long to execute and leave him open the entire match. Sad, we know.

It's time we addressed the biggest problem in the game: Wi-Fi play. While online play was smooth when I played the game with Joystiq's Kyle Orland, now that the public has it, every 4-player match is filled with nothing but lag. It's really bad, actually, and keeps the fun local. Unless you have some friends for multiplayer in your house, don't expect to enjoy non-CPU competition on any kind of consistent basis.


Should Nintendo figure out what the issues with the online play are, Smash Bros. Brawl will have hopefully paved the way for future releases on the Wii to utilize, if not expand, the Wi-Fi features within it. It has status tracking for your friends, has a good lobby system for keeping the action rolling along (not kicking you out of the room after every match is such a good design choice) and allows users to share their own content. These are the steps Nintendo needs to take with future releases so that they aren't the laughing stock of the online console community.

Finally, I feel I need to mention the game's graphics. They never played a huge part in previous installments and they don't so much here, but the addition of the Final Smash sequences, as well as the increase in detail to each character model and stage, really make this a great looking game. Add in the great cutscenes from The Subspace Emissary and you have one very nice visual package. The 16:9 support on 480p is a visual treat.


Aside from the often boring Subspace Emissary and the buggy online play, there isn't much you can fault this game with. It has countless trophies and other collectibles to unlock, a wealth of information on past Nintendo franchises, trials of Virtual Console games, tons of characters to play as (uh, Sonic dude) and an incredible amount of replay value. This is going to be the best game on the Wii this year, if not during the console's lifespan (seriously, what other game can match the scope of Brawl?). Smash Bros. Brawl is every Nintendo fanboy and fangirl's dream come true. The only way it could be better was if it included Mega Man as a playable character.

Final Score: 9.5/10

This article was originally published on Joystiq.