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First impressions: Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Kyle Orland

Update: Wii Fanboy has some impressions of our first friend-code-enabled Wi-Fi match. The result: Relatively lag-free.

Yeah, we've given you the hands-on impressions before, but now that we've gotten the final retail version into our metaphorical Joystiq HQ, we thought we'd share some quick opinions on the full Brawl experience. Click the continue link to find out our thoughts on the Subspace Emissary mode, Online play, the various control options, and more.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Gallery: Super Smash Bros. Brawl | 13 Photos

  • Subspace Emissary mode: First off, don't expect the story to hold together at all. We're about 1/6th of the way through, and so far there's been little rhyme or reason to the events taking place. It all plays out like some badly-written fan fiction, meaning a bunch of excuses to put various unlikely pairings of characters together. Gameplay-wise, beating up on the endless grunts thrown at you is pretty dull, but at least there's a good variety to the enemies, and the boss battles are pretty lively. There's are some extras to be found by exploring the platforming environments, but don't get your hopes up -- this isn't Super Metroid or anything.
  • Online play: Connecting to the Wi-Fi network and finding random opponents is a pretty streamlined experience, even though it took us quite a while to find anyone available to play with (understandable, seeing as we're not sure if we can connect with Japanese players, and almost no one outside Japan has the game). Lag was a major issue in our first online test, and Brawl has an interesting way of handling it. Rather than putting one laggy player at a disadvantage, the game seems to slow down the proceedings for everyone until it gets control data from all the players. It's great in theory, but it made the game nigh unplayable in our tests -- we could literally count the frames per minute at one point. This could have just been a bad connection on one end (hard to tell without the ability to talk to your randomly-assigned opponents), but we recommend playing with nearby friends if you can.
  • Controller options: Using the Gamecube pad feels just like old times -- any Melee fan will feel right at home, and it's a nice option to have. The Remote/Nunchuk combo felt pretty natural as well, though using index fingers for anything but blocking takes a little getting used to (the B button is used to attack, the C button to jump). The Classic Controller felt a little off initially -- the buttons just weren't physically where our thumbs expected them to be. This probably has to do with our over-familiarity with the Gamecube pad though. Using the Remote on its own was by far the worst option -- the tiny digital pad can't match the feel of an analog stick, and reaching around to hit the B button for blocking was more than a little awkward.
  • Bonus modes: The Event Match mode shows a lot of inventiveness so far. The more interesting goals so far include: trapping two opponents in Yoshi eggs simultaneously; climbing a waterfall with Zelda; and navigating Bowser through an auto-scrolling version of Super Mario Bros. Level 1-1 as three sadistic Marios try to stop him. The Coin Launcher mini-game is surprisingly fun, though possibly a little too slow-paced. The Home Run Contest is much improved by a forcefield that keeps the bag on the platform (but be careful ... it will break if you give it too much punishment). Target Smash is still a blast, but the character-specific stages have been replaced by five generic levels for all characters -- a step back, if you ask us.

Check out all of our extensive coverage of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, including galleries, news, impressions, a metareview, and more.

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