“So then Captain Olimar barely got back to the stage, grabbed a Home Run Bat and sent Jigglypuff’s pink ass rocketing off the screen! It was awesome!” That sentence would have been cracked-out video gamer gibberish before Super Smash Bros. Brawl hit shelves last weekend. But now, it’s a distinct possibility. Brawl is the third title in the series, which spans a wide swath of Nintendo franchises to bring characters, battle stages and power-ups all together in one game.
“So then Captain Olimar barely got back to the stage, grabbed a Home Run Bat and sent Jigglypuff’s pink ass rocketing off the screen! It was awesome!”
That sentence would have been cracked-out video gamer gibberish before Super Smash Bros. Brawl hit shelves last weekend. But now, it’s a distinct possibility. Brawl is the third title in the series, which spans a wide swath of Nintendo franchises to bring characters, battle stages and power-ups all together in one game.
Actually Brawl marks the first time the series taps non-Nintendo titles for characters: Solid Snake of Metal Gear fame and Sonic the Hedgehog both make appearances. Just shy of 40 characters round out the Brawl roll call, and unlocking them all can happen in two ways. First, the traditional methods of finishing specific tasks and playing “Versus” matches can unlock characters, or players can use the story mode, called the “Subspace Emissary,” to advance in the game as well.
The Emissary is a whole new concept for the series, using battle-interluding videos to tell a story connecting the cast–which means teams of fighters from the wildest dreams of Nintendo developers. Wario and Bowser side with Ganondorf to blanket the Brawl universe in evil; Fox and Princess Peach become friends over tea; and Kirby helps Link and Mario battle baddies in the desert.
Some of these unnatural teams feel awkward and unbalanced, leading to much frustration and controller-smashing rage. One fracas, for example, pits a dragon against Samus and Pikachu. I like obscure teams as much as the next guy, but Samus and Pika taking on a ridiculously powerful dragon beast? That’s not how I roll.
However, one doesn’t play Smash Bros. for the single-player mode, and the multi-player brawls (ho ho!) here are exemplary. A player can use the Wii Remote alone (awkward), a Remote and a Nunchuk (funky at first but easy to learn) or a GameCube controller, which offers even tighter, smoother action than Melee did. Hours are easily lost to the chaos of beating the hell out of one another in Versus mode.
For the socially lacking gamer, online play comes to the rescue. Brawl connects to the Wii network and lets you squabble with others without leaving the comfort of your Cheetos and Jolt Cola-littered bedroom. One cool bit here: Players can write up to four of their own taunts, which appear as speech bubbles during online matches. The possibilities for offensive comments are endless.
There’s also a create-your-own-stage mode, and it’s fun, sort of. Brawl‘s regular stages, of which there are more than you can shake a Star Rod at, are plenty enjoyable. But custom stages either take too long to develop satisfactorily, or else just feel bland and pointless. Sure, graphic design majors with time to spare will dig it, but others aren’t likely to want or need the stage creation editor.
On that note, the power-up system in the Emissary means putting as many stickers as possible onto a circle without overlapping. It’s novel at first and handy late in the story, though I expected better of Nintendo after two years of production and so many delays. And that’s Brawl‘s bottom line: It’s a great game, possibly the best in the series, but I expected more. If you have a Wii, buy it, because it’ll be a great party centerpiece, but if you’re a Smash Bros. veteran, you’ll be a bit underwhelmed. Happy smashing!
Brawl at Portland State:
The Random Select video game club is inviting students to come play Super Smash Bros. Brawl with them each Wednesday, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. The club doesn’t have a regular meeting room, so check in with the group via e-mail ([email protected]) or phone (503-725-2942) to learn where the weekly meeting will be.