Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) Review

SSB Brawl

Yes, I’ve never played a Pikmin game, so sue me. Go on! Try and sue me for not having played a Pikmin game! See how that ends up in court! … *ahem* Anyway, as I haven’t played a Pikmin game before, we have our first of three looks at the previous Smash games (Smash for Wii U having already been reviewed here on this blog!), starting with Brawl, which saw the Pikmin series debut. It’s the only Smash with a full-on, CGI cinematics story mode, but is that all that’s worth remembering about it?

Background:

SSB Brawl 5

You’d be surprised how hard it was to find good images for Brawl, despite it’s lack of age and relative popularity…

Super Smash Bros. Brawl was released in January 2008 in Japan, with a US release two months later in March, and a European release three months after that in June.

Along with the Melee cast (minus Pichu, Dr. Mario, Roy, Young Link, and Mewtwo, who were dropped) the new characters are Wario from Warioware specifically, though he does have an alternate costume based on his early appearances in Mario games, Diddy Kong from Donkey Kong, Pokemon Trainer (with Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard playable) and Lucario from Pokemon, King Dedede and Meta Knight from Kirby, Olimar from Pikmin, Pit from Kid Icarus, Toon Link from Legend of Zelda (Wind Waker, specifically), Wolf from Star Fox, Zero Suit Samus from Metroid (which you can access separately, or transform into while playing as regular Samus), Ike from Fire Emblem, Lucas from Earthbound, and a R.O.B., the old peripheral from the 80s turned into a character.

Brawl is also when Smash started getting content from outside Nintendo, with Solid Snake from Metal Gear and Sonic the Hedgehog from… Sonic the Hedgehog, being added as playable characters, and each with a stage too.

Gameplay:

SSB Brawl 1

Shadow Moses Island has seen some crazy stuff, but this probably takes the cake…

As with the other games in the franchise, Brawl’s system is quite unique in that instead of being based on health bars the game is based of damage percentage. The more you get hit the higher the percentage, the higher the percentage the more likely you are to be launched by attacks. If you go too far off the screen in any direction, then that’s a K.O. and you either lose a life, or get a minus point added to your score (and the last person to hit you gets a point) depending of what kind of match you’re having. Fighting involves dodging, blocking, jumping and of course attacking, which can include regular attacks, Smash attacks (done by holding the regular attack button alongside a direction) and Special attacks, which can vary greatly depending on the fighter, from offensive to defensive, to healing items or transformations. Every character has one special move that when combined with an extra jump can get them back to the stage if they’re not launched too far. New to Brawl are “Final Smashes”, which are super moves with great, sometimes arena-filling power that can be activated if you break a randomly generated, floaty “Smash Ball”.

During the course of battle there are weapons that drop, most are offensive, but some heal, or just obstruct. Returning is the Pokeball, which can let a random Pokemon out to aid you, but added are Assist Trophies, which work the same way as Pokeballs do, except they contain characters from other franchises, some of which aren’t featured in the game any other way.  Some stages also have hazards that players have to look out for, making for that unique brand of chaos I love in these games.

The modes available are many. Classic Mode takes you through a chain of matches, some of which features unique rules or “Break the Targets!” stages, until you face the end boss/bosses, Master Hand (and Crazy Hand, if you did well enough/ have it on a high enough difficulty). All-Star mode sees you fight every character in the game, with a few breaks in between where you can use a couple of healing items, but otherwise you’re stuck with the one life, where as Boss Battles sees you fight each boss from the story mode with the one life. New to Brawl are “Events”, which are basically just regular fights with specific rules or clearance goals.

Then there is Adventure Mode, known as the “Subspace Emissary”, which features scrolling levels and bosses, but I’ll get to that in the Story part below. You also have the Stadium stuff like Target Smash and Home Run Contest, and some other mini-games that help you gain trophies and coins.

Multiplayer has been expanded. Along with the regular four-way fight that can be customised to any small or ridiculous level, you can also construct a Tournament, or do previously-only-single-player modes like All-Star Mode and the Stadium events together. There are also 21 separate Events in “Event Mode” that are co-op only.  There was also Online multiplayer for the first time, if that’s your thing.

New to Brawl is a Stage Builder, where you can… well, build a stage, rather unsurprisingly. It’s quite fun, though the tool is limited…

Alongside the returning Trophies section (now with many, many more… and therefore far more addictive…) you can collect CDs which will unlock new music to listen to and have play during levels, Stickers, which you can stick on the base of certain trophies to power-up characters during Subspace Emissary, and actual playable versions of several classic games in the “Masterpieces” menu, though these demos often only last a few minutes (or under a minute in some cases…)

Graphics and Sound:

SSB Brawl 4

Kirby going right for Wario’s nads.

The graphics were great for the Wii, nicely polished with fun facial animations and active backgrounds and stages. They did always have a bit of a dark, murky feel to them, something made all the more obvious thanks to recent comparison shots between Brawl stages in Brawl compared to their remasters in Smash Ultimate. Looking at it now it still looks nice enough, but there is also no doubt how Smash 4 improved on them, and indeed how Ultimate improved on Smash 4.

Sound is still great, however. The soundtrack is long and varied, with brand new remixes standing alongside classic tunes, all of which you can listen to individually and use sliders to decide how often they play during matches. Sound effects are great, plenty of punch, and the voice work, when it appears, is good, specifically the often hilarious Codec Calls you can activate at the start of fights as Snake…

Story:

SSB Brawl 6

This blurry shot is the best I could find for Tabuu, the final boss.

Subspace Emissary is an odd one. The actual story is told through un-voiced cutscenes, and while it’s not hard to infer what’s going on, it isn’t very clear. It seems Master Hand is being controlled by an other-dimensional entity known as Tabuu, and is using Bowser, Gannondorf and Wario to turn other characters into Trophies to create doppelgangers of them… or something.

Eventually the other characters team up, save the trophy-ised characters, stop a Mr. Game and Watch cloning operation and get saved by a thought-evil R.O.B. unit, before everyone faces off with Tabuu in the titular Subspace. Tabuu is defeated by the united cast of the game as the credits roll… so, yeah… an odd one.

The actual mode is just side-scrolling levels where you beat up either classic game minions or original creations, or specific-conditions regular Smash fights, with a couple of unique Boss fights added in for good measure. It’s quite fun and unique in Smash history, at least…

Thoughts Then:

SSB Brawl 2

It’s finally happening!

It may not surprise you to know I LOVED this game. I ploughed through Subspace Emissary and never played it again, and then just collected trophies and CDs like a mad man while playing ALL the modes over and over with every damn character… and this isn’t including all the multiplayer sessions with friends and family. It will be honestly hard to know which I played more, Melee or Brawl…

5 Star Game Old

Thoughts Now:

SSB Brawl 3

… There is a lot going on in this screenshot, it’s hard to pick just one bit to talk about…

Now? Well, it’s still good, plays fine and Subspace Emissary is a weird experience in its own right, but obviously Smash for Wii U is better in my eyes by having more of everything, which is why that game will soon be lesser in my eyes when Smash Ultimate comes out. That’s just how this series goes for me, forget the subtle differences in gameplay, I’m in it for the chaotic fights and the nostalgic memories / weird franchise mash-ups, so I’m always going to go for the most recent game in the series, but that doesn’t mean Brawl is a bad game, just… outdated.

4 Star Game New

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