Super Smash Bros. Brawl

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years and you don’t quite know what Super Smash Bros. is, first of all, you need to slap yourself quite hard in the face. Secondly, you need to buy a Wii, and the latest instalment of the series, Super Smash Bros Brawl, because it’s brilliant.

Take Nintendo’s best and most loved characters, and throw them into different arenas based on the games from which they are taken and make them lock into fisticuffs with enough insane and flashy action to make even Street Fighter blush. Thus is the premise of Smash Bros and its entire universe. Each new iteration brings us new game modes, weapons and a whole host of characters to play around with.


I must admit that I was drooling like Pavlov’s dog when this first came out; I am such a huge fan of the series and could not wait to get my hands on the newest instalment and try all of the crazy things that Nintendo decide to whack into each new game. Whilst the finished product is brilliant and shines in so many ways, there are a number of things that feel have made a step backward and it’s a little disheartening. Anyway, I digress.

This time around, Smash Bros can be played in a whole bunch of new ways. You can now play with your Wiimote by itself on its side, Wiimote and nunchuck, classic controller or gamecube controller. In all honesty, the first two options feel very odd and don’t give the definitive Smash Bros feeling at all. Playing with the Wiimote on its side is pretty laborious, the buttons aren’t chunky enough, and the B button on the back, which you will need a lot, is hard to reach. Your best bet is to play with the classic or Gamecube controller, the way Smash Bros is meant to be played.

The big daddy V of Brawl is the new “Subspace Emissary” mode, a story-orientated side-scrolling beat em up based around the Smash Bros universe, with the option of playing co-op with a friend. As the story progresses, you are thrown into different situations that will require you to do anything from beat a boss to getting from a to b in a particular time limit. It’s all pretty standard stuff but it’s very good fun. It feels very reminiscent of classic side scrolling platformers like Kirby’s Dream Land, or (dare I mention it) Castle of Illusion on ye olde Sega Mega Drive. The areas you get to explore are massive, and although there is a familiar kill-move on-kill procedure, it seldom gets boring due to the constantly changing roster of characters and scenery.


To begin with, you’re playing as either Mario or Pikachu, who have had their nice, enjoyable Smash Bros fight interrupted by an unknown “dark force”, and just as you’ve got used to their moves and are kick a bit o’ ass, you’ll find yourself escaping an ambushed castle as Fire-Emblem dwellers Marth and newcomer Ike. It’s by no means annoying to have the story jumping around so much (not that there is much of a story…honestly, its incredibly hard to follow!)it’s actually pretty refreshing to have your playable character changing all the time, it lets you get to grips with each one and stops you spamming the same fighter’s special moves all the time. It’ll also let you realise sooner rather than later who your favourite fighter actually is, which becomes very useful later on.

The game itself is about 10 hours long, and will have you running away from giant robots, battling an evil Diddy Kong and exploring a massive Zelda-like maze. I personally loved the new game mode and would say that it is worth the asking price alone.

Then there’s the classic mode, which really hasn’t changed at all. Fight a bunch of characters in a recurring sequence (depending on who you’ve unlocked) culminating in a battle with the master hand. Cue credits that you can shoot for some reason. Another fine example of Nintendo sticking to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.

Other non-story based game modes remain as well, including the target test and home run contest. Target has remained much the same but home run now feels just so laboured. Instead of having to be massively careful with the sandbag when beating it up, you can now hit it as hard as you want in the buildup to the countdown as it will hit invisible walls during the beat up process, and it can’t fall off the podium. This, for me, has taken the skill element away from home run completely, which is a damn shame because it used to be one of my favourite modes. Way to step back, Nintendo.

And of course, there’s “BRAWL!” mode itself, the new name for the notorious skirmish mode that has shaped the series over the years, and the reason that the majority of people play the game. Pick some characters, chuck them into an arena and fight until your heart is content. This mode, thankfully, is completely unchanged, save of course for some new levels and weapons. The simple control scheme and satisfyingly energetic battles make this one of the best fighters out there, even if it isn’t a traditional beat-em up in the sense that you aren’t trying to whittle away an opponent’s health bar.


New additions to the brawl mode include the option of adding in some match stipulations to make things more interesting. Whereas previously, you could do a “mini brawl” where all of the characters are tiny, or a “Lightning brawl” where everyone moves stupidly fast, you can now mix up different stipulations to have the unhinged brawl of your custom. Believe me when I say that you haven’t seen anything ‘til you’ve seen a “Lightning Curry Bunny Invisible Metal Giant Brawl!” (the type of brawl you create is plastered towards the top of the screen –its hilarious).

I realise that I have merely brushed over the topic of new weapons but this is because the majority of them are useless. However, there is one worth mentioning, and of course I am referring to the “Final Smash”. When the sparkly ball of wonder appears and begins to float around the screen, all anger amongst opponents is lost and what begins is a seemingly fruitless race of jumping around trying to break the damn thing open. Whoever is lucky enough to smash the ball will be able to unleash their special ability, which will, more often that not, fill the screen up with an over-the-top display of pyrotechnics, and kill everyone and anything in the arena. Some are truly spectacular.

Samus unleashes a charge from her beam rifle which literally fills the screen, and any of the characters from the Starfox universe jumps into a Landmaster Tank and get the ability to squish anyone or fire a highly charged shot at them.

That being said, some of the final smashes are awful and one wonders why they were even included. Donkey Kong, for example, who is notorious for stomping around and causing mass destruction, merely whips out a pair of bongos and plays with a stupid look on his face causing little to no damage at all. Though the final smashes are quite fun, the novelty of them wears off after a while, as each fight soon becomes a race to break the ball open and everyone seems to lose sight of what smash bros. is about. Thankfully though, Nintendo have given us the ability to turn them off when necessary. Good thinking.

Brawl is just as fantastic as ever in multiplayer and nothing has changed in that respect. This time round though, Brawl has incorporated an online mode to take the battle to the internet. This function should have been the best thing since sliced bread but, unfortunately, it really doesn’t work very well. The battles suffer from immense lag and the lobbies for battling are incredibly confusing, it’s hard to figure out what you are applying for most of the time. It’s a real shame because Smash Bros is the kind of thing that would really work online. Stick to local multiplayer for now, hopefully Nintendo will get online right next time.


The character list has been altered a bit this time around. Nintendo wanted to make the character roster more balanced, so some characters have been taken down a peg or two, and others have just been fully removed from the game. Ganondorf is now no longer the speedy powerhouse he used to be, he stumbles along at a snails pace and now really isn’t worth touching. Roy has been completely removed from the game and replaced with Ike, someone even slower and massively less fun to play with, which is just plain wrong as Roy was an extremely fun character to play with. Newcomers Lucario and Solid Snake are quite fun to use but don’t really stand out much.

If there’s one thing Nintendo did get right it’s listening to their fans. For years leading up to Brawl, the fans were screaming that Sonic the Hedgehog be featured in the next Smash Bros game. Why have Nintendo characters fighting each other when you could have some of the gaming industry’s biggest rivals doing it? Well, Nintendo have heeded the call and put the blue blur into Brawl, and I am so happy that they did. After playing with Sonic, undeniably the fastest character in the game, I wondered how I ever played Smash Bros without him. Sonic shoots around the screen like a thing possessed, and although he takes some getting used to, he’s one of the best characters and a joy to play with. Bravo Nintendo.

Your time with Brawl, playing either single or multiplayer will have you unlocking a wealth of goodies, ranging from the secret characters to stickers for a sticker album. The latter is one of the many examples of the pointless things that can be unlocked in this game, and whilst unlocking things is always going to be fun, you’ll find more often than not that where you are wanting to unlock a new stage or character, you’ll unlock background SFX that you can play in a sound test. Pretty silly really.

I absolutely adore Smash Bros. Brawl but it does, unfortunately fall short in a few key places. Online mode, for one, isn’t worth touching, and some of the things that have been changed feel like a real step back. However, if you haven’t played the series before then you should really get it into it now because Brawl is a great game in the series and offers hours and hours of enjoyment, whoever you’re playing with.

Hi-Scores: Subspace Emissary is excellent, Flashy new stipulations to matches, Sonic!

Low-Scores: Online is terrible, some of the best characters have been made worse or completely removed, majority of unlockables are worthless.

Overall score: 8/10

  1. I had great days playing Brawl on my neighbours Gamecube…ahhh good times!

    • James Richards
    • March 26th, 2009

    Good times indeed! On Melee, the previous SB game, me and my old school friend managed to rack up 320 accumulated hours on the game. No idea hwere the time went.

  1. April 29th, 2009

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