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Nintendo  
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
From: Nintendo
For: Wii
Genre: Action, Fighting
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
A new game that has already sold about a billion copies, third in a series that has collectively sold about a trillion, Super Smash Bros. Brawl clearly has massive appeal to those freakish loyal Nintendo fans out there, all zillion of them.
Posted March 11, 2008
By CHRIS HUDAK, EVERGEEK MEDIA
 
An unapologetic game of mash 'n' bash, there are three types of combat in Super Smash Bros. Brawl: the kind that you intend to have happen, the kind you don't intend to have happen, and the kind that nobody intends to have happen. Nintendo fan-boys worldwide have been waiting anxiously and squirmingly for this one, like half a million kindergartners who have to make tinky (although after the less-than-stellar precursor, Super Smash Bros. Melee, it's not always easy to see why). One thing is certain: it's on a different tack than Melee... and arguably better for the change.

As with its predecessor, Brawl sports the sprawling cast of favorite Nintendo characters beating the virtual crap out of each other, up to four combatants at a time, with little or no regard to conflicting timelines, universes, settings ... and, for the first time in the series, corporate alignment: That is to say, Brawl not only introduces long-time Mario rival Sonic the Hedgehog of Sega fame to the fighter-roster -- which actually makes a certain amount of sense, when you think about it -- but in fact brings in Konami's gruff, unshaven Solid Snake as well (cardboard boxes and all).

Visually, it's not a terrible leap up from its Gamecube predecessor (save the fact that you can run the game in widescreen). Everything runs at an admirably smooth frame-rate, but if you caught gameplay out of the corner of your eye, you'd earn yourself a Dork Cookie if you could tell whether this was the "new" entry to the series or not. You can use the old-style control if you like, or take a swipe -- literally, in this case -- with the new-fangled Wiimote control scheme (good luck with that).

For solo gamers, there's the story mode with the unlikely name of "The Subspace Emissary" -- it's a fairly long, and fairly goofy, sometimes mechanically-awkward, side-scrolling excuse to cram every character, setting and power into a pageant of pugilists. It doesn't make any sense, it's not supposed to -- presumabably -- and it's really only a work-up to or last-ditch substitute for, the main, multiplayer fighting experience. It's good for unlocking nifty stuff, filling the time when you haven't got real or telepresent foes to Brawl with, and for the sheer entertainment value of the oddball cinematics ... but if you'd had to pony up for this facet of the game alone, you'd be pissed off (in a friendly, Nintend-ish, candy-colored sort of way... tinkied off?).

The real reason you're here is for online and in-the-room multiplayer fights, which can get as Epic as they can goofy: 40+ levels, 35 combatants, improved fight mechanics, and some engaging combat arenas (some of the more inspired of which include the ADD-inspired, background-shifting WarioWare stage, or the Pictochat stage that is drawn-in, crudely and in real-time, to offer ever-new platforms).

The inevitable but expertly-masked repetition of the core battling system is offset by the plethora of collectables in the game; character trophies, collectable stickers (helpful for fighter stats, but only in the Emissary mode) and the best-of-all unlockable game music CDs (tracks) to be found hither and yon. Such goodies are a nice touch, and go a long way toward giving the impression that you're fighting for Something. The stage editor mode lets players knock up their own level designs -- it's a nice thought, but the resulting constructions come off feeling a little basic, a little generic; certainly not a patch on the pre-constructed, themed battle arenas already available.

The other Big Deal, of course, is the online multiplayer. Since this is a Nintendo game, and there are Japanese designer sensibilities and younger gamers to be protected, the online package deviates considerably from what you'd get in a PlayStation3 or Xbox 360 title. That means those infamous Friend Codes -- the purpose and justification if which is understandable, but in the end it does render the experience of fighting new online foes a bit on the clunky, impersonal side. Also, no voice chat online: Again, you can understand the why -- there are surprising numbers of online scumbags out there who have nothing better to do than mouth off in unpleasant ways -- but the resulting what, through no fault of the game itself, can ironically end up resembling a match against unaccountable artificial intelligence (AI) rather than live opponents we know and love or despise or whatever.

Still, though -- get three friends in the room (and maybe six cans of your energy and/or alcoholic drink of choice), and it is pretty good, senseless fun to watch Solid Snake wailing on Link, while some lemon-yellow Pokemonstrosity calls down unholy fire from the videogame ether. The Nintendog puppy that scrapes and paws at the screen, blocking all action behind him, is either a stroke of genius or an abomination... it's still not clear which.

At the end of the gaming day, it's a somewhat-improved, still-not-terribly-deep spin on the Super Smash Bros. Melee formula that looks about the same but sports some new wingdings, improvements and variety. If you loved the last game, nothing anybody says is going to change your mind anyway. However, if the last game left you feeling that the whole venture was almost a good game but otherwise not quite there yet, Brawl may be just the knock on the head you've been waiting for.

    TIP: To use Zero Suit Samus at the start of a match in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, first select Samus (Metroid chic in armor) on the character screen and then, at the "Ready to Fight" message, hold down the Z button on the Nunchuk or the R button if you're using the Classic or GameCube control configuration.

 
 
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Score:  4  (out of 5)