Hype can often times make or break a video game, and few Nintendo games in recent memory received the kind of pre-release publicity that Super Smash Bros. Brawl had, which included daily updates on the game’s official website. The reasons for the promotion and the anticipation among fans were many and varied. The game was the third title in the popular, inventive and critically praised series that pitted popular Nintendo characters against each other. It was a traditional-style video game for those players who had been so vocally pleading for more such releases for the Wii console. It was also the first Smash Bros. title to feature popular characters from non-Nintendo franchises, and it was also trumped up to be one of the deepest video game titles, perhaps of all time. With so much hype and anticipation, certainly there was no way that this 2008 release would be able to live up to the lofty expectations, right? And yet somehow, it did.
Gameplay (5 out of 5)
Buckle up for a long ride, because there’s a lot of cover in this department. First, the core gameplay engine, which is essentially the same as previous Super Smash Bros. games with some minor, but noteworthy, tweaks. At its core, this is a brawling-style fighting game, not unlike the Soul Calibur IV or the Mortal Kombat games except that up to four players can battle each other all at once. The rules are highly customizable, allowing players to choose exactly how they want to do battle. You can fight a regular-style match in which a gauge calculates a percentage based on how much damage your character has taken, or you could engage in a team match under sudden death rules, where each combatant comes into the battle having already sustained massive damage, or you could set up a tournament involving multiple brawlers. Each character has his or her own specific moves, but the basics are the same: everyone moves around the field, runs, jumps, ducks, performs both basic and high-powered smash attacks, can use weapons or items that appear on the field, and new for Brawl, can even pull off an awesome Final Smash attack if they’re lucky enough to acquire a Smash Ball item.
The Final Smashes are just one of the many new features added for this most recent Smash Bros. game. Another item, Assist Trophies, can be used to temporarily summon non-playable supporting characters to strike or blast the opposition. There is a full-blown, eight to ten hour long adventure mode, The Subspace Emissary, which by itself is deeper and more involving than many action games on the market today. There is a stage-builder which allows Brawl players to try their hands at creating their own levels to fight in, and upload them to Nintendo’s online servers for download if they so desire. Plus, thankfully, there are four different control schemes to choose from, and while you can opt to use the Wii remote and Nunchuck, the game also allows you to use a Gamecube controller or the Classic Controller, should you so desire. Last but certainly not least, players can take the fight online, battling against either friends or random opponents via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection. Add all of this to the one and two player Event Mode matches, the returning Target Smash and Home Run Derby minigames and the always deep set of unlockables (which in Brawl includes trophies, stickers, music, characters, stages, classic game demos and more), and you have a game that is hands down one of the most enjoyable and deepest video games that it has ever been my pleasure to play. I’ve been at this game for well over 100 hours already, and not only am I still loving every minute of it, but I still haven’t even come close to unlocking all of the content there is to unlock.
Character Roster (5 out of 5)
As mentioned earlier in this review, this marks the first appearance for non-Nintendo characters in a Super Smash Bros. game. Those characters would be Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series of video games. Joining them is essentially a "Who’s Who" of classic Nintendo heroes and villains, including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Wario and Bowser of Super Mario Bros. fame; Link, Zelda and Ganondorf from the Legend of Zelda; and other Nintendo stars such as Kirby, Starfox, Samus of Metroid fame, Fire Emblem heroes Ike and Marth, Pikachu, the Pokémon Trainer (complete with Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard), Earthbound’s Ness, Pit from Kid Icarus, the Ice Climbers and Captain Olimar from the Pikmin titles. As if that wasn’t enough, other famous and lesser-known characters have been added to the game as Assist Trophies, or make appearances as trophies and stickers. Super Smash Bros. Brawl has plenty of characters, each with varied strengths and weaknesses, but it’s more than that. In a lot of ways, this game is like Nintendo’s love letter to longtime video game fans.
Graphics and Sound (5 out of 5)
Each of those characters have been lovingly crafted, and are a good example of this game’s graphical prowess. Granted, there’s nothing here to rival the Xbox 360 or the PS3 in terms of quality, but the levels are well done and there are some great effects, particularly when it comes to the Final Smashes and some of the Assist Trophies, such as the screen-blocking giant Nintendo. Sound effects are great as well, and the voice acting, though somewhat limited, is pretty high quality as well. The real highlight here is the musical score, however. The opening song is simply breathtaking, and sets the tone for the rest of the score, which features reworked versions of classic gaming songs from countless franchises. Some three dozen different composers worked on Brawl’s soundtrack, and their efforts have produced something truly memorable. Best of all, there is an in-game music player, so as you unlock new songs, you can listen to them any time you wish. It’s another of those nice little touches that makes this game so darn easy to love.
Overall Rating (5 out of 5)
Super Smash Bros. is an absolute masterpiece. Perhaps the game could’ve looked a little better, and maybe it would’ve been nice if they had somehow found a way to cram in even more classic characters, but at this point its probably less actual flaw-finding and more wishful thinking. This is the very epitome of an evergreen game. There is so much content, so many different ways to play, so much to unlock and so much fun to be had that it quite simply will never get old. There are very few video game titles that are so good that they can be set forth as a game that everyone should own. Super Smash Bros. Brawl undoubtedly has earned a place among those elite video game classics.