I remember it as if it were yesterday. People would stay up late for something they called "JAPAN TIME" to see the latest update to the Smash Bros. Dojo website, prowling for any new information they could get on the newest Smash Bros. game. As gamers, of course, they'd bitch and moan like the little manchildren they are when the update was poor, and yell "the hype is incredible" and other unfunny memes when the update was impressive. (If you haven't guessed yet, I really hate the gaming subculture.)
Nonetheless, Super Smash Bros. Brawl hit store shelves in March of 2008 in North America, and with it battles were raged online and off. There were multiple components in the game from the story-heavy Subspace Emissary to the rich multiplayer modes to the rich roster of Nintendo all-stars... and Wolf O'Donnell.
The Subspace Emissary was a story-based affair where players tried to stop a being known as the Ancient Minister from turning Nintendo's stars into trophies. To do battle with the incoming threat, the characters of Smash Bros. Brawl must work together, playing through bland side-scrolling levels based on various locales from jungles to castles to mines. In-between the somewhat mediocre gameplay of the SSE, sometimes humorous, sometimes just plain awesome cutscenes would show Nintendo's all-stars mingling with one another like never before. Adding to the burden of the SSE, to be fair, this mode could be played cooperatively for a funner time, was the ending Great Maze-- a place where players needed to run through a labyrinth of doorways, passages, and boss battles to take down the evil Tabuu once and for all. While the mode was more enjoyable with a buddy to play along, the SSE still was a tad disappointing. The lack of memorable enemies, tedious levels, and uneventful battles led to a drawl experience overall. However, it still outperforms many a-game's sole story modes. I'm looking at you, Street Fighter 4. Additionally, there were a multitude of modes in Brawl from 100 men brawls to Classic mode which plays like your traditional Arcade mode in any other fighter to All-Star and Mission modes.
Multiplayer is seriously where it's at, and unfortunately online was something of broken when wanting to search randomly for an opponent. This was never fixed, by the way. However, Wi-Fi with friends worked perfectly. I never found a reason to fight with someone I didn't know, so that did not bother me. Regardless of that, local multiplayer is where it's at with all the trash-talking, laughter, and enjoyment. The game was stocked to the brim with characters, and this time when they knocked open a Smash Ball, they could perform a Final Smash attack, new to the series. These Final Smashes were ultra-powerful attacks that could K.O. an opponent or group of assailants in one shot. For instance, Mario would unleash a flurry of fireballs from his fists to take out anyone foolish enough to stand in his way. Meanwhile, some Final Smashes were less than stellar. In fact, three characters shared one Final Smash, the Landmaster, which reeked of laziness. Would have hurt to have an Arwing Final Smash, Sakurai? Other than that minor problem, Final Smashes were an awesome addition to the series.
For those of you unaware of how the Smash Bros. series works, it is unlike most fighting games. Instead of having a health bar that goes down, your character has a percentage that goes up each time he or she takes damage. The higher the damage, the more your character gets tossed around and can go off the screen. If your character gets knocked off the screen either above, below, or far to the left or right, that counts as a K.O. Smash is unlike other fighters as battles can be with up to four contenders, and items can be used from motion-sensor bombs to home run bats. Anything and everything can be used as a weapon.
Speaking of characters, the selection was quite good, too. Perhaps if we hadn't been spoiled by the SSB Dojo website of coming characters, it would have been more surprising to see characters like Pit from Kid Icarus, Captain Olimar from Pikmin, Diddy Kong, and King Dedede, Kirby's sworn nemesis. Each character had a multitude of attacks that were as simple as holding up a direction on the analog stick or d-pad and pressing a button to perform said attack. It was an easy to learn, hard to master scenario seen in many Nintendo games and even some other recent fighters. (Yep, I called Smash a fighter, why don't you cry about it on another blog?)
More alive than the characters themselves were the arenas players could fight in. There were a handful of past stages from Melee such as Pokemon Stadium 1, Onett, and Big Blue, plus there were a plethora of new arenas to do battle in from knocking Luigi's Mansion down to rubble to dishing out punishment on a Mario Kart track. Each stage was brimming with personality and obstacles to get in players' way like a hungry and menacing pillbug in Captain Olimar's stage to fast and lethal vehicles in Captain Falcon's Port Town stage. There were a couple of duds here and there such as Flat Zone 2 and Hannebow, but other than those, the stage creation and selection were top-notch. Even if you didn't like a single stage in Brawl, you could create your own, albeit simple arenas with Smash Bros. Brawl's level creation tool. If you're not doing that, you can always collect the 500+ trophies and stickers that showcase the history of Nintendo through figurines.
The soundtrack of Brawl was unlike any other in the history of the industry. Never before had so many composers and arrangers leaped into one project to compose, arrange, and remix new versions of old themes from Mario to Zelda, Pokemon to Pikmin, and Kirby to F-Zero. All-in-all, there were over 100 new remixes and themes made by over fifty composers of the likes of Nobuo Uematsu, Motoi Sakuraba, and Yoko Shimomura. While not orchestrated, which is a shame, the music all the same sounded great with the high-quality synthesized music used.
Brawl is a megaton higher in graphical quality than Melee. Yes, it's slower. Yes, there's tripping involved (which in my playthroughs happens less than 10% of the time). Yes, it's not Melee. If you want Melee, play Melee. The character models themselves are just gorgeous as are the sensational stages. There's little touches everywhere in backgrounds and foregrounds to make arenas feel extra special. Special effects like explosions and Final Smash attacks look incredible as well. There's something here for everyone, and it's all without much slowdown (only shows up when things get REALLY crazy).
Overall, Super Smash Bros. Brawl may not have lived up to many fans' insane hype, but for me, it certainly did. The character roster is awesome with the inclusion of third party characters like Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog. (Mario VS. Sonic? My inner child is brimming from ear-to-ear.). The arenas are well-crafted and full of fun, there's many modes to choose from, many collectibles to gather, and many hours of sitting in front of the television with your friends or relatives that you won't have time to breathe! Perhaps that's hyperbole, but you get my drift!
Have a game that you'd love to see get the RE: treatment? Let me know in the comments section!