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Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Wii

Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Wii

SSBB_CoverPlatform:  Wii

Release Date (NA):  March 9th, 2008

Developer:  Sora Ltd., Game Arts, et al.

Publisher:  Nantandur Nintendo

Genre:  Fighting, Platformer

Nerd Rating: A begrudging 8.5 out of 10




“Sakurai: (laughs)”

RETROSPECTIVE (Click Here if you want to skip to the review).

I had never been more hyped for a game than I was for Brawl. From the very first trailer, the game seemed tailor-made for me. When I browsed the trophies in Super Smash Bros. Melee, I wondered why such obvious inclusions like Diddy, Wario, Metaknight, and Pit didn’t make it into the roster. Metroid had yet to give me a proper 3D rendering of what was underneath that power suit. With the unveiling of the Wii remote, I worried about the ramifications such a controller would have on games that wouldn’t benefit from motion controls. In one fell swoop, Brawl’s initial reveal addressed almost all of these concerns (Diddy would come later).



And then there was Snake.

Sordid Snacks Confirmed

Sordid Snacks Confirmed.

I couldn’t – and to some extent still don’t – believe Solid fucking Snake was on the roster. I wasn’t even a big Metal Gear fan back then, but I was excited.

I’m convinced Brawl invented the hype train. Through several last-minute delays, fans were forced to clench their anuses ever-tighter with anticipation. Sakurai’s daily updates on the Dojo website were like reading revelations from God. There was one point in my life where my natural rhythm adjusted itself to wake up at 2:30 every morning, just to check the latest updates. And you know what? I used the Wii browser to do it.

Sakurai, the master troll, would tease us with his commentary, taunt us in his interviews, and keep us on the edges of our seats–who was going to be in the game? It was such a brilliant move to reveal Snake from the start, because no one, I mean NO ONE, would have ever considered it in a million years. With Snake in, ANYONE was fair game – Goku, Geno, Nelson Mandela, even Jesus Christ himself. Or Sonic.

Tensions were high, debates raged. Once again the world was plunged into the depths of Cold War.

It is always cold in Siberia...

It is always cold…in Siberia ):

“Sonic couldn’t be in, that’s ridiculous.”

“Sonic is Nintendo’s rival. He’s a shoe-in.”

I joined fan sites, which I never do. I joined coalitions championing for Ridley’s inclusion. Who would get in? No one knew for sure, but every day was another potential revelation.

And that’s how we got our news, piecemeal. Bit-by-bit. Spread out over a period of years. Everything else was analysis, rumor, and speculation.

And the information kept coming. Final Smashes! Custom-mapped controls! Oh man, a story mode! Boss battles, music selections, Zelda still turns into Sheik! You can save replays! You can take snapshots at any time! You can play online.  You can build your own stages. More and more the game started sounding like the miracle product, the panacea, the world’s first legitimate snake-oil cure for every ailment that ever afflicted the human race.

Grown men wept at screenshots like these.

Grown men wept at these screenshots.

But we wanted more.

“Is Sonic gonna be in?”

“Sakurai said he only considered having one or two third-party characters.”

“That means there’s more than one!”

“Mega Man?”

“Don’t be dense. That would NEVER happen.”

March 28th, 2007, Sega and Nintendo announce Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. The trailer premieres at E3 2007.

The forums EXPLODE. “Confirmed for Brawl” trends on Google. Skirmishes break out on the Indo-Pakistani border, North Korea realizes it isn’t relevant, Fidel Castro reveals Cuba has been a perfect paradise all this time and people were only escaping because Utopian society is boring. Were these signs of the apocalypse or the dawn of a new age in human history? The world was at stake. Everything depended on Sonic – on Brawl. Everything depended on Sonic being in Brawl.

October 9th, 2007: He’s in.



The world collapses in on itself and the barrier between dreams and reality dissolves into nothingness. This is it; this is the perfect game. There is no greater height than what we have reached; this is the apex of human history. Right?

Sakurai tried to caution us. He told us, outright, that it wouldn’t be everything we wanted. For starters, not everyone from Melee was coming back.

“No clones” – some vague statement made somewhere by some-certain-Sakurai-someone that Brawl would only contain characters with unique playstyles and movesets. Would Ness not be coming back? Lucas was in, and he played like Ness. But…but Ness was one of the originals, someone who had been there from the very 64-bit start. Surely he’d be back? Otherwise…why would Sakurai even mention him? What about Mewtwo? Ganondorf? I thought for certain that Falco was out. My heart was broken preemptively; my favorite Smash fighter, one of my favorite Nintendo characters period – I knew, knew, that he would not be coming back.

We would later discover that Brawl's online play was run by a single Gateway desktop using Windows NT 3.51.

We would later discover that Brawl’s online play was supported by a single Gateway desktop running Windows NT 3.51.

Fears and doubts only intensified as the game was pushed back further and further. Wii releases dried up. Sakurai himself said online play would use friend codes, have lag, and lack voice chat. He even told us to use Skype if voice chat bothered us so much. There would be no DLC, so if your character didn’t make it in, tough titty. That last point was fair enough, if a little disappointing. But then there came the news from people who had actually gotten a chance to play Brawl at various events.

Brawl was floaty. Brawl was laggy. Brawl was unbalanced. Characters randomly tripped. Wavedashing was out. Okay, fair enough on Wavedashing, it wasn’t meant to be in Melee anyway.

L-canceling was also out.

‘Scuse me, wut?

Finally, we found out the international release was canned in favor of a staggered approach. Japan got it first, and all we could do was wait. Of course, all the characters and stages were unlocked within a day, YouTube videos spoiled the rest of the roster, and the updates lost their luster. The hype train had finally hit the brakes and was now cruising smoothly into the station. Despite my worries and despite my fears, I stood in line on launch night, even dragged a not-entirely-willing friend along. I played it during finals week, when I really should have been studying. I did all the event matches, blasted through the story, sunk a hundred hours into just about everything. Was it worth it? Well…it depends.



dat efficiency

Brawl is a big game. I mean, Brawl is a REALLY big game. I have never seen a game that throws so many things at the player. Like Kirby’s Air Ride before it and Kid Icarus: Uprising after, Brawl uses a simple, elegant menu to organize everything. It’s an impressive feat, because I mean it, there’s a LOT here. Almost too much.

Brawl’s issue is that it throws a lot of content at the wall, but not all of it sticks. Like a packet of decade-old Post-it Notes, everything SHOULD stick, but a lot of the adhesive has peeled off or dried up, and it’s one of those packs with a bunch of different colors but not an equal number of notes per color. There’s plenty of yellow, but not enough green. Put differently, some things were obviously given more priority, and thus feel more fleshed out and integral to the packet, er…game. The irony is that in giving us so much, Brawl only made us want more…because what was there wasn’t enough.

We got online play, but we wanted better online play. We got a stage builder, but it felt half-assed and bare bones. Having an actual story mode was amazing, but the execution was underwhelming. We got more event matches, but they paled in comparison to the ones we got in Melee. Most of all, we got the Masterpiece collection, which is actually the most pointless thing I’ve seen in any game ever. And I played Night Trap, dammit.

Since gamers are terminally depressed, lonely, pointless social rejects, let’s start with the single-player modes. All of Melee‘s modes return in Brawl: Adventure Mode, Classic Mode, Event Matches, Multi-Man Brawl, Break the Targets, Home Run Contest, and Training.

Home Run Contest has been improved with the addition of a barrier between the platform and the field, which makes it easier to wail on Sandbag before you send him careening into the stratosphere. There’s also a co-op option, but who cares about that? I don’t need friends, I have Yoshi.

I'm so lonely.

I’m so lonely.

board the platformsMulti-Man hasn’t really changed much; it’s just a little harder, and the Fighting Polygon Team is back (rejoice!). Break the Targets has been renamed “Target Smash,” and…it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Smash 64 and Melee had individualized courses for each fighter. Brawl streamlines the process with five standardized courses that can be completed by each character. There’s something…”nice” about that, but I would rather have individualized courses. Then again, I’ve never been a big fan of Break the Targets, so it’s no real loss for me.

Then there’s the meat of Single Player mode. Classic’s been nerfed. I’m not sure how that happened, but trust me, it was more memorable in Smash 64 and Melee. It feels incredibly phoned-in in Brawl, and that’s disappointing. There’s not much more to say about it. All Star Mode is mostly unchanged, but I think it’s been trumped by the new Boss Rush mode.

Speaking of Boss Rush, Adventure Mode received a complete overhaul and is now dubbed “The Subspace Emissary.” I personally would have named it “It’s the Thought That Counts.”

On paper, Subspace Emissary sounds pretty awesome. It’s the first time a Smash game is given an actual story line. By the very nature of the franchise, that means this story has all of Nintendo’s biggest names interacting with one another. In a plot. And there’s something cool about that. The story is nothing spectacular, but gameplay is interspersed with high-quality CG cutscenes that give an epic feeling to the experience. In classic Nintendo fashion, the entire story is pantomimed, and every other gesture, camera-cut, or plot device is as whimsical as it is tongue-in-cheek. So the cutscenes are nice, but the gameplay is nothing to write three thousand words about.

A resounding "meh."

A resounding “meh.”

Subspace is a more fleshed out experience than Melee‘s Adventure Mode, but without the cutscenes it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable. Melee‘s Adventure Mode was a short and sweet love letter to past Nintendo worlds, having characters run through iconic areas (such as Mario levels and Zelda dungeons) and occasionally fighting iconic baddies like Goombas. Brawl takes the platforming and expands it into an entire ten-plus hour campaign. Unfortunately, it replaces the iconic locales with bland, generic locations – here’s a jungle, here’s a spooky industrial complex, here’s a canyon. That’ll be fifty dollars. To its credit, he campaign has unique enemy designs, but most of them look like uninspired rehashings of the Nobodies from Kingdom Hearts. Only the final boss really stands out to me (the music for that fight is incredible, by the way).

A gameplay mode as polished as my cropping skills. R.O.B. is cool, though.

A gameplay mode as polished as my cropping skills. R.O.B. is cool, though.

Sadly, the biggest nail in Subspace’s coffin is the gameplay itself. Somehow things took a step back in the transition between Melee and Brawl. Sakurai went on record to say he adjusted character movement and attack physics in Subspace to be more conducive to platforming. For example, Lucas’ jump is much higher in multiplayer mode than it is in Subspace. Unfortunately, this creates a stark contrast between how you expect a character to control…and how they actually control. Platforming never comes naturally in Subspace. There’s just something about the physics that don’t click, and the problem’s only made more frustrating by the fact that the game shoehorns the fighting mechanics in as well. Enemies have health bars.  You don’t. You have knockback.  Enemies don’t. The end result is you’ll be sent flying around the screen by bland, generic enemies while you try to awkwardly navigate your way through a series of bland, generic platforms.

There are some saving graces. The game employs an interesting “sticker system,” wherein the stickers you collect in single- and multi-player can be applied to the underside of a character’s trophy. Stickers offer different abilities to up character traits such as projectile attack strength, jump height, arm attack strength, etc. The catch is that the stickers must be arranged so that they can all fit on the trophy; you can’t outright overpower a character by attaching every sticker that you get. Secondly, once a sticker is used, it can’t be taken back. You’ll either have to find a replacement or weep at your loss. Oh, the boss fights are cool too, even if they wave Ridley around just out of my reach.



Like I said, Subspace is a noble but flawed effort. Fortunately, it’s the easiest way to unlock all the characters. Unfortunately, there’s little reason to play through it again…but you can’t transfer Brawl data between Wiis. That means that if you ever brick your Wii and have to get a replacement, you’re going to have to set a weekend aside just to slog through the damn campaign again. That or play like eight million multiplayer matches. Does it sound like I’m glazing over a lot of things I should be explaining? Trust me, there’s a reason. This is a big review, people; we still have a long way to go. Buckle up, it’s time to talk about multiplayer.

As a pure party game, Brawl is incredible. There’s a lot to do, and most of it is fun. With 35 (give or take) characters, 41 stages, over 50 items, finishing moves, a ton of customization options, and a variety of game modes, the game gives you plenty to work with.

Presentation is second to none. Visually, this is up there with Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption as one of the best-looking games on the system. Even the menus are top notch. Vibrant, bright, and flashy, the menus are full of fun animations, icons, big buttons, dials, sliders, and every other doohickey ever. It’s all really, really fun and pretty. Make it a design language. Patent it. Put that shit on the Google Play Store.

Jelly Bean, Kit-Kat, Brawlcoli.

Jelly Bean, Kit-Kat, Brawlcoli.

Character models are large and detailed. You can see the stitching on Mario’s overalls, the fur on Nana and Popo’s parkas, and the pink on Kirby’s everything. For some reason, Bowser and Link particularly stand out to me as the most impressive. With the exception of certain elements of the Subspace Emissary, everything POPS – characters, stages, backgrounds – all of them are amazing. Some of the most impressive stages have the fighters soaring through gorgeously detailed environments. My personal favorites include Delfino Plaza, Lylat Cruise, and Final Destination.

lylat cruise


Additionally, every character has distinct animations and attack stances. Simply glancing at a character gives you an idea of their playstyle and personality. Samus, both in and out of her suit, is cool, cautious, and analytical. Likewise, Mario’s ditched his jolly psychosis from Smash 64 and Melee and donned the visage of a man who’s seen some real shit.

No lie, IGN saved me a lot of work.

No lie, IGN saved me a lot of work.

Falco, the best character in any video game ever, has a shit-talking smirk on his face and struts around the stage like he’s Bruce fucking Lee. Look at him, he knows he’s awesome.

God you are so cool.

“That grenade ain’t gonna do shit, pal.”

Pretty as it looks, there are some visual shortcomings that remind us that Brawl is an SD game. The game can look pixelated on larger and or HD displays, and there’s some pretty bad aliasing on certain levels (anything with ladders, for instance. Still, this is a very small criticism.  Brawl makes up for its 480p visuals with large fonts and menus, bright colors, and bold textures. Playing a 4 player match on Final Destination (with all items turned on) is asking for an overdose of smoke, thunder, fire, and fog. It’s a spectacle, like looking at a pile of gemstones sitting atop a glimmering, golden glacier that’s jutting out of a shimmering ocean. At sunset. Under a glittery, starry sky. Filled with fireworks.

See, see? I told you.

See, see? I told you.

It’s great, I like it. And I like you. We should go out sometime. If we get close enough to one another, I’ll sing you the song of my people, which, coincidentally, is the theme song to Brawl. God, I love the sounds in this game. The visuals are great but the music is even better. You unlock musical tracks by collecting CDs, which randomly drop in matches and certain single-player modes. And there are a lot of  CDs, because the soundtrack is gargantuan. Rock Band can suck it, Brawl has one of the best soundtracks in gaming. To be fair, it has a 30-year backlog of gaming history at its disposal. What does Rock Band have? The history of Rock and Roll?




All the classic Marios and Zeldurs and Sanicz are here; all the obscure tunes from Metroid areas you didn’t care about; all the beeps and boops and bleeps of the original Mario Bros. What isn’t ripped straight from the source material is given original compositions, jazzy remixes, power rock ballads, heavy metal arrangements, and even some orchestrations. The best part? You can choose what you want to play and how often you want to play it. S’great.

Did I mention there are a lot of characters?

Did I mention there are a lot of characters?

I love the character, combat, and item sounds, especially the THUNK of a big-ass sword in someone’s torso. The only sound I don’t like is Mario’s up-smash. It’s stupid. Shit sounds like he’s sneezing. Or playing tennis.



With the inclusion of Final Smashes and even more dynamic stage designs than Melee, Brawl is the ultimate party game. Unfortunately, it falls flat on its face at a competitive level. There’s an unavoidable eye-roll when you mention competitive Smash, and I understand that. Fighting fans don’t consider it a real fighting game, and purists maintain the game isn’t meant to be competitive. Well, yeah. Same with Pokemon, Marvel vs. Capcom, or Call of Duty. The thing of it is, people can play things competitively. Smash is no exception. If you can play it that way, and you enjoy it, then who’s to stop you? I enjoy playing Smash one-on-one with no items just as much as I enjoy playing it with four people and everything turned on. On Poke Floats. Whatever, it’s fun, and Smash 64 and Melee give you that option.


The most balanced arena ever.

Brawl makes it a bit more difficult. More than any other variable, Brawl‘s greatest affront to both the competitive and casual crowds is the inclusion of random tripping. If we were given the option to disable it, it’d be forgivable. You can’t, so it isn’t. Tripping adds an unavoidable and disadvantageous element of randomness that can completely screw you over.

Issue two is mechanics. Brawl is a much floatier game than its predecessors, which is especially jarring for players coming from Melee. Fox, who dropped like a rock in Melee, can easily stay in the air for upwards of a minute by spamming his down special while airborne – and he’s still one of the fastest fallers. That’s really damn floaty. This in itself isn’t an issue, but the mechanical tweaks turn it into a problem. That’s because, well…brawl3

…The original Smash is like a cobra. Most of the time it’s slow moving, but when it strikes, it hits fast. When you got hit in Smash 64, you knew if you were screwed or not. You were sent rocketing across the screen. Melee is like a cheetah – it’s just fast in general, but there are brief stints where things get even faster.

Brawl is like a T. Rex walking on the surface of the moon. Matches drag on because it’s a lot harder to land a K.O., especially an aerial one. Hitstun is less prominent, and characters have a lot more directional influences when in the air. As a result, combos, the foundation of most every fighting game, are nigh impossible to execute in Brawl with any degree of consistency. In fact, the only combos you can do are usually broken and unavoidable, which leads to a much, much more frustrating problem: Brawl is unbalanced. Like, more than Melee. It’s depressing, because at first it seemed more balanced. Many characters (Bowser in particular) received buffs in the transition between games, while many of Melee‘s titans received considerable nerfs. Unfortunately, the initial impression of a more even playing field was just that, an impression.

Insane recovery moves, gliding, disjointed hitboxes, chain-grabs, infinite combos, and Meta Knight all plague Brawl with balance problems. The lack of hitstun encourages a slow, campy, defensive game. Essentially, Brawl punishes you if you try to go on the offensive. Unless you’re Meta Knight.

Yet even all of these balancing and combo issues don’t bother me. They don’t detract from the fun unless you’re really, really invested in the competitive scene. No, what bothers me is the tripping and another big issue that I didn’t even mention: frame buffers on controller inputs. The first two games had your attacks and actions coming out the instant you executed them. Brawl, for whatever reason, added a significant delay – which makes the whole game feel laggy and sloppy. It’s fitting that this is the most subtle yet single most frustrating undercurrent in all of Brawl‘s design decisions, because, well…


Brawl is a flawed game. There are plenty of things wrong with it, and some of them don’t get an easy pass. What makes it so difficult to rate is that there’s a lot here that’s really, really good. Matches are a blast no matter how grumpy and cynical of a Melee veteran you are; you just realize it could have been even better with some small tweaks. Between Melee and BrawlBrawl is the one you want for a straight-up good time. Speaking objectively, it’s a much more polished experience than its predecessors, as most of its frustrating elements, whether we like them or not, were intentional design decisions.

I’ve seen Melee‘s gameplay described as “a beautiful accident,” and it’s a fitting title. Like the combos of Street Fighter 2, Melee has a lot of accidents and unintended gameplay mechanics that make it fun to play at a competitive level. Brawl attempted to correct these mistakes, and in some cases it suffered as a result. Additional nitpicks (like the fact that Ganondorf is still a clone of Captain Falcon or that characters still don’t have alternate costumes) is just weird, nasty neon-green icing on a crooked, uneven, but otherwise delicious cake. Made of Post-it Notes.




* – I love The Beatles.

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon


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  1. Pingback: Super Monkey Ball Deluxe - Xbox - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. Great 100% NBXTREME artwork! G makes a HOT Samus, and Chris has got a very Mario-esque thing going there.

    Since publishing this, I’ve actually endeavored to play lots and lots of Smash Bros. I’ve dabbled with all 3 for at least a couple of hours each, but it’s been Brawl that I’ve been REALLY drawn to. Been playing it A LOT in my spare time (yeah, that’s right, when I should’ve been doing NB stuff) and I still have 2 or 3 dudes left to unlock.

    Get ready for Cubie’s subpar-to-Nike’s review of SSB Brawl!

  3. Excellent review. Exactly how I feel about Brawl, especially when compared to Melee. I miss the excitement of the Dojo, and I can’t believe they didn’t use it again this time; they’ve really limited themselves by posting the daily screenshot on Miiverse. Smash 4 seems to be some crazy hybrid of Melee and Brawl, so I’m excited 😀


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