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Critical Reception: Nintendo/Game Arts' Super Smash Bros. Brawl

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a new entry in Nintendo's trademark fighting game series that critics describe as "completely engrossing" and "more accessible and fun than ever before."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

March 12, 2008

6 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a new entry in Nintendo's trademark fighting game series that critics describe as "completely engrossing" and "more accessible and fun than ever before." More than five years after its initial worldwide release, the franchise crossover fighter Super Smash Bros. Melee remains one of the Nintendo GameCube's most popular and most sought-after releases. Demand for the title continues to run high, even long after the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, and it endures as a favorite among both casual players and hardcore fans. The Nintendo Wii sequel to Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, debuted earlier this week in North America. Though many wondered if it could meet fan expectations and live up to the high standards of gameplay quality set by Melee, Brawl earns the title of "Universal acclaim" from Metacritic with an average review score of 96 out of 100. Brett Elston at Games Radar awards Super Smash Bros. Brawl a score of 10 out of 10. "The core game, where you pick your favorite Nintendo mascot and bang away at 34 other classic characters, is wholly intact and just as smooth, addictive and deceptively deep as it was on the N64 and GameCube," he writes. "It's completely engrossing and will hands-down be the one game you and your friends will be playing for months to come - if not years." Elston gives early mention of Brawl's online functionality. "Brawl's biggest addition, other than adding Snake and Sonic perhaps, is Wi-Fi Connection support, and it functions... fairly well," he notes. "If you're brawling with pals off your Friend Code list, the experience should be generally clean and lag-free. However, our attempts to play random opponents led to more than one unplayable choppy scrap that ended in disconnection." "Moving down the list of important additions we come to the level editor," Elston continues. "The more you play, the more pieces you unlock for the editor, so there's definitely an incentive to keep trudging through the main game well after you've unlocked every character." "So, what's the final verdict?" Elston asks. "We have to go with a 10. It's Wii's equivalent of Halo 3, a sequel that didn't change much at the core, but piled so much extra content on top that you'd be a damn fool to pass it up. It'll outlast Twilight Princess, it'll outsell Mario Galaxy and it'll most likely stay tucked inside your Wii for untold months to come (at least until Mario Kart comes out)." Over at GameSpot, Lark Anderson rates Brawl at 9.5 out of 10. "No matter whether you're a diehard Smash Bros. fanatic or a neophyte brawler," he asserts, "you'll be pleased to know that Super Smash Bros. Brawl includes a plethora of impressive characters, features, and game modes, and is more accessible and fun than ever before." Anderson gives special mention to Brawl's friendly and configurable control scheme. "Smash Bros. has always been one of the most accessible fighting games on the market because of the simplicity of its controls, and Brawl is no different," he says. "In the interests of user friendliness, Brawl offers four possible control schemes, which ensures that everyone can play whichever way they like." "Each of these methods are equally viable," Anderson continues, "and fans of Brawl's predecessor will be happy to know that the GameCube controls remain unchanged." Customization extends to other parts of gameplay as well, according to Anderson. "Gravity, fighter size, and game speed are just a few of the options, with some of the more outlandish possibilities being whether or not your characters are made of metal," he describes. "Both special brawl matches and regular battles let you customize which items are allowed and how often items will spawn, what kinds of handicaps--if any--are in place, how stages are selected, and more." Though much of Brawl focuses on multiplayer competition, Anderson finds that the single-player and cooperative Subspace Emissary adventure mode is satisfying as well. "The subspace emissary consists almost entirely of side-scrolling platforming levels that are filled with the usual bottomless pits, moving platforms, and enemies, and each one is designed to resemble some of the games that the characters are from," he says. The mode isn't without its faults, however. "These platforming levels are for the most part well designed and fun to play, but there are some--in particular the automatically scrolling ones--that the game could have done without," Anderson criticizes, "and there are some characters that just don't seem to handle platforming as well as others." Andreson finds that Subspace Emissary is otherwise entertaining, however, and adds value to the overall package. "With the inclusion of mostly lag-free online play and the ability to share screenshots, custom levels, and game replays with friends, it offers an unparalleled multiplayer experience previously unseen on the Wii," he concludes. "Mix in all of the unlockable characters and stages, the lengthy single-player adventure, and the exorbitant number of collectible trophies and stickers to find, and you've got yourself the recipe for a game that, if its predecessors are any indication, people will be playing for years to come." GameSpy's Gerald Villoria contributes a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. "Pitting your favorite characters against one another never gets old," he writes. "There's something appealing about imagining your heroes duking it out, even if they should technically be on the same side. It's this exercise in 'what if?' fanboyism that fuels the ultimate in interactive fan service for the videogames generation, Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Brawl." Though Villoria shares much of the same praise other reviewers have for Brawl, he notes that some aspects come up short. Online play is noted as being a potential disappointment for some. "Voice chat is not an option, for one, and likely won't ever be, thanks to what must be the Japanese company's desire to create a safe environment for younger gamers," he cautions. "This may be why Wii owners are saddled with Friend Codes, those unwieldy identifier numbers that keep online players from getting together quickly or efficiently." "You can face off against random people without exchanging friend codes, but you won't be able to get together again after a well-played match, for example, since names aren't revealed," Villoria continues. "It's an online system that ends up feeling very much like playing against computer-controlled opponents, as it's all very faceless and impersonal." The Subspace Emissary is described as being another of Brawl's weaker points. "The fine-tuned jumping mechanics needed for platformers just aren't built into all of the Brawl characters," Villoria explains. "You'll want to play through this mode to watch the delightfully bizarre and humorous cut-scenes, not to mention the unlocking of all sorts of goodies, but if this mode were a standalone game, it wouldn't rate very highly." "Super Smash Bros. Brawl isn't a giant leap forward from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but it didn't have to be," Villoria notes in conclusion. "While the single-player stuff, and in particular the story mode, don't do much to improve upon the core appeal of the game, the actual fighting is just as much fun as ever. If the community takes off, online play will keep this one on your Wii long after your friends have gone home for the night." Though critics caution that anticipated features and additions like online play may fail to live up to expectations, none question the quality of Brawl's core gameplay, which by all accounts remains just as entertaining as Melee's. Reviewers agree that those who bought Melee for its multiplayer component will likely find just as much fun in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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