Published on June 27th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
A Review of Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Could it Truly Surpass Melee?
Year: 2008 // System: Nintendo Wii // Publisher: Nintendo // Developer: HAL Laboratory // Director: Masahiro Sakurai // Genre: Fighting
>>> Sometimes you’ll write a song or craft a poem, look it over, and then think to yourself, “My God, this may be my best work yet! How can I possibly write something that tops this?” Human nature nowadays is geared to outdo itself, and this is especially true with video game companies. Developers will stumble upon a game that is deemed “perfect” and “insurmountable,” yet given the industry’s continuously evolving nature, companies seek the next game in the series that will suddenly eclipse the “perfect” nature of the prior release. Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Timeall elevated gaming quality to a new height, and yet, with higher powered systems sporting lifelike graphics on the rise, critics and gamers thought it only a matter of time before those above-mentioned titles fell off the map and were buried by newer titles with far more extensive game play mechanics.
But it wasn’t meant to be. People didn’t forget the “lesser” games. That’s why emulators were invented. It gave players an easier way to access the best titles of their childhood and slip into a wondrous world of nostalgia. Also, I know several who still have their GameCube, N64 and Super Nintendo systems. So when a new game in a series comes out, it doesn’t automatically become the best entry just because it features prettier graphics or a wider array of options. Some series can pull it off…specifically the Gran Turismo franchise…but sometimes creators hit their peak of creativity and may spend their lives trying to get to that point.
HAL Laboratory had by 2001 hit the peak of its creativity with the Smash Bros series. Melee blew everyone away with its competitive spirit, interesting roster, and engrossing depth. It was such an involving fighter that it became part of several video game tournaments, gave non-Nintendo fans an incentive to buy the GameCube, and continues to be played by thousands of loyal fans all over eleven years after its release.
But wait! Didn’t a third entry in the Smash Bros. series come out four years ago? Given HAL Laboratory’s creative genius and the Wii’s higher graphic capabilities, wouldn’t all fans of the series have shifted over to Super Smash Bros. Brawl by now? It has more characters, a far more engaging Adventure mode, hilarious items, and long-awaited additional characters such as Wario, Solid Snake, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Zero Suit Samus! So, what gives? Why do fans appear split on Melee and Brawl?
For starters, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is undoubtedly a good game. There’s a reason that thoughtful souls out there DO contest the opinion that Brawl didn’t surpass the quality and playability of Melee. Stevesesy considers the Wii Smash his favorite of the two contenders. More players can get into this fighter and do well, regardless of their experience with previous fighting games or the Smash Bros. franchise. Characters look more natural and possess dynamic, individual fighting styles. The following strengths gave Brawl an edge over its predecessors and give players reason to believe it’s the best that Smash Bros has served up so far:
More of Everything (Challenge: +2, Innovation: +2, Core Experience: +3)
The character roster expanded from 24 in Melee to 35, with specific fighters allowing you to rotate between two or three sub-fighters. More items came into play such as the adorable Nintendog that obstructed the screen, a variety of assist characters including Isaac from Golden Sun, new pokemon items from the third and fourth generations, and the deadly Smash Balls that were as fun to use as they were to watch for each character’s “Final Smash.” It’s how we found out that Mario knows how to do the Kamayamaya, Kirby’s stew packs a mean punch, and Luigi…may be involved…in some illegal stuff…
Smash Bros. Brawl also expands its key solo modes fromMelee.All-Star and Boss Battles come in to replace the Classic mode from the previous entry, the Event mode grows to feature 41 single-player and 21 two-player events… each stage featuring three different difficulties…and Stadium Mode returns with the addition of a cooperative/competitive multiplayer option.
But perhaps no solo mode received a more impressive overhaul than that of the side-scrolling Adventure Mode.
The Subspace Emissary (Challenge: +2, Innovation: +2, Core Experience: +2)
If the player doesn’t want to partake in tournament style fighting or wants to deal with the stress of taking on his friends who display more fighting finesse, then the newly designed adventure in Brawl offers a wonderful respite from all worries. The side-scrolling format returns, but this time, it brings in a story complete with cutscenes. Unlike in Melee’s Adventure, you don’t select a character from the beginning, but rather you choose from the limited selection given to you, and from that point you play with those characters until you eventually grow your roster to include most entries from the game. In SSE you face a new batch of villains known as the Subspace Army, who employ in their ranks both original enemies, as well as familiar faces from previous Nintendo franchises, such as Ridley from Metroid and Rayquaza from Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald.
At the helm of the SSE sits one of the coolest and most underrated villains Nintendo has ever procured, known as Tabuu. Each level in the SSE mode employs a team system, allowing the player to enter each stage with a certain number of fighters. Choosing the best fighters depended on the obstacles presented by each stage and the weakpoints of the level’s enemies and bosses. Sakurai had before expressed his desire to make a “deep single-player game” but had until Brawl been required by Shigeru Miyamoto to focus more strongly on the multiplayer aspects in the first two Smash games. What this did was change the balance in the Wii’s premier fighter from a competitive tournament-style game to a beat-em-up styled adventure/platformer with an extensive realm of fighting modes on the side. But the SSE Adventure certainly took many-a-nostalgic player back to the glory days of side-scrolling goodness.
Brawl certainly featured the most content with the deepest story of any of the SMB entries, as well as a humorous means of uncovering character bios from Snake’s perspective via Codec in the Shadow Moses stage. But further inspection of the mechanics revealed a less graceful fighter with an extremely frustrating pacing.
Controller Variety is But Smoke and Mirrors (Handling: +1)
Brawl allowed you to play with one of four controllers: the Nun-chuck, Wiimote, GameCube controller or Classic handle. However, the GameCube controller was the only true means of playing Brawl the way it was meant to be played since it replicates the same exact control scheme with a couple of adjustments regarding use of the Smash Ball. All buttons are far more accessible, but the issue is that you need to buy a GameCube controller for the Wii in case you don’t have a G.C. console stashed away somewhere.The problem with using the Wii-type controllers is the absence of strong responsiveness. You won’t be able to run or dish out rapid attacks like you would using the G.C. handle. So the variety is a but a ruse. Only one controller works for this fighter, and it just happens to NOT be the one up-to-date.
Movement (Handling: +1)
This is the major difference between the games and the ultimate deterrent to Brawl becoming the franchise’s premier entry. The action has slowed down considerably, hit boxes are wider in nonsensical ways, and characters tend to float in the air like balloons. This game was meant to be played with items, because otherwise, combat turns into a bore with distance and aerial dodges adding virtually unbreakable defenses to certain fighters that can only be disrupted by a missile or landmine not coming out of the characters’ arsenals. Several winning combos caused by canceling and short-hopping are harder to pull off in sequence, such as the famous shine-spike and Captain Falcon’s dreaded “free parking.” Only Sonic seems to elicit memories of the blistering pace at which Melee traveled. Overall, fun can be found in multiplayer, but not the tournament-style fun that makes Melee a fan favorite amongst competitive players.
Inconsistency in Character Power (Challenge: -1)
Again, this game was meant to be played with items, particularly the Smash Balls. Without those, Sonic feels useless and nobody can handle Meta-Knight. His speed, defense, and rapid-fire attacks all make the knightly rival of Kirby a fighter bordering on illegal. People complain about the balancing of characters in Melee, but it’s been found in that game that someone can become good with an allegedly bad character such as Yoshi or Mewtwo and dominate tournaments. The power levels in Brawl, meanwhile, and more clearly defined and harder to overcome. Brawl stands out as the ideal party game where casual or young players get together over drinks and Tostitos with dip to laugh and joke over a few rounds with item and luck-based winners. Melee, meanwhile, works as the perfect fit for competitive gamers. But between the two, Melee’s fan base has stuck around longer, and once the next Smash Bros. (to be developed by Namco Bandai) comes out, the test will be to note if Brawl receives the same attention that Meleehas in its virtual posterity run.
Core Experience: 10/10
OVERALL: 8.5/Great: People will disagree and note Brawl as the more accessible and user-friendly of the two most recent Smash games. But while Brawl tried to serve as the step-up over Melee and may have succeeded in the short run, the long run is favoring Melee as the more appreciated title, and Brawl might reveal itself as a hold-over for some until the arrival of the next big installment in the Smash franchise.