Review | 2008.03.16

Smash Brothers Brawl is pretty good. At first the game appears to be little different from the previous installment. The controls and mechanics are the same, in fact you can play with a GameCube controller. The canon of characters, moves, and levels has been preserved but with quite a few additions.

I imagine the first thing people look for is motion control, as it is synonymous with the Wii. There is none. And that is as much a relief as it is a disappointment. I dreaded the possibility of a difficult control scheme (and I don't doubt the developers experimented with more than a few) simply to exploit the Wii's trademark feature. I expected something simplistic like shaking the controller to perform an attack, as in Mario Universe. But the controls are 100% old school and that adds some approachability to the game.

Brawl highlights one major drawback to the nunchuk controller scheme; it's difficult to be consistent with the analog stick. The game requires momentary up/up-left/up-right/... thrusts but this is hard to do reliably since the nunchuk is detached. In contrast, the Cube controller is held and steadied with two hands so 'up' is always the same direction. A great many unnecessary falls can be attributed to this, but (for me) not enough to warrant using wired controllers.

The most important gameplay change is that they restored some of the flow that was lost between the original and the sequel. The original Smash Brothers featured slow, fluidic motion. In Melee the character movements became very jerky, perhaps because opponents' movement was very easy to anticipate in the previous game. But this diminished controllability - even a seasoned veteran could accidentally double tap the stick and run off a cliff. Brawl is somewhere between the two, less frustrating than the Cube version, less predictable than the N64 game.

True to the series, most of the game content is unlockable. I was gratified to find that characters, levels, soundtracks, and such could be opened just by playing multiplayer skirmishes. The new unlockable characters include Ike (Fire Emblem), Pit (Kid Icarus), Snake (Metal Gear Solid), and Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic the Hedgehog). It's a refreshing contrast to the traditional cast of goofy Nintendo creations. If Smash Brothers were a five on the nostalgia-mometer and Melee were a seven, Brawl would be sending glass shards and mercury all over the place. Everything from the characters, items, and levels to soundtrack revivals and remixes is an acid trip to the past. Good memories (except for anything involving Luigi).
Game modes...

The visuals are a definite step up from the last game. Sure I'll always wish for the Wii to have hd and better hardware, but it'd be a crime to say the game looks anything short of first rate. The levels are colorful, active, and not nearly as treacherous as in Melee. There seems to be an enormous wealth of detail to every frame.


the graphics are pretty awesome looking.