Super Smash Bros. Brawl has been hyped since its announcement back in 2006. Everyone expected it to be bigger and better than Super Smash Bros. Melee and they kept that hope alive. Brawl had been delayed twice, keeping everyone foaming for more information at the daily Dojo updates. In March of 2008, the game was finally released. However, the game really isn't as good as most Nintendo fans claim.
For starters, the core part of the Smash series has remained the same; build up your opponent's damage meters and hit them hard to knock them off the stage. With a variety of attacks, aerial attacks, smash attacks, and special attacks, you have a lot of ways to bash your foes. Blocking and dodging is still retained and is a key part of fights in order to stay alive. Many people worried that motion sensing would be forced upon the game, but fear not since there are 4 controller types to play with: Gamecube, Classic Controller, Wii Remote, and Wii Remote with Nunchuck. The Gamecube controller feels the most natural and it's exactly the same layout as Melee's controls. The Wii remote feels pretty good to use, but it can take a while to get used to. The Remote and Nunchuck combo feels pretty iffy due to how everything is laid out. You can flick the remote up, down, or sideways to do smash attacks if you use a Nunchuck. Luckily, the game allows you to customize the controls for each controller type, which is a huge plus.
Many classic characters like Mario and Link return and newcomers like Meta Knight and Pit make an appearance. There are lots of characters to unlock, each one having some sort of link with Nintendo's history. Two 3rd party characters also appear as well to satisfy your character dreams. However, just like in Melee, Brawl has its share of clone characters where two characters look and perform very similarly. This can make the character roster feel smaller than it looks. All the characters that appeared in Melee play pretty much the same in this game, so they are quick to get used to.
Items are plentiful in Brawl and some are brand new. Gooey Bombs stick to people and explode moments later, Smoke Bombs cover parts of the screen with smoke, and the Sandbag spits out random items when you beat it up. Old items like Star Rods, Baseball Bats, and Hammers return and haven't changed much. One item that everyone will fight for is Smash Balls. Breaking a Smash Ball lets you use a Final Smash, a super powerful attack based on what character you use. For example, Mario launches a stream of fire in front of him while Yoshi grows wings and flies around while breathing fire. While Final Smashes are cool, they simply feel like free points because most of the characters that use them either kill in one hit, near impossible to avoid, or both. The fights can quickly go from heated brawls to everyone running away once someone gets a Final Smash. If someone is losing badly, they may have a Final Smash ready when they respawn in order to get another chance. This can happen even if the items are turned off.
Single player mode is pretty much the same from Melee; Classic mode makes you fight random characters before getting to the final boss, training lets you practice, event mode makes you fight people in specific scenarios, and stadium gives you a variety of challenges like beating armies of fighters or smashing targets. One mode that stands out is the Subspace Emissary. This is practically another game within a game since it will take you at least 8 hours to finish it. This adventure mode makes you play as various Nintendo characters who have to save the Smash Bros. world from Subspace. 90% of the game is side scrolling and beating up enemies from Subspace. The other 10% is actual fights. After each cut scene, you have to pick which character you want to use and choose other characters for back ups. You can apply stickers to your characters to power them up as well. While the idea of having a bunch of Nintendo characters team up to save the world sounds cool, it falls pretty flat since there is so much repetition in the side scrolling where you just beat up armies of foes that can and will gang up on you cheaply. It feels like a much longer version of Melee's adventure mode. On top of that, since you're forced to use characters you don't like or can't use well, expect to be frustrated every now and then.
The multiplayer still shines here and it's still the same as Melee was. You can do a variety of matches from time, stock, or coins. Special Brawl is a special mode where you can fight under conditions like always big or always metal. Unlike in Melee where you can only do one special condition in a fight, Brawl lets you combine all the conditions to your liking, a nice plus. You can also adjust things such as turning off damage counters or showing current scores. There's plenty of customization, so everyone can be pleased.
One thing that makes Brawl stand out is replays and snapshots. When you pause the game, you can take snapshots. Replays lets you watch a recording of a fight you made, but it cannot be over 3 minutes. Snapshots and replays can be sent to your friends and it can even be saved to and loaded form SD cards. However, a points system limits to how much content you can send in a day, which is really frustrating if you wan to send a few things to friends. Another thing that stands out is building stages. You can build stages of various sizes using different parts like angled platforms and springs. However, most of the parts are flat so you can't really create curved slopes or the like. Like with replays and snapshots, custom stages can be sent to friends, but are limited by the points system.
Now for online. Just like with other online games from Nintendo, Brawl's online mode is very bare bones. With random people, you can do free for alls or team battles and both are played as 2 minute fights. No names are displayed and you can't request to be friends with a random person either. So at times, it may feel like playing against a custom AI. When it comes to friends, you can create short messages when you taunt and you have more freedom over how fights will go. Friends can also team up for multi man brawls and home run contest. No lobbies or chat rooms at all can make online feel very empty, especially while you wait for other players to appear.
The stages feel very flat, literally. Most of the stages consist of flat floors and very little slopes or anything else that is curved. On top of that, they feel very small as well, which makes the fights very crowded. This can make long range fighters seem pointless. While some stages from Melee come back, they feel smaller than in the original game for some reason.
Brawl is still a multiplayer mostly game. Even though single player was attempted to be beefed up, 99% of the modes are just the same from Melee and the adventure mode is nothing but massive repetition. Weak online also prevents Brawl from reaching its full potential. Having half of the characters being clones doesn't help either. While Brawl is a good game, it's barely anything new and more of a been there, done that feeling.