Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Wait is Over!

After nearly two years of waiting, the most anticipated Wii title to date has finally hit store shelves across America. Now that almost two weeks have gone by since it launched, everyone who wants to be playing it is.

For some people (myself included) the chance to play Super Smash Bros: Brawl came a little over a week after its initial release due to what Nintendo claims is a dirty lens. However, their top-notch repair team had my Wii back in my hands exactly seven days after it left and everything is running smoothly.

The first thing to mention about the newest member of the Super Smash Bros. franchise is that nothing of the general game mechanic has changed from Melee. In fact, the mechanics are so similar that you can play the game using your standard Game Cube controller with the same button set as the previous game.

But that’s not why we bought the new Smash Bros. In the case of Brawl, the selling points were the feature set and the increased number of playable characters.

Part of Brawl‘s feature set is its game types. All of the classics from previous Smash Bros. titles are represented, such as tournaments, versus game types, 100-man battles and target practices. The most noticeable tweak is to the adventure mode. Melee‘s adventure mode was about the same size as the classic mode, just with different objectives. In Brawl it’s been renamed Subspace Emissary and it is HUGE.

When I say huge, that’s what I mean. While it can be cumbersome at times, there is a good reason for it. First of all, it’s the story mode – it actually has a plot; second, if you’re willing to explore the nooks and crannies of the levels you’re going to be unlocking the majority of your fighters the easy way. It can take a couple of hours to get through and the final labyrinth is tedious, but if you need to practice your brawling skills, Subspace Emissary is the way to do it.

One of the unique features of Subspace Emissary is its sticker system. Throughout the game you’ll find and earn stickers. These aren’t just for collecting, like the trophies you find strewn about the game. Even though stickers are literally strewn about, you can actually use them on different fighters to affect their attacks, defenses and resistances. The catch is you can apply a sticker once – no taking it off and giving it to someone else – and they only work in Subspace Emissary.

Online play, for me at least, is mostly broken and hardly worth the effort. While I can set up matches occasionally, it typically takes ten minutes before I find anyone to play with. Usually I get an error message before that happens, which makes me start the process of finding a match all over again. The whole process is very hit or miss, even when I find other players.

When I do finally get a match started, the game has typically slowed down to the point where it literally takes over 30 seconds for the match to get through its “3, 2, 1, Fight” routine. About half the time I’m just booted out of the matches in the middle of them. Surprisingly, the games are still somewhat playable and I’ve even managed to win a few. Of course, when it works it’s a sheer wonder and you’re just glad it’s happening in your living room.

The Spectator mode is easier to use and much more reliable. Of course there’s still a bit of a delay between intent and action on the Wii’s part. Fantasies of drinking games based solely on spectating Brawl matches are unfounded; you’ll find yourself getting bored waiting for a match to load up and lose interest in the idea.

One of the biggest draws for Super Smash Bros: Brawl is its character roster. Not only are most of your favorites from the previous titles included, but a slew of new ones have been added as well. The three biggest surprises leading up to the launch of the game were the announcements that Pit, from Kid Icarus, Solid Snake, from Metal Gear, and Sonic, from Sonic the Hedgehog, were going to be playable fighters. Unlocking the secret characters is much easier in this game than compared with Melee simply because of the Subspace Emissary mode. Basically, playing through Subspace Emissary properly will unlock all but three fighters for you.

Super Smash Bros: Brawl comes with a level editor for you to play with as well. If your favorite level from the first Smash Bros. didn’t make it into Brawl, you can just design the basics from the ground up. Creating a level can be intimidating at first, but once you’ve played with the interface for about ten minutes it all starts to make sense. Initially your palette is very limited, but after you design a set number of levels your range of options begins to increase. Designing your own level is very rewarding, especially if you have a set of custom rules you want to tailor your level to. Unfortunately, you can’t take your custom levels with you online.

The collectors and the obsessive compulsives will have their hands full with this game for a while. While it only takes a day or two to play through the game and unlock all the fighters, there are so many stickers, trophies and challenges to be collected and completed that it will take you weeks – if not months – to fully complete the game. That’s not even mentioning the unlockable classic game trials, music scores and levels that are also available.

Aside from the Wi-Fi issues, this game is practically perfect. The thing is, there’s very little new here and that’s okay. Nintendo released a nearly flawless game with Melee so it’s only natural that Brawl would be more of the same, just with more. What I’d like to see for this game is some downloadable content in the form of more reliable Wi-Fi play in the immediate future, with new fighters and stages somewhere down the line.