Saturday, July 5, 2008

Super Smash Brothers Brawl Review (Wii)

Has there ever been something that you wanted to like, but the more time you invested in it, the more you realized that you just did not enjoy it? Be it a book, a movie or even a person, chances are we’ve all had this occur to us. In terms of gaming, the first game I invested so much time into a flawed product was Sony’s The Getaway. On paper, the previews gave this game a lot of promise, but once I finally started playing it, I just could not enjoy it the way I was hoping to. I completed the game and invested the hours necessary to see it through, but it was a very difficult process with many frustrating moments.

Since then, I’ve been extremely cautious when investing my time and money on a specific title. Thanks to our freedom of choice, if there was anything I was hesitant about, I made sure to get enough information before I made my choice. Now in 2008, I have encountered the next game that I thought I would enjoy, but after spending a solid amount of time with, I realized that it’s just not for me.

As a Wii Owner, the selection of great, high-class titles is few and far between. In fact, it’s actually the lesser known titles that have ended up being the true gems to the system (at least in my opinion). Before Super Smash Brothers Brawl was released, I had never played a game in the series. I never owned a Nintendo64 and I didn’t bother to buy Melee when I twice owned a GameCube. With Brawl being my first experience, I thought that this would be a fresh change of pace since this is clearly labelled as a fighter unlike anything else.

Super Smash Brothers is fairly simplistic. Unlike regular fighting games, where your objective is to deplete your opponent’s health to zero, here you actually want to hit your opponent enough times so that they are thrown off screen and cannot return to the stage. It’s nice that you can take 200% or more damage and still be in a fight, but it isn’t a system without its flaws. Kicking your opponent off the screen is nothing new as Soul Calibur and the Virtua Fighter series both have that goal, but here, that is the only way to win.

The controls in the game, while easy to learn are not always responsive. To jump you have two options, either press up on the control pad (simple enough) or press ‘c’ on the nunchuk. While that sounds simple, it’s not always responsive. There were many times in the game where my character on relatively low hit percentage (less than 75%) would end up dying because I could not jump to reach the ledge. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the facts that it happened often and the computer’s character, which had a higher hit percentage, would still be able to recover and keep on fighting. To be fair, it does vary from character to character, but the system doesn’t work right.

The controls in the game are as stated before, fairly simple and thankfully there are many options. You can play it with only the Wii Remote, the Wii Remote with the nunchuk, the classic controller, or if you have a GameCube controller, you can use that. It’s nice to have options, but I really from my experience, the best controller option is the GameCube. It’s really disappointing that in order to enjoy a Wii game, you need to use the controller of the last generation. If you don’t have access to that controller, then playing this game will not be that fun.

The game itself only essentially uses two buttons. Looking at the Wiimote and nunchuck control scheme, your ‘A’ Button is your primary attack while the ‘B’ button is for your secondary or special attack. Depending on the way you press those buttons and in which direction, your attacks will vary. For example, press ‘B’ and down with Samus and she will drop a bomb; press ‘B’ and up and she will do a lightening summersault (I believe that is what it’s called). It doesn’t take long to learn your character’s moves set, so the learning curve is next to none.

There are good things about the game. There are a lot of characters to choose from, once you’ve unlocked them all. If you’re a Nintendo fan of any stature, you will enjoy the selection and the possibilities of being able to duke it out with Samus, Link, Mario, Captain Falcon, or my new favourite Pitt (from Kid Icarus, a game I really do hope is announced at E3 2008). While there are a lot of characters, most of them, including Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog, are locked and must be unlocked by playing the game over an extended period of time. This is expected and a common thing for most fighting games, so there is no complaint there, except that for both Snake and Sonic, being locked is the same if Soul Calibur IV decides to lock Darth Vader. If you’re new to this game or have friends over and they want to play with Snake, unless you’ve unlocked him, you’ll have to play for a while to get him as a character.

The graphics and sounds are top-notch and I cannot hate on them. The character models and the environments look great and the sound, for a game that has no voice-work, is also up there. If this was in High Definition, it would make any person salivate, but even in SD, this looks really nice.

Brawl does offer a lot in terms of unlockables and gameplay modes. You have your regular arcade mode, events, training but the meat of the game is The Subspace Emissary. It’s an interesting way to give you a single-player adventure in a fighting game, but it might not appeal to those who just want to fight. Also, in order to unlock characters in the game, you really do need to play this mode, so if you are not enjoying it, getting all the characters will be an extremely longer process.

Even with all that is good with the game (graphics and options), I just could not enjoy this game enough to recommend it. In my honest opinion, I think this a disappointing game unless you’ve played previous games in the past, own multiple game-cube controllers or have enough friends willing to help you unlock the characters. This is strictly a fan-service type of game that is catered to the teenagers who played the original back in 1999 or enjoy playing something extremely simple. I gave this game an honest chance, spending plenty of time with all its options and I just continued to get frustrated with not knowing what I was doing right or wrong and still ending up the same way: dying a few times before beating a Hand and seeing a small CG clip of the character I used.

If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll pick this up, enjoy it and continue with your normal life. If you’re new to it, like I was, your best bet is to first rent this and see if you’re willing to invest your time and energy, then go out and spend the 40-50 dollars on it.

I really wanted to like this game but sometimes it’s better to be honest with yourself rather than pretending you’re having a good time.

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