When the original Super Smash Bros. was released for the N64 (Nintendo 64 for all you people who have been under a rock), some dismissed it as Nintendo’s attempt to cash in on the fighting game craze that was sweeping the video game community at the time. When I first played it, I enjoyed the crossover aspect and simple fighting mechanics. Then, years later when the first whiff of the GameCube crossed my path, I heard about Super Smash Bros. Melee.
See, Nintendo had discovered the true potential of the Smash Bros. series. From twelve characters to choose from to twenty-six, the game had beefed up considerably. And since Super Smash Bros. Melee was the best selling Gamecube game by a wide margin, the big N knew what it needed with a sequel.
Anyone who has played either of the two previous Smash Bros. will be immediately comfortable with the basic gameplay in Brawl. Up to four characters are dropped into an arena modeled after a particular Nintendo location, at which point they all begin wailing on each other in an attempt to knock one another off the sides, top, or bottom of the screen (resulting in constant glorious mayhem). As a character is struck his or her percentage counter, located at the bottom of the screen, begins to accumulate. The higher the percentage the more easily that character is knocked around. At 15% a character will hold his ground like a hardened warrior, but at say, 150%, even the lightest of taps will send him flying across the screen.
And for you non-N fans (shame on you), you’ve actually been included this time. As I'm sure you know by now, both Konami's Solid Snake, and one time Nintendo archrival Sonic the Hedgehog are both playable in Brawl. This opens up some very interesting possibilities that I'll get into later, but suffice to say both characters have appropriate fighting styles and fit in well with the rest of the cast.
While the number of playable characters hasn’t increased by much from Melee, Nintendo has thrown in a new feature called Assist Trophies. Assist Trophies are items that drop randomly throughout matches and, much like Pokeballs, can be broken open to release a character that will usually aid his liberator. However, unlike Pokeballs, Assist Trophies summon a random character from the entire Nintendo universe.
Another thing Brawl has is the new adventure mode, called Subspace Emissary. And, it actually has a pretty cool storyline to it! The player controls the Nintendo heroes as they adventure across a series of simple platformer levels attempting to repel the invaders and discover the reason they are being attacked, all the while joining forces with or battling against the other playable characters. Despite the fact that the game isn't quite designed to be played as a platformer, overall it's a fun little romp, and there are some distinctly hilarious moments when various Nintendo characters from drastically disparate series meet. Seeing Samus and Pikachu charging down a corridor blasting the crap out of everything in site, as well as Link and Yoshi in the same screen as each other are two memories I won’t forget soon.
And of course no Smash Bros. fan service feast would be complete without the beloved trophies. Once again there are several hundred to collect either via meeting specific conditions, picking them up in Subspace Emissary, or using your accumulated coins to shoot them in a weird little Missile Command-esque shooting game.
Perhaps the most exciting piece of fan service, though, is the soundtrack. Brawl's soundtrack is a monster, with well over two hundred tracks taken from dozens of different Nintendo titles. Many of them have been remixed or given an orchestral twist by famous game music composers, and it's a real treat to hear them blaring out in the heat of battle. However, at the start of the game you don't have access to the entire soundtrack, and in order to accumulate more tunes you have to pick up dropped CDs in essentially the same manner as trophies and stickers. Trust me, it's worth it.
All in all, the Smash Bros. series helpfully reminds you that your interests haven’t changed since you were ten. Everyone still likes beating up characters, but when you add the fact that they are Nintendo characters, it becomes a complete and pure joy to play.
Bottom line? Buy this game. Now.
And who doesn't want to hear this when they fire up the game? This is just way too freakin' cool: