My Top 5 Games of 2008: #3 Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Developed: Nintendo, Sora, Game Arts, HAL Laboratory, Monolith Soft, Paon
Published: Nintendo
Genre: Party Fighting Game
Platform: Wii

I still remember my excitement when the first Super Smash Bros was announced for the Nintendo 64. A party style fighting game featuring my favorite Nintendo characters? Gimme! Gimmegimmegimme! Ahem...As you may know from my previous articles, I'm a pretty big Nintendo fan, so the concept of Mario vs Link just blew my young mind. It's sequel, Super Smash Bros Melee was what sold me on the GameCube. I knew I had to have the console just for that one game, even if no other good games came out; I just had to play Smash Bros. The game in question today, Super Smash Bros Brawl, had the same effect, and was the biggest motivating factor in me buying a Wii. That's the kind of power SSB has on me. Announce a new game in the series on a platform I don't have and I'll buy it. Just for 1 game.

A plumber vs a furry vs a pink puff ball. Wheeeeee!
 Super Smash Bros Brawl, like its predecessors, is a 4 player party fighting game. In it, 2 to 4 characters from Nintendo's vast roster fight it out in a variety of arenas, each from Nintendo games as well. Rather than a health bar like in most fighting games, the SSB series has a damage percentage meter for each character that gets higher and higher as they are attacked. The higher their damage percentage, the farther back they will be knocked by attacks. The general goal of the game is to damage opponents to the point where you can knock them out of the level's boundaries. Depending on the game mode, the winner can be the player with the most ring outs scored in a normal timed match, the most coins collected in a coin battle, or the last man standing in an elimination style stock match. I always preferred stock matches myself and that seems to be the general consensus; I could be wrong.

There are a few factors that mix matches up. Most levels have some kind of hazard that can damage or even instantly KO players, like the go karts that drive by in the Mario Circuit stage or the legendary Pokemon who attack you in the Spear Pillar stage. Also adding some variety are items. They include a beam sword, a baseball bat, an SNES Super Scope, explosives, mushrooms that make you grow big or small, the metal box from Super Mario 64 that makes you harder to knock back, Pokeballs which summon random Pokemon who fight for you, various healing items, and many, many more. The baseball bat is definitely my favorite. If you do a smash attack while holding it, anyone you hit will be instantly knocked out regardless of their health. It has a long wind up though so timing is important.
This is one thing that irritates me: Here's how Metroid series protagonist Samus normally looks.
Here's how she looks without her power suit on. Way to turn one of the most respectable female characters ever into a generic video game babe, Nintendo.
Speaking of smash attacks, I guess I should explain how the actual fighting works. The controls have been very simple since the first game in the series. Tap A for regular attacks like punches and kicks, hold A to do slower but much more powerful smash attacks, press B and any direction to do special moves, hold R or L to shield, and press Z to grab and throw opponent. That's all. Pretty simple, huh? That's one thing that makes SSB so great. It's instantly accessible and infinitely replayable.

So what makes this particular entry so great? It takes an already fantastic formula and perfects it about as much as possible. At 36 characters it has the biggest roster yet. Classic heroes like Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby, and Pikachu are joined by characters of lesser renown like Lucas from Mother 3, Olimar from Pikmin, Pit from Kid Icarus, and Marth from Fire Emblem, among others. Also a first for the SSB series are the 2 guest characters, Snake from Metal Gear Solid, and Sonic the Hedgehog. When I saw the first trailer where Snake suddenly jumped out from under that box, I flipped the hell out. Two of my favorite series were coming together. How much better could it get than that?
This can finally happen...
and this.
Probably the biggest addition to the gameplay is the inclusion of huge super attacks called final smashes. To perform a final smash all you have to do is grab an item called a smash ball  by hitting it several times, then simply hit the B button without holding a direction. Most characters have their own final smash with a few overlaps like all 3 Star Fox characters who all have the same final smash. There are some serious balance issues when it comes to final smashes though. Some characters like Peach and Donkey Kong have near worthless Final Smashes, while others like Mario and Snake have ones that are nearly overpowered.

SSBB has some of the best graphics on the Wii, surpassed(in my opinion) only by Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Characters and environments are very well detailed with higher resolution textures than I thought the Wii was capable of. I especially love all the special effects, like lasers, explosions and the big cartoonish blast that emanates from the side of the screen when a character is knocked out. Menus are great too with a clean and stylish look that makes the game feel inviting right from the start.

The music really blows me away in this one. It boasts a humongous soundtrack with over 250 songs both new and classic with an absolutely amazing theme song composed by Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu. Each of the game's 41 stages has a number of possible songs that will play, selected randomly, and if there's a song that you love or hate you can manually edit how frequently each song plays from the "my music" menu. The sound design is just as good. There are so many iconic sound effects from the SSB series, like the loud kiiiiin sound when you manage to hit someone with the bat, the way the audience(yes, there is an audience that reacts to each match) will chant the name of a character who just did something really cool, or little touches like the sound that plays when you pick up or drop an item.

Beyond the multiplayer, SSBB has a few great single player modes as well. Probably the most improved mode from its predecessors is the adventure mode, known as The Subspace Emissary in this entry. It chronicles the fight of several Nintendo heroes as they fight an alien army called the subspace army, led by the Ancient Minister who(SPOILERS) turns out to be ROB the robot. Sure. A huge alien army led by an NES accessory. Makes perfect sense. He becomes a playable character after this, so Brawl has 2 gag characters now(Mr Game and Watch being the other). Before anybody gets pissy with me, I didn't call them bad characters, just silly. Anyway you fight your way through a variety of stages both classic Nintendo locations and original ones. As you progress you recruit more and more characters to play as in each stage. Several stages end with a boss fight, usually with a huge boss that takes up half the screen, and it all ends against a cheap bastard named Tabuu. And what do you get for going through 30 stages of mayhem? Sonic.
It's alright. Take a chance. Cause there is no circumstance that you can't handle.(That song is in the game by the way.)
Other single player modes include boss rush, where you fight all the adventure mode bosses in a row, All-Star, where you have to defeat all the playable characters in a row, various survival modes, and classic mode where you fight your way through a variety of matches until you reach series villain Master Hand.

The only negative thing I can say about Super Smash Bros Brawl, other than the unbalanced final smashes, is that the online play is absolute shit. It lags to a degree that you simply cannot play the game correctly. Other than that the game is just about perfect. I had unbelievably high expectations for it before it came out and it lived up to all of them. I'm sure that just about anyone with a Wii and any interest in the Smash Bros series has already played this game so my usual schtick of "OMG guys, buy this game now!" is probably unnecessary this time. However, on the off chance that you do own a Wii, haven't played the game yet, and want a fun, easily learned party game that will give you hours upon hours of enjoyment, then this one's for you.

Number 2 in my top 5 games of 2008!
A sci-fi action/horror game that innovates a tired genre by introducing a strange mechanic I haven't seen in any other series.

I'll leave you with not only a song this time but some nice visuals as well. This is the intro movie to Super Smash Bros Brawl, once again showcasing what an amazing composer Uematsu is, brought to us by YouTube user levyanime (UPDATE: video removed from YouTube) CLShortFuse:

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