So what is the world of Super Smash Bros. Brawl like? Well, if you've been craving for another round of Nintendo mascot mayhem since Melee on the GameCube you'll be in for a treat. The game primarily revolves around the simple premise of bringing all Nintendo's greatest characters together in one fighting arena, locking the door and seeing what happens next.
The lineup and variety of characters will suit anyone's taste, from classic favourites in Mario, Zelda and Kirby to terrific new inclusions such as Kid Icarus' Pit and the adorable King Dedede. Guest appearances from Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog are every bit as uncanny as they are amazing.
Some players may not agree with all the character choices and replacements from Melee, but with 30+ fighters (once all are unlocked) to choose from it's hard to go wrong.
Naturally, Samus Aran joins the bunch with a new surprise to change things up a bit. Under certain circumstances, Samus literally sheds her armour and takes on the now-classic Zero Suit appearance. While weaker in this form without her armour, she still has a completely new moveset and fairs far better in battle to her time spent snooping around the Space Pirate Mothership on Zebes.
The game boasts a plethora more modes and options to its predecessors, and the simplistic control structure lightens the atmosphere and helps beginners get along (no button mashing required!). The ability to use any controller compatible with the Wii is an incredible piece of fan service - the GameCube controller is absolutely gold.
The appropriately titled Classic mode is back, where players simply defeat opponents in a progressive number of stages. The whole sequence is longer than Melee's classic mode, loading times are a bit of a pain and Master Hand may have lost he/she/its touch a bit (maybe getting all that practice in Melee has paid off?), but the game wouldn't be the same without this staple feature.
But the real meat of the game is the free-for-all Brawl mode and the massive Subspace Emissary. The Brawl mode is just like Melee's VS, with a ton of options for customising battles - choose your fighters, stage, items, music, battle options - you name it.
The Subspace Emissary is literally a game in itself. Gone is the old Adventure mode - this is the real deal. We actually have a proper story this time and even without a word of dialogue spoken (well, except for Snake's opening line) the story is incredibly entertaining. Surreal creatures from the realm of subspace threaten to consume the world, and it's up to the fighters to join forces and push their foes back to oblivion.
The whopping 20-hour platforming adventure never gets old, with an incredibly diverse range of stages inspired from the fighters' different franchises. If you liked the opening cutscene from Melee, get ready for an onslaught - this dual-layer DVD disc certainly packs it in with a ridiculous amount of CGI cutscenes. The weaving and pairing of different fighters produces some great memorable moments (Samus is paired with Pikachu - Pokémon meets Metroid?). We even get a pair of boss encounters with Ridley himself.
Trophies, stages, stickers and music comprise the bulk of the unlockable madness - all up you're looking at more than 1000 pieces to unlock here. As for the myriad of extras, the wonderful Coin Launcher and simple Sound Test modes are brilliant and offer relaxing diversions (some trivia: there's more than 300 musical tracks in all!).
All is not perfect in the Brawling world however, as certain aspects can hinder the fun level - thankfully most can be carefully avoided.
First things first, the difficulty settings. If you're a seasoned Smash Bros. gamer, feel free to take a risk and play on the higher settings (Hard and up). Otherwise stick to Easy and Normal - the game can become incredibly brutal in Classic mode and the Subspace Emissary on higher settings, almost to the point of player wins attributed to whether or not the AI feels like letting you win. Remember, the higher-end AI knows nothing of mercy and only exists to make you suffer.
Another strange occurrence, while not a frustrating experience but weird (and funny) nonetheless also involves the AI. During the Subspace Emissary's many stages you may find yourself swamped by foes and sent flying off the stage thanks to the sheer number of them, or a particularly smarmy foe - but then these weirdoes sometimes exhibit the most illogical taunt for your defeat - they literally take a walk off a cliff and plummet out of the stage. Ok...
It doesn't always happen, but certainly helps lighten the often tense mood. Other quirky moments also keep the humour fresh, like Luigi's normal Up taunt (it never gets old).
Thankfully the AI issues don't hinder the overall experience, especially with human-only matches. One could go on and on with the immense features of Smash Bros. Brawl, but all players need to know is that despite the fighting beat 'em up game at its core, the entire package is a terrific piece of fan service across all Nintendo's major franchises and doesn't leave anyone out in the dark.
Written by Falcon Zero on 3 September 2008.