Retro Review: Super Smash Bros Brawl

Brawl or Nothing?

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With Super Smash Bros Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch tantalizingly just over the horizon and with some big questions still not answered about how many newcomers we can expect or what game modes will be present it seems the perfect time to take a look at one of the most divisive entries in the franchise: Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii.

In terms of roster, Brawl fleshed out Melee really well and added many popular characters. The biggest attractions were Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the first non-Nintendo fighters just to join the fray. Solid Snake, from Metal Gear Solid, was perhaps the main draw as he was one of the only characters not to return for Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS/Wii U. It’s difficult to imagine the reaction these announcements had at the time: characters from other companies had always been hoped for but it was hard to believe it would ever happen. Brawl also added really popular characters like Wario, Metaknight and King Dedede, Diddy Kong and Captain Olimar from Pikmin. Pokemon Trainer was a new character that fans either loved or hated, and is perhaps the most controversial return for Ultimate. The Pokemon Trainer, who seems to be Red from the original games, does not battle himself but instead switches between a Squirtle, an Ivysaur and a Charizard. For many, it was the perfect way to represent a series where trainers battle it out – others would rather just play as one Pokemon at time.

The main reason to revisit Brawl is its excellent single-player mode. ‘Subspace Emissary’ was another wishlist feature that many take issue with now, but as a full-length adventure that put together unlikely teams of video game characters united against a common threat it is hard to beat. You can watch compilations of the various cutscenes from the game on Youtube that cover the straight forward plot and feature some very cool moments – if you don’t think you’re going to play Brawl its worth a watch. Subspace Emissary was long and repetitive, but added a lot of value and game time to a title that you’d otherwise mostly play with friends. Most importantly, it felt like all your favourite characters taking part in an epic adventure. The short videos characters get when announced (such as Ridley’s or Megaman’s) are a remnant from this mode – providing those cool character moments without having to play through the game or get them spoiled beforehand.

Brawl bravely tried to make the game as accessible as possible, making the fighting slower than Melee which isolated many who played the game competitively. This stopped many competitions moving on to Brawl from Melee, which contributed greatly to the pedestal Super Smash Bros. Melee still finds itself on today. Despite this, Brawl capitalised on the success of the Wii and made a more engaging, more fun, fighting game. The ‘Smash Ball’ item is a perfect example of this – the ‘blue shells’ of Smash Bros they allow the character who beaks it to unleash a super move, or temporarily transform, evening the odds and looking awesome while doing it. The best Smash Bros is always the one with the most characters – its why Ultimate looks so promising, and if you need a Smash fix before then I’d recommend the title for the 3DS or Wii U. Brawl remains perfectly playable, however, with many additions from its predecessors, and still boasting the best single player mode to date.

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Matt Crofts
Matt is the SFFN's Retro Editor, focusing on all things old but interesting, including (but not limited to!) books, movies and video games. As a researcher in Gothic literature Matt also has an affinity for black cats, Hammer horror, and all things Dracula.