For a game that has gotten so much hype for so long, Super Smash Bros. Brawl has a lot to live up to. A lot. Not to mention pushed back release dates and rushed shipments. This is the game many Wii owners have been waiting for. But does it live up to those expectations? Yes, yes it does. This afternoon I played through a couple hours of the retail copy. In short: People who enjoyed previous Smash Bros. games certainly won't be disappointed.
Covering Super Smash Bros. Brawl has been madding. Bits of information flowing out, some of it important, most of it white noise. When you're in the thick of it, the PR machine is a little off putting — unless you've already made up your mind that SSBB is going to be ZOMG great. It's easy to write the title off as a Nintendo corporate circle jerk (it is). And the incessant dribbling from Sakurai and co. has kept surprises to a minimum, but perhaps that was the point? Not everyone likes to open their presents on Christmas Eve, though.
It's no secret that SSBB is really a GameCube 1.5 game. Yes, you probably could've even played this on your Nintendo 64, but that's not the point. But that's the thing, it's a throw back, a gentle reminder of games gone by. Just as Super Mario Galaxy turned traditional platform gaming on its ear, SSBB sticks by those conventions and sticks by them closely. It just does that bigger and grander than ever before. The best thing about the game is that it doesn't shoehorn in Wii-mote controls. It's the least Wii game Nintendo has published so far — even less so than Twilight Princess. The game is what Nintendo used to make before it started churning out other stuff.
The Nintendo 2.0 features are nice. The game is simple and fun — but previous Smash Bros. games were simple and fun! The quote-un-quote next gen features in SSBB come up short and/or half-baked. Imagine if the game had a proper online set-up? Now that would be something to be excited about. While the online features may seem lacking compared to what is offered elsewhere, the single player more than makes up for it. You could conceivably own the game, never fire up an online match and be happy as a clam. Think of Super Smash Bros. Brawl as a what if: What if Nintendo never made Brain Age, What if it never made Wii Sports. Think that and savor.